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Are last minute plans still possible at Walt Disney World?

There has been plenty of discussion lately about the changing landscape of Walt Disney World. Many fans are disappointed at the trend toward extra cost add-ons, reductions in staff, long lines and the death of spontaneity at the parks. My husband and I had not discussed a Walt Disney World vacation at all in recent years, other than hopes to visit Disneyland for the first time or go on a Disney Cruise. We were not planning to take a vacation of any sort this year. But that was just crazy talk. One month before the start of the school year, we decided to plan a long weekend on a budget of $2,000.

My first planning stop was the Southwest Airlines website since I had rewards points to use. I searched for the cheapest non-stop flights to places where I wouldn’t feel like we had to visit family. Sorry, family. The results were Milwaukee and Orlando. Can you believe this avid Disney fan actually considered a vacation to Milwaukee instead of Orlando? My reasoning was that I assumed I would never find a Disney hotel that met my requirements on such short notice within my budget. I assumed the FastPasses would be picked over. I assumed the only available dining reservation would be Tony’s Town Square. I assumed it would be ridiculously crowded. I assumed there would be too much construction for it to be worth it.

So I set forth on my quest to get to know Wisconsin. While doing my research, I got sidetracked by images of Teacups and Stormtroopers haunting my thoughts. It wouldn’t hurt anything to just peek at the Disney site to check hotel rates. As suspected, my desired hotels were out of budget. Back to looking at the land of cheese and beer. But what about the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin? Those hotels met my requirements. I slyly took a look at their site and I couldn’t believe the incredible rates. That’s when I got super excited and broke up with Milwaukee.

Are last minute plans still possible at Walt Disney World? Swan & Dolphin 2 Resize Swan & Dolphin 2 Resize

Deep breath. We still needed park passes. Or did we? My husband and I each had three days left on our 2009 non-expiring base tickets. So we needed two children’s 3-day base tickets for the low, low price of $579. After recovering from that sticker shock, I added up the cost of the flights, hotel, airport transfers and passes. $2,021. Yes! What about food you ask? Well, I figured I’d have to buy groceries at home anyways and I wasn’t going to turn back when I had come this far. Would you?

I booked the trip on July 11 and our arrival day would be July 31. That left me only 20 days to plan. Our last visit to Disney World was one day in the Magic Kingdom in June 2013, only weeks prior to the roll-out of Fastpass+ in the parks. Fortunately, I am a DIS Unplugged Podcast junkie and had been absorbing all the wonderful knowledge of those folks over the years.

My first planning step was to register for My Disney Experience and download the app. I immediately linked my old base tickets but I had to wait for my boys’ tickets to arrive before I could start reserving FastPasses. I was also able to link my hotel reservation at the Swan to my account.

Are last minute plans still possible at Walt Disney World? My Disney Experience

My second planning step was to check the park hours for our dates. It should be noted that this trip was not planned for our children. This was completely for us and they were coming along. We needed some fun and we needed it with them, whether they wanted to have fun with us or not. Our priority was to relax and that meant we would not be forcing ourselves to get to rope drop every day. Therefore, we opted to choose non-magic-hour parks. Our schedule was as follows:

Sunday – Arrive and relax at the hotel.

MondayHollywood Studios

Tuesday –  Magic Kingdom

Wednesday –  Epcot

At this point, I still didn’t know what our FastPass selections would look like, so making dining reservations would be difficult. The only one I attempted was the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Hollywood Studios. Unfortunately, there was no availability for Monday. No sweat. I’d keep trying.

A few days later, the kids’ tickets came in the mail and I was ready to roll with FastPass planning. I reserved the following:

Hollywood Studios: Toy Story Mania, Star Tours, Frozen Sing-Along

Magic Kingdom:  Barnstormer, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Epcot: Test Track, Spaceship Earth, Character Spot

My priorities when selecting FastPasses were the needs of each family member, the wish list of each family member, the popularity of a desired attraction, and the availability of a FastPass. Our only disappointments were not getting any for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Other than that, we were pleasantly surprised at all the options and available times.

With only a few days to go, I had my plans. Would this last minute trip to the black hole of spontaneity prove to be a successful mission or an utter failure? What have been your recent experiences with spur-of-the-moment plans at Walt Disney World?

"What fun thing should we do next?" When Liz discovered that this was the hardest question she'd have to answer on a Disney vacation, she was hooked. And it prompted her to keep adding fun to her life. Having two boys and a fun-loving husband made it easy to dive into LEGO building, Star Wars culture, and all things Disney! You can find her creating content on these subjects, as well as helping others get the most out of their Disney vacations.


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