Even though the Disney parks and other destinations are starting to open. Understandably, many of us are a little nervous about planning a vacation. I had one traveler who rescheduled her Disney trip 3 times before finally deciding to cancel. We really don’t know what is going to happen with the pandemic. Florida is currently seeing record high cases. Then we have to worry about if there is going to be a second wave. If there is, when is it going to happen?
Planners like myself, who usually start planning their Disney trips months if not years in advance are a little gun-shy. If you are considering booking, fortunately, Disney has always had very liberal cancellation policies and they have made them even more flexible in light of the current situation so there is very limited risk in planning your trip in advance. If you still feel more comfortable waiting here is some tips for planning a last-minute trip to Walt Disney World.
Check Park Reservations Before You Book
Disney has instituted a new Park Reservation system to help control the number of people in the parks. Park Reservations can currently be made through September 26, 2021. Before you book anything check the calendar for availability. Once you have made your resort reservation and linked your ticket to your My Disney Experience account you can go back and make your park reservation. But for now, just check. I would also be strategic about when you decide to go. I wouldn’t plan a last-minute trip for Thanksgiving or Christmas week. Any school vacation weeks are usually harder to enjoy without a little planning.
Be Flexible When Choosing a Resort
For those planning a last-minute Disney World trip, your resort choice may be limited, especially now when only half of the resorts are open. When going into the booking process, it pays to be flexible and keep an open mind. Though many of the popular resorts will fill up months in advance, there are over 29 incredible places to stay on Walt Disney World property. This means that there’s still bound to be options that would work for your family. When researching options, it’s good to compile a list of a handful of resorts that you wouldn’t mind staying in. It’s also good to be flexible with your dates. Sometimes switching your check-in date from a Sunday to a Monday may change availability significantly. Disney’s budget-friendly resorts are usually the first to book so if cost is a factor you may want to plan to book earlier.
Understand the Deposit and Cancellation Policies
One of the advantages of booking early is that you only have to put down a $200 deposit and final payment isn’t due until 30 days prior to your arrival. If you book within a month of your trip you will be responsible for the entire payment upon booking. If you cancel within a few weeks of your trip you will be entitled to a refund minus the $200 deposit. If you cancel within 5 days the entire amount will be forfeited.
Decide the Purpose of the Trip
When I go on a last-minute trip to Walt Disney World I always decide on what I am going for. Am I going to try new restaurants, do I want to stay in a certain resort and enjoy the amenities, do I want to ride as many attractions as possible. No matter how far in advance or how long your Disney trip is you won’t be able to do everything. I have been 10+ times in the past 3 years and I have not been able to do everything. Decide what is important to you and make that the priority. This will determine whether you make park reservations or dining reservations first. If trying a certain restaurant is the most important thing you will want to find availability during your trip and then make your park reservations. If dining isn’t all that important make your park reservations first and choose your dining based on availability.
Book Park Reservations
Book Dining Reservations
It is true that dining reservations open up for guests 180 days in advance. It is also true that the most popular restaurants will sell out quickly (like T-Rex, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest, Ohana). However, there is usually a healthy selection of dining options across the parks and resorts that will still be available with only a few weeks to spare. There are many gems on Disney property that many people gloss over. Take this opportunity to try something new or different. Chefs de France, Hollywood Brown Derby, Biergarten, Frontera Cucina, and Plaza Restaurant are some of my favorite restaurants that usually have last-minute availability.
You might even be able to score an eleventh-hour reservation at some of the most popular sit-down restaurants. “Disney charges $10 per person for reservations not canceled within 24 hours, so if you’re using the My Disney Experience mobile app, you’ll see a lot of tables open up 24 to 36 hours in advance. Keep checking and you may get lucky!
Get to the Park BEFORE it Opens
The lowest crowd levels of the whole day are when the park first opens, so this is a great tip no matter how far in advance you planned. This would have been even more important previously when you wanted to get on some of the more popular attractions that most people utilize Fastpasses for. When you are booking last minute and are not making your Fastpasses the second your window opens you are usually unable to get Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Frozen Ever After, Slinky Dog Dash, and Flight of Passage. The good news for last-minute planners is that to allow for better social distancing in queues Disney has stopped the use of the Fastpass system. Even better news, wait times have been extremely low. I do not know if that will continue to be the case as more and more people feel comfortable traveling, so get to the park early ride the popular or your must-ride attractions (mine is Jungle Cruise!) Watch wait times for a few days before your trip, try to understand crowd patterns. Some attractions are easier to clean and social distance so Seven Dwarves, Flight of Passage, and Slinky Dog have been easy to walk onto. Thunder and Splash have had longer waits because they can have fewer people in a vehicle and they are harder to maintain cleanliness.
Another great tip for any Disney trip, but more importantly for last-minute planners. You are going to Walt Disney World. You are going to have a wonderful time. Don’t let your heart be broken if you can’t get a certain dining reservation or have to wait a little longer for an attraction. There is so much to do if your first choice isn’t available, look at it as an opportunity to experience something new or just enjoy the little details that make the experience magical.
Planning a family vacation to Disney World can be overwhelming! I understand how you’re feeling, I know all too well how easy it can be at the beginning to start researching online, just to find yourself 3 hours down the line more confused than when you started. But don’t panic! I can help you plan your dream Disney vacation without any of the stress of hassle – starting with the ‘A Disney Trip without Overwhelm, 5 Easy Steps’ Guide. These 5 steps will help keep you focused on organizing the best trip ever while giving you peace of mind that everything will be done, and nothing will be left out.
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