We love going to Walt Disney World, and for me planning it all is part of the fun. However I know for some people it can feel like so much work for just planning their vacation.
Some people like to plan every second of their trip, however for me I just want to plan the basics. Dining, FastPass+ , any extra things that may require a reservation like Bippity Boppity Boutique and then make a list of things we want to do in each park, or resort we want to visit so we at least have a plan and know what is of higher importance on our list than other things.
My Top 10 Tips for planning a Stress Free Disney Vacation
1. Know the Dates you can Book the Extras
The best way to do this is to make sure to have the dates written down. You can get my free printable here that will help you in planning.
You can book your Dining Reservations 180 days out plus 10 days. Whether you are staying on or off property you can book dining 180 days out. The perk to being on property is that you can book at 180 for years entire stay up to 10 days so you get to do this all at one time. If your off property you have to go day by day.
FastPass+ can be booked 60 Days out for On Property Stays and 30 days for off property.( which again have to be done day by day) Again just another perk to staying on property.
2. Download the My Disney Experience App
This is must in your planning and for your trip! It had everything you need from booking FastPass+, to dining reservations and stores all that information for you to see daily in the parks. This is available in the app store for both Apple and Android.
3. Make it fun!
This playlist is perfect to listen to while booking dining, FastPass+, packing. Gets you in that Disney Spirit.
Countdowns also make the process more fun. You can do a board where you change the countdown daily, or a chain. This gets the entire family engaged and in on the fun! Here are 50 great ideas from Sarah Lemp over at All Things with Purpose for your countdowns.
4. Don’t over plan
Don’t plan every second of every day. FastPass+ and Dining Reservations of course. Ideas of what you want to do and knowing Parade and Fireworks Times most definitely. But don’t plan the time you will be at each ride, character meet and greet etc… I love to plan our trip but I like to be flexible when we are in the park, have an idea but yet go with the flow.
5. FastPass+ Scheduling
With FastPass+ one of my favorite things is to book them all back to back. So just as an example I will book 10-11, 11-12 and 12-1. We will take advantage of shorter lines at opening until about 10:45 and then go to our first attraction, then right to our 2nd FastPass+ and then wait in line for another attraction. Around 12 we will venture to our last FastPass+ and once we scan our bands at the entrance we look to book an additional FastPass+.
We may not get that FastPass+ until later in the afternoon depending on what’s available but it gives us that option to book a 4th and possibly even a fifth FastPass+ sometimes.
We are a family that tends to take a mid day break and park hop so this really works well for us and for days at Magic Kingdom. I’ve also found when we don’t book them that way we spend a lot of time figuring out what to do while waiting until our next Fastpass which could be several hours later.
6. Getting that Hard to find Dining Reservations
When you get to book dining 180 days out you sometimes get a great selection of choices, however sometimes many families may book less than 6 months out. We often take last minute trips and have found very popular restaurants with a little extra work. Even when I book 180 days out I am really good at changing things when it gets closer.
In the My Disney Experience app and on the website you can check dining reservations many times a day, and when I want something specific I do that a lot. I also find that upon arrival when we check for reservations they start to pop up in that 24-36hr before hand window. One trip I got a Cinderella’s Royal Table Reservation 3 Days before we were set to arrive.
Don’t spend so much time obsessing over finding that one reservation (I actually just enjoy looking) that you drive yourself crazy. There are some sites that you can sign up for email alerts when reservations become available.
7. Use a Disney Travel Agent
If it’s your first time, or even your 10th time booking and going on a Disney Vacation I totally recommend booking with a travel agent. They will do all the work for you! You can give them free reign to book what they think you will enjoy or you can tell them specifics. They will do your FastPass+, Dining reservations and anything else you need.
If you need some help I totally recommend Jones Family Travels for all your needs!
8. Save Money on Your Trip Cost or for Spending Money
Did you know there are various ways to save a little money on your Disney Vacation even when Disney doesn’t have many discounts?
One way is through saving up all your loose change in jar. This can all add up very quickly and you can cash it in before your trip for extra spending money
Purchase Disney Gifts Cards from Target (with the Red Card), BJ’s or Sams Club and save 5%. I like to grab one on occasional Target trips and save them up. I will also save Target gift cards from their in store earning offers and use those to purchase Disney gift cards.
Use cash back apps like Ebates and Ibotta and use those earnings for your Disney fund. I go more into depth about these apps in this post here.
9. Shop for fun Disney Outfits and Other Goodies Ahead of Time
One of my favorite things about planning a trip is planning fun outfits! From planning for myself and my daughter, and yes sometimes even my husband. Of course you can grab shirts and things upon arrival but there are so many great ones you can get from Small Shops and other places. Some of my favorite places to grab shirts for my trips are Target, Happily Ever Tees, Oh Yeah Apparel, All Things Cute Designs, and Pretty Little Monograms are some of my favorites. There are other shops out there I love that I have yet to order from but definitely plan to do so. Once Upon Apparel, The Lost Bros, and Magical Monograms are on my list for a few future trips. You can find all these shops over on Instagram and I definitely recommend doing so!
Another item I love to add to my Disney wear is ears. To me they are great for any age and I love them both from the parks and small shops! Here are some of my favorite small shops for ears you can find on instagram, Ears Full of Sugar, Bippity Boppity Brooke, Pixie Made Ears, and Aloha Ears. I also make bow and floral wire ears over in my shop which you can shop up in the shop tab.
From shirts to ears, to bags, pins, buttons, shoes there is so much cute and fun Disney things out there these days from Small Shops and other retailers it’s hard to make decisions on what to purchase!
10. Purchase Maker
I honestly can’t recommend this enough. It’s so great to get family pictures while on our trips that are high quality, not to mention not having to ask random strangers to take pictures. Just stop at the photopass photographers and get your pictures. I also love getting to enjoy the moments at character meet and greets while the photopass photographer snaps away. I don’t have to worry about getting pictures of my own most places and it is the best. We have it included with our annual pass and it’s perfect, but I would totally pay for it if wasn’t part of our pass!
You can read about the perks of an Annual Pass and if it’s right for your family here!
For many Walt Disney World can be a Once in a Lifetime Vacation. For others it becomes a Home Away from Home. Take the time and truly enjoy the process of planning, and planning with your family. When the trip comes don’t sweat it if things don’t all happen the way you plan. Go with the flow, enjoy the family time, the magic and what I feel Disney does best bringing families together on a Magical Vacation. Happy Planning!