I go to Disney World more than once a year (4 times this year) – that seems like a lot to some people considering I live in the North East – but I love it there! I start planning my next trip in my head before I’ve even left the vacation I’m currently on! When friends ask me to help them plan their Walt Disney World Resort vacations I always have to keep in mind that they don’t have 3D maps of everything in their mind, schedules running like film in their brains, and ideas for new magical memories to make – they literally want to know what to do to get there and make sense of it all. So I think I’ve finally come up with a few steps to give them a basic outline of what to do without overwhelming them…then I can help them sprinkle some pixie dust along the way.
I’m happy to share these steps with you!…and as this blog grows, I’ll link to future posts that will explain things even more!
First thing’s first, if you haven’t already, sign up for a My Disney Experience Account: click here
and then download the My Disney Experience App to your phone.
Second, of course is deciding when to go! Take out those calendars and see what’s a good fit for you.
If you have flexibility you should take into consideration crowd levels (a quick Google search can help you see when schools are on break which usually leads to high crowds). Every season at Disney has its pros and cons, but…the cons are negligible because YOU’RE AT DISNEY and with good planning you’ll be sure that nothing hinders your fun!
Third step is to decide how many days you want to spend in the parks and which parks you’re hoping to visit. In addition to base tickets per day, you can add a one time fee “park hopper” option to your tickets that allows you to “hop” to more than one park in a day. We always do this and I recommend it, but it isn’t necessary – it just helps in case you want to do a half day in 2 parks then you can do both in 1 day, or if something you were hoping to see gets rained out on the day you planned for it, you can try to fit it in another day…things like that.
4th step is to decide where you’re staying! I will be sure to write a lot more on this topic, but I wanted to place it in this list now, because if you’re staying at a Disney World Resort (which I highly recommend) – there are perks you receive that will effect your planning strategy!
These 4 steps are important to determine so that you can buy your Disney Magic Your Way package (or individual park tickets if staying off Disney property) and ensure it is linked to your My Disney Experience account – if possible do this a little more than 6 months in advance (if you’re already past the 6 month mark, don’t worry! I’ve booked a trip only 2 weeks in advance and had an amazing time). Decisions about Steps 3 and 4 should be influenced by your budget.
Once you have these 4 steps completed you can move on to Step 5 :Making a plan for your stay. I’ll divide this step into part A-Dining and part B-FastPass+.
Part A: Dining reservations open up 180 days in advance and many (like meals at one of the castles) go QUICK – so it’s good have these 4 steps completed before then. When you make your dining reservations it helps you set an outline for the itinerary of your trip. Some people like to decide which parks they want to go to each day first and then decide dining based on that. Some people like to decide which dining experiences they’d like to try and then pick their park touring plan based on that. There’s no wrong way! If you are staying at a Disney owned property you can make your dining reservations for the first 10 days of your trip all at once, starting at 180 days before your trip.
You can do this online starting at 6am EST or by phone starting at 7am EST. If you are staying at any other type of property, you need to go online or call 180 days in advance of each day of dining that you want. This is also a good time to decide (if you haven’t already) if a Disney Dining Plan is something you’d like to purchase.
If you are able to do all this at the 180 (or so) day mark, then you have several months to relax and read up ( here on Sprinkling Pixie Dust 😉 ) on some of the types of attractions and entertainment you’d like to experience during your trip.
Part B FastPass+: This step happens 60 days before your trip if you are staying at a Disney owned property (or 30 days before if you are staying elsewhere). It’s the day you get to select your FastPass+ reservations! Each ticket holder is entitled to 3 FastPass+ per day which allows them to bypass the general standby line for an attraction and practically walk on a ride (or get into a show first). While it may sound crazy to need to know where you’re eating and what time you are riding rides so far in advance of your trip, I have found it does help give your day a framework to plan around …and that planning helps maximize your time in the parks!
So, as I mentioned, if you are staying at a Disney hotel, you can make your FastPass+ reservations for the length of your stay, 60 days before your trip (non Disney hotel guests may make FastPass+ selections 30 days before each day they plan to go to the parks). This can be done starting at 7am EST on your appointed day.
So set that alarm again and at 7am EST log into your My Disney Experience account and make those selections. I actually find it fun to sit at the computer staring at the clock to count down to start time – it’s like a race to get the FastPass+ times and attractions that I want! Again, I have booked trips closer than 60 days out and may not have gotten the exact passes I wanted, but I did just fine…and remember, you can also use a travel agent to do all of this for you – FOR FREE. Travel agents (when you book with them from the beginning) are paid by Disney and work hard at applying all the latest Disney discounts, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed use one. They should not charge you anything if you book your trip with them – if you’re quoted a fee then find another agent.
There it is – my basic, getting things in place outline! Obviously there are other important things…like transportation…but in an attempt to not overwhelm a beginner, I think these are the most important steps to consider when thinking about planning a most magical trip to the Walt Disney World Resort!
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