Yea!! We are going to Disney World!! It’s thrilling to say that one sentence. But it also means there’s lots of work ahead. The days of just picking up on a whim and heading off to Disney are far far behind us. If you want to really get the most for your vacation dollar, not stand in ridiculously long lines, enjoy some sit down meals with your family and stay in your dream resort it means you better start planning. And start planning ATLEAST 180 days from arrival. No, I am not kidding. It really does take time to plan a Disney vacation. I’ll explain in more detail as we go.
Why is 499 days important?
At 499 days you can make your resort reservation. So if you want a resort that fills up fast or your heart is set on a certain room, now you can book. We are going back November 2016 and my daughter really wants to stay at the Art of Animation in a Little Mermaid room. Well those rooms fill up fast. So I will be booking our room only reservation this July 2015. I know it sounds crazy but it’s what you have to do if you want a certain room.
Why is 180 days important?
It’s only important if you want to eat at sit down restaurants. At 180 days, from the day you arrive, you can book table service reservations for your entire stay. And if you want some of those coveted reservations like Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table you better be up and on your computer right when the reservations open. We went this last October and I was up and on the phone with my amazing travel agent, Stephanie, with my table service request all mapped out. We had the preferred times and backup choices all ready. And I still did not get everything I wished for! At 180 days from arrival you would think it should be a cakewalk. But it wasn’t. We were unable to find any reservations for Be Our Guest the whole 8 days we were there. And Cinderella’s Royal Table had to be at 4:30 in the afternoon. Not ideal. But do not stress if you don’t get everything you want. People like to hoard reservations. It’s ridiculous, but they do it. And as your trip gets closer you will see some openings.
If you didn’t get something you really wanted keep checking back. A key date to remember is, final payments are due 45 days from arrival. Some people will change the trip dates or cancel all together opening up reservations around that time. Also keep checking the day before. There is a 24 hour cancellation requirement. Things come up on vacation and people will cancel on the go. I remember we canceled a coveted Beaches N Cream reservation 36 hours before we were dine there because we could tell the group just didn’t have the energy to keep going and needed a night of rest. I really wanted the Be Our Guest dinner reservation so I stalked the system. After three weeks, my obsession – I mean persistence – paid off. We got a 5:30 dinner reservation! It was perfect. In the end, I had every reservation we wanted. It just took time and lots and lots of planning.
Why is 60 days important?
If you are an on site guest you are able to choose fastpass+ selections 60 days from arrival. This is great for those rides with extremely long waits like Kilimanjaro Safaris®. I used this when we went and it was a lifesaver. Basically, make a reservation to ride an attraction, show up within the hour time frame of the reservations and walk in the cue marked Fast Pass. Normally it takes about 10-15 minutes or less to get on a ride compared to wait times of anywhere from 30+ minutes. These are great to use to meet the princesses too.
All this may sound crazy to some. And I agree, it is absurd you have to schedule your Disney vacation this far out. But let’s face it , Disney is EXPENSIVE. You’re probably not going to be going every year so you want to make the most of it. And to make the most of it you need to plan. I highly suggest connecting with a Disney Travel Agent – one that only does Disney vacations. There is no fee for them. And the reason I say use a Disney Travel Agent is other agencies do not understand the time constraints when it comes to booking or the urgency to be on the phone a moment a promotion is released . My agent was on the phone at 5 am booking my table reservations. Other people I knew, that had gone through non Disney exclusive agents, were not attempting to book until 2 or 3 that afternoon! By then all the coveted reservations were gone. Also, before you commit to working with an agent, interview them, get a feel for their personality. After all, you will be shelling out a lot of money for this trip, working with this agent for at least 6 months or more and you want to make sure you connect. And have realistic expectations. You are not the agents only customer. So do not wait until the last minute to communicate a want. Emails work best for those fine details.
I know this may all sound daunting. But if you take a little bit at a time and pace your self out for the trip planning it will seem easy and stress free. Heck, we don’t leave until November 2016 and I’m already starting to research table service places. There’s so many choices!