By Jennifer Retzlaff
Many of us have Disney vacations coming up either for spring break or during the summer months. Walt Disney World can be overwhelming to those visiting for the first or even the one hundred and first time, but there are some steps you can take to help make the most of your trip.
Before You Leave:
Make Dining Reservations
If you are planning on eating at any of the Disney table service restaurants while on vacation, it is greatly encouraged to book your reservations ahead of time. 180 days ahead of time for those staying on Disney property to be exact. Highly sought after reservations to places like Be Our Guest Restaurant, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Chef Mickey’s and many others book up quickly leaving little room for walk up reservations during these busy months. In order to prevent your Disney princess from being disappointed she doesn’t get to eat in the castle, try to make those reservations as close to the 180 mark as possible.
Book Your Fastpass+
A few years ago now Disney started the new FastPass+ system where Disney guests are able to book their FastPasses up to 60 days ahead of arrive time. Although there are mixed reviews on this new system, many find the opportunity to book their favorite rides, shows, meet and greets or parades ahead of time a positive to their trip. Just like with the dining reservations, FastPasses book up quickly so it is greatly encouraged that you try to make these as soon as the window opens to you 60 days if you are an on-site guest and 30 days if you are staying off property. There are normally some passes available on the day of, but the times will be greatly limited and mostly for those rides that aren’t as popular. Doing a some research ahead of time regarding fastpasses is also a good idea. There are a variety of sites and books that will help you determine which attractions would give you the most bang for your buck when booking fastpasses. These leads us right into step number three which is research.
Do Your Research
As I stated before, Disney is a huge resort that can become extremely overwhelming. Just the four main parks offer a variety of shows, rides, parades, and meet and greets for guests to choose from. With that said, I would highly recommend doing some research over the different parks you would like to visit. If you aren’t like me who loves to research, just take some time to familiarize yourself with the different parks and rides that each park offers. This will help when you head out in the morning to prepare your group for what they should be expecting that day. You don’t want the little guy to think he is going to take on stormtroopers when you are really heading to Animal Kingdom to visit the dinosaurs. Having a basic understanding of each park, what it offers, and what food is there will help make your visit run that much smoother.
Make a Plan
As big as Walt Disney World is and as dining reservations and FastPasses are becoming more of a necessity, having a plan for each day prior to arriving will help you feel less overwhelmed. I am not suggesting you plan every moment or even every day, but having a general idea of which park you might prefer to head to will help everyone feel more in control when your magical vacation starts.
Now that you have taken a few steps before leaving to make sure that your trip will run smoother, here are some to help keep the magic going while you are on your Disney vacation.
It doesn’t matter if you are two, twenty-two or fifty-two; everyone needs breaks while on a Disney vacation. It is often hot and humid which drains your energy quickly. Also, if it is crowded, taking a break from people is also a good thing for one’s patience. These breaks can be at the resort, at the park or riding the monorail around. Just take sometime to relax and not feel like you have to be doing something. These breaks will make your trip that much better as you will be refreshed and able to enjoy the magic that much more.
Explore your resorts
Disney resorts are within themselves an amazing experience. Make sure that you schedule some downtime at your resort and look into all the events going on at the resort itself. This could mean swimming and taking part in the many activities provided at the pool to watching a Disney movie outside. Each resort has so many unique experiences to offer don’t forget to slow down and take them in as well. You are paying for it!
Use the FastPass+ System
If you took advantage of my earlier tip and made your FastPasses prior to heading to Disney, you are one step ahead on this one. While you are at Disney, you can still utilize FastPasses. Using the My Disney Experience app you can adjust your FastPasses that you have already made. Many travelers find this useful as they feel like they can have some more flexibility when in Disney. Just remember that not all FastPasses will be available on that day so you take that chance when changing or modifying them. It is a good to know this however so if you get swimming and don’t think you will be back to the park, or it is raining and you don’t want to go to Animal Kingdom that day, it gives you the chance to change things around while on vacation.
The other part of the FastPass system you can use while in Disney is taking advantage of booking more following using your originally three. After you have used your original three FastPasses, you are able to book one additional one at that park from a FastPass+ kiosk. If you plan this right, you could easily keep booking FastPasses throughout the day at that theme park you are attending. Again, not all rides will be open, but it still gives you a chance to guarantee yourself another ride throughout the day. We weren’t picky with our fourth, fifth, and sixth FastPasses while there as we used them as bonuses to what we had already booked and also had some fun letting the system tell us what to ride.
Eat at off times
This one can be a huge time saver and stress reliever. Disney’s quick service restaurants get extremely busy from 11 a.m. -2 p.m. on most days. If you and your family are able to eat late or early, it would save your group some time as you will be able to move faster through eating and also be less stressed as finding a seat should be a lot easier. Use these busy times to hit up some rides and shows at they should be a little slower during this prime eating time.
Hit up the shows for breaks
My number one tip for your trip while at Disney is to take breaks. If you don’t want to head to your resort as you feel it will waste time, then check out some of the shows and less popular attractions to provide you with some much needed downtime. Even though it will still be entertaining, sitting in the air conditioning for a show can greatly revive one during the day. In Epcot there are a variety of amazing shows in World Showcase that you can see, Magic Kingdom has the Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree, Carousel of Progress, and The Enchanted Tiki Room as great places to rests. Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are a little bit harder to find easy, quick places to relax, but if you can’t get into Festival of the Lion King or Finding Nemo: The Musical at Animal Kingdom, Dinoland offers some more relaxing places and is usually less crowded than the other parts of the park. Hollywood Studios has One Man’s Dream, where you can learn about Walt Disney and the new Star Wars Launch Bay, which is filled with artifacts from the movies. No matter how you do it, just make sure to schedule in some breaks.
Use the Disney PhotoPass photographers
Disney provides a variety of PhotoPass photographers throughout each of the four main parks. These cast members are there to help you capture your memories. Take advantage of them. We have always purchased the Memory Maker from Disney, which allows us to prepay for all of our pictures ahead of time. The last few times we have gone, we have taken around 400 pictures making it well worth the money spent. Even if you don’t purchase this offer, the photographers will still help take pictures on your phone/camera. Don’t miss those special moments in front of the castle because you don’t have someone to take the picture, use these well-trained, amazing cast members to capture that memory.
Walt Disney World is an amazing vacation and hopefully these few tips will help you in your planning a magical trip and experiencing the magic of Disney while on your vacation. Happy planning!