Top Ten Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World off Season
When schools are back in session, Walt Disney World is a lot less crowded. While it is a great time to plan a vacation, there are things that you will need to keep in mind. Smaller crowds mean shorter operating hours, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to still do everything that you want to do. You’ll also stand in shorter lines and have a chance to get to bed a little bit earlier. The resort hotels cost less than you would have paid during the peak season, and there are sometimes other incentives thrown in, such as the Disney Dining Plan.
The off season is the perfect time to plan a shorter vacation as well. If you have been thinking about heading to Walt Disney World but you don’t want to take a week out of your busy life, consider spending just a few days there. The lighter crowds mean that you will be able to get more done in a short period of time. You’ll leave exhausted, but it will have been worth it.
Planning is always important if you’re headed to Walt Disney World, even during the off season. These ten tips are meant to help you to get the most out of your off season vacation.
10) Ask for an Upgrade
The Disney resort complexes are huge. No matter which resort you stay at, the price of a room will vary, depending on where in the complex the room is. A room that overlooks the pool, for example, will usually cost more than a room that has a nice view of the parking lot. Call 407-939-1936 to make your reservation, and make sure that you ask for the lowest price possible. (Use the word “lowest”, not “best”, because “best” will be what is best for Disney, not for you.) Once you have agreed upon a price, put in a request for an upgrade for the same price if one is available. It may not work, but if it does, you will end up staying in a better room for a reasonable price.
If you are staying off property you can try the same thing. Call the hotel and let your request be known after the price has been quoted. The hotels want to keep off season guests happy. It won’t hurt to ask for something a little bit better.
9) Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
Even though the days are shorter during the fall and winter, that does not mean that the sun will not shine brightly. Don’t assume that sunscreen is just for summer visits to Florida. You need to protect your skin, even if you do not normally burn. Sunscreen only takes a few moments to apply and using it can save your vacation any time of the year.
8) Book a Dinner Package
In order to save time waiting in line for Fantasmic!, book a dinner package. Make a special reservation at Holly Brown Derby, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, or Hollywood & Vine, to receive a voucher for VIP seating at Fantasmic!. During the off season there is usually only one showing of Fantasmic! so you’ll be glad that you don’t have to fight for a seat. The voucher does not cost anything extra but you must specifically reserve the dinner package, a regular reservation will not do. A similar package is also available at Epcot for the Candlelight Processional, so if you’re making a trip in the beginning of December you might want to see which restaurants have openings. The line for the Candlelight Processional grows long quickly, you will be glad that you have a voucher.
7) Enjoy the Evenings
Since the parks (Epcot is the exception) often close earlier during the non busy times of the year, you’ll have more free time in the evenings. Go explore all that Walt Disney World has to offer after dark! Make a late dinner reservation at one of the hotels, since you will not be taking time away from a park. Explore Downtown Disney and see how it’s transforming to Disney Springs. Pick up some souvenirs while you’re there, and spend some time watching the human statues. Head over to Port Orleans Resort – Riverside for YeHaa Bob Jack’s show. These are just a few of the things that you can do when the parks close early. There’s another side to Disney that you can explore because you won’t feel like you are wasting your ticket.
6) Bring Your Bathing Suit
Even if you’re headed to Florida in the middle of the winter you will not want to leave your bathing suit at home. The water parks will be less crowded and the Disney hotel pools are heated, so you’ll be able to enjoy a swim. If you are staying off property you might want to call your hotel and ask if the pool is heated, especially if you’re staying at a budget hotel. If the temperature gets too low and you want to go to a water park, make sure that it is open before you head out. And again, if you plan to swim, make sure you use sunscreen, even on a colder day.
One more word about the Disney water parks. They close for refurbishment annually during the off season. One will close for several weeks while the other remains open, then they switch. Go to the official website before you leave home to see which park will be open during your vacation.
5) Check the Weather
It does get cold in Florida during the winter. Check the forecast before you leave home so that you will be able to dress appropriately for the weather. One thing that you do not want to do on your vacation is to pay Disney prices for a sweatshirt jacket when you have a perfectly good one at home. It is not hard to find out the forecast for ten days ahead or even longer. Pack accordingly. You don’t want to have only T-shirts, shorts, and sandals with you if the temperature is going to be in the 60′s or lower for your entire trip. If you keep an eye on the weather before you leave, you will be better prepared for whatever Central Florida throws at you.
4) Make Dining Reservations
Sometimes people assume that dining reservations are not needed when the parks aren’t as crowded. Be Our Guest Restaurant will fill up as quickly on December 10 as it will on December 25. If there is a full service restaurant that you really want to try, make your reservation as soon as you can by calling 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463), or make the reservation online at http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining. You might be able to make a last minute reservation during the off season, but do you really want to chance it? Make your reservations ahead of time so that you’ll be able to dine where you want, when you want.
3) Check Park Hours
Park hours can change during the off season. While the hours at Epcot are pretty steady, the other three parks can and will vary. Disney’s Animal Kingdom will often close as early as 5:00pm, you don’t want to arrive at 3:00, thinking that you’ll have a full afternoon and evening of fun ahead of you. Even the Magic Kingdom will sometimes close early, especially if it is the night of one of Mickey’s parties. If you know the park hours, you will be able to better plan your day.
2) Buy Park Hopper
Since the closing hours for the parks do vary so much during the off season you will want to consider the Park Hopper option for your ticket. Spend the morning at the Magic Kingdom when the ride lines are the shortest. Head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the afternoon. When that park closes take a bus to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and ride a couple of thrill rides, then head over to Epcot for IllumiNations. While that case scenario is a bit extreme, it is not uncommon to spend a morning in one park and the afternoon in another during the off season. The lines are shorter so you can do more while you’re there. Park Hopper can be a great addition to your ticket when the parks aren’t as busy.
1) Arrive Early
One piece of advice that you will hear any time of the year is to arrive at the park of choice early, before it opens for the day. You will be especially glad that you did if you are there during the off season. Arriving early means that you’ll be able to get a FASTPASS for Toy Story Midway Mania!, or that you’ll be able to ride Space Mountain twice without waiting too long. If you arrive early you will have more of a chance of riding all of your “must dos” right away, which means that you will be able to hit the non-essential rides as well. You’ll get more done if you arrive early, even with shorter park hours.
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