In Part I of this article, we discussed all the major decisions necessary when making plans for your Walt Disney World vacation – deciding when to go, how much to spend, where to stay, & how many days of tickets to purchase. Click here to read it if you missed it! Now we’ll discuss all the Disney-ese that you will need to learn & the nuts & bolts of the planning.
First, let’s discuss MagicBands. If you are staying on-site or are an annual passholder, you can order MagicBands in your choice of color & personalize with a name. You will use your MagicBands for your park admission tickets, parking, fastpass tickets, to unlock your resort room, to use your dining credits, to store your photopass photos, & to charge items to your debit/credit card. Whew!! That’s a lot of stuff! As you can tell, the MagicBand will be a permanent accessory you wear on your trip. If you are more than 10 days out from check-in, click here to order & customize your MagicBand. You will have to sign in to your Disney account or create one if you haven’t already. Then you will need to link your reservation number to your Disney account. Finally, you can order & customize your bands. The bands are waterproof so you can wear them to the pool or waterpark with no problem. It sounds like a great idea to just wear one thing that has ALL your information on it but, sometimes, there are technical issues. It’s always a good idea to take your credit card, your reservation number, & your dining confirmation numbers with you to the parks in case issues arise. If you are not staying on-site, you can purchase a MagicBand once you get to the park. The cast member should link it to your tickets so that you can use it immediately. Please note you will not be able to link your credit/debit card unless you are an on-site guest.
Another 2 items of Disney-ese for you to learn are Memory Maker & Photopass. Photopass cards are handed out every time a photo is taken, whether it be at an attraction, around the park, or at meet-and-greets. The photographers are called photopass photographers & will be wearing navy shorts/pants with a tan vest. Normally, you have the option to review the photos & choose which to purchase at the end of your stay or online at home for a limited time. However, if you have a MagicBand, the photographer will scan your band which will upload all the photos to your My Disney Experience account. This way you can review & purchase photos all in one place as opposed to having many photopass cards. Another option available for purchase is called Memory Maker. For $199, you will get a CD will all your photos for you to customize & copy as you wish. If you pre-order this 3 days before your trip, you can get $50 off the price making it $149. Remember to add to the budget, should you choose to purchase Memory Maker!
The next step for me when planning a vacation involved writing an itinerary. There’s a lot of info to keep track of & having it written somewhere for easy reference will help you feel organized & in-charge. You can have all your info in one place which is especially handy for large groups. The itinerary can be dispersed to each member so that everyone is aware of dining & fastpass times. Personally, I made a spreadsheet. I had a column for each day & in each column I put what park we will be attending that day, any dining times & confirmation numbers, & fastpass reservations. I would also include park hours & specific show times, if needed. I would research the park hours for each day of my trip, including extra magic hours, & post to my spreadsheet. Next, I would consult with a crowd calendar to determine the best days for each park. This is an especially important step if you are going during a busy time of year, i.e. summer or holidays. I would determine which park to visit on which day so that I could proceed with dining & fastpass reservations.
Now, let’s talk dining & fastpasses. There are 2 schools of thought as to how to proceed at this point. You can either make fastpass reservations first & dining second or the opposite, dining first & fastpass second. Decide what’s the most important thing you want to experience & book that first, then proceed from there. If you absolutely HAVE to eat at Be Our Guest, you need to make this reservation first then plan the remainder of your trip. If your little princess must meet Anna & Elsa, reserve those fastpasses first. Be flexible when planning, even up until a few days before departure. Dining reservations can be made 180 days ahead while fastpass reservations can only be made 60 days ahead (30 days for off-site guests). If you don’t get what your heart is set on doing on the first attempt, keep trying. People are constantly changing & cancelling both which means that openings happen constantly.
So let talk Fastpass. Fastpass+ is an online option to reserve ride times before your trip. It is performed using the My Disney Experience app. On-site guests can reserve at the 60 day mark before departure while off-site guests can reserve at the 30 day mark. You do not have to have a MagicBand to make or use Fastpass+. Although if you do have a MagicBand linked to your My Disney Experience account, Fastpass+ is automatically loaded to your band. For more information on Fastpass+, including information & tips for each park, click here to read prior articles!
Dining reservations are a necessary part of your trip if you plan on eating at a table service restaurant during your trip. If you retain nothing else from this article, please remember that! You will be severely disappointed if you try to walk up to Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table & expect to get in without a reservation. Occassionaly, magic does happen but I’ve seen many disappointed families walking away completely deflated because they didn’t know reservations were needed. If you have one of the dining plans, remember that tip is not included & add that into your budget accordingly. Those tips can add up quickly! There are several dining plan options available. Remember that you get 1 credit per person per night for the length of your stay. It is not related to the number of days worth of park tickets you purchase. If you are staying 5 nights & are on the basic dining plan, you will get 5 table-service credits, 5 quick service credit, 5 snack credits, & 1 refillable mug per person on your package. It is up to you how you use the credits during your trip. You can use all on the first day or 3 table service meals in 1 day. Whatever you choose. Keep in mind that some locations, character meals, & dinner shows require 2 table service credits.
Lastly, dining times & confirmation numbers can be recorded to your My Disney Experience app which will also have your fastpass selections. You can link your individuals together with the app so that everyone can see the information. With the app, you can also modify or cancel fastpass or dining reservations as you wish. The app has a lot more info available so give it a look before your trip. Become familiar with how to use it before you go so that you are not frustrated while in the park. It is quite a handy tool to use during your vacation!
Well…..that’s quite a lot to think about when planning a vacation to the most magical place on Earth!! A Walt Disney World vacation can be frustrating & stressful if you don’t do a little bit of research & planning before you go. Hopefully, I have been able to help you get a plan together. Just a little planning will create the most relaxing, stress-free, magical vacation from reality that you will ever experience!! Have a magical day!