Disney has come up a LOT as I’ve made my way through the the week. Not that this has been entirely coincidental. I did have my brief flirtation with the idea of a runDisney event (although I’m not sure I’ve entirely abandoned this idea . . . anyone want to do one with me??) which of course would necessitate a trip to a Disney park. I’ve had a few friends ask questions about going to Disney. And then of course, there was the big decision the Husband and I had to make . . . would we keep the reservation we have for the fall, a reservation we made before we knew we were going this past spring, and which I hadn’t yet cancelled.
It’s no secret that I love Disney. And I am convinced that anyone who’s come away from Disney not loving it is because they didn’t plan appropriately (depending on the ages of the people going on the trip, some plans need to be made, and these plans often need to be made at least 180 days out), because they over-planned (what’s that expression again – over-planning kills magic), or they simply didn’t know what it was they were getting into and the reality didn’t line up with their expectations.
Over the years we’ve been going to Disney World, I’ve fine-tuned the way I plan our trips. And I’ve often been asked how it is I go about it. Well . . . today, as I sat down to go through the preliminary plans I have for our trip in the fall, I thought I could share some of my ideas here – so that there is a more permanent/easily accessible repository for my tips. So here goes . . .
- Disney World is ALWAYS busy. If you want to go, and there are certain things you REALLY want to do when you’re there, plan your trip way in advance – as in more than 180 days in advance. Once you know the dates of your trip, figure out which days you want to visit which parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT). If you’re staying on Disney property, you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours – based on those, and the ages of the people you’re travelling with, this might affect the park you want to visit on each day of your trip.
- Once I’ve figured out what parks we’re going to visit on what days, I start slotting in my dining. Because my kids are still little, I aim for one character dining experience a day. That being said, I also prefer to have sit-down meals for dinner and choose restaurants for our evening meals accordingly.
- Once all that prep work is done, go to the Disney website 180 days before the date of your check-in and start booking your dining reservations. If you’re staying on property, you can book reservations for the first 10 days of your vacation at the 180 mark. If you’re staying off property, you need to book dining for each day at the 180-day mark for each of the days of your vacation. Even when you book this early, there’s a chance you won’t get the reservations you want. For example, Disney often offers a “Free Dining Plan” if you book a vacation during the later fall period. Because so many people take advantage of this offer, restaurant reservations can be REALLY hard to get for the duration of the offer. So be prepared to be flexible – and understand that, if you’re staying on property, you’re more likely to get the more difficult to obtain restaurant reservations for dates later in your trip than at the beginning of your trip.
- At the 60-day mark before you vacation, you can start booking fastpasses as long as you are staying on Disney property. So, between the 180-day and 61-day mark, you can plan which rides you’d like to do on each of the days of your trip. I’ve heard lots of stories about when and how fastpasses are released, but I tend to follow the general guidelines of booking them on the 60-day mark at midnight. Again, you may not be able to get fastpasses for the rides you want on the days you want. So be prepared to be flexible – and understand that, if you’re staying on property, you’re more likely to get the more difficult to obtain fastpasses for dates later in your trip than at the beginning of your trip. (Yup . . . there really are advantages to staying on property!!)
- When you’re planning out what rides you want to do . . . certain attractions are ALWAYS busy – like Toy Story Mania in Hollywood Studios, and Peter Pan and the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train in the Magic Kingdom. So it’s best to get fastpasses for these types of attractions. If you’re travelling with little ones that HAVE to see their favourite characters, getting fastpasses for the character meet and greets is also a good idea. It can also be a good idea to stagger your fastpasses. For example, I often only book 1 fastpass for the morning, and book the other 2 in the evening – that way I know that I can bring the kids back to the park in the evening and still get on rides that they love. Yes, you can book fastpasses individually once you have booked and used your 3 allotted fastpasses in a day – but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get fastpasses for rides or attractions that you want (the fastpass inventory for each ride declines throughout the day).
- While some of our BEST moments at the park have been un-planned, knowing that your dining and at least 3 attractions are booked for each day of your trip means you are guaranteed to have some fun every day you’re there!
- DON’T OVER-BOOK / over-plan your trip. Plan to spend at least 2 days in the Magic Kingdom, if at all possible, and at least 1 day in each of the other parks. Perhaps one of the reasons we love our Disney vacations so much is that we only tend to spend the mornings in the parks. We are often back at our hotel for lunch, if not just after lunch. We spend the afternoons taking advantage of the great pools and other amenities the hotels have to offer, and once we’ve finished dinner, we can often be found heading back into a park for an hour or two. This allows the little ones to relax after a stimulating day at the park, and gets us all out of the parks at the busiest time of the day
- DON’T underestimate the need for a stroller. Even my older one, who can walk miles in a day, will sometimes still want a place to sit (if we’re waiting for a show or a parade to start), or will ask for a short ride. You can walk a LOT in a Disney park, and there can be a LOT of standing in lines, which can get tiring! If you are determined to go it without a stroller, be prepared to take lots of breaks – the shows are GREAT for this. I will also add here that strollers are excellent repositories for all the stuff you might need for a day in the park – changes of clothes, sunscreen, water bottles etc.
- Even if you don’t get all the reservations or fastpasses you want, don’t worry. The beauty of a Disney vacation is that there really is magic everywhere you look, and especially when you’re least expecting it!
So . . . if you’re prepared to do a little advance planning, your trip to Disney World is sure to be a magical one! And just in case you’re not convinced . . . check out these absolutely MAGICAL pictures captured during our last 2 trips to Disney World!
Now . . . why have I included an article about planning a trip to Disney in my #100morselsofjoy series?? Well, because NOTHING brings me more joy than thinking about & planning a trip to Disney!