Priorities in Planning a Disney Vacation

Make sure your priorities aren't goofy. Heh?

Make sure your priorities aren't goofy. Heh?

Some of you reading this article are of the mindset that you should book your trip to Disney World, purchase flexible tickets, and then do what you feel once you arrive. This is great and I recommend it for most vacations, but if you think this way during your Disney trip you’ll be missing out. There is fantastic dining to be had, attractions to visit, and time & money to be saved – all with a little prioritizing and thinking ahead. This article will help with it all once you’ve answered one question – what are your priorities?

“My top priority is saving money”
This is where it really pays to plan in advance. First of all, booking a flight in advance is a no-brainer – flights (especially to Orlando) go way up the closer you get to the trip. Second, ticket prices for Disney World theme parks increase every August – purchasing tickets as soon as you’re certain of an upcoming trip will save quick cash. Third, planning out your itinerary (even a basic one) will help you decide if you’ll save money with a dining plan, a specific ticket iteration (Disney has many ticket combination possibilities), or even a travel date (Disney charges for hotels based on time of year, not availability). And finally, third party websites and services can help you save if you know where to look (mentioning AAA often saves at least 10% off your entire stay).

“My top priority is the time of year to visit”
If you’re set on one specific time of year, and even if you have some flexibility, we advise that you research the predicted crowds, the concurrent holidays and events, and the hotel rates for that “season.” Many websites offer their take on crowd levels based on specific times of year – however crowds will disperse to specific locations depending on many factors. This can give you an advantage over other guests as you can get an advanced prediction of which days of the week are best at which parks. Also be aware of any holidays or events during your anticipated travel time as this can affect your trip both negatively and positively depending on whether, for example, you’re interested in being swept up in Disney’s Halloween Party or not. And finally, hotel rates are set in advance based on Disney’s prediction of crowd levels. If your dates are set in stone, then you’re stuck – however sometimes a difference of one week can save you hundreds of dollars.

“My top priority is not wasting time in long lines”
The solution for you is planning your time around Fastpasses and Extra Magic Hours. Grabbing a Fastpass is surprisingly easy. If you arrive at a park early, you can pick up a Fastpass for one popular attraction, ride another popular attraction before the crowds mob the park, and then skip the lines on your Fastpass attraction. Since the parks average about 2 headliner attractions, you could be done with your laundry-list of attractions before lunch. As for Extra Magic Hours, this takes a little more advanced planning. Disney releases its park hours somewhere between 90-180 days in advance. This will clue you in on when each park offers its Extra Magic Hours, and you can then plan your itinerary accordingly. If you’ve added the Park-Hopper feature to your tickets, you can spend the day at a park without Extra Magic Hours (it will be less crowded that day) and then hop over to the Extra Magic Hour park for the rest of the evening.

“My top priority is experiencing the best Disney has to offer”
One of Disney’s best offerings is food – it’s everywhere, and it’s delicious (mostly). Unfortunately, many of these places are not available to those visitors who decided to pop in on the fly. The most popular restaurants (and they’re popular for a reason) are booked up 90-180 days in advance. This is another opportunity to use your basic itinerary to help decide which restaurants to visit on which day, even months in advance. Most restaurants do not require a deposit, so it can’t hurt to book a restaurant in a park if you’re pretty sure that’s the park you’ll be visiting that day – you can always change your mind, but at least you have some insurance. The same goes for certain live shows, events, and even recreation. If you’re excited to see Cirque du Soleil or visit the House of Blues, don’t wait to book your spot. If you’d like to be in town for the Food & Wine or Flower & Garden festival, make sure you’re there at the right time of year. And if you want to add a specialized tour, horse ride, surfing lesson, or even a private viewing of a fireworks show, you’ll need to do some advanced thinking.

“I have a different top priority not listed here”
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