Planning a vacation to Disney World can be challenging, especially if this is your first trip! Therefore, I’m going to answer the top 5 questions about traveling to Disney World.
1. When is the best time to go to Disney World?
For my family and I, there are 3 things we consider when planning our trips to Walt Disney World: resort costs, crowd levels, and weather.
Disney resort prices vary throughout the year. They tend to be more expensive during holidays (Christmas, New Years, Spring Break) and least expensive during the fall (September-early December) and winter (January-early February) seasons. We tend to favor the least expensive times, however, this may not be possible for you if you have school-aged children!
In my experience “slow” seasons no longer exist at The World. Disney has done an outstanding job of attracting visitors throughout the year with different events such as the Epcot festivals and marathon weekends. Because of this, it is more accurate to say there are slower times to go to Disney World which tend to be when school is in session (September), winter months (January/February), and, in general, weekdays. The absolute busiest days to go are Christmas and New Year’s days. Parks actually reach capacity and they have to turn people away!
No matter when you decide to go, you’ll want to be prepared to handle the crowds. I recommend checking out my post with tips to navigate those crowds to make your vacation more enjoyable!
Florida has weather extremes! Things to consider include the heat and hurricane season. It can get very hot and humid in Disney World, especially during the summer months. For example, the high in July is 92F/33C and the low is 75F/24C. It basically feels like a sauna because of the humidity! The Floridian hurricane season is from June 1st through November 30th with the majority of hurricanes forming during September.
Based on these 3 things, my favorite time to visit is in February. I don’t have to worry about hurricanes, the weather is quite pleasant, crowds are manageable, and I can get a pretty good deal on my resort room!
2. How far in advance should I begin planning my vacation?
I’ve heard people say you MUST begin planning your vacation 1 year in advance. To me that is insane! I’ve planned Disney vacations as far out at 7 months and gotten the desirable FastPasses, dining reservations, and resort rooms. As a matter of fact, I planned our last trip 60 days prior to arriving and found that only the resort accommodations were slightly more limited (We ended up staying at the BoardWalk Inn. It’s now our favorite resort!). Thus, I think the answer to this question is dependent upon when you will be traveling to Disney World. If you decide to go during a busy season, then the earlier the better. If you decide to go January or February, then you can afford to wait a little longer as this is a slower season.
3. What is an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR)?
The Advanced Dining Reservation, or ADR, is a reservation made for certain table service restaurants, dinner shows, and special dining events. Quick service locations and lounges do not offer ADRs. This service is available to all guests, however, guests must have valid park admission for any ADRs made within a Disney theme park.
Guests are able to make their ADRs 180 days in advance via the My Disney Experience app (at 6am EST) or by calling 407-WDW-DINE (at 7am EST). However, any guests staying on-site are allowed to make their reservations beginning at 180 days for the entire stay; up to 10 days. Essentially, guests staying on Disney property can make their reservations 190 days prior to check-in. Additionally, The ADR system requires a credit card to complete the reservation. You can cancel the reservation up to 24 hours in advance without penalty. If you cancel within the 24 hour window or are a no-show, you will be charged $10 USD per person. The exception is Victoria & Albert’s with a cancellation fee of $25 USD for the main dining room and $50 USD for the Queen Victoria’s Room and Chef’s Table.
4. What is FastPass+ and do I have to pay to use it?
FastPass+ allows you to reserve times to ride popular Disney attractions or meet and greet your favorite characters with little to no wait! You can access this service with the purchase of a regular theme park ticket or Annual Pass. Guests staying at Disney resorts can make their reservations 60 days in advance for the duration of their stay. Guests staying off property are restricted to 30 days. Currently, Fastpass+ reservations are free.
You are able to make up to 3 FastPass+ reservations in advance at one theme park per day. These can be done online or via the My Disney Experience app. Once you use those FastPasses you are eligible to make additional reservations. These additional passes can be made online, using the mobile app, or at a FastPass+ kiosk located within the Disney theme parks. There is an exception if you are staying Club Level at a Disney World resort. These guests have the option to book 6 total FastPass+ reservations per day with no limitations. Of course, this comes at a price of $50 USD per person per day. There is a lot more to the FastPass+ reservation system, so be sure to read our entire post dedicated to this!
Pro tip: Be sure to make your next FastPass+ reservation as soon as you use your 3rd pass! Once I check in, I open the mobile app in line and see what is available.
5. What is the Disney Vacation Club (DVC)?
Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is a timeshare program for Disney destinations. You become a member when you purchase a real estate interest in DVC. For an initial set price, you receive a certain number of points to use per year toward different Disney vacation locations (not just Walt Disney World). For example, you can use points for a Disney cruise vacation or a stay at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii. In addition to these points, DVC members also receive other benefits such as discounts on theme park tickets, dining, and merchandise, exclusive access to DVC lounges, and invitations to special events!
Some Disney World resorts have dedicated sections for DVC accommodations. A list of these resorts include:
- Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Wilderness Loge
- Animal Kingdom Villas at Jambo House or Kidani Village
- Beach Club Villas
- BoardWalk Inn Villas
- Old Key West Resort
- Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
- Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa
- The Villas at Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
- Riviera Resort (Opening Fall 2019)
The accommodations at DVC resort locations range from studio suites all the way up to multiple bedroom villas. The villas actually have full-sized kitchens! My family needs the extra room, so we are fans of securing cash-only reservations at DVC resorts.
Pro-tip: You don’t have to be a DVC member to book accommodations at DVC resorts. Non-members can do so either by renting DVC points through third party sites or booking a cash-only reservation directly through Disney.
I hope this information helps! Stay tuned for a follow-up post on Monday that includes 5 (more!) commonly asked questions when traveling to Disney World!