Planning a trip to Disney can be stressful, but don’t worry, we have your back. My family traveled to Walt Disney World twice a year, and I was the designated planner. We’d get home from a trip, and I would start dreaming about the next one. I used to be the queen of scoring FastPasses and dining reservations. It was truly a talent. I also had a countdown for each trip and calendar reminders for when things had to get done.
I am not as big of a planner now because I’m a local, but I still help my family plan their Disney trips. Before you start hardcore planning, it’s essential to ask your travel group what’s on their must-do list. This way, you know what attractions and experiences your group wants to see. For me, it’s beneficial to look at that. Also, be sure to take ages and heights into consideration while planning.
Anyway, let’s jump into my top five tips.
1. Download the My Disney Experience App
I know the technology at Disney World continues to change and can cause a lot of stress. I am still in charge of the app when we travel as a family because my family deems me to be the “tech-savvy” group member. In reality, it’s the only app I know how to use.
After downloading the app, you must get everyone linked to your account to ensure everyone can do everything together. I am unfamiliar with Disney Genie+, but I can tell you that everyone has to be linked to use it successfully. I also know that you don’t need Disney Genie+ daily; use it for Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Since you must use your phone often, pack portable chargers or purchase a Fuel Rod in the parks.
2. Pack for Unexpected Weather
The weather is so unpredictable here in Central Florida. It can be sunny one second, and it’s pouring rain the next. I highly recommend packing a small umbrella and a foldable poncho that fits in a small bag—no need to carry huge bags throughout the park unless you have little ones with you. During the summer, I always have my small umbrella, a rain jacket, and extra socks ready to go, just in case.
During the winter months, when we experience some cold weather, wearing layers is essential. It can be 40 degrees in the morning and 70 degrees in the afternoon, then drop back down to the low 40s during the evening and into the night. I know removing layers and adding them back can get annoying, but it’s worth it. I always tell anyone who plans on visiting between December and March to pack a variety of clothing. Anything from shorts to thick sweaters because you never know.
3. Make Advance Dining Reservations
I am not one to eat at a table service restaurant each day of my trip, but I do think it’s nice to do it once a trip or even twice. It can be hard to book newer or fan-favorite restaurants, so be sure to set a calendar reminder for 60 days before your trip to try and score that dining reservation.
Important note: If you’re staying at a Disney World resort, you can make reservations for your whole trip 60 days before the first day of your trip. If you’re staying off-property, you can make reservations 60 days before each day.
4. Plan a Rest Day or a Non-Park Day
If your trip is longer than 3 or 4 days, scheduling a rest day is important. This day can consist of anything that your group classifies as “relaxing.” Most travelers choose this day to be poolside at the resort and enjoy its amenities. I love going to Disney Springs on my rest days, or if it’s summer, you’ll find me at Typhoon Lagoon. If you have a car with you, I suggest checking out some local areas like Lake Nona, Winter Garden, and Winter Park.
If your family likes to be active, then check out the miniature golf courses on property or maybe go horseback riding at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. There’s so much more to do at Disney that’s not the theme parks.
5. Rope Drop or Close the Park
Last but not least, figure out if your travel party is a rope drop or park close type of group. Either option is great. Rope dropping is excellent for all the early risers. The parks tend to have lesser wait times at rope drop, and you’ll be able to witness a less crowded park. If your group is filled with night owls, it might be better to close the park.
In high school and college, I closed out the parks with my friends when we visited. We get into the park any time between noon and 2 p.m. and stay until the park closes. This always worked best at EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios since the evenings are pretty chill at those parks. Magic Kingdom is definitely a park that you rope drop, even though the few hours after fireworks can be calm some days. Animal Kingdom is fantastic during the morning, but I have also experienced beautiful evenings with low crowd levels on days the park is open later.
These five tips have always helped me have fun and successful vacations. I know we all plan differently, but communicating with the entire travel group is the key to making the most magical vacation happen. Having everyone on the same page and ensuring that the My Disney Experience app has been adequately explored is the perfect first step. If you have any other helpful tips and tricks, please leave them in the comments section!
Hi, I'm Erica, and I write about all things Disney. Before working for The DIS, I was a theme park performer at SeaWorld, but I also performed at Disney. I have such an immense love for theme parks to the point I studied them in college.