Monday, February 20, 2017

Planning a last minute Walt Disney World Trip

I wanted to share with you the most glaring pros and cons of planning your vacation late.  Some people say it shouldn't be done, and here's what I've found.

Disney Springs (c) Ele Millenia


Anticipation. If you have told your child of your last minute plans, they won't have much time to let their anticipation drive your bonkers.  From experience I understand that telling a child under 8 means they will remind you of your promise every time they get,"I'm going to Disney World!"  "When are we going?" "Is it time yet to go?"  "We're going tomorrow!"  Believe me, I've experienced it.  Even when you tell them the exact date you are going, they may be too young to fully understand, and will think they are going "tomorrow" as each day passes. So if you only have to wait a week or so until your visit, it's better than having to hear your child go on and on for 6 -12 months about your visit. A lot of parents remedy that by keeping it a secret, but it's hard with observant children.  Even my toddler recognizes the signs of an upcoming trip, like buying new t-shirts and spending time online reading blogs about Disney or watching Disney vlogs.  Plus, if you're like me, your own excitement often inhibits your ability to keep it a secret.

Your Stay. You may be able to snag a good deal on resort stays and airfares.  I say "may" because it depends upon other factors, like how flexible your days to visit are.  If you decide that you can go anytime within the next 30 days, you have more flexibility in finding a deal than someone who is planning to go the next weekend. But there are just those last-minute specials that some airline companies and resorts run that make your last-minute trip worth the while.  If they find they still have empty inventory: seats or rooms, they may deeply discount those seats and rooms to entice families.  We have been able to book last minute trips for quite low when this happens: paying $150 for a deluxe hotel room per night (on property), and $200 roundtrip airfares from the north-central region of the US.  And this was during peak season!

Dining. I talk more on dining later on, but I want to mention that you very well can reserve your favorite restaurant last minute, but it depends upon the popularity of the restaurant and the number of visitors there at Disney.  Checking a day or two before you go may prove beneficial as other families have canceled their reservations right before the penalty period as described in the reservation terms. This has been a good excuse for our family to get out of the box and try a new restaurant as well- and adding that restaurants to our list of favorites.

House of Blues (c) Ele Millenia


Price. Although you could very well snag a deal, you'd most likely pay more for your resort when planning late, especially when your dates are firm.  If there are special offers available for your dates, chances are that they have been taken by those families that planned earlier.

Dining, cont. You may not be able to eat at your favorite restaurants.  Most of the restaurants (table service and signature) take reservations up to 180 days in advance.  This means the restaurant you've either been to or have read good reviews about is fully booked on the days you are visiting- especially if you're going on popular dates. You can still find a table service restaurant, however, if you are flexible in the times you can eat, the type of food, and the location.  Restaurants in and around Magic Kingdom park typically book early, so if you don't mind eating at another theme park or resort,  paying more for a signature restaurant, and/or not dining with characters, you may still find something good.  You can always opt for a quick service restaurant as well; finding one that serves more than just hamburgers and fries, like the Express at Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe in Disney Springs.

FastPass+ availability. Ahhh, the best thing since sliced bread, right?  Well only if there are passes available.  This is a hit or miss, but I listed it as a con because the odds are that you'll not be able to get a fastpass for a highly sought-after ride, like Toy Story Midway Mania at Hollywood Studios.  We purchased our tickets last minute (at the resort itself), and found that although we got fast passes for many of our desired attractions, we were unable to obtain one for the popular ones.  When we arrived at the Toy Story Mania attraction, we found that the wait was 4 hours!  And we were never able to pick one up the whole time we were at the park, so we didn't get to ride it that visit.  If you come often, it may not be as big of a deal as would be for a family that visits Disney World much less, so it would be your preference.

In my opinion, planning last minute trips to Disney World can be very beneficial, but can also be disappointing.  There may be more advantages and disadvantages, and you'll encounter them with experience. It all depends upon your expectations and your chances of meeting those expectations. When we go last minute, we anticipate availability to be limited and stay open-minded to alternatives, so we typically have a very enjoyable visit.

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