Disney World Tips: Planning before booking & traveling
Walt Disney World is a wonderful adult getaway – one that HI Travel Tales highly recommends. But as (alleged) grown-ups, going toe-to-toe jostling for space with battalions of 6-year-old pirates and princesses and their weary parents is not high on our “favorite things about Disney” list. You need some Disney World tips.
After a delightful stay in December at Walt Disney World (WDW)– normally off-season with lighter crowds, and considered one of the best “adult” times to visit – we learned a thing or two. Are we Disney experts? No. But we have fresh eyes that aren’t selling a thing to you!
Here, then, are some our essential Disney World tips and tricks to keep in mind weeks before you book your trip to Magic Kingdom, Epcot and the other attractions:
Walt Disney World tips for before you book your travel:
- Take a look a number of “crowd predictors” for WDW online. Yup, it’s a real business to rate potential crowds. Will those predictors be right? Just like with the weather, what is forecast isn’t necessarily accurate. In fact, our week was supposed to be lower attendance according to forecasts, but Magic Kingdom was jammed – even an expert Disney travel agent we talked to there was completely surprised. Nevertheless, a look at predictions may help. Just do a search on “Walt Disney World Crowd Predictions” and start reading up.
- Plan one more day than you think you need. EVERYTHING takes longer once you are there and you will, guaranteed, get distracted and sidetracked – SQUIRREL!?! You do not want to regret missing a show you didn’t know about until you arrived either.
- Decide whether you want to stay “on campus,” as we lovingly put it, or off-site. On-site advantages: gratis airport shuttle, extended park hours, complimentary resort parking, early FastPass+ ride selection, never leaving Disney magic, etc. On-site disadvantages: Higher room/hotel prices (sometimes significantly), never able to “turn off” the Disney “magic,” usually stuck with resort restaurants and shopping, never leaving Disney mania, etc.
Walt Disney World tips for before you head out:
- If at all possible, assess the entertainment options to help plot your days and timing so you fit in the parades, shows and meals you’d like well in advance. Use the FastPass+ feature to reserve things you want to do up to 30 days before you arrive at Disney, however, you must have purchased your tickets already to use FastPass+. Take some time studying the Walt Disney World website and its rather mind-bogglingly (we just made up that word) vast array of information.
- If you plan to stay “on campus” and will thus be subject to the whims of also eating there, do try to book dinners weeks before you arrive – at least dinners at the more popular or more elegant spots, or ones that mean seats for fireworks or shows.
- Download the Disney App. Once you figure it out – note, it is not necessarily intuitive – it will be a lifesaver and essential for managing FastPass+ changes and reservations once you arrive.
- Print out maps to have in your hot little hands: Yeah, really. Paper maps. As you are dashing around a park, there are not any map boards to stop to quickly orient yourself. And often trying to boot up an app on a small screen takes longer than a quick glance at a piece of paper. Or, OMG, your mobile device has run out of power. (Alternatively, be sure to pick up copies once there.)
Walt Disney World tips pre-trip for planning a saner stay:
- In pre-planning, be sure to allot 60-90 minutes to get where you need to go or between parks. Yeah, we were a bit shocked, but between waiting for buses, taking them here and there, waiting in lines, going through security and all that jazz, you’ll need lots and lots of time.
- Remember those very time constraints in pre-plotting your day’s schedule and which shows or entertainment options to attend. You can’t just pick up and get to another park or area in a snap.
- Helpful note: Hollywood Studios and Epcot are near each other while Magic Kingdom is at another end and Animal Kingdom is off in a world of its own, so plan your visits accordingly to minimize transportation time. In other words, you can combine Hollywood Studios and Epcot into one day if you’d like (and you have a “hopper” pass that allows you to visit multiple parks in a day).
- Speaking of hopper vs. non-hopper passes. Hopping is exhausting and, heck, we are adults, right? Think hard about whether you need to spend the extra money for a hopper pass … because in the end, one park a day may be all you can handle while saving time for just breathing a bit too.
- And unless you are a Florida resident, finding a true discount on Walt Disney World tickets is a bit of a pipe dream. Try, sure, go ahead and try. But many of those alleged discount outlets are not offering a real discount – and who wants to gamble on the black market of Disney tickets (yup, it exists!).
Oh, and don’t get too wrapped up in pre-planning! There are so many spontaneous “Oh look!” moments and impromptu “Let’s stop and watch!” events you won’t want to miss out on. Take time for the magic, the moment and, of course, your companion.