Congratulations – you’re going on the holiday of a lifetime to Disney World! Now, where on earth do you start with planning it?…..
With a lot of trips, you choose where to go, when to go and well, then you just go! But this is not quite the case with Disney World. Yes you can book a last minute deal and ‘wing it’, but you will get soooo much more from your visit if you plan a few simple things before you hop on the plane.
Not booked your tickets yet? Think about when to go!
Always wanted to see Disney World’s Halloween decorations or their Christmas lights? Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have to visit in late October or December. The parks start their Halloween decorations and celebrations in September and Christmas ones in November, so if you’re able, you could still visit during less busy and expensive times.
Whenever you are able to travel, there will be plenty to see and do, special events and ways to beat the queues.
Make sure you use My Disney Experience!
Once you have decided when to go and which Disney resort to stay at, it is vital to set up an account with My Disney Experience – a wonderful website/mobile app that lets you pre-book meals, times for rides, meeting characters and more. It stores all your plans in one place so you can see your itinerary coming together! You can even make changes while you’re there using the app. This will be your go-to for everything on your Disney World holiday.
Book your FastPasses in advance
Any Disney-goer worth their salt makes sure they make the absolute most of their FastPass choices! Not sure what this means? From 60 days if you are staying on-site (30 days if you’re not), you can pre-book time slots for up to 3 rides or attractions per day through My Disney Experience. Use them wisely and you can avoid wasting time in the particularly humongous queues, especially during the busy seasons when queues for popular rides can be over 2 hours!
Make your Dining Reservations
From 180 days before you go, you can start to make reservations in a lot of the restaurants. If you have never been to Disney World before, you might be wondering why on earth you even need to think about where you might be eating in 6 months’ time. However, certain restaurants book up really quickly, and especially if you are looking to go during peak season, you need to reserve your table well in advance to save disappointment.
Basically, you cannot expect to walk up to somewhere like Be Our Guest (the Beauty and the Beast restaurant) at midday in the beginning of August or around Christmas time and get to eat. If you are on the full Disney Dining Plan, it is a really good idea to book up all of the places you want to eat as soon as possible. Don’t worry if you change your mind later; you can change and even cancel them right up until 24 hours before.
Look at what Special Experiences you could do!
It is also a really good idea to book up anything that you looking to do as an extra at the 180 day mark, or as soon as possible. Experiences like the Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique and the more popular tours like Keys to the Kingdom fill up really fast, so again to avoid disappointment you should book these as early as you can.
Learn a bit about the theme parks
Another thing you really should do before going to Disney World is a little research about the different parks. Altogether there are 4 theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT and Animal Kingdom), 2 water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach) and a recreational/shopping area called Disney Springs.
Each park is very different with specific theming, rides, attractions and shows. Whilst you will more than likely visit all of them, it is useful to know in advance which things you most want to see, and which are likely to have the longest lines. This means you will be able to plan your days around arriving early to make the most of the parks when they are less busy (don’t forget – if you are staying in a Disney Resort hotel you’ll get Extra Magic Hours too!) and your FastPass choices.
Have a look at the ride restrictions
This mainly applies if you have kids. Forewarned is forearmed, and it may just save that meltdown when Junior realises he’s too short to be allowed on the Rock N’ Rollercoaster.
Even if there are no little ones involved, it’s also a good idea to find out if there’s anything you might not want to do – there would be nothing worse than taking someone scared of heights on the Tower of Terror, or someone who is claustrophobic onto Mission Space.
Make sure you’re set for The States
There are a few other practical things to make sure you have before you travel to the US:
- A new style passport with at least 6 months left on it
- A valid ESTA (If you are unable to apply for an ESTA, you must visit the US Embassy to apply for a Visa. Otherwise you will be refused entry into America)
- It is also useful to buy some dollars before you travel, if you do not want to be hit with the outrageous airport exchange rate or pay fees at US ATMs.
A final word: It’s not essential to plan ahead, but you’ll enjoy more if you do
A lot of people prefer to be spontaneous when they are on holiday and hate the idea of having any kind of plan. You can get away with just arriving at Disney World and working your way through each park each day, making FastPass choices on the day and eating where you can. However, I do advise some forward planning, or you are highly unlikely to do and see everything that you wanted to.
Want to know more about the different parks at Disney World Florida? Read our Orlando Theme Park Guides