Disney is my passion: I live, breathe, eat Disney. Between frequent visits, a semester on the Disney College Program, and hours a week spent keeping up on all the new going-ons, I feel justified in considering myself a Disney World Expert.
This is the first of many (I hope!) “Top Ten” lists I’m going to post to help you optimize your Disney World Vacations!
- Research research research! Things at Walt Disney World are constantly changing and staying on top of the new developments is essential! My favorite websites that keep me informed are WDWInfo/thedisboards, mousesavers, and theme park insider.
- Carefully consider your family’s needs. There are tons of factors that need to be considered while planning your vacation. Families with small children or that have more than 5 people are going to need a different plan that honeymooning young couples. Disney is also a haven for those that are differently-abled or disabled and there are less-conventional plans that might fit those needs better.
- Know your touring style. Are you going to go commando, hitting the parks at rope drop and taking no breaks until you’re the last ones out? Maybe your group would do better with a daily pool and nap break, or you prefer to sleep in. Especially with little ones it’s important to know beforehand a general idea of your daily schedule. If yours are little enough to use a stroller and will sleep in it despite the stimulation that can be used to your advantage!
- Make a list of everyone’s must-dos: there are rides, restaurants, characters, and experiences that each member of your party will want to do and you might not all agree. By knowing everyone’s non-negotiable can’t miss adventures you can make a more efficient touring plan and save arguments and meltdowns.
- Make reservations and FastPasses ASAP! Continuing from #4, your must-dos are likely other people’s must-do and making reservations as soon as you can gives the peace of mind that you won’t miss out. If you’re staying on-site at one of the WDW hotels you can book dining reservations 180+10 days in advance (starting 180 days out from the first day of your stay you can book for the entire trip as long as it’s 10 days or less) and FP+ 60 days in advance. If you’re staying off-site your dining reservation window still opens at 180 days but you’ll need to make reservations for each day 180 days out. FP+ for off-site guests opens 30 days out. I’ll go over staying on-site vs. off-site in more depth in a future post.
- Download and study MDE in advance. The My Disney Experience app has all you need to know for touring the 4 parks. It has park-hours, consistently updated wait times, character locations, dining menus and more! There’s an easy interface to book FastPasses and to make dining reservations. You can even preorder meals and snacks from counter service locations now! MDE is also home to all your reservation information and ticketing and magic band needs.
- Budget for souvenirs. With all the beautiful and tempting things Disney sells, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and spend more on merchandise than your entire trip! There are stores that sell everything from fine art and designer handbags to bath toys and the iconic Mickey ear hats so having a plan is essential. Disney also has another app, ShopParks, that can help you locate and price out various memorabilia. Knowing in advance can help with making those tough purchasing decisions.
- If it seems too good to be true then it must not be. Obviously a Disney vacation is expensive and wanting to save as much as possible is human nature. However there are many unscrupulous companies online looking to take advantage of budget-conscious consumers. Beware sites offering “discounted” tickets that make claims of great savings. The only companies endorsed by the Orlando theme parks for legitimate savings are Undercover Tourist and Park Savers.
- Make a packing list, check it twice… or 100 times. There are plenty of pre-made and customizable packing lists on the internet but I’ve found it easiest to list the things I use throughout the day. Think “head shoulders knees and toes” and figure out what you need to take care of every body part. Of course there are also vacation and Disney specific things you wouldn’t use normally but need for vacation. Remember that you’re going on vacation to a huge theme park in a major city, not a solo backpacking expedition in the middle of nowhere. Other than medical needs, passport/drivers license, and electronics everything can be purchased there. Make a copy of your IDs, insurance information, and medication list and prescriptions and save one to your phone and one printed in your wallet for peace of mind.
- HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS!!! This is the MOST important tip of all. Accept now that you won’t be able to see and do everything. It might rain. You favorite ride could be closed for maintenance. There are the less than magical realities of crowds and long lines and rude guests. While it’s impossible to plan for every eventuality having a good mindset going into your vacation will make your entire experience that much more rewarding.
I hope these tips help you plan your vacation to the Most Magical Place on Earth! Faith, trust, and pixie dust!
Disclaimer: As always, these are my thoughts and opinions and are not affiliated with the Walt Disney company and in no way reflect the views of the company.