We all know that planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be stressful if you want to make the most of your time and money. Here are my top 10 planning tips that will build a solid foundation for your upcoming trip.
1. Plan ahead. Book your dining reservations 180 days in advance and your fast passes 60 days in advance if staying in a Disney resort and 30 days if staying off-site.
So many of the best character meals and newer restaurants book up within minutes 180 days out so be prepared to be up at 6am CST with your list of restaurants or have your list to your travel advisor in advance so she is up and prepared at 6am. Do I do this for my clients? You bet! What are the first to book up? Right now it’s anything at Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s breakfast (lunch and dinner also available but breakfast is the coveted meal), Ohana, Le Cellier, California Grill, and any other character breakfasts that start at 8:00am. Why the last one? If the park opens at 9am and you have an ADR (advanced dining reservation) for 8:05am then you are allowed inside the park before everyone else. You can lolly-gag and hang out but the CMs (Cast Members) will let you leisurely make your way to your reservation and take a photo in front of the Castle (Epcot Spaceship Earth, Tree of Life, and whatever is replacing the Sorcerer’s Hat at Hollywood Studios). Just think, a picture with your family/group in front of the castle without hundreds (or thousands!) of others in the background.
Same goes for fast passes. Since this is the only way you can get fast passes by pre-booking them, you better be doing this. Right now the hottest tickets are Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, any of the mountains (Space, Splash, Big Thunder), Soarin, Test Track, Meet and Greet with Anna and Elsa, and Toy Story Midway Mania. Check out my blog here with more information on this.
2. Start your day at “Rope Drop” and arrive 30 minutes before the scheduled park opening.What? You mean I have to get up early? YES!!! While everyone else is either sleeping or working towards getting breakfast you can be on your way to conquering most of Fantasyland by the end of the first hour the Magic Kingdom is open. And you get to see the welcome shows. You can see so much in the first couple of hours that it’s worth it to get the kids and teens up at a decent hour, especially during busier times. Be sure to take a mid-afternoon break (see #8) and get to bed at a decent time.
3. Prepare for the heat, especially if you’re traveling in the summer. Bring empty water bottles and fill them up at any quick-service restaurant for FREE.
The air is hot and humid so if you’re not from the south or spend most of your days inside an office the heat will get to you. Always bring an empty water bottle or ask for water at any counter service restaurant. Also bring sunscreen during the warmer months.
4. Bring an autograph book and a fat sharpie for character autographs.
The characters, especially the “fur” characters can’t grip a small pen so bring your fattest sharpie! Some people bring t’shirts, pillow cases, and other soft items for the characters to sign which is fine but realize that it will definitely take longer to get those items signed and you don’t want to be “that family” with 10 kids at the meal and each character has to manipulate a flimsy shirt and try to autograph it at the same time. Just bring a book, purchase an autograph book or something else that’s easy to write on.
5. If you’re flying, order groceries from an online supplier and have them delivered to your room on arrival day (Garden Grocer, Amazon Prime, etc.).
Each resort has a mini-grocery or sundries store for essentials (bread, hot dogs, lunch meat, cokes, milk, etc.) but if you’re staying for a while, renting a villa, or have a large group then you might want to look in to ordering groceries online and having them shipped to the resort. Each one has a cold storage area for this purpose. You might also want to do this if you have a family member with allergies. Know that the mini fridges are mini and the freezer section isn’t the biggest.
6. Have your young kids watch ride videos on YouTube in order to prepare them for the dark rides and thrill rides.
When I was planning my first trip my kids were going to be 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 and I wanted them to be prepared and not scared. For months I showed them videos of rides, parades, and the fireworks so they would know what to expect. And if your kids are afraid of Chucky Cheese, the Easter Bunny, etc. be sure to show them pictures and videos of the characters.
7. Bring quarters and laundry soap packets so you can wash your clothes. Each resort has laundry facilities near the pool.
I’ve done more laundry at Disney World that I ever realized I would. Luckily they located the laundry rooms next to the pool areas so you and the kids can swim while you tackle the laundry. Each one takes quarters so bring a roll as well as mini packets of soap and dryer sheets. They sell this too but by my calculations if you split the soap in half each load costs around $4 to wash and dry.
8. Plan to take a break each afternoon. Use this time to cool off, recharge your batteries, and just relax.
The parks take so much out of you mentally and physically that you need to take a break away each day, especially if it’s a hot day. Go back to your resort and swim, take a shower and a nap, visit Downtown Disney or even just ride the monorails a few times. Doesn’t matter if your age and stamina, just take a break.
9. Prepare for a lot of walking!
The parks are large and very spread out. Expect to walk a minimum of 4 miles per day. Wear comfortable shoes, keep your feet dry, and please don’t wear new shoes! Disney World is not the place to break in a pair of new shoes. I wore flip flops the first day last summer and suffered through huge blisters on the bottom of my feet the entire week. Bring plenty of band aids and moleskin for when your feet get a little “angry”.
10. Bring ponchos for pop-up rain showers for you and your stroller.
Odds are it will rain during some part of your trip. Purchase cheap plastic ponchos at the $$$ store or Wal-Mart before you go and keep them in a back pack. Usually the storms roll in and out very fast so take this time to grab a snack or ride that indoor ride. Be sure you have one for your stroller too!
So, do you feel better about planning a trip to Walt Disney World? If you follow these 10 tips then you will be well on your way to an enjoyable vacation!