Planning a Disney vacation is something that, for most people, requires a significant amount of time and effort. For people who only get to visit the parks once, or once every few years, the trip is planned out well in advance, and very few details are left unexplored. But, what if you have the opportunity to book a last minute trip to WDW?
Any true die-hard Disney fan would agree that there’s no such thing as “too much Disney” or that there’s no way to get to the parks soon enough. Whether you happen to be in Orlando on a business trip, or you are able to unexpectedly find reasonably priced airfare, or you just decide in a spur of the moment decision to book a trip, you may find yourself in a situation in which you will be visiting WDW without having the opportunity to make your plans as far in advance as other park guests who have been planning for months or years ahead of time.
While planning your trip well in advance certainly does help to ease your mind a bit and allow you to not stress as much about having to scramble to make last minute plans, a last minute trip still can be just as enjoyable as a trip that is planned months ahead of time.
Here are our 5 keys for a successful last minute WDW trip:
1. Check for FastPasses and Advance Dining Reservations
Those of us who have planned a WDW trip before know that reserving FastPasses for the most popular attractions or securing advance dining reservations for the most popular restaurants can be quite difficult.
It is recommended that dining reservations be made 180 days in advance. FastPasses can be booked 60 days in advance, if you’re staying on WDW property, and 30 days in advance, if you’re staying off property. Even if you do try to make those reservations that far in advance, you may still miss out on some of the most popular attractions and restaurants.
However, just because you aren’t able to plan that far in advance doesn’t mean that you are completely out of luck. Things change constantly. For one reason or another, plans change and those reservations could end up being modified or canceled at any time. We strongly recommend that you keep trying as often as possible if something that you really want to do isn’t available the first time you try to reserve it. It may not become available, but it is also entirely possible.
As locals, we tend to not make reservations well in advance. Whatever happens to be available that day or the next day in whichever park we plan to go to is what we reserve. While unlikely, it is not unheard of for a FastPass for Flight of Passage or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, or a dining reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table, to become available last minute. You never know unless you keep trying.
2. Be Patient and Flexible
Keep in mind that the WDW parks welcome tens of thousands of guests from around the world every single day. Disney property is huge and tends to be fairly busy on any given day. Whether you planned your trip well in advance, or you’re taking a last minute trip, you are guaranteed to have to wait in lines.
If you have never visited Disney World before, you will want to take your time and see and do as much as possible. Don’t try to rush through something just to get to the next experience. If you have visited Disney World before, you will likely have a better idea of what you do and don’t want to do the next time you visit. This can help you to save time and to move through the parks more quickly. However, don’t forget that many other people in the parks are visiting for the first time and may not be going at the same pace as you.
We all know how frustrating it can be to get stuck behind a group that is slowing you down while you are trying to navigate the parks, but just remember that YOU’RE AT DISNEY WORLD!!!! There are much worse things in this world than having to slow down and be patient while visiting the most magical place on Earth.
Go into the trip with the mindset of, “I’m just going to enjoy this experience.”
While it can be disappointing to not get a specific FastPass or dining reservation, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Missing out on one specific experience shouldn’t ruin your whole trip. Be flexible and open-minded. You may not get to do something that you had been looking forward to, but, in the process, you may find something else that you enjoy just as much, or maybe even more.
In order to enjoy something that you have been looking forward to, you may have to sacrifice something else that you were also looking forward to doing, or you may have to eat at a time that you wouldn’t normally eat a meal. Remember, be flexible and take whatever you can get.
3. Watch the Parade… or Don’t
If seeing a lot of your favorite characters is something that you’re looking forward to, then there’s no better opportunity to see several of them in a short amount of time than during the Festival of Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom.
Now, obviously you won’t get to meet these characters during the parade, but you can see them and take pictures and videos of them as they pass by you. Depending on the character, they may even stop to say hello. Seeing these characters during the parade could save you hours of standing in line waiting for meet and greets.
The parade is not only a great opportunity to see characters, but it is also a great opportunity to catch your breath and start to come up with a game plan for the rest of the day and evening in the park.
On the other hand, if seeing characters or watching the parade are things that don’t interest you, then this is a great opportunity for you to take advantage of shorter wait times.
People will start reserving their preferred spot for the parade about an hour before the parade begins. As more people claim their spot for the parade, stand-by wait times for the attractions throughout the park will significantly decrease.
Since you are visiting WDW last minute and weren’t able to schedule FastPasses as far in advance as others, this is your opportunity to enjoy an attraction or two that you may not have been able to get a FastPass for prior to your trip.
4. Watch the Fireworks… or Don’t
Disney fireworks spectaculars are a highlight of most people’s vacation. There is nothing quite like Disney fireworks. Our favorite is Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom. It is such an incredible show!!
Being in a wheelchair, Danny will wait for hours to before the fireworks to make sure he can reserve our favorite spot. This spot has a railing in front of us, so no one can stand in front of him and block his view. No matter how many times we watch this show, it’s incredible every time.
However, once again, as we said about the parade, if you don’t care to watch the fireworks, then this is your chance to enjoy shorter stand-by wait times at attractions throughout the park. This will be true at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. Animal Kingdom does not have a fireworks show.
5. Just Enjoy the Moment
Something that tends to be forgotten all too often in today’s society is just enjoying the moment. We have the world at our fingertips with social media and phones and other devices that are basically handheld computers. It’s easy to constantly get so wrapped up in wanting to know what is going on in the outside world that we forget to just enjoy what is right in front of us.
Once again, remember… YOU’RE AT DISNEY WORLD!!!! Millions of people around the world are at work, or are at home, and they would give anything to be at Disney World enjoying a vacation. Don’t waste your trip constantly looking at what is going on elsewhere.
Disney World should be an escape from reality. It should be a place where you leave your worries, cares, and stress outside of the gates and just enjoy being in a fantasy world for a few hours. Allow yourself to become fully immersed in the magic of Disney and have fun. We all need a break from reality once in a while. Life will be waiting for you when you leave Disney, so just relax and enjoy the magic for a while.
We hope you find this list helpful as you prepare to enjoy your last minute Disney trip. Are there more suggestions you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments.
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XOXO, Halie and Danny