Let me start of by saying I hate HATE writing, and I do not think I do it well. But I do love Disney and I love helping families plan magical vacations to Disney, and well also to cruise and All Inclusive. But my first passions the reason I became a travel planner and learned more about other destinations and experienced them was because of my love for helping others plan their trips to Disney.
This is the second post in this series...not sure how many all together. The first one was all about comparing Disneyland's DAS pass to Walt Disney World's, how they are the same and different.
In this blog, I am going to talk about how very different it is to plan a trip to Walt Disney World compared to Disneyland. The biggest difference is the effort and timing most people put into a Walt Disney World Vacation compared to Disneyland. I have booked and planned MANY MANY last minute Disneyland vacations with little to no stress....planning a last minute Walt Disney World Vacation....a little more stressful but still do able. Most people plan their Disneyland vacations at around 60 days out, and have no problem getting what they want...some even 30 days out isn't uncommon, and there is still no stress, but a Walt Disney World Vacation to have the least amount of stress when booking your vacations, I would say you need to plan to book at least 7 months in advance if not longer, especially if you have never been to Walt Disney World. For those that have never planned or been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, I will briefly explain to you the process that most people take for planning and booking these two vacation destinations.
Walt Disney World~The Race begins 180 days out
Walt Disney World has over 116 restaurants the require advance dining reservations to eat there, often referred to as ADR. And if you want to eat at one of these establishments you will need a reservation, and reservations open up at 180 days in advance (or about 6 months), for those staying on site once they reach the 180 days for their check in date, they may make reservations for their whole trip (up to 10 days out), and it can be cut throat for getting dining reservations at the most popular spots for for the most sought after time slots. People set alarms to be awake 30 minutes before 6 am EST so they can get on their computers, ipads, etc and have several tabs open, all in the opens to score their perfect dining plans. (even if that means they are up at 3 am in California to do it, which is me.)
Walt Disney World also offers 3 different dining plans for those staying at their resorts and have booked park tickets with it. They have a quick service dining plan which allows you to pay in advance for 2 quick service meals, and 2 snacks per NIGHT, per person plus each person gets a refillable mug that can only be refilled at quick service resorts (not in the park). the most popular option of regular dining which is 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal, and 2 snacks per NIGHT, per person plus the refillable mug, and finally Deluxe Dining 3 meals and 2 snacks per NIGHT, per person plus the refillable mug. Disneyland only offers you to be able to pre-purchase one character meal for everyone and/or one deluxe character meal when you book a package deal. Each dining plan cost a different amount and the price increases every year, though during certain times of the year, Disney offers discounts on dining or even free dining. (Quick service dining is usually offered free to value guest and regular dining is offered to those staying at Moderate or Deluxe Resorts, though Disney does allow you to upgrade to any of the dining plans, and pay the difference) Depending on which dining spots you choose to eat at, the dynamic of your family and eating habits, the dining plan may or may not be a good options and is something you should weight after you have made your dining plans. You may add or remove the dining plan from your package, up until final payment date.
Actually for most, the race to plan begins before 180 days out
But, of course before you can be on the computer at 6 am fighting for that perfect dining spot, you first need to know what to type in. This means getting some information about the restaurant, where is it located, at a park or a resort, do they have food my family may like, do they have characters, if they are at a resort that I am not staying at, am I willing to travel to that resort to try the food, knowing that unless I use uber it could take me up to an hour just to get to that destination. But even before worrying about all that, the very very first thing you have to establish is dates! When are you going, and how for long? Are you going to stay at one of the 31 resorts that Disney offers for you to book at? Unlike Disneyland, where I often offer to look at booking a good neighbor hotel or non Disney hotel, I usually encourage people to book on property when visiting Walt Disney World, as I said they have 31 different resorts (these resorts feature a wide arrange of options from camp grounds, value, moderate, deluxe, deluxe villas, and non Disney deluxe resorts) and they try to accommodate every budget, and with the perks they offer by staying on site, it is often the cheaper and wiser choice. Determining how long you should stay can be a hard choice, you have to consider how long you can get off work and afford, but when considering how long to stay remember there is a lot to do. Walt Disney World consist of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, a huge Disney Springs with many actives you can do there (formally Downtown Disney), golf course (both regular even PGA and mini) plus lots of actives at different resorts, too many to list on this blog, perhaps another blog down the line I will tackle that topic. I am sure you couldn't possible accomplish all the actives in one trip, but its good to look over all the options and see what you really want to do, would like to do, and maybe wish to do, and then try to set up a reasonable plan of action.
Overwhelmed yet? Feel like you couldn't possible prioritize or even know if its worth doing? I usually wait until the end of my blogs to offer my services, but before I completely overwhelmed someone who is new to planning a trip. I would like to offer my services as a vacation planner/travel agent, certified graduate of Disney College of Knowledge that loves planning trips on all sorts of budgets. I would like to inform you that when you book with RMH Travel it doesn't cost one cent more than booking direct with Disney, in fact your statement will look the same because you are booking with Disney, but you are allowing RMH Travel to book it on your behalf and in return Disney will give me a small commission that goes toward supporting my family. But if you book direct, Disney just pockets that money, so please when you book your vacations, please consider booking it with me. I promised to make your vacation even more magical and to take your Disney vacation to a whole new level. As your travel planner, I am here to help you every step of the way with as much or as little help as you wish for. Whether this is your first time going to a Walt Disney Park or your 100th time, I am here to help make your vacation a magical one. If you would like a free no obligation quote, you can try to fill out our basic quote form, or if that is even overwhelming feel free to e-mail me.
EMH (Extra Magical Hours)
Let's recap, about 7 months in advance it is recommended that you select and book where you are staying, how long you are staying for, if you are getting a park ticket for every day you are there, will you park hop, visit their water parks, other resorts, or Disney Springs. Then you need to look at a calendar that thankfully Disney usually posts about 6 and 1/2 months in advance, though Disney likes to change things to suite their needs, which has often made those traveling to Walt Disney World angry. What they mostly change up is usually when they offer EMH. (Extra Magical Hours) If you have gone to Disneyland parks often and stayed at their hotel or gotten a 3 day or more ticket, you know that every morning one of their parks opens to hotel guest (and Disneyland will open to guest with 3 day or more ticket), these parks usually switch off and for the most part stays the same; Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Disney California Adventure Park is open to hotel guest early and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday Disneyland is open early to hotel guest and those with 3 day ticket or more. Walt Disney World has 4 parks and on each day one or more of the parks will have either early morning magical hours, or late evening magical hours. The early morning magical hours are just like at Disneyland parks, which ever theme park that day say it has early magical hours, it will be open 1 hour early to only those guest staying at Walt Disney World Hotel. (if you have not been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, I would like to tell you now that not all attractions/food spots are open during these times, but usually the most popular ones are) The late evening magical hours listed at Walt Disney World means that hotel guest can stay 3 hours after the park closes to the public to enjoy the parks. (to see example park hours, you can click here).
FastPass+ and MagicBands
Hopefully now you understand the park hours, and that if you want to have Breakfast inside Cinderella's Castle with Cinderella herself you need to be up at 6 am EST exactly 180 days before you plan to go. Now we come to 60 days out from check in you may book your FastPass+ options (or 30 days out for non Walt Disney World Hotel Guest). What are FastPass+, FastPass+ allows a certain number of people to enter into a shorter que line for main attractions, at Disneyland they are called FastPass and you have to get a paper pass while you are at the park that day, and may only hold one at a time. At Walt Disney World, their FastPass+ system is done electronically thru their website or app, you may at first select 3 FastPass for the day (some rides are limited click here to learn more), a cool thing is after you have used your 3rd pass for the day, you may log into your app and if there are any other FastPass still available you may selected another one from ANY park (as long as you also have a park hopper ticket), and continue to selected them until the day is done. Don't worry if you don't have a phone with the app, each park has a FastPass kiosk where you may go and select more FastPass or your first FastPass if you hadn't selected any at all.
To use your FastPass you will walk up to the que lines of the attraction you have a FastPass for and unlike at Disneyland where you hand a Cast Member (Disney Employee) a paper FastPass to go into the shorter que, at Walt Disney World you touch either your ticket or if you are a hotel guest you touch your MagicBand. What is a MagicBand it is a band the size of a watch that you wear on your wrist and this band will open your hotel room, hold your tickets to the park, your FastPass selections, your dining selections, your dining plan if you have one, and allow you to make charges back to your room if you wish. It is basically your all access pass, and it is customization, it comes in 8 different colors and you can put your name or nicknames on them (up to 8 characters, certain unDisney words will not be printed) If you are not staying at a hotel, or you want a even cooler customized Magicband, they sell a variety of options both online and in the parks. (those not staying on property may link their FastPass, tickets, and dining reservations to their band) The MagicBands are supposed to last 2 years and can be used for more than one trip if you like, the bands are actually connected to your My Disney Experience account, so you must make sure your tickets, Dining reservations and FastPass are in there.
Finally, after final payment is made your MagicBands are shipped and you just wait for your magical vacation. A plus that Walt Disney World has over Disneyland is if you are flying to Walt Disney World they offer free transportation to and from the airport, whereas Disneyland does not.
Disneyland Planning 60 days or less
Except for holiday times, this includes now the whole month of October to include other states that have fall breaks, three day weekends, and of course thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break, you can, and most people seem to book their Disneyland Vacations within 60 day period. There are some exceptions to the rule, and occasionally the sales Disney offers for their rooms will cause the resort to fill up (which is the point of the sales), and you may walk away disappointed booking so late and finding the resort you want is booked, so if you really really want the perfect vacation, I would still suggest booking early, but the stress of booking Disneyland over all is just less.
Disneyland doesn't offer their park hours to public until about the 15 of the month before they will release the next month...ie June 15 they release their full July Calendar, July 15 full August, etc. But, even before that if you wish to make sure you get that best dining time, you don't have to be up 180 days in advance at 6 am PST, 180 days in advance, but I guess if you really want that perfect reservation you should be up at 7 am PST 60 days out, because that is when they release their dining reservations (and not always on time) and there is no plus dates for hotel guest. Its 60 days period, and this is IF they feel like it, but more often than not, there is no super rush fight for dining reservations at Disneyland, with only 33 restaurants to choose from. And, honestly usually only 3 to 5 are ever completely book unless you are planning to go to the park during a peek holiday, and even then you may still get a reservation somewhere (maybe never tried). As for the 3 to 5 that are usually booked every day, of those you usually only have to book them a few days before, again unless going during peek season, than its only top peek days where you need to book those 60 days out, but you don't have to be up refreshing like you do for Walt Disney World even on not peek times to score a dining reservation.
Most people stay 3 or 4 days at Disneyland Parks and if you are staying more than 2, YES the park hopper is worth it as the parks are 75 feet away from each other. (roughly...we counted with our feet.) It isn't completely necessary to book on property and if you do, your options are limited to 3 hotels, all deluxe. That is why they made a deal with some local good neighbor hotels and offer almost the same perks to you, if you choose one of currently 40 good neighbor hotels. (only perks staying on property besides amazing accommodations, is every hotel guest every day may take advantage of Extra Magic Hour [Again listing the hours California Adventures on Sun., Mon. Wed., and Fri, Disneyland Tue., Thr., and Sat. and is always for 1 hour before the park opens to the public, of course note dates are subject to change as needed, Disneyland will provide you with a calendar when you check in and in their lobby they inform you which park has Extra Magic Hour every day]), and for those staying at a good neighbor hotel you have to have a 3 day ticket or more to enjoy Early Magical Mornings, which is the same of Extra Magic Hour but you are limited to just Disneyland park and just for 1 day of your tickets.
You have to get your FastPass the day you go at the rides you want to go on. (though Disneyland has just announce a system coming soon called Maxpass where you can book your FastPass online for $10 a day, but it will still be same day reservations, just online, release date and information on how exactly this will work has not been released yet.) So, no extra planning there.
Last Minute Booking
Do you really have to book a Walt Disney World Vacation at least 7 months in advance to enjoy your trip? No, you can book last minute and still have a magical time, depending on what time of year it is. I have even helped clients score that amazing dining spot they really wanted on short notices. Its a matter of choice. I just want to say, that booking last minute Disneyland vacations where you want the most popular eating place, the best hotel room, and be able to score FastPass to your favorite ride, the success rate will be higher than if you were to try the exact same last minute booking to Walt Disney World. The reason for this blog is because I just came back from Walt Disney World and my trip was during one of their low crowd days, and I booked my personal reservations 180 days out...but I was NOT up at 3 am (PST) to book them, and though I was staying 8 days, all dining reservations for Be Our Guest Dinner were gone, if I was inclined to eat at the Castle I would have had to settle for usually times, or search really hard. (I would like to say at this moment those are the two most popular spots right now but I personally didn't want to eat at either). I also couldn't score a dining reservation for any spot before the parks open. That is another thing lots of people like to do, almost all of the dining establishments start serving an hour before the park opens. Lots of people love these reservations because as they are walking to their dining spot they can take pictures in the park with no one in the back ground. Disneyland also offers the service of 1 hour before the park opens and those reservations are often the ones taken at the 60 day mark.
Also, for my trip to Walt Disney World, FastPass+ options for several of their rides were completely booked at 30 day mark and even at my 60th day out, I had to settle for some later times than I wished for 2 most popular attractions, but again that is because I didn't get up at 4 am (FastPass+ booking options open at 7 am EST) to book them but waited until I woke naturally got my son off to school and then booked them. But think about it, I was traveling when Disney estimated that their parks would only be about 1/3 full. And looked at the options I was met with when trying to book at the times Disney suggested...all in all I hope you better understand the booking processes for both parks. I am very long winded and when I start typing and thinking fast I often leave out things. So I will try and proof read this and fix the mistakes but I ask that if you find any or need clarification on anything, please kindly bring it to my attention and I will be happy to fix the mistake or clarify what I mean.
Again, I will like to offer my services as a travel agent to book your magical vacation. I would like to inform you that when you book with RMH Travel it doesn't cost one cent more than booking direct with Disney, in fact your statement will look the same because you are booking with Disney, but you are allowing RMH Travel to book it on your behalf and in return Disney will give me a small commission that goes toward supporting my family. But if you book direct, Disney just pockets that money, so please when you book your vacations, please consider booking it with me.
I promised to make your vacation even more magical and to take your Disney vacation to a whole new level. As your travel planner, I am here to help you every step of the way with as much or as little help as you wish for. Whether this is your first time going to a Walt Disney Park or your 100th time, I am here to help make your vacation a magical one.
For you free no obligation quote, please click here to be taken to my website.
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