A Walt Disney World vacation can be one of the most hectic experiences imaginable, but only if you fail to plan. There are a lot of vacations during which you can really fly by the seat of your pants. You can make your decisions on what to do on any particular day when you wake up; you can decide where you want to eat when you are hungry. You can do these things at Disney World, too, of course – but it will mean that a lot of your precious time is spent making decisions as opposed to enjoying your experiences. The main reason to plan your vacation to Walt Disney World as far in advance as possible is so that when you finally get to the most magical place on earth, you can relax and enjoy yourself.
First off, you’ll need to decide when you want to travel to Walt Disney World. There are three major considerations when making this decision.
For some people, this is one of the most important factors in the timing of a Disney vacation. Be very careful, though. If you wait until the deals show up to complete all of your planning steps, you may have already lost out on some great opportunities (specifically, when it comes to meal planning: see section 5 below). Look at information from past years to help you know when the deals will take place and when they will be available. Check out Explore our Special Offers on Disneyworld.com to see what’s valid right now. Summer deals usually consist of a room discount, and these typically extend into the fall. Fall often brings with it a free dining offer as well.
7. Holidays and Special Events
Some of the greatest experiences you will ever have in Walt Disney World are during holidays. Go trick-or-treating on Main Street, Visit Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. You’ll never want to celebrate a holiday anywhere else again. And all of these events begin well before a given holiday, which means you can usually find deals and get into the holiday spirit without having to fight the crowds during peak holiday times.
6. Crowd Calendars
You can find crowd calendars just about everywhere these days. Some apps have them, and most websites have them available for you as well. There are a ton of great articles here on the subject: just do a search for “crowds” and you will find them. Around the holidays, since we were already talking about them, the first two weeks of December are a great time to visit, as crowds are low. After Halloween and up until the week of Thanksgiving is usually not busy either. Great times to make your visit.
5. Meal Planning
This is one of the most important planning tips. So many people want to get a reservation at places like Be Our Guest, Le Cellier, The Sci-Fi Diner and even T-Rex Café in Disney Springs. These restaurants fill up fast. You will NOT get an opportunity to walk up to these restaurants the day of and get in. Many people don’t start thinking about restaurants until it’s much too late, and then are disappointed when they can’t get the reservations they want. You can start making your reservations for meals 180 days before your trip, and you do not have to use a reservation number from a resort to make these reservations. All you need is to have a My Disney Experience account. You can even make your reservations from your mobile device. Dining reservations begin online at 6:00am EST or you can call Disney at 7:00am EST.
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4. FastPass+ Reservations
7:00 am EST is when FastPass+ bookings begin. If you have chosen to stay at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, you get an extra 30 days (a total of 60 days) to utilize the FastPass+ reservation system before your vacation begins. FastPass+ gives you three experiences a day where you can bypass the regular lines in the parks and get on with your experience much faster. You need to pick three attractions per day from the same park, so here is where your planning comes into play. Make sure to determine well before your 60 days which parks you are going to on which day, so that you know which park to choose your FastPass+ experiences in. Do some planning on this one as well. Make sure you figure out which experiences are most important to you, and also which ones are going to have a long wait. For example, you may be a huge Muppet fan, like myself; if so, you won’t want to miss Muppet*Vision 3D in Hollywood Studios. But Muppet*Vision 3D never has a wait, so using a FastPass+ for this experience would be a waste.
Staying on resort can make this area of planning far easier. If you stay at a Disney resort, you get free shuttle bus service to all of the Walt Disney World parks. Certain resorts also have access via boat or even by monorail. You do still need to plan, though. If you have a meal planned outside of the park that you are visiting that day, make sure you figure out how you are getting there. Plan your boat ride or monorail trip into your schedule, leaving some extra time as a cushion. And remember that if you go resort hopping, you’ll have to go back to a park or to Disney Springs in order to get back to your resort, unless you’re on a monorail line; the shuttle bus service doesn’t run from resort to resort.
There are entire articles on how to budget your Walt Disney World vacation, so I won’t go too far into detail here. Just remember to budget for souvenir costs and tips, on top of the cost of your resort, park tickets and meals; the service in Walt Disney World is among the best on the planet, and you’ll no doubt want to make sure you show your gratitude.
Florida is definitely on the warm side most times of the year. There are also times of year it gets a fair amount of rain. Weather-related mistakes people make once again boil down to planning. If you are traveling in late fall and into the winter, don’t think you can necessarily get away with shorts and t-shirts for the entirety of your vacation. During one of our Disney vacations in November, there were three days in a row that the temperature never rose enough for us to take off our sweaters and jackets. Always prepare for cooler weather during the winter. Many people are unaware of a simple rule for Florida showers: they usually don’t last long. Most showers in Florida drop in quickly and leave just as quickly. So don’t run back to the resort just because you see a couple of clouds. They may mean nothing, and even if they do mean rain, it may not last long at all.