Mistakes I’ve made in Disney World (and how you can avoid them)

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away…I was a first time Disney World visitor (as an adult). I traveled to Disney World a few times as a child with my family but when you’re young, you just go with the flow. As an adult and in charge of my first ever trip to Disney World in which I was paying out of my own pocket, I made some mistakes. Some big ones! Here were my biggest faux pas and how you can avoid them…

Not Making a Plan ahead of timeThis is much harder to do now that FastPass+ is in effect and more guests than ever are choosing to add a dining plan to their package. It was my sister and me. She had just graduated college and we were celebrating in Disney World. We found a great promo, made 2 dining reservations and just planned to eat as inexpensive as possible as 2 girls just starting with our careers. Neither of our dining reservations were in the parks, so I truly went in with ZERO plan for the day. A marker of Disney World success is knowing park hours, extra magic hours, and having a plan of action prior to your arrival. We truly wandered around the parks (which was fine for two 20somethings, but I felt like we missed a lot – AND WE DID!!)

Not researching resorts enough. My initial research involved finding the absolute rock bottom lowest price. Disney, just like the rest of the world, you get what you pay for! Poly signBooking the cheapest room in the cheapest resort gave us the cheapest experience. Shared bus system, an almost 10 minute walk to from our room the the main building to refill mugs and not our kind of “people” in the resort! If I would have taken 10-15 minutes to research the resorts, look at reviews, or look at other options, I would have spent $75 more (for the entire week – not just one day) on a different resort!

Not realizing how Extra Magic Hours affect crowds. This was one of our biggest mistakes! We saw early morning magic hours for each park and thought that would be a great park to go to with our base tickets (OOPS!) Early Magic Hours increase park crowds and unless you can arrive at the parks before that early hour opens (which can be as early as 7 am during peak travel time), you’re doing yourself a disservice and will end up seeing MORE crowds than you would have on a different day.

Arriving lateWe were on vacation. We took time to sleep in. No college classes, no work, why should we get up early? 9 am – 12 pm are the most important hours of the day (or if park open is 8 am during peak travel time). Being part of the late arriving crowd will have you miss the lowest crowds of each day where many attractions are “walk on”. Set an alarm, wake up early and plan on a nap or a break if the early mornings are getting to you! Consider an off day to let everyone sleep in instead of arriving at the park at 11 am or 12 pm each day and then just staying until park close.

Our amazing view from the FastPass viewing area of MSEP!

Our amazing view from the FastPass viewing area of MSEP!

Not understanding FastPass. Again, we’re going back in time when FastPass was still the paper version. We didn’t figure out how things worked until the end of our trip but the theory still holds true with FastPass+. In Disney’s new system, each guest receives 3 FastPasses for every day they have theme park admission. These can be scheduled up to 60 days in advance of your arrival if you are staying on site and on site guests receive the bonus adding more FastPasses throughout the day by using the My Disney Experience app. FastPass is a key to success no matter what time of year you travel!

Not having the option of park hopping.  Two adults, no kids in tow, lots of rain, cancelled fireworks and shows. We should have park hopped! Our first night, Magic Kingdom fireworks were cancelled because of lightning in the area and we missed Epcot’s because we were so water logged later in the week. With base tickets, we didn’t have the opportunity go back to Epcot based on how our days ended up falling into place. It would have been a nice addition to our trip just to give us some flexibility in our days.

Being afraid to explore other resorts. We hopped the boat from Hollywood Studios down toward the Boardwalk and walked around, had some lunch and then started to peek around Boardwalk Inn. Since it wasn’t our resort, I was uncomfortable walking inside because I didn’t feel like I belonged there. The good news for you? You are welcome in ANY Disney World resort if you’d like to explore the common areas! You don’t need a reservation for a dining location. Hop a bus, boat, or monorail and explore!

Not using Magical Express luggage service. We were flying an airline that offered resort airline check in but we didn’t understand what that meant! For those on qualifying airlines, you may check your luggage with Magical Express at your Disney World resort and only your carry ons will come with you on the bus back to the airport. Luggage is secured and sent to the airport and then next time you’ll see it is at your home airport. Amazing little time saver to not deal with anything at the airport and there are rarely guests in line (at least in my 10+ experiences with it!)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

I hope you learned a few things from my mistakes! I’d love to help plan for your magical adventure! If  you’re ready to get started planning your 2016 or 2017 Disney World vacation, Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

Making the most of your Disney World FastPass+ selections

 

UPDATED for SUMMER 2016 and beyond!

If you’ve been to Disney World or Disneyland you’re probably familiar with FastPass service which allows you to skip the line for some of your favorite Disney World attractions. As technology continues to move forward, so does FastPass+. This change allows guests to make their reservations prior to their arrival. It’s great for families that want a day to sleep in (which I don’t recommend), park hop, or start their day with a dining reservation. Rules and available passes are different for on and off site guests. We’ll start for guests staying at any Disney World resort:

  • Each guest with valid theme park admission is able to make 3 FastPass+ reservations for each day they have park tickets. These first 3 reservations must be in the same theme park. These initial reservations can be made up to 60 days prior to guest arrival date for the length of their stay.
  • Guests will be able to make one additional selection at a time, based on availability. Guests have the ability to make additional selections via the My Disney Experience app or via FastPass kiosks located inside each theme park. You may schedule your 4th, 5th, 6th, etc. FastPasses from the app for any theme park. If using a kiosk, you can only schedule additional FastPasses for the park you are in.
  • Guests will be able to make their additional selection(s) for an experience at which they already redeemed a FastPass+ selection earlier that day (for parks like Epcot and Hollywood Studios, no “tier” requirements)
  • Guests with valid park-hopping privileges will be able to make their additional selection(s) at another park.

It’s a little different for day guests (a.k.a. non-Disney resort staying guests);

  • Each guest with valid theme park admission is able ot make 3 FastPass+ reservations for each day they have park tickets. These reservations must be made in the same theme park. Initial reservations can be made up to 30 days prior to arriving in the park and do not qualify to make reservations for their length of stay as Disney has no way of knowing what their length of stay really is!
  • No additional FastPass+ reservations will be given to non-resort guests.
  • Not much of any advantage – sorry off site guests!

FastPass+ Reservations, Strategy & Planning for Disney resort guests:

  • Make your three FastPass+ reservations online 60 days prior to your arrival (the window opens up at 7 am EST on the 60th day). You can make the reservations for your entire vacation.
    Choose FastPass options for the most popular attractions and for lines that get the longest (see below for list at each park)
  • Make your choices earlier in the day. I start passes for my guests sometime around 9:45 or 10 am with a headlining attraction and then continue back to back until all 3 passes are used (pending any dining reservations during that time).
  • Arrive at the park before opening and ride one popular attraction standby (ideally one you don’t have a FastPass for); Based on the time you exit the attraction, continue until you hit the middle of your first FastPass time.
  • Continue riding standby as attractions allow. Do your next FastPass as close to the end of the window as possible to use your last 2 FastPasses back to back (it feels so much more successful!)
  • After you use your 3rd FastPass, check the app and grab something for later in the day ASAP!
    Grab lunch and then continue your afternoon (or take a break after lunch and schedule a FastPass for your return).
  • Be flexible! If you see the line for Splash Mountain is short at 10:30 am and your FastPass is for 11, hop in the standby line and change your FastPass attraction (or ride again!)

I know it’s A LOT of planning, but you have the ability to get through 5-6 different attractions before lunch which is HUGE! This works best in Magic Kingdom as there are the most attractions in the least amount of space, however the strategy can be used in any of the 4 theme parks. It becomes more important than ever to know the parks before you arrive.

Choosing FastPass+ Attractions

This is where the process gets a little bit easier. Below is a breakdown of all the available FastPass choices. I have put them in order from longest to shortest wait time (on average). Once you get past the first couple, they are fairly interchangeable. I would highly recommend, you choose FastPasses from the top of the list for your initial reservations as these will be the first to go (and likely will be unavailable by the time you get to a kiosk later in the day). As a reminder, the bold selections in Epcot and Hollywood Studios are the tier one choices. You may choose one RED attraction, and two non-red attractions for your three reservations.

MAGIC KINGDOM

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Enchanted Tales With Belle
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Meet Rapunzel and a visiting princess in Fairy Tale Hall
  • Meet Cinderella and a visiting princess in Fairy Tale Hall
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Meet Ariel at her Grotto
  • Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater (Mickey Mouse talks here!)
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • The Barnstormer
  • Meet Tinkerbell in Town Square Theater
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • it’s a small world
  • Mad Tea Party (Spinning teacups)
  • Festival of Fantasy Parade (preferred seating)
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

EPCOT

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Soarin’
  • Test Track
  • Mission: Space

    Just a little fun in Epcot character spot!

    Just a little fun in Epcot character spot!

  • Meet Disney Pals at the Epcot Character Spot
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Turtle Talk With Crush
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
  • Living with the Land
  • Journey Into Imagination With Figment
  • Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
  • Illuminations: Reflections of Earth

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
  • Toy Story Midway Mania
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Star Tours
  • The Great Movie Ride
  • First Time in Forever: Frozen Sing-along
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
  • Disney Junior – Live on Stage
  • Fantasmic
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Expedition Everest. Are you brave enough to take on the dreaded Yeti?

Expedition Everest. Are you brave enough to take on the dreaded Yeti?

  • Expedition Everest
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • DINOSAUR
  • Jungle Book Alive (more important when it transitions to Rivers of Light)
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Primeval Whirl
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug
  • Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2016 or 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

How to Make the Most of Your FastPass+ Selections!

 

If you’ve been to Disney World or Disneyland you’re probably familiar with FastPass service which allows you to skip the line for some of your favorite Disney World attractions. As technology continues to move forward, so does FastPass+. This change allows guests to make their reservations prior to their arrival. It’s great for families that want a day to sleep in (which I don’t recommend), park hop, or start their day with a dining reservation. Rules and available passes are different for on and off site guests. We’ll start for guests staying at any Disney World resort:

  • Each guest with valid theme park admission is able to make 3 FastPass+ reservations for each day they have park tickets. These first 3 reservations must be in the same theme park. These initial reservations can be made up to 60 days prior to guest arrival date for the length of their stay.
  • Guests will be able to make one additional selection at a time, based on availability. After they redeem that additional selection, they can go to a FastPass+ kiosk to make another selection, and so on. (The additional FastPass+ selections must be made at a kiosk only.)
  • Guests will be able to make their additional selection(s) for an experience at which they already redeemed a FastPass+ selection earlier that day.
  • Guests with valid park-hopping privileges will be able to make their additional selection(s) at another park. Those selections must be made at a kiosk in the park where the desired experience is located.

It’s a little different for day guests (a.k.a. non-Disney resort staying guests);

  • Each guest with valid theme park admission is able ot make 3 FastPass+ reservations for each day they have park tickets. These reservations must be made in the same theme park. Initial reservations can be made up to 30 days prior to arriving in the park and do not qualify to make reservations for their length of stay as Disney has no way of knowing what their length of stay really is!
  • No additional FastPass+ reservations will be given to non-resort guests.
  • Not much of any advantage – sorry off site guests!

FastPass+ Reservations, Strategy & Planning for Disney resort guests:

  • Make your three FastPass+ reservations online 60 days prior to your arrival (the window opens up at 12 am EST on the 60th day). You can make the reservations for your entire vacation.
    Choose FastPass options for the most popular attractions and for lines that get the longest (see below for list at each park)
  • Make your choices earlier in the day. I start passes for my guests sometime around 9:45 or 10 am with a headlining attraction and then continue back to back until all 3 passes are used (pending any dining reservations during that time).
  • Arrive at the park before opening and ride one popular attraction standby (ideally one you don’t have a FastPass for); Based on the time you exit the attraction, continue until you hit the middle of your first FastPass time.
  • Continue riding standby as attractions allow. Do your next FastPass as close to the end of the window as possible to use your last 2 FastPasses back to back (it feels so much more successful!)
  • After you use your 3rd FastPass, find the closest kiosk and make a reservation for after lunch
    Grab lunch and then continue your afternoon (or take a break after lunch and schedule a FastPass for your return).
  • Be flexible! If you see the line for Splash Mountain is short at 10:30 am and your FastPass is for 11, hop in the standby line and change your FastPass attraction (or ride again!)

I know it’s A LOT of planning, but you have the ability to get through 5-6 different attractions before lunch which is HUGE! This works best in Magic Kingdom as there are the most attractions in the least amount of space, however the strategy can be used in any of the 4 theme parks. It becomes more important than ever to know the parks before you arrive.

Choosing FastPass+ Attractions

This is where the process gets a little bit easier. Below is a breakdown of all the available FastPass choices. I have put them in order from longest to shortest wait time (on average). Once you get past the first couple, they are fairly interchangeable. I would highly recommend, you choose FastPasses from the top of the list for your initial reservations as these will be the first to go (and likely will be unavailable by the time you get to a kiosk later in the day). As a reminder, the bold selections in Epcot and Hollywood Studios are the tier one choices. You may choose one RED attraction, and two non-red attractions for your three reservations.

MAGIC KINGDOM

  • Meet Anna & Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall

    Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

    Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Enchanted Tales With Belle
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Meet Rapunzel & Cinderella at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Meet Ariel at her Grotto
  • Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater (Mickey Mouse talks here!)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • The Barnstormer
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh
  • Meet Tinkerbell in Town Square Hall
  • Main Street Electrical Parade (Reserved Area)
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • it’s a small world
  • Mad Tea Party (Spinning teacups)
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Wishes (Reserved Area – new Gardens near Casey’s corner – it’s a more desirable location the the previous rose garden option!)

EPCOT

  • Soarin’
  • Test Track
  • Mission: Space
  • Turtle Talk With Crush

    Just a little fun in Epcot character spot!

    Just a little fun in Epcot character spot!

  • Captain EO
  • Meet Disney Pals at the Epcot Character Spot
  • Illuminations: Reflections of Earth
  • Journey Into Imagination With Figment
  • Living with the Land
  • Spaceship Earth
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

  • Toy Story Midway Mania
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Star Tours
  • The Great Movie Ride
  • First Time in Forever: Frozen Sing-along
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
  • Disney Junior – Live on Stage
  • Fantasmic
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Expedition Everest. Are you brave enough to take on the dreaded Yeti?

Expedition Everest. Are you brave enough to take on the dreaded Yeti?

  • Expedition Everest
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • DINOSAUR
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Primeval Whirl
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug
  • Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost

 

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015  or 2016 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Tips for planning your First Disney World vacation!

 

It was a slow day for me today, so what else would I do but dream of our next Disney World vacation. My husband hates when I’m left to my own devices because he knows I’ll find a deal and sweet talk him into something, and of course, I did! 🙂 Back to Disney in December for some more “research” of course! This will be my daughter’s very first trip and while she won’t remember it, the vacation will be a very memorable one for us!

The first Disney trip is a big deal. Whether it’s the first time going as an adult and planning yourself or the first time for your kids, each experience is different and deserves specialized care! While many of my general tips apply to all Disney guests, here are some that are especially for those first time travelers!

  • Travel off peak when possible. September – early November is really the best time to go to Disney! The weather is still warm, crowds are low, and prices are low as well. Disney often offers free dining or discounted dining promotions during this time so you get more for less. Free dining continues to be the most popular promotion Disney offers and there’s a reason they choose specific seasons to offer this great promotion.
  • If summer or spring break is your only option, don’t sweat it. You can still enjoy Disney while when crowds levels are higher. You can enjoy FastPass+ to the fullest by staying on Disney property which will allow you to skip the line for even more of your soon to be favorite attractions!
  • Plan ahead. Once you have your dates, get them secured. Discounts can ALWAYS be applied at the time a new promotion is released. It’s just a phone call away. Packages require a $200 deposit to book and is 100% refundable 46+ days in advance, so if things change, no problem.
  • Work with someone that knows Disney. You will save time, money, frustration, and stress by working with a travel agent. I’m always here to help if you have general questions or are looking to get your Magical experience started! I’ve found that once a person starts with a good travel agent, they continue to use him/her for future trips or refer friends. That’s a really good marker of a great person! You should not be another page in their book!
  • Try at least one sit down restaurant. Your feet will thank you and it’s fun to get a different experience and a break from the go, go, go atmosphere of Disney.Disney-MagicBand
  • Use FastPass+ to your advantage. Whether you have base tickets or park hoppers, make sure take advantage to all the free things Disney offers as part of their package. Each ticketed guest will receive 3 FastPasses each day. Disney resort guests have the opportunity to earn more once inside the park. Check out the complete details of FastPass+ and learn strategy.
  • Customize those MagicBands. I always feel bad when I see a family with all gray bands walking around the parks or playing in the pool. Learn how to get to your customization page and get creative!
  • Children under 3 are free! If are thinking about Disney travel in the near future and your son or daughter is under 3, think about travel sooner rather than later. Children under 3 years of age are free. Free park tickets, free dining at buffets, and are able to eat off your plate at other restaurants. They also don’t count toward the total guests in your room . For a family of 5, this is huge. Once you hit 5+ in a room, you lose many hotel options.
  • Children under 10 cost less! Once again, if you are going to travel in the near future, 9 years old and 10 years old make a huge difference. At 10, kids are considered Disney “adults” and pay adult prices for food and park tickets. You will save quite a bit of money by traveling before (or near) the age your child turns 10.
  • Tell Disney (or your travel agent) about any celebrations. This includes everything from first visit to birthday, graduation, anniversary, etc. Anything you can think of.  Even if travel doesn’t fall specific on a birthday or anniversary, you can still celebrate at Disney! You’ll get a little something extra. While it’s typically just a button, you never know what kind of fuss Disney will make over your special celebration.
  • Do your research! Know what resorts have to offer and know where each one is. Typically there’s a reason that one hotel is cheaper than another in each resort category. Make sure you know the details before you make your final decision!
A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Tips and Tricks for Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation

Tips & Tricks for Planning a Disney World Vacation

So you want to plan a Disney vacation. Congrats! You’ve gotten to the first BIG step: RESEARCH

This step would ideally be completed 7-12 months before your travel date. Already feel behind? Don’t worry, I’ll catch you up! During the research phase, I’d suggest ordering a planning DVD from Disney’s web site. This will familiarize you with the parks and some of the great things Disney World has to offer presented in a fun way the whole family will enjoy.

Next steps, create your budget. I suggest creating multiple budgets underneath your full budget. This would include airfare or gas to get you to Disney, hotel and park tickets, food (or dining plan), souvenirs, and any extra spending money. During down travel times, a decent budget for a family of 4 (2 adults, 1 junior, 1 child) would be about $2500 for hotel and park tickets. It can obviously be a little less or a little more. During peak travel times, I’d suggest a budget of about $3000 for hotel and park tickets as prices increase during spring break, summer, and holiday time.

Once you have a budget, it’s time to start looking at resorts (hotels). Each hotel has their own pros and cons and with over 25 options, it can be VERY confusing! To make things easier, here’s some easy questions to answer to help get to your final destination:

  •          What are my options within my budget?
  •          Are we a family of 5 or more?
  •          Is location on Disney property important?
  •          What park do you plan on visiting the most?
  •          Do you have a little one who will need a nap in the middle of the day?
  •          Do you need Disney characters in your room or around your resort? (this is somewhat limited)
  •          Is bed size important to you?

All these important questions will help steer you toward the best location for you.

Next step: BOOKING YOUR RESERVATION!

Remember, if you’re looking more than 6 months out from your vacation, the cost you see online will likely not be your end cost. Disney typically released special offers/discounts between 2-4 months prior to your arrival date.

Why do I suggest booking so far out? DINING! If getting some of the hottest dining reservations are important to your family, you need to have your vacation booked more than 180 days from your arrival date. This will allow you to get first pick of dining locations like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table. Be Our Guest consistently is 100% booked 180 days from arrival and getting a reservation for dinner is extremely difficult after that point.  On top of that, you’ll need to be up at 6 am eastern time to secure a great reservation time (for you west coasters that’s 3 am!)

The next step in this process is RELAXING! Between 180 days and 60 days there’s not a ton of important things to do except get excited and think about the various attractions you’d like to see/do as well as any characters you’d like to meet. Check online Disney’s website for some information or order customized maps for your vacation. This will give you a list of all the available attractions in each park. Now is also the time to keep an eye out for discounts to be released through Disney’s web site. Once they are made available, it’s important that you call a cast member to apply the discount as soon as possible as rooms at some resorts go very quickly.  Be aware you may need to upgrade your room view to take advantage of the discount (you’ll still save money in the process, so don’t worry about it too much!) Also be aware that it may take over an hour on the phone to get a hold of a cast member when a new discount is released and Disney does not automatically apply any discounts to your account without your request.

At 60 days, we’re back to BOOKING. Now it’s time to book your FastPass+ reservations. When you do this, it’s very important that you know a few things:

  •          Do you have park hopper tickets?
  •          Parks with early morning magic hours
  •          Best and worst parks each day
  •          The best attractions to use your FastPass+ allotments on
  •          Do you have smaller kids that would be scared of dark rides or have height restrictions?

Around this time is usually the perfect time to get the lowest cost on flight reservations (if you haven’t already done so). After your flight, you’ll need to call Disney to add your flight information to your Magical Express reservation.  60 days prior to arrival is also makes online check-in available. This will allow you to provide Disney with your arrival time to your resort as well as provide a credit card on file during your stay. It’s another way to skip the line. If you’re planning on arriving later in the afternoon, this option isn’t necessary.

This is also a quick reminder that in 15 short days, your final payment is due for any package. If you have a room only reservation, you’ll pay the remaining balance on arrival.

Between 45 days and arrival day, there’s not much more to do in the planning phase. If you were unable to get any dining locations you were hoping for, you can continue to check back online for cancellations. Or, if you’re like me, you can change and update your FastPass+ and dining reservations until you make yourself crazy!

Have a completely confused you? Do you feel really behind? The good news is that you have another option to take all the stress and planning away. Use an authorized Disney vacation planner and the better news, is I’m happy to help! Four reasons to use a travel planner instead of doing it all yourself:

 

Reason #1 to use a  Travel Professional: KNOWLEDGE!

Did you know that some of the most popular Disney Restaurants can be completely booked 180 days in advance? Your best bet is to wake up at 6 am EST and get advanced dining reservations online. For you west coasters, that means 3 AM! Unless you have a newborn that’s already awake, that’s no fun for anyone. As part of my Disney Travel Experience, I take care of all of your planning needs, not only resort and ticket reservations, but also Dining and FastPass+. This is more time to spend with your family.

Reason #2 to use a  Travel Professional: CONVENIENCE & TIME!

Your ideal resort or room sold out on Disney’s web site for the promotion you were hoping to get? Well never fear, check with a Disney Travel Specialist to see if their access allows you to book your dream vacation. Also, Magical Vacations is the Home of the Minnie Box, a special gift that arrives on top of all the other goodies that Disney offers when you book a vacation package! Additionally, you’ll have extra time in the parks with a personalized itinerary tailored to your family’s wants and needs.

Reason #3 to use a Disney Travel Professional: SPECIAL BENEFITS!

Did you know that using a travel professional is absolutely 100% FREE? You read that right! Having someone else do all the heavy lifting, waking up early, and being available for questions costs nothing! PLUS, you have the peace of mind that everything is taken care of before your departure.

Reason #4 to use a Travel Professional: FREE!

There are just some of the great benefits of using an authorized Disney vacation planner. While you are able to use any travel professional, I suggest you choose one who is readily available, willing to go the extra mile to make your vacation magical, and someone with a great level of customer service. So what have you got to lose?

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Disney World Tips & Tricks: Help for Your First Visit

Disney-World-First-Visit-ButtonIt’s the time of year everyone starts thinking about summer and vacation. The weather is cold (at least by me), the days are short, and the next paid day off of work for most people isn’t until May. Planning a vacation is definitely a good way to get rid of those winter blues.

The first Disney trip is a big deal. Whether it’s the first time going as an adult and planning yourself or the first time for your kids, each experience is different and deserves specialized care! While many of my general tips and tricks apply to all Disney guests, here are some that are especially for those first time travelers!

  • Travel off peak when possible. September – early November is really the best time to go to Disney! The weather is still warm, crowds are low, and prices are low as well. Disney often offers free dining or discounted dining promotions during this time so you get more for less. Free dining continues to be the most popular promotion Disney offers and there’s a reason they choose specific seasons to offer this great promotion.
  • If summer or spring break is your only option, don’t sweat it. You can still enjoy Disney while when crowds levels are higher.
  • Plan ahead. Once you have your dates, get them secured. Discounts can ALWAYS be applied at the time a new promotion is released. It’s just a phone call away. Packages require a $200 deposit to book and is 100% refundable 46+ days in advance, so if things change, no problem.
  • Work with someone that knows Disney. You will save time, money, frustration, and stress by working with a travel agent. I’m always here to help if you have general questions or are looking to get your Magical experience started! I’ve found that once a person starts with a good travel agent, they continue to use him/her for future trips or refer friends. That’s a really good marker of a great person! You should not be another page in the book!
  • Try at least one sit down restaurant. Your feet will thank you and it’s fun to get a different experience and a break from the go, go, go atmosphere of Disney.
  • Use FastPass+ to your advantage. Whether you have base tickets or park hoppers, make sure take advantage to all the free things Disney offers as part of their package. Book all allotted FastPasses.
  • Children under 3 are free! If are thinking about Disney travel in the near future and your son or daughter is under 3, think about travel sooner rather than later. Children under 3 years of age are free. Free park tickets, free dining at buffets, and are able to eat off your plate at other restaurants. They also don’t count toward the total guests in your room . For a family of 5, this is huge. Once you hit 5+ in a room, you lose many hotel options.
  • Children under 10 cost less! Once again, if you are going to travel in the near future, 9 years old and 10 years old make a huge difference. At 10, kids are considered Disney “adults” and pay adult prices for food and park tickets. You will save quite a bit of money by traveling before (or near) the age your child turns 10.
  • Tell Disney (or your travel agent) about any celebrations. This includes everything from first visit to birthday, graduation, anniversary, etc. Anything you can think of.  Even if travel doesn’t fall specific on a birthday or anniversary, you can still celebrate at Disney!

For all Disney Tips and Tricks, please see these previous helpful posts:

Disney lingo

Talking Disney World to someone is sometimes like a foreign language. And if you check message boards, there’s acronyms all over the place. Here’s your Disney Dictionary reference guide in one handy place! Even Disney veterans will find some of these useful with the MyMagic+ roll out!

Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs). These reservations can be made 180 days in advance to your travel dates. For best availability, book as soon as you know your dates.

Cast Member (CM). A Disney employee. They are available to answer questions and help you while on vacation.

Disney Magical Express (DME). The Disney transportation system that takes you to and from the Orlando airport. Reservations must be set up prior to your arrival. The Magical Express gang will even pick up your checked baggage and bring it right to your hotel room.

Downtown Disney (DTD). Located on Disney Property, Downtown Disney offers great shopping, dining and entertainment options. Bus and limited boat service is available from all Disney resort hotels. Downtown Disney buses do not have direct transfer to any Disney park!

Extra Magic Hours (EMH). Bonus park time for Disney resort guests. Extra Magic Hours come in early morning or evening varieties and allows 1-3 hours of extra park time per day. Evening magic hours are a great way to ride popular attractions with shorter lines. Not all attractions are available during this hours, so make sure you know before you go!

FastPass+ (FP+). FastPasses allow you to “skip the line” and see the hottest Disney attractions. Disney’s New FastPass+ system allow you to schedule arrival times up to 60 days before arrival at Disney. These reservations are dynamic and can be changed at any time! If you get stuck in another line or want a break, make changes in real time. You are allowed up to 3 FP+ reservations per day. These are 100% FREE and park of your admission in the parks. These reservations are limited to one park per day.

MagicBands. Part of MyMagic+. They are a literal Band (think LiveStrong bracelet) made of soft material. You are able to customize each member of your family’s bands by color and name or nickname. You are able to choose from: red, blue, green, yellow, orange, pink, or gray. Names can be up to 9 characters including numbers, letters, and spaces. Bands are mailed to your home prior to your arrival at Disney. Uses include access to Disney Magical Express, hotel room key, park ticket access,

Memory Maker. An exciting new way to get all of your Disney photos taken on attractions and by PhotoPass photographers in one place. This is something that can be added to your package prior to your departure. You are able to view, print, and order photos online after your vacation.

Mickey Mail. Your Disney travel documents. If you are working with a travel agent, you will receive them from the travel company. If you are booking solo, they will be mailed to your home. If you do not have your documents 7 days prior to your departure, contact Disney or your travel agent.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP). A special ticketed event on selected days in September and October. This is held at Magic Kingdom. Special parades, events, plus shorter lines at Magic Kingdom attractions are all available. You also get to see Hallowishes, Disney’s themed fireworks show. You will need a ticket to Magic Kingdom AND a ticket to the party in order to gain entry to this event.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP). A special ticketed event on selected days in November and December. This is held at Magic Kingdom. Special parades, events, plus shorter lines at Magic Kingdom attractions are all available. You also get to see Holiday Wishes, Disney’s themed fireworks show. You will need a ticket to Magic Kingdom AND a ticket to the party in order to gain entry to this event.

My Disney Experience (MDE) A web and smart phone application that allows you to keep all your reservations in one place including resort, ticket, dining, and FastPass. This is also where you customize your MagicBands. You can also check in to your hotel online prior to your arrival.

Quick Service Meals. Also known as Counter Service meals. These are restaurants that allow you to look at a menu, order your food, and find a place for you to eat. These locations do not accept reservations and can be likened to a McDonalds or Burger King (often with better food though!) This can range anywhere from burgers and sandwiches to pizza to authentic dishes from Morocco, Mexico, or Germany!

Snacks. This is a Disney Dining Plan Term. Disney has a snack symbol for those utilization of snack credits. These can be used on anything from a bottle of water all the way up to a Venti (large) drink at Starbucks. Know what you can get and use the credits to your advantage! You can easily make a meal out of a snack credit.

Table Service Meals. Sit down meals that allow you order off a menu and a server will bring you food. These restaurants suggest advanced dining reservations and many will not be able to accommodate walk ups.

180+10. This term refers to dining reservations. It’s something that’s somewhat difficult to explain so try and follow! 180 days before your arrival, you can book your advanced dining reservations. The +10 refers to the number of days into your trip you can book your dining reservations when staying on Disney property. For example, you are traveling December 1-14. 180 days before December 1 comes around. You can book dining for December 1-10 at that time. This saves you time and gives you a leg up on others by booking hot ticket locations before it’s available to the general public.

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!