So it’s almost time for you to leave on your dream vacation to the most magical place on Earth. Have you made your “pre-trip” checklist? If so, make sure you’ve got all of these MUST DO items included and checked off! Having done so will make for a frustration-free vacation.
1. Secure your dining reservations
At all Disney table service restaurants, reservations are “recommended”. And by recommended, I mean “If you don’t have a reservation expect to wait 2 hours or possibly not eat there at all”. Dining reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance of your Disney vacation either online or by phone, and must be secured with a credit card. For some of the most highly coveted Disney dining experiences, it is important that you do make those reservations at T-minus 180 days exactly. Cinderella’s Royal Table, for example, is notorious for being a very difficult reservation to secure. A dinner reservation at Be Our Guest is another. It is highly unlikely that there will be any availability for “walk-ups” during your vacation. If your heart is set on specific dining experiences, make your reservations well in advance.
2. Plan your route
There are many ways to get to the Orlando area. Some opt to fly, and others take a train. But many people (including me) choose to drive to Disney, and this brings about the need to do some additional planning. Having personally made the drive many times with a small child in tow, I think the best advice I can give is to have definitive stopping points planned out, and hotel reservations made in advance. There is nothing worse than finding out at the end of a long, cramped day in the car that there is literally “no room at the inn” for you and your tired, cranky family.
3. Make an itinerary
If you expect to roll out of bed at 10am on the first day of your Disney vacation, waltz into the park of your choice and walk into the attractions without a wait, you would be sadly mistaken. In order to minimize the time you spend waiting for attractions, you must have a plan. And by plan, I don’t mean a minute by minute itinerary. I mean a basic idea of which parks you plan to visit on each day of your trip, and a prioritized list of attractions that each member of your party wants to experience. Which leads me to my next must do…
4. Make your FastPass+ selections
Once you have a basic idea of an itinerary, you can make your FastPass+ reservations. If you haven’t visited Walt Disney World since January of 2014, you may be surprised to see that the traditional paper FastPass has gone the way of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. FastPasses are now completely electronic and connected to your MagicBands. You must have a “My Disney Experience” account set up on the Disney website and valid park tickets linked to your account in order to make your FastPass+ selections. Essentially, the new system allows you to reserve up to three FastPasses for the rides of your choice in a single park up to 60 days prior to your vacation. Then you simply arrive at each attraction at your designated time, scan your MagicBand, and walk onto the ride with minimal (if any) wait time.
5. Reserve your “extras”
Disney has a lot more to offer than just fun filled rides and fabulous dining. I like to call these the Disney “extras” and they are meant to add an additional dimension of magic to your vacation. These extras will indulge the young as well as the young at heart, including princess makeovers at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, pirate makeovers at the Pirate’s League, golfing, parasailing, spa treatments, park tours, and special hard ticket events during certain holidays. However, many of these experiences are very popular and, depending on the time of year you plan to visit, may be completely booked well in advance. It is important that if you decide to partake in any extra magic, you do a little research. You can call Disney and speak to a Cast Member about booking these experiences, or visit the Disney website.
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