A Guide To Planning Your Trip To Disney World
So I’m done. I’ve checked in and I can finally stop thinking about dates and reservation numbers. Planning a trip to Disney World can take time and effort. Reservation windows for bookings open early, meaning spaces go quickly. Knowing the dates Disney set will keep you organised ensuring you secure the things you really want to do.
Here I’ve gathered those all important dates that you just can’t overlook when planning a trip to the most magical place on earth.
200 Days Out – Getting Things Organised
From 180 days out you can start booking your advance dining reservations (ADRS). So from the 200 days out mark you’ll need to start thinking about what parks you’ll be visiting on what days.
If you’re anything like me you’ve already got a basic daily itinerary by this point; being organised pays off in the long run.
Show times, Park opening times and extra magic hours (EMH) won’t officially be released until 6 months before your trip which can make this decision kind of tricky.
To help decide the best days to go to each park during your stay it helps to use a crowd calendar. Touring Plans and Undercover Tourist both offer free access to their crowd calendars. These calendars help decipher the least crowded days in each of the Disney parks AND have anticipated park opening hours and park show times. All data comes from previous years. Using touring plans has made a huge difference to our trip meaning we’re able to experience a lot more.
At this point you should also create a My Disney Experience account through the official DisneyWorld website. This account is vital to your trip as its used to make Advance Dining Reservations (ADRS) and fast pass reservations. It’s also a great tool for creating your own itinerary and has cool little extras like customizing your magic bands.
180 Days Out – ADRS ADRS ADRS!
The advance dining reservation booking window opens 180 days before your visit. This does however have a different meaning to those staying at an onsite Disney Resort hotel to those at a non-Disney hotel.
For Disney Resort guests, starting 180-days from your arrival you can make ADRS for your arrival date ASWELL AS for an additional 10-days into your trip. For example if you are arriving in Disneyworld on November 7th, you can start making ADRS for this date from May 6th.
As a Disney Resort guest you can then continue to make ADRS up to and including Nov 16th. If you are an offsite guest you will not have access to the additional 10-day window.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to book ADRS at the 180-day mark.
Having had planned on booking dinner at the Cinderella’s Royal Table Restaurant on the evening of Nov 8th. I was sat poised at my laptop at 6.55am, 5 minutes before the reservation window opened for my trip. I had planned my strategy and knew how to use the Disney website with precision in order to ensure I would get the reservations I wanted. Refreshing the page at exactly 7am, the only times available were for lunch. My life was ruined. Guests with a onsite hotel booking arriving before me had obviously taken advantage of their 10-day window. After a quick pull of myself together I realised that a table at lunch was better than nothing and booked the 1.30pm slot.
Since then it’s worked out better as it freed up our evening for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The moral of my story is that even being as prepared as you can be, things do get in the way. I was ultimately unable to secure the time I’d originally planned. It’s important to enjoy the planning as much as possible and use this period of time to really build up the excitement for your visit to the place where dreams come true.
Keep in mind that some ADRS require a full payment up front. Details regarding payment are available when making any reservation. You can also make ADRS by calling Disney’s reservation line on 0800 028 0778 however I recommend using the site because it’s instant rather than being held in a queue.
To make a reservation at the ever-popular Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for your little ones (3yrs to 12yrs only) you only have the option to call Disney. However, you still get the same reservation window (180-days plus 10 days for on site guests)
60 Days out (30 days for offsite guests)- FP and Groceries
Fast pass+ (FP)
This is when the fast pass reservation window opens for your trip. Make sure you keep an eye out for my December post; fast pass to your advantage if you really want to make the most of your time.
Once again staying at a Disney resort hotel gives you an added benefit of a 30-day head start to those staying offsite. This time around you are able to make FP reservations 60 days before your arrival and for up to 7 days into your visit. Fast pass is free to all visitors with valid tickets to the DisneyWorld parks.
Whilst I understand it may seem crazy to plan the 1 hour window you want for an attraction so far ahead, doing so will knock hours off of your queuing time. This means you can spend more time enjoying the parks rather than standing in line all day.
Fast pass+ is only really needed for the most popular rides and shows (meeting Anna and Elsa, Toy story midway mania, Peter Pans flight) which can regularly exceed waiting times of 1 hour. FP can also help cut 30 minutes off of shorter wait times for smaller attractions so try not to let them go to waste. Your FP reservations can be cancelled and edited at any point after making them on the website. It’s really easy to move things around if you change your mind.
If you’re attempting to be as savvy as you are organised for your trip, pre ordering groceries for your stay is a great idea. You can easily drive/take a cab to a local Wall Mart or Winn Dixie. As a non-driver with DisneyWorld plans coming out of my ears I’d rather not spend an afternoon walking around a supermarket.
I’ve used www.GardenGrocer.com and I can’t recommend them enough. I don’t live in Orlando, so I can’t compare them to my own weekly grocery shop. But as a comparison to buying the equivalent in London, Garden Grocers are budget friendly.
I don’t tend to order a full shop; just bottles of water ($3 a bottle in the parks), bread and peanut butter and jelly for an easy breakfast to take with us in the mornings.
They sell all sorts of snacks that are handy to take into the parks with you for breakfast. We always buy the treats we want (Mickey mouse ice creams, butter beer, flaming Moe’s etc.) however, not buying breakfast for 7-days of a 14-day trip can easily save you $100 plus.
You can also order tea and coffee and save a small fortune compared to park prices. I always purchase Disney’s Unlimited cups for my stay as they are unbelievable value when you’re British and Tea and Coffee are your life.
Unlimited Cups give you an unlimited supply of both hot and fizzy drinks from your Disney Resort Hotel food court. This is for the entire length of your stay and cups cost around $17.
GardenGrocer also sells alcohol (I told you they were amazing), which beats paying $45 for a bottle of Chardonnay in a Disney hotel bar.
The minimum delivery order is $40 and delivery is $14 dollars. Disney can hold your delivery at the reception desk or have it sent to your room. You can also pre order 60 days before your delivery date and get 10% off.
3 Days Out – Memory maker/Photo pass
Memory maker is a little piece of genius. It captures and keeps a digital photo online. So you capture of all the magical photos you didn’t have time to stop and take for yourself.
Disney cast members are dotted all over the parks. They will take your photo after scanning your magic band. Photos are then available online on the same day.
Don’t forget to add your memory maker to your Disney account on the Disney website. Purchase Disney’s memory maker at least 3 days before having your first picture taken and save $20.
Looking for other things to do during your trip? Check out my top things to do outside of the Disneyworld parks post
Do you have your own Disney planning tips? Have you got questions about our trip? Leave a comment or get in touch!