So, we bit the bullet and booked our plane tickets for our next Disney trip. All of a sudden, all the reservations I had made “just in case” became realities, and over the past few days I started to get to work on the super fun task of planning the nitty-gritty details of our trip – like what we’ll do each day, and what fastpasses I’ll try to book.
Our trip will be in November – my favourite time of year at Disney. The Christmas decorations are all up, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party has started, and, well, what’s better than having your first gingerbread latte from Starbucks while walking down Main Street? (As a total aside, a good friend of mine introduced me to the wonders that are gingerbread lattes while we were both pregnant with our 2nd children. I have loved them ever since . . .because they remind me of that wonderful time in my life . . . and because they taste sooooooooo good). And the weather tends to still be pretty good in Florida in November.
The problem with a trip to Disney in November? Disney usually runs a “free dining plan” offer during November, which means people who wouldn’t necessarily eat at the restaurants on Disney property do, which means getting reservations for any dining at all can be tricky. Over the past few years, Disney has also filmed the Christmas Parade special in November. While this has meant we’ve seen amazing performers up close, and even had the chance to be part of the filming process, it can also mean disruptions to normal park activities, like the Festival of Fantasy Parade, which last year, was delayed until 5:00 every day of our trip.
But, whether you go in November, or any other time of the year, the reality is, Disney World is a busy place. And dining reservations and fastpasses can be hard to get. So what do you do when you’re trying to be super organized and plan the perfect trip for your family or friends, and can’t seem to get reservations or fastpasses when you want them? Well, here’s what I do.
As I mentioned in my post a few days ago, it is still best to plan at least 181 days ahead of your trip. You will at least get some of the dining reservations you want if you book that far in advance. That being said, you still might not get everything you want – I didn’t get things like Cinderella’s Royal Table even though I was looking 180 days out.
In the period between 180 days and 60 days out from your trip, you can go to the dining site, and see if anything pops up for the restaurants you want on the days that you want them. In my experience, I haven’t had too much luck with this, but it’s worth a shot.
At the 60-day mark, book your fastpasses. It’s best to start booking these for the last day of your vacation and work backwards. Why? Because you have the best chance of getting what you want on the furthest day out. I go into the fastpass booking process with an idea of what I’d like to book and when, but adjust on the fly if things don’t work out the way I’d like. If you’re booking for a large group, try splitting the group into smaller sub-groups (i.e. book fastpasses for groups of 4). You might be able to get everyone on in roughly the same time window . . . where booking for a group of say, 12, you might not.
Once you’ve booked your fastpasses, check out the dining again. People often switch their plans around based on the fastpasses they’ve booked, so you might find you get those dining reservations you’ve been looking for!
At the 30-day mark, try again to fill in those things you really want to do, but still don’t have reserved – this is the last date people have to cancel their vacations without penalty, so some reservations and fastpasses do become available again.
But the best time of all to get reservations (dining, not necessarily fastpasses) . . . 24 hours before you want to go. The new MyDisney Experience app makes doing this super easy, no matter where you are in the parks, your hotel, or even at home.
And . . . if, after all of this, you still don’t have the reservation you’re really hoping for . . . well, there’s no harm in trying for a walk-up. I’ve actually been able to get my little one into the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique twice this way! And we’ve had good luck at a few of the restaurants in the parks doing this too . . .
All of this is to say, don’t despair if you don’t get all the reservations and fastpasses you want on the first try . . . try at the 60-day mark, the 30-day mark, and most importantly, the 24-hour mark!
So, with all of this in mind, I’m going to get back to planning out our trip, and what fun things we’re going to do on this trip . . .maybe this will be the trip we finally go on those last few rides we still haven’t been on yet . . . . .