I am a huge planner. I enjoy it. But nothing has been as fun to plan as our trip to Disney World. I literally planned more for this last trip than I planned for my entire wedding.
Granted, it’s not saying much cause we had a super small uncomplicated wedding, but still. I was probably just as excited for our Disney trip as our wedding (kidding honey!)
Although there are tons of Disney blogs all over the internet, I’m going to give you my informative yet simple and concise take on planning a Disney Vacation. Hopefully this will help make it as easy as possible so you can enjoy your vacation once you get there.
1. Choosing the “best time to go”: Although we were there in early February when crowds are relatively “low” it’s still crowded. I mean, it’s always going to be busy, so don’t expect NO lines on a slow week. That’s just silly. But the lines will definitely be much slower (and it may not be as hot, so that’s a perk!) Consider checking out a crowd calendar if you have flexibility for your trip.
2. Figure out where you want to stay and consider a dining plan: We stayed at a relative’s timeshare during our visit, but if that wasn’t the case (and next time we go) we’d probably stay at a Disney value resort or splurge and stay at the Animal Kingdom. That way we can be close to the parks, get free transportation to/from the airport, and possibly get a discounted dining plan (especially if it’s on a discount for your trip).
3. Consider using a travel agent: Authorized Disney Vacation planners don’t charge you a thing and can help you find the deals, and book all of your reservations for you in advance. I had WAY too much fun planning each and every detail myself, but if you hate this kind of thing, feel overwhelmed, or just want someone to bounce ideas off of, consider using an agent. I’ve been using with Matt from Wish Upon a Star With Us to help us plan a Disney Cruise vacation and he’s been extremely helpful answering all of my questions, giving me cost comparisons, and answering my emails at the strangest time of day. It’s been nice having someone to bounce ideas off of, who knows all sorts of things I’d never know about the parks and resorts.
4. Six months out book your dining reservations: Before that, decide where you want to eat and when. There are SO many restaurants, but the popular ones go fast. Which ones are popular? Pretty much any of the ones you can make reservations for, especially the character or themed dining meals. I’d recommend Akershus (in Epcot) or Cinderella’s Royal Table (in Magic Kingdom) if you want to dine with princesses. There are so many options though, so have fun researching which ones you think you’d like before, then 120 days out book it online. You need a credit card to hold your reservation but you’re not charged until you eat. This is another task an agent could help you plan if it’s too overwhelming.
5. Book your FastPasses: This is your ticket to skip the long lines for popular attractions. Whether it’s meeting your favorite princess, or riding a popular ride. Everyone gets three each day and they’re free, so there’s no reason to skip this! It may seem like over-planning, but you can always change it while there. And trust me, with amount of people at Disney World these days, it’s wise to have reservations just in case, to save yourself from standing in line for hours.
6. Don’t quit trying for reservations: If everything is booked when you are trying for a reservation, don’t get discouraged. Keep checking or calling, something will open up. I called for a Bibbity Boppity Boutique reservation at least a dozen times. The night before I got one at Magic Kingdom and my daughter had a blast. Same went for FastPasses to meet Anna and Elsa (the most popular attraction right now). Don’t give up! Keep trying.
7. Rent a stroller locally: Don’t worry about packing your huge double jogger, there are several companies locally you can rent a stroller from. Disney World also has stroller you can rent, but they’re more expensive and less comfortable in my opinion. We used Orlando Stroller Rental. It was the first thing that popped up in google and they ended up being fantastic! They dropped off the stroller to our resort, we used it for a week, then they picked it up from the bellboy as we headed home. It was so nice that they could recline and take naps during the day, and Lil’ J definitely rode more than she walked. There’s also handy stroller parking all over the place, so don’t worry about them getting in the way of lines. It’s SO organized.
8. Pack light: Make a list ahead of time to decide what you want to bring. Disney Resorts all have pack n’ plays you can rent for free. The timeshare we stayed at did as well. If you’re bringing a baby or toddler, call your hotel ahead of time and ask if they do too (most do). I probably over-packed on the kids’ outfits, but they had plenty to choose from while we were there, and backups in case of messes.
9. Buy Memory Maker: If you do it ahead of time you’ll save about $20, and if you’re traveling with friends or family you all can link accounts and share a photo package (only one fee!).
10. Download the My Disney Experience App: It’s free, and it gives you access to park wait times, the maps, and your FastPasses. As well as your dining reservations, and other things I’m probably not remembering.
11. Make a countdown: Because what better way to get excited for your trip? I just used an app on my phone, but if we hadn’t been surprising our kids the day of, I probably would have made a fun Mickey Mouse paper chain or something.
12. Join some FB groups: This was probably the single most helpful part of planning my trip. I joined a Disney World Junkies group, and asked several questions that were answered almost immediately. The a woman saw my questions and invited me to a Disney World February 2015 group (yes, I know it sounds like a birth club). It was a smaller group and everyone was so helpful and informative. I found out about fastpasses and reservations others visiting the same time as us were giving up. Super helpful if you’re trying to book a trip last minute! Search and see if you can find a social group visiting the same month as you.
13. Be flexible: As much planning as I’ve touted in this post, it’s important to be ready and willing to go with the flow as things arise. I had to change almost every fastpass and ended up canceling two dining reservations the day before because plans changed.
Whether you’re planning for a vacation you’re dreaming to take years from now, or you decided to go on a last-minute road trip, keeping these things in mind will make your trip less stressful, and even more magical.
Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything you have questions about! Or if you’ve been and have more tips for first-timers who are reading this please share in the comments!