It can undoubtedly be a holiday of a lifetime, but without the correct planning a trip to Walt Disney World can easily become a frustrating experience. The parks are busier than ever before, and thats before the long awaited Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge land opens at the end of August – which will only make things busier.
Here are some of our best tips to help you plan to avoid the worst of the crowds, get the most out of your holiday and most importantly – get the best deal!
1. Choosing When is Best to Visit
There is never a quiet time to visit anymore, traditionally January, February, May, September & November were always ‘off-peak’ but Disney has long since filled these slow periods with special events and festivals to keep the locals coming back and the parks busier and in turn made them some of the best times to visit. In September for example there are no major school holidays, Epcot has the amazing Food & Wine Festival, Magic Kingdom hosts Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party and the weather is usually not unbearably hot. By far the parks are at their most manageable.
At all costs avoid Easter Holidays even if you have kids, Florida attracts Spring Break crowds from all over and the 2 weeks of Easter are now some of the busiest times of the year. Wait a few months and visit in July or August, prices may be slightly higher, but for the last 10 years the numbers of British (and Brazilian) visitors who always filled the summer months has dropped significantly due to the poor exchange rate – these are now actually some of the quietest times of the year now (the locals won’t go because its too hot!). The best deals can be found during these months now.
2. Book Well in Advance
Every April, Disney will release its packages online for the following year – which usually includes Free Dining if you stay at any of the 22 onsite Disney World Resorts. These deals are usually only offered until the end of summer, so to take advantage and save literally 100’s of pounds you do need to book up early. The dining included does depend on which range of hotels you choose to stay however;
- Value Resorts – Breakfast
- Moderate Resorts – 2 Quick Service Meals, 2 Snacks and a Refillable Mug
- Deluxe Resorts – 1 Table Service Meal, 1 Quick Service Meal, 2 Snacks and a Refillable Mug
Its always worth crunching the numbers, we have found that paying more for a Moderate Resort to get the benefit of the extra dining each day can actually work out much, much cheaper than staying in one of the Value Resorts and then having to pay out of pocket for the extra meals. Moderate & Deluxe Resort stays with dining are pretty much all inclusive and mean the only spending money you should need is for souvenirs. This also means you have longer to save up and pay off the holiday and can budget spending money better. With your dates locked in, this also means you will be able to pick up the best deals on flights, which are usually released 11 months in advance of your departure date.
3. Arrange your Dining
The food offered throughout Disney World, has in the last 5-10 years improved dramatically. No longer is it all burgers, chicken nuggets, hot dogs and fries, there are actually way more healthy options throughout the parks and some really interesting options and some of the finest restaurants you will find in Florida.
But with great dining, and the huge crowds it does mean you have to either be well prepared, or prepared to wait hours for a table at the restaurant you want to dine in. Dining reservations open 180 days in advance, and if you have your heart set on eating at Be Our Guest or California Grill – you will have to be fast. Be Our Guest won’t even let you into the building without an advanced reservations, and there is little chance of picking up a table on the day. If you do have a specific restaurant you want to eat in, you gotta be ready 180 days in advance to book them!
We tend to arrange a large lunch on our days at the parks, to avoid the worst of the heat and the crowds (and its usually easier to get a reservation) but it also frees up the rest of the day to enjoy the park.
4. Reserve Your FastPasses
Everyone has heard about epically long lines for the rides and attractions throughout Walt Disney Worlds 4 Parks, but with FastPass you can beat the queues and pretty much walk onto a ride with a 90 minute wait. If you are staying at one of the Disney Resorts you can arrange 3 FastPasses per day 60 days before you arrive (30 days if you are not staying with Disney). Again the most popular attractions will disappear as soon as they are available so you have to be quick!
The best plan is to arrange for the three attractions you want to do most in each park, but which have the longest queues. On the 60th day, it can be a little stressful to try and get the rides you want, at the time you want, on the day you want (think of trying to book tickets to 14 concerts at the same time) but it is worth it once everything has been arranged. Some suggestions for the best FastPasses to get are;
- Magic Kingdom – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pans Flight and Splash Mountain
- EPCOT – Frozen Ever After (or Test Track), Mission Space and Spaceship Earth
- Animal Kingdom – Flights of Passage, Kilimanjaro Safari’s and Expedition Everest
- Hollywood Studios – Slinky Dog Dash, Rock n’ Rollercoaster and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
5. Allow for Plenty of Downtime
There is no need to spend all day everyday in the parks, you will burn out quickly. The Magic Kingdom in Summer can be open from 8am until Midnight, with the most common hours for the other parks 9am to 9pm. There is so much to do outside of the parks, and it is a great way to escape the crowds and craziness of the parks by exploring everything else on offer. All the Disney Resorts have great pools, some with their own beaches which is a great option to spend a day relaxing (or to cool your feet off after a day in the parks) or doing some shopping at Disney Springs (which used to be Downtown Disney).
One of our favourite things to do to relax is visit the other Resort Hotels for lunch and a look around, especially the ones along the Monorail Line near the Magic Kingdom, The Polynesian Village, The Contemporary and The Grand Floridan. Between these three there are by far some of the best bars and lounges and restaurants to be found. Grab a drink and hit the beach at the Polynesian for a few hours.