15 Best Pre-Trip Planning Tips for Walt Disney World

Credit: DisneyDining.com

15. First, search for the best special offers on vacations during the time period you want to come. If you are flexible, you may be able to score Free Disney Dining or 30% off deal. Apply for a Chase Disney Visa Card to get a card to earn Disney Dollars with each purchase, discounts on merchandise, complimentary photo with a character at Epcot, and other Disney vacation discounts.

14. Consider purchasing an Annual Pass if you will be visiting Walt Disney World for 10 days or more during the following 12 months as it could save you money on the park admission ticket, merchandise and dining discounts, special rates for resorts and vacation packages. You are also eligible for discounts on some tours and hard ticket events.

13. Check out a guide book from your local library or pick one up at your local book store or online such as at Amazon to get an idea of the scope of how big Walt Disney World is. This information will help you understand attractions, the lay of the land, transportation options, entertainment reviews, etc. Be sure to pick up the latest and most comprehensive book on dining options: Dining at Disney, now available at Amazon.com.

12. Make arrangements for family pets to be cared for while you are away. Pets are not allowed at all Disney resorts so if you are planning on bringing four-legged family members make sure you choose arrangements. The on-site pet resort is called Best Friends. They run an excellent facility and you are welcome to come visit your pet while they stay there. There are many add-on services that will have your pet feeling very pampered!

11. If you are taking your child out of school you will want to check your school’s policy for how to do this and when to do it. Set aside time required to complete the work.

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10. Open a MyDisneyExperience account through the Walt Disney World website or download the app. Invite other members of your party to do the same, then link your tickets and resort reservations together. Then you can make and see the FP+ and Dining/Tour reservations made for your group.  If you decide to purchase the photograph Memory Maker then all these people will be able to collect the photos of them taken around the parks, on-ride photos and videos, and dinner photos. Everyone will be able to download the digital versions of theirs and the rest of the group’s photos.  Memory Maker must be purchased at least three full days prior to your arrival. Research and determine which attractions you and your party would most enjoy and make your FastPass+ reservations as early as you can.

If you don’t get exactly what you want, keep trying because guests are changing their minds and reservations often. Make note of any height or age restrictions for the attractions and make plans for those who cannot ride, and don’t choose that attraction as one of their FP+ selections. Choose something more appropriate for them. You can make use of the Rider Switch option at most attractions. When you get your MagicBands, make sure they are all connected on the MDE app or website. Download the MDE app to your smart phone. The app will carry all the same information you have on the website. You can also use it to make changes to your FP+ reservations, look at a  park map, find restaurants nearby, see menus, see wait times for specific attractions, see if an attraction is closed/open, check times for any of your reservations, open your Disney resort room door, and charge to your Disney resort account. To get the Memory Maker on-ride videos you must be wearing your MagicBand when boarding the attraction.

9. Make a budget and decide how you will pay for your vacation.  Would you like it all paid for ahead of time? Perhaps you would like to purchase a Magic Your Way package that includes a Disney Dining Plan, then you will just need to pay for tips, souvenirs, or additional food and beverages you may want. The DDP is a pretty hefty way to eat at Disney. Most people find themselves with credits left to use on their last day. You can pick up items that are pre-packaged to take with you to enjoy on the plane or in the car on your way home. You could put money away onto Disney Gift Cards to use for any of these additional items.

8. Think about pin trading. Kids love this activity where they trade Disney pins with Cast Members and other guests who are wearing a lanyard or patch. Cast Members have to trade, other guests do not. Cast Members wearing a green lanyard or patch only trade with children.  Disney Imagineers who you sometimes see out in the parks with ties on, or dressed up, often wear lanyards and sometimes have great pins.  If you would like to get an inexpensive lot of Disney pins check eBay, but make sure there is enough time to deliver them before your vacation. Some of them will even ship to your resort for you.

7. Research and determine which restaurants you and your party would most enjoy and make the reservations for those as early as you can.  Disney restaurants are very good, but if there is nothing on the menu someone in your party would want it is not enjoyable.  You can even determine the cost of a meal for your party by looking at the menu items and costs online.  Be advised that menu items can change at any time.

6. Plan to have some down time, especially if you have young children. Disney resorts are a vacation in themselves so plan some time to enjoy the pool and other amenities. Go on family walks to get everyone in shape for walking for several days. Do you plan on having a stroller at the parks? When making the decision to bring yours or rent one remember it needs to fold up to go on the Disney buses, boats, and attractions like the Walt Disney World Railroad. If you want to rent a Disney stroller, keep in mind that it is only used inside the park.  There are off-site stroller rental places that will deliver the stroller to your resort and pick it up for you. You can also rent Disney wheelchairs, ECV’s or use an off-site rental shop as you do for the strollers.

5. Research the weather, using weather.com or the Farmer’s Almanac, for the time of year you will be visiting so you know what clothes to have. It is not always hot here in central Florida, and there are some months that you can expect a shower almost daily. Knowing what to expect will keep your family comfortably clothed.  Then make a packing list for each member of the family. Do you plan on using laundry facilities at the resort? You may want to pack washing pods and dryer sheets. You could pack each day’s outfits into separate bags, making it super easy to layout your kids outfits each day, or let them choose an outfit that matches. Bring an extra pair of shoes if coming during the rainy season. It is hard to enjoy walking around in wet shoes. You may want to weigh any luggage ahead of time to make sure there are no bad surprises at the ticket counter.

4. Get any medications refilled before leaving home so you will have it and not have the hassle of trying to get it filled away from home. While you are at the drugstore pick up some items like the rubbery Blister Band Aids that are very effective at covering up any hot spots that may appear after walking around a few hours, and keeping them from getting worse. These stay on even in water. Some people have had luck with a Blister Stick applied to areas where they are prone to get blisters.  One of the best ways to prevent blisters is to wear comfortable, broken in, tennis shoes with two layers of socks on each foot.

3. Have your mail held at the Post Office while you are away. The USPS has forms at your local post office or visit USPS.com to fill out the hold mail form online.  Make sure this is completed at least 48 hours ahead of your departure.

2. Decide on whether you want to bring snacks or beverages with you in the car, pick-up items once you arrive, or have things shipped to your resort so they will be there when you arrive. Amazon.com will deliver cases of water to your Disney resort, or you can pick some up at the Hess gas stations on property. Water and healthy snacks are available in the parks, but at a premium price. You are permitted to carry these things into the park, but not in glass containers and no alcohol is allowed to be brought in.  The water parks allow you to bring in an ice cooler with the same restrictions against glass containers and alcohol.

1. If you will be bringing children, discuss the importance of staying together, what to expect, what to do if you are separated, memorizing names and cell phone numbers are a good idea for those old enough. Take a photo of your child at the beginning of each day so you have the most recent picture on your phone, and an accurate reflection of what they are wearing, in case you get separated. For your child, make sure they have something on them that has their name, maybe written inside their shirt collar, a note in their pocket, or write your name and cell-phone number on the back of a celebration button you pick up for free inside the park, or at your resort.

Try to have something that will help re-connect you quickly if they get lost. Trying to find a small child in a heavily crowded place, like during the parade or fireworks, is especially difficult. When you first notice you are separated. Stop. Look around for them. If you don’t see them, contact a Cast Member who will help you by calling in more people and alerting others. Your child may have already contacted a Cast Member and is waiting for you.  Make sure you talk to your child about finding a Cast Member. If you talk to your children about where you are heading next it may help Cast Members locate you more quickly.  If you have a practiced escape artist child, consider using a restraint system to keep them by your side. There are plenty of them used daily at WDW so don’t worry about how it looks, just think about how traumatic it would be to lose them. For children old enough to have a cell phone, make sure you put in the cell phone numbers of the rest of your party.

About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.