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Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World at the Last Minute... or during Busy Season

  • Apr 3, 2011

Taking a trip to Walt Disney World always sounds like a great idea, but what if you decide two weeks or a month before you travel. Wow, speaking of stress. One of my facebook friends sent me a note asking for suggestions about a last minute visit during Easter. Hey, last minute is bad enough, but during a School Break period like Easter, Oy Vey. However, I had a few ideas, contacted my Magical Blogorail buddies for suggestions, and searched the web for more experience to draw upon. The result is today's post.


Personally, I start planning my next trip the day after I return from my last one. My Excel program is always close by, and researching new things at WDW is an ongoing activity. Once we select a date, at 7:00 am 180 days prior to our visit, I'm making ADRs and booking back stage tours or other special events.

Travel Considerations
First, I would contact an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. You will find many of these graduates of The College of Disney Knowledge on the web. My experience is you will get great service and the best deals using these experienced and Disney trained travel agents. I think these folks will give you more options, and will save you money, as opposed to booking directly with Disney.

Among the most expensive cost factors of a last minute and holiday season trip is airfare. Driving costs will always be the same, but to book a plane seat when everyone else is doing the same, be prepared. And last minute trips are true profit areas for the airlines, so don't expect any sympathy. However, this shouldn't deter you from checking out the biggest travel sources, like Travelocity, Expedia or others since they do have last-minute deals.


Then be flexible on your travel itinerary. To get the best price, maybe you need to have a longer layover with one or even two stops. Check more than one airport for departure times, since going a little further away from your home could cut the price if there are more choices further away. Why not fly into Tampa instead of Orlando. The prices are sometimes lower (depending on the season), and if you are renting a car, the total expense could be much lower overall.

By the way, on car rental, make sure you do some shopping. Never walk into a rental car vendor without an advance reservation. And always check out the discount codes online before you leave, even if it's a day in advance, there are specials out there. First check the car rental sites. Next, check the car rental codes on MouseSavers.Com.
A last minute trip during the busy seasons could result in staying at a deluxe resort on WDW property due to the larger crowds. This means if you normally stay at a Value or even a moderate resort, be ready for sticker shock. If you are travelling during a time when discounts are offered, there is some relief, but if it's during the busy or holiday seasons and want to stay on site, you will pay the price. One group that could save some money will be Annual Pass holders. If you don’t have that pass, off-site hotels will likely save you a bundle.


For a last minute trip during a light or moderate season, the crowd levels won't create too many long longs at the bus stops so a rental car may not be your first choice without having ADRs at resorts as well as the parks. But for the busy season, getting from one resort to another can be very frustrating and not very timely; and we like to eat at the different hotels. In a bus, it could take an hour from point A to point B; with a car, it's half that time or less. And except for the Magic Kingdom, a rental car during crowded days will let you sleep later and take a convenient mid-day break without wasting too much of your valuable park time.

Restaurants and Food
During the slowest times of the year, making ADRs at your first choice restaurants will be very possible, even on a last-minute visit. Get online and try to make reservations at the places you want to dine, and then book them BEFORE you make that decision on buying into a Disney Meal Plan.


For last-minute or busy season trips, there may be table service restaurants where it is very possible to get ADRs or even walk-in tables. In the new e-book edition of The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining , AJ Wolfe of the Disney Food Blog offers some recommendations of Theme Park, Resorts Hotels and Downtown Disney Restaurants where last minute or even busy season travellers could arrange for a sit-down dinner. Of course, the best time to go will be before traditional dinner times, and I would recommend skipping lunch and getting to dinner between 4:00 and 5:30 pm.

AJ’s recommendations include 12 in the Parks, 16 in the Resorts and 9 in Downtown Disney. Some on the list include: Biergarten, Garden Grill and La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot and Tusker House and Yak & Yeti in Animal Kingdom; also Boatwright’s at Port Orleans and Flying Fish Café on the Boardwalk. You might also check out T-Rex Café, one my favorites Wolfgang Puck Café or even Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney.

During the busiest seasons like during the Easter, July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas holidays, if you booked 180 days in advance, you may have already succeeded in getting your selections, so the meal plan could be the right choice for you. However, if you are travelling into the busy season or even booking within a month or less of your visit, forget the meal plan since you will most likely never get all the places you want to try. This is where a rental car works wonders, since you can make many more reservations at great restaurants off-site and pay half the amount you would on property. 

Although the dining plan in usually a good idea and a great money saver, be sure to check for ADRs before you purchase the plan. You might find that the places you want to go are booked and you may be better off with the Quick Service Dining Plan. You will also want to be prepared to pay for your trip in full if you are booking within 45 days of arrival. The Disney Visa can be a great help for this since you will receive 6 months 0% interest on the cost of your trip so you can pay it off over time. Even though you are planning a trip soon don't underestimate the need for travel insurance. I booked a trip for someone 3 weeks ahead and then 2 days before the trip their daughter was hospitalized for pneumonia. Travel insurance is always a good idea. [Magical Blogorail Buddy Allison of Magical Memory Planner]
Touring Assistance
Remember, the key to touring during the busiest seasons is making your "must do" list. You can't do it all during the lightest crowd seasons; it will be much slower getting around during the busy times. Sit with every member of your party to put the list together; and the use strategies like Fast Pass, Child Swap and Single Rider Lines whenever you can on the attractions on your list. Narrow and lower your expectations, it will make the unexpected your magical moments. And to make sure you have the best chance of hitting all your hot spots, get to the park at opening.
I have taken one last minute trip; it was 10 years ago, when my wife and I went before the birth of our daughter. It was a long weekend in January around MLK day, and the best advice I can give anyone is to just go with the flow. However, that time of the year was so different from Easter, so if I had one tip to share at Easter, it would be to spend the $10.95 and get the Touring Plans subscription. The nice thing is that he has a 45 day guarantee, so if you try it and don’t like it, you can still get a refund. [From Magical Blogorail buddy Mike E. of My Dreams of Disney]

The crowds at Walt Disney World are growing; it’s one of the reasons that the discounts are getting leaner. As a result it is always recommended to plan your trip as far in advance as possible. Your choices are better, your prices are lower and your vacation will be much more satisfying for everyone.

A World View - Enjoying Walt Disney World

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Bruce Brodsky ()
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Hi folks. My blog is A World View - Enjoying Walt Disney World. I actually think it was watching a True-Life Adventure called the Living Desert that started my enthusiastic love of Disney. I must have … more
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