Walt Disney World, the place of dreams, a child’s playground, where Disney simply comes to life. It’s also somewhere that takes months of planning (sometimes years), organising and booking up and can basically take over your entire life! BUT… What if you do it more last minute than the average family would? What if you have under 6 months to research, plan, book, discover and work out all of the logistics? Well, that’s what we have done and to add to the craziness? We’ve NEVER been before!! Yeah, I know, I can hear you gasping right now!
Most families will book a trip of a lifetime like this much further in advance. Most families would also most probably tell you that they are staying on-site and taking advantage of everything that Walt Disney World has to offer. After this, you’ll see that we aren’t like most families!
In our case, an opportunity arose back in October/November (I believe) and so within days, we went from having no holiday even planned for 2019 to booking flights to Florida for March. We didn’t really have any time to consider anything and have since had to work out all of our plans based on my husband working in Clearwater for the first week and fitting a week in at Disney World the week after.
So, this is how we have planned our Walt Disney trip in under six months…
Where Did We Start?
As I have mentioned, we have 2 locations for our holiday– Clearwater and then Orlando. So our first port of call was to decide on accommodation. After weighing up the options we finally decided to choose to hire a villa around 20 minutes away from Disney World and not stay on-site. There are obviously some pros and cons to this decision but for us our deciding factors were:
- Having space for all 6 of us and not being cramped in a hotel room (my sister and brother in law are also coming)
- It worked out as being about three times cheaper to go for a villa over a Disney hotel for us
- Having a place away from all the Disney– as this is our first time it may be very overwhelming, especially for the children
- Some quiet time. Having stayed in hotels on previous holidays (obviously!) I know that not every guest is as considerate as you would expect and because we have a 15-month-old, we want accommodation where he can easily settle
- More freedom. By this, I simply mean that we can pick and choose what we do, when we eat, what we eat, whether or not we just want some time away and so on without feeling as though we need to do everything Disney
On the pro side of staying at Disney:
- You get the whole Disney experience (and maybe next time we will want that)
- You can book your fast passes 60 days before your trip instead of the 30 days we got
- Possibility of getting Disney dining credits (usually when you book as a package)
- Free transport
- You can attend Disney Extra Magic Hours
- Book dining 180 days in advance
- Plan your meals with the dining plan
Anyway, this time around we have booked ourselves a gorgeous villa with 4 bedrooms, a driveway, home comforts and an indoor pool! We needed a hire car for the first week anyway so this was already arranged and we just added a second week on to this hire.
Buying The Tickets
Once your flights are booked you can go ahead and book your Disney World tickets. Check the website for offers and what can be included. If you want to chat to somebody there is a phone line too. It is pricey so you want to make sure you get a package that is going to work for you. However, it is cheaper to do it this way than on the day itself.
You need to apply for your ESTA to be able to get into the USA. This is the USA’s version of a Visa and everybody travelling (including children) will need one to get in and once issued it is valid for 2 years. You can do the forms online and submit them at any point up to 72 hours prior to travelling, although you probably want to do this sooner in order to be sure that there are no issues with your application.
This is a HUGE task! There were so many times where I became overwhelmed by the website, the blogs, the tips, hubby asking questions etc. so I had certain moments where I just had to walk away and take a breather. I knew Disney World was big but I hadn’t actually ever realised to what scale. Plus, the number of rides, the options of fast passes, dining, shows, activities… WOW, it takes time and it takes a lot of research. Doing this with only months to go has been hard but I think only having a week actually helped us to go ‘ok, what do we really want to see? What can be scrapped this time? What is nice to do and what will the kids absolutely adore?’ And I truly think that working it logically like this got us moving on our planning.
Not all parks are going to interest everyone. I for one, argued with hubby over the animal park because I have issues with animals being kept in captivity and am not a fan of zoos at all. I am certainly not a fan of swimming with dolphins in this way either. (Bet that’s caused a stir amongst some of you!) However, I think it is safe to say that EVERYONE will want to see the Magic Kingdom.
Making notes, ticking off lists, talking about the pros and cons of each park will get you deciding far quicker than if you go in thinking that you have to see it all and do it all. This wouldn’t really happen unless you were staying for a month, so be fair, be clever with your planning and be brutal if you have to be.
Fast passes, those are fun, aren’t they? We obviously only got 30 days in advance to book them so we were already at a disadvantage to those who had booked 60 days in advance but what I hadn’t realised was that you have to do this each day to get what you want on that date out there (if that makes sense?) So, each day hubby had to log on and see what was available, whether what we wanted was left, what times we could do and book as quick as his fingers would let him! This part isn’t for the fainthearted. Do not get your hopes up over the rides and certainly do not tell the kids (damn you Slinky Dog ride!) Yep, some rides fly off the rails and there is just no getting them unless you can book 60 days in advance. So, have your back-up plans. Find rides that will still suit, going for ones that the whole family can go on is nice to do and then just see how long the queues are on the day itself once you’re there. It is really all you can do. We are happy with what we have and to be honest, it looks like it is going to work well for our timings and the way we are hoping our days will go. These are nice to have and for some rides essential to have (unless you want to queue for 3 hours) but in our mind, we can always visit again in the future and do things differently, can’t we?
What Parks, What Days?
The fast passes ended up helping us to finalise our park choices because we had to go with what was available. So, even though we had a rough idea, until we could get it booked up, this wasn’t set in stone. We have now decided that we are doing:
- Magic Kingdom
- Magic Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
- Animal Kingdom
- Typhoon Lagoon
- Our favourite pick for the last day (probably back to Magic Kingdom)
Well, this gets seriously booked up fast! Again, those who are staying on-site get priority and when we got around to looking at availability all the good times for meals were gone. This is making staying off site very negative now BUT in reality, we will be having breakfast at our villa anyway, sitting down at lunchtime to eat may take up too much of our time, so grabbing a quick bite would allow us to do more in the parks and the evenings may be a bit hit and miss depending on how tired the children are. Jake is 5 and William is 1 so they may rather come away, eat at the villa and get an early night so they are ready to go the next day. We really don’t know at this point. However, other people’s plans may also change so it is also worth us keeping a close eye on the booking site and/or asking at the restaurant on the day. You never know, we may get lucky and find a cancellation so we can experience the character dining.
It’s All About The Experience
We are only going to Walt Disney World for a week, as you can see we haven’t booked a hotel on-site and we don’t have all those ‘extras’ but do you know what? It really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we are going. We are going to soak up every bit of that amazing atmosphere, we are going to meet Mickey and all of his friends, we are going to watch our children’s faces light up as they take in this whole new world (see what I did there?!) and we are going to experience all of this for the very first time together.
I think with our attitude of not stressing, of taking each situation as it has arisen, of keeping our minds open to change and not expecting it all to happen on our first trip, has meant that we have been able to book and plan our Disney holiday with ease within six months. It may not be to everybody’s choice or taste and I am sure you may do things differently or you have done in the past but all that matters to us… well, me… is that I am finally getting to the place that I have dreamed about visiting since I was 5 years old!!
And I cannot wait to be able to share this experience with you once we are back.
So, what are your thoughts? Have you ever booked a Disney holiday in a short space of time? Does planning a Walt Disney World trip in under six months to go seem doable? Or are we just crazy?!
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