Want to plan an amazing, unforgettable trip to Orlando's Walt Disney World for your family? Follow these tips from Kim Wright Wiley and Leigh Wiley Jenkins, coauthors of the travel guidebook "Fodor's Walt Disney World With Kids 2015." The mother-daughter team have been authoring and publishing inside information on the park for decades, and Leigh was an employee for years at the park. Together they have made more than 100 visits to the park.
Tip 1: Take Advantage of Off-Season Specials
Going during the off-season means great deals for families planning trips to Walt Disney World.
“One of the most popular deals that people just flip out about—and they should because it’s such a huge perk—is sometimes you can get the Disney dining plan included with your hotel,” Kim said.
This basically means most of your meals (typically one table-service and one quick-service meal per day, per person) are included, but the caveat is that this package is only available during the slowest seasons and there is not a schedule of when this package is guaranteed to be included. Slower months at Disney World (it's never not busy at Disney World, just slower) include September, early December, January and February. As a side benefit, Disney-area hotel prices are usually about 30 percent less than in the peak seasons. Mid-week visits can also mean more specials than weekends, which seem continually busy.
Tip 2: Character Experiences
Many Walt Disney World visitors will find that it is surprisingly difficult to get access to the character meals or even meet the characters once in the park. But again, the answer is the off-season, when your chances are better for getting into the character meals and events that you want—at the time you want.
Tip 3: The Scoop on Cinderella's Castle
One of the park's best-known attractions is Cinderella's Castle, and Cinderella’s Royal Table (the restaurant inside Cinderella’s Castle) sells out 180 days in advance, every day of the year. The earliest you can make reservations is 180 days before the preferred date. Wiley and Jenkins say that it's best to call right at 7 am on the first day you can place a reservation or you simply will not get a table.
“Cinderella’s is always like that [incredibly busy], but during the offseason your chances of getting into it—as well as other popular attractions—is much higher,” Jenkins said.
Tip 4: Get the FastPass+
Disney's FastPass+ ticketing system is included with every ticket or package and it now can be booked in advance, which makes planning out your family's days even easier. The system (which is basically a system for skipping the long lines) allows Disney guests to reserve up to three experiences per day up to 30 days before their trip. Find kiosks around the parks, allowing for you to make adjustments to your schedule (or place new reservations after your initial three FastPass+ reservations each day). Keep in mind that the attractions with the longest lines are usually the big coasters and the ones where the characters are present.
Tip 5: Do Your Research and Have a Game Plan
According to Wiley and Jenkins, the visitors who have the best experiences are the ones who have read up on the parks and have a game plan. They know what their top destinations in the park will be, and they prioritize their visits around those attractions. With the "wish list" checked off, they still find time for some extra experiences, and the end result is a great time.
Tip 6: Talk to the Cast for Inside Tips
“People are usually so focused on having to get to the next thing, but a lot of times if you stop and talk to cast members, you’ll get a lot of great insider tips,” Jenkins said. Since the cast members spend so much time on site, they'll know the best places to grab a bite to eat along with other useful tips.
Tip 7: Don't Forget What Disney Is All About
“Don’t be so focused on the rides that you forget what makes Disney, Disney—that’s the storytelling, that’s the characters, that’s the shows—so make time for that, too,” Wiley said.
Photos used under Creative Commons license.