We recently decided to go on a last minute Disney World weekend trip, during peak times on a popular Spring Break week. Crazy, right? People make a part-time job out of planning their Disney World trips, and here we were planning one last minute. I want to share the lessons we learned when planning a last minute Disney World vacation.
When we first visited Disney World for a full week, I planned the trip for nearly four months. It was like training for a marathon, learning everything, finding all my resources, and grabbing all my reservations.
So where do you start your last minute Disney World planning when the most popular Disney World FastPass+ reservations and dining reservations are already taken and you have no idea what you are getting yourself into?
Checklist for your last minute Disney World vacation:
Pick your park (or parks)
Picking your Disney World park can be tricky. If this is your first visit to Disney World, or if your kids are younger, I highly recommend the Magic Kingdom. It is iconic. The Magic Kingdom is the home to Cinderella’s Castle, the Mad Tea Party, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and so many princesses and characters. No other Disney World park evokes the feeling of wonder and magic as the Magic Kingdom does, especially when you walk down Main Street first thing in the morning.
If this is not your first Disney World visit, discuss with your family their fondest memories and what they would like to experience again.
Hollywood Studios ranks as my second favorite Disney World Park. There are numerous shows that can capture the attention of the youngest audience members. Hollywood Studios also has the Disney Jr. characters and the Star Wars crew.
Next, there is the Animal Kingdom. Don’t be fooled, the Animal Kingdom is much more than a zoo. It is a total Disney Experience, with zoo animals, shows, rides and incredible international tastes at their restaurants.
Epcot is my grown-up favorite, but it was the toughest park for younger children. This is where they took their longest nap on a park day!
Finally, you must decide if you want to purchase the Disney World Park Hopper Pass so you can go to multiple parks. Personally, I prefer one park a day. Just getting to the parking lots or loading and unloading from the buses, especially during peak times, can be an absolute time waster. The Park Hopper Pass is money better spent when going to Disney World for longer periods of time.
Buy your tickets
Go to Disney World’s website and buy your tickets.
If you are going to Disney World for more than a day, I highly recommend reaching out to an official Disney World Travel agent. They can save you big bucks on longer trips, especially if staying at a Disney World hotel. You can look for coupon deals for Disney World tickets, and some do exist, but beware of scams or deals that are too good to be true. Disney limits the discounts they allow on their tickets. The discounts they usually offer are seen on the hotel and the dining packages.
We used a Disney World Travel Agent for our longer Disney World trip. She saved us $500 from the cheapest option I could find because of her exclusive agency deal. Disney travel agents do not charge a commission, as they are paid by Disney for booking the trip. For this reason, there is no harm in reaching out to one!
Here is my official Disney World Travel Agent at Believe in the Magic Vacations, Inc with Brooke. My friend Brooke is highly recommended, and she will provide you exceptional service.
Download the My Disney Experience App
The Disney World My Disney Experience app will become your best friend in the days or weeks leading up to your trip. For those still learning how the app works, here are my best tips on how to make the most of it.
1 – Review the maps on the app
You will use the maps on the app quite a bit while at the park, especially since you will be using the app for your FastPass+ reservations. It is extremely helpful. Get familiar with where things are located. It will help you make a better plan for what you want to accomplish on your last minute Disney World trip. Knowing where rides are located will help you be more efficient when at the park and working with fluctuating crowds.
2 – Make your first FastPass+ reservations
Once you have your ticket purchased, you can make three FastPass+ reservations for each day. That’s not very many, but this is only to get you started! You can make your FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days before your visit if staying on-site and up to 30 days before your visit if staying off-site. So if this is a last minute Disney World trip, you may be behind, but that doesn’t mean you will miss all the best attractions!
3 – Learn how FastPass+ works
I am blown away every time we visit Disney World by the number of people who have been waiting in lines for over an hour for a ride. What a waste of time! We have been to the Magic Kingdom on a 10 out of 10 crowd count day, and we never waited an hour for an attraction. How? Check out this article on how we use FastPass+ as efficiently as possible.
4 – Start looking for dining reservations
If you look for a reservation at a popular table service restaurant and it is not available, it is not a lost cause. Keep looking. Look every day on your My Disney Experience app or computer, several times a day. There is a chance someone canceled their reservation, opening it up for you. We have booked difficult reservations for our last minute Disney World trips, including at Be Our Guest restaurant.
Disney World has a dining reservation cancellation policy, so just read the fine print. Historically, if you canceled your reservation more than 24 hours prior to your time, no fee is charged.
If you do not want a full sit-down meal at a table service restaurant, there are some fantastic quick-service options. When I am trying to cram as much as we can into a short, last minute Disney World trip, we often eat all day, sharing meals and snacks whenever we get hungry. This also helps us experience more of the restaurants in the park without committing to only one or two in a single day.
Naps and Where to Take Them
After the age of four, we skipped naps at Disney World, at least on the short trips. Getting back to your car or riding the bus back to the hotel can take a couple of hours. Add in the time for an actual nap, and you may lose half of your day.
Skipping naps at the hotel does not mean you have to skip naps altogether. You are probably going to want some quiet time, at the very least. You do not want to make the mistake of doing too much and not giving everyone a chance to enjoy the magic. Take a break! Watch the ducks on the lake, kick back and grab a great viewing spot before the afternoon parade, or just chill out on a bench in the shade.
I highly recommend using a stroller for younger kids, even if you haven’t used a stroller in years. Even with a very healthy six-year-old who can hike miles at a time, we wanted a stroller to help her take a load off her feet.
You can bring your own stroller from home. However, our kids outgrew their stroller years ago, so that was no longer an option for us. So we decided to rent a stroller. You can rent a stroller from Disney World or from local stroller rental companies. We were really impressed with Orlando Stroller Rentals.
The Disney World strollers are not the world’s most comfortable ride, but exhaustion can always win out. When spending only one day at the park on our last minute Disney World trip, the Disney stroller rental worked as the most economical choice for my preschooler and young elementary-aged child.
Now that you have your tickets and are familiar with Disney World’s My Disney Experience app and FastPass+ reservation system, go have fun! It may be a last minute Disney World trip, and it may not be as planned out as those that started months ago, but you will have a blast. Disney World is absolutely magical.
If your plans don’t work out like you hoped, embrace what is happening. Watch the magic through your kid’s eyes. You are making memories as a family, which hey, isn’t they why we have these crazy ideas and plans to start?!
Did you recently take a last minute Disney World vacation? What is your best tip? Please share![mailerlite_form form_id=11]