We are officially on a two month countdown to our trip to Disney World and I am so excited! I booked our fast passes this morning, have some new Disney shirts on their way from Amazon and now it’s just waiting for the fun to begin!
This will be our 7th trip to Disney World and I’ve learned a lot during booking the last three trips. Some history, we used to always go to Orlando with my husband’s family in October and we’d usually spend one night and two day at Disney World. They are all Universal fans but Disney World was always my favorite for MANY reasons.
In 2015, we took a trip to Orlando with our friends and opted to go in December to experience Christmas. We always decided to go for six days and spend four days in the parks – double the amount of time we usually get! We had so much fun that we went again in 2016. This year my husband’s family postponed their trip to December and we are bringing the two newest members of our family who have never been!
Planning a Disney World trip can be overwhelming but here are my tips to help make it as smooth as possible! My tips are based on staying on Disney property which I would highly recommend!
This is my biggest tip and it applies to your major details for your trip. I would recommend to get your general plans in order about a year in advance. This includes how many days you will spend at the parks, in the hotel, and how many people will be in your party. Disney has different promotions throughout the year and if you are prepared with your plans, you can book when a promotion is available and makes sense.
Check Hotels Often!
This year we didn’t have our plans set in stone when there were the dining plans offered for free with packages booked for rooms and tickets. I opted to book our rooms for what I thought we were going with and thankfully it worked out! We have two rooms with the quick service dining plan for FREE.
Here’s the good news, when you book a room there is a $200 deposit required so I ended up paying $400 to reserve the rooms but it’s fully refundable up until 60 days before check in. Even though we had our rooms booked, I continued to check when there were other promotions going on to make sure it was still the best deal. If a better one came along, I would have cancelled those rooms and rebooked since you can get your deposit back.
If you have a specific hotel you want to stay at, you might consider booking a room as soon as your plans are set just in case rooms book up. If a promotion comes later, you can always cancel but if rooms sell out, you’ll be left to find another hotel!
Planning your budget for Disney World is critical since it’s not a cheap place to visit but all the magic is worth it. The good news though is that Disney lets you book plans pretty far in advance so right now I can check prices for a trip 14 months away. I recommend staying at Disney hotel onsite for several reasons:
- You can save on rental car costs with the Magical Express that will pick you up and drop you off at the airport. We’ve done this twice and it was a very smooth, organized process!
- Extra magic hours get you into the parks early and you get to stay later!
- If you book a package (hotel + tickets) through Disney you get to book dining and fast pass reservations sooner than those who are staying offsite.
- You get Magic Bands which make everything easy + convenient. All tickets, room keys, and even your payment method is easily accessible from your Magic Band!
- There’s nothing like being fully immersed in all things Disney! Even the value hotels offer the magic that Disney is known for and just doesn’t compare to a non-Disney hotel.
Make sure you know the price range that tickets + hotel will run you and plan accordingly for food and souvenirs. Food at the parks is not cheap but there are tons of hacks for saving money like having groceries delivered to buying souvenirs for the kids ahead of time from lower cost place and giving them out during the trip.
Booking Dining Reservations
If you have a room and tickets booked through Disney World, you can book dining reservations six months in advance! This is especially critical if you want to get the most popular dining places such as Be Our Guest.
You can book your dining for all days in your trip six months ahead of your check in date so you’ll increase your chances of getting the hard to get reservations if you book those towards the end of your trip. If you check in on October 1st, you can book dining on April 1st so try to get the harder reservations booked on October 3rd or 4th to better your odds. Even doing this for our trip this year, we haven’t gotten a Be Our Guest reservation yet but I’m optimistic we will get one!
Quick dining recommendations by park:
- Epcot – We enjoyed the Coral Reef Restaurant for the amazing views but I only recommend if you like seafood. I prefer to eat around the world – so many yummy things to try and it’s fun to try little bites in different countries!
- Hollywood Studios – We loved the Sci Fi Dine In Theater! It was so fun eating in a car and the milkshakes were very yummy!
- Animal Kingdom – Yak and Yeti was delicious!! We loved the food and they had tasty drinks too.
- Magic Kingdom – Be Our Guest is a must see! If you can get a reservation, I’d say take it no matter what. I’ll expand on this in another post but I would go there for any meal I could!
Fast Pass Prep
When you book a package you get to book your Fast Passes 60 days before you arrive. I recommend having a game plan in place with your party before the day you can book. This makes it easier when you go to book because you already know what the priorities are. It’s also helpful to have backups for popular rides in the even that they are booked.
We are so excited to see Pandora but we’ve seen the LONG waits at the 2 rides – this morning one was 3 hours and the other was 2! We wanted the Flight of Passage as the 1st priority but it was already gone when I went to book so we got the Na’Vi River Adventure instead. It’s also helpful to look at certain park restrictions in advance since there are some limitations. Currently, you can only book Fast Passes for one of the Pandora rides and at Hollywood Studios you can only get a Fast Pass for either Toy Story Mania or Rock n’ Roller Coaster so details like that are important to know.
My final tip is to plan something special during your trip like a special event or behind the scenes tour. Disney really knows how to do things right no matter what it is and it’s worth budgeting some extra funds to do something extra beyond the standard park trips.
I’ve gone to Mickey’s Very Christmas Party twice and I’ll be going again this year. It’s almost $200 for my husband and I but worth every penny for the treats, being in Magic Kingdom without massive crowds, and a fireworks show that cannot be beat! Christmas is my favorite so if you enjoy Halloween, I’m sure the Halloween Party just as amazing!
Several years ago we did a behind the scenes tour at Animal Kingdom and that was very fun and so cool to see how they care for the animals. Highlights from that tour were seeing an elephant get an enema, walking in the giraffe pens (they were out on the savannah), and getting to see the animal hospital where some animals were being cared for.
One day I’d love to do one of the dessert parties for fireworks and I think 2019 I’d like to do the Keys to the Kingdom tour to get to experience the Utilidors! I know Disney is an expensive trip without any extras but if you want a truly magical trip, you have to get some of the extra magic that’s there!
I hope these tips are helpful! Do you have any planning tips to add??