This is a non-negotiable for experiencing Walt Disney World like a pro. If you don’t understand the vast array of things to do, places to eat, resorts, and transportation, you are still in the little league of Disney vacationers. You will find plenty of research already done for you on DisneyDining.com so read some articles in your free time, during lunch at work, whenever you can. The more you know the better your vacation will be.
2. Making Resort and Airline Reservations
These are the first reservations you need to make, after planning your stay parameters. Check for any specials on the Walt Disney World website during the time you are planning on being at the resort. Is there a package that is attractive to you? Packages often give you some freebies to make it more attractive. Sometimes that may be a free Memory Maker package or even Free Dining. It could be complimentary or discounted sports or water park admission. If you have identified a package check to see if there are accommodations available for you. Make your resort/package reservation and then contact the airlines for flights. Make these arrangements as simultaneously as you can to avoid date changes. Make a decision on renting a stroller or taking your own and the cost of that on the plane. You can rent a stroller, single or double, from Disney in the parks, but if you want them for use at the resort also, then consider renting from a local stroller rental company that will meet you at the resort and pick the stroller up there when you are done with it.
3. Confirm free transportation from/to the airport
When staying at a Walt Disney World resort you will receive complimentary Magical Express bus service from the Orlando International Airport and your Disney resort. They will transport your luggage both ways and give you transportation back to the airport on the day of your departure.
4. Open a My Disney Experience Account
On the MDE part of the official Walt Disney World website. Enter your information, along with your resort reservation number. This will link any tickets that you are purchasing. Add your Memory Maker purchase information. Invite everyone on your reservation or larger group that you would like to make reservations for. This is an important step. Then download the MDE app to your smartphone. Now you are set up to make reservations. If you are saying on Disney property, you will be able to book your FastPass+ times 60 days ahead of your arrival at Walt Disney World.
5. Making Dining Reservations
Disney resort guests can make 180 days prior to your arrival at Walt Disney World you can begin making Dining reservations. Look at menus and reviews online and in the book Dining at Disney available on this site and in bookstores and Amazon.com. Factor into your choices which park you would like to be in, on which days of your vacation. Consider the perk available to Disney resort guests called Extra Magic Hours that gives those guests extra hours of fun in the park with a greatly reduced crowd size.
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The schedule for EMH’s is found on the Walt Disney World official site. Also consider the members of your party and what they like to eat. You can view actual menus and prices online for Disney restaurants making it possible for your family to actually anticipate what they might want to order and giving you the total cost for eating there, keeping in mind that prices and items can change at any time. Try to use the EMH’s, if they are a factor for you, or just match up what park you want to be in each day and secure dining reservations to go with that plan. You do not want to spend your entire Disney vacation eating and then transporting yourself to the next meal. If you do not want any dining reservations to tie you down, maybe you would like to choose just one table service restaurant for this trip. When making Dining reservations you will be asked to give your credit card number to hold the reservation. You will want to record the reservation number for later. If you need to cancel, or change the number of people in the party, you must do that within 24 hours ahead of the reservation or you may have some cancellation charges. If it is a dinner show or character meal you will be charged the full price of each person who does not show up. You can make dining reservations through the MDE website, or app. It is still a good idea to have a written record of the reservation times/places/confirmation numbers. If you need to cancel a dining reservation you must call Disney directly.
6. Making Fast Pass+ Reservations
Since you have already done your research, you have an idea of the way of the land in each park and what attractions your family would love to experience, as well as which attractions for which you do not need a FP+ (It is all on our site!) Make the FP+ reservations 60 days prior to your arrival at the resort, if you are staying at a Disney resort. Or 30 days prior if you are staying off property. Remember, you can choose up to three in the same park each day. Once the first three are used you can select one additional FP+ until park closing. If you choose to park hop after using the first three FP+ you can choose additional FP+, again, one at a time at the FP+ kiosk inside that park.
7. Make any sports, entertainment or Tour reservations
You can research those on the official Disney website that gives the specific numbers to call in order to set up those reservations. Keep in mind that when playing Golf on Walt Disney World property they provide complimentary transportation for you and your clubs to and from your resort. Just inquire the night before at the Guest Services of your resort to be sure a car will be there to meet you early enough to get to your tee time. There are also club rentals available in the club houses. You can read reviews of the Tours here on DisneyDining.com.
8. Pack smart
Look at the weather forecasts for the days of your trip. In the late spring and through the summer expect a quick afternoon shower and don’t pack only shorts during the winter months. The weather is an important factor in your comfort level. Wear sensible shoes that you have broken in already. Don’t pack only one pair because if one gets wet you are not going to want to wear those the next day. Bring Blister Band-Aids just in case. Make sure you have your medications, sun screen, sun glasses (for every member of the family), layers of clothing (If it is HOT outside expect the air conditioning to be COLD), healthy snacks, etc. There are articles on DisneyDining.com that cover your packing must-haves.
The only thing left to do is have fun!