Tips for young adults and other people who just don't enjoy getting things done early!
I recently sent my 20 year old daughter and her 21 year old cousin to Walt Disney World (WDW) for the weekend during their winter break. We had planned to be in Florida recently to visit my parents on the West Coast of Florida. Since our cousin lives in that area year round and has an annual pass for Disney, and my daughter had an extra non expired day on a ticket from 2 years ago, the girls thought it would be fun to cruise over to Orlando and spend the weekend. Our cousin booked 2 nights at the POP Century about a month before the trip and got a Florida resident rate. Other than that, the girls made no advance plans, and neither is well known for being an early bird! I wondered just exactly how this trip would go.
For me it would have been an unmitigated disaster...I plan Disney trips like a military campaign complete with spread sheets, multiple planning apps and checking crowd calendars, but I have different priorities and goals than 2 young adults. They enjoyed some later mornings and last minute reservations (and let's face it, they encountered more than a few snafus) but being young and adaptable, and having visited many times before, they happily went with the flow. I wouldn't suggest this kind of trip for people taking a first trip to WDW, or for a trip with little kids who are less adaptable, but if you ever find yourself with an impromptu day or two at WDW (conventions are often held in Orlando and you might find yourself with an extra 1/2 day in WDW sometime! ) or are the type of person who felt you would never like WDW because it's not in your nature to plan so far ahead, here are some of the tips my daughter and I suggest to make even a last minute trip to WDW fun!
Tips for a Last Minute and Late Start Visit in WDW
1) If you can stay in a WDW resort, you can take advantage of the concierge services to plan much of your last minute trip. These services are available even in the lobbies of Disney hotels that cost as little as $120 per night. And the Value Hotels at WDW also offer food court style dining which can be much faster for breakfast than getting up late and then sitting down for breakfast at a restaurant. If you've truly not planned anything at all for your WDW visit, go to the concierge to buy your tickets and get a recommendation about which park is best to visit that day. They will have the best idea about which park is likely to be least crowded and which might have special events that will create bigger crowds.
2) Also use the concierge to ask them which restaurant is a good choice. They can make those reservations for you. It may not be the hottest ticket in town (places like the Princess character breakfast in the castle book up literally within minutes of "opening" reservations 365 days in advance) but the concierge will be in the "know" about which places are likely to have some openings and save you the time and energy of wandering to restaurants that already have a full slate of reservations and a huge standby waiting line. If you are already getting to the parks late, you can plan to eat at off times, (think lunch at 3 PM, dinner at 9) which will allow you to avoid normal meal crowds and enjoy a relatively quieter park when everyone else is eating. You'll enjoy more park time knowing you have a late lunch reservation and wont have to wait standby to eat when you are hungry!
3) As soon as you know you are going to WDW, (or while waiting in the concierge line!) download the Disney World Wait Time App (it's free with ads, or you can upgrade to an ad free version) This app will list the wait times for each attraction at every park and you an use it to plan where you want to go on the fly. You won't need to walk across the park to learn that Space Mountain is a 130 minute wait and then waste more time wandering to the next place! There are apps for a fee that will actually create the "best itinerary" for you based on what you'd like to see, but these require a little more time to learn and aren't the best option for the last minute, late start trip. Keeping it simple, you can check the app and choose rides based on the shorter wait times.
4) Once you've arranged your park choice, advanced dining reservation and ticket options with the concierge, be sure to get the map and entertainment schedule for the park. Do try to make it into the parks before noon time and make your very first stops the headliner rides in that park (Space Mountain, Rock and Roller Coaster) that have Fast Pass (This is a advance reservation system that allows you to use your ticket to get a Fast Pass to return to the ride during a specified later time window and join the much shorter Fast Pass line to ride at that time) The FP attractions are noted right on the park map. These FP's will be generated until there are no more time windows open during the time the park is open. During busy times, this can happen before noon for top attractions.
Once the Fast Passes are out, the only option is to wait in the regular line, or you can make this time shorter by choosing to have everyone in your party go to the "Single Rider" line. This line moves more quickly since they will use singles to fill in ride vehicles occupied by parties of odd numbers. You might not get to ride with your party, but the line will be shorter!
Another way to beat the long lines is to ride the headliner attractions during major parades or fireworks displays. Most guests are enjoying those events and lines are often shorter.
5) If you do get stuck in a long line use that time to check your app for the shortest line for your next attraction. You can also pose for selfies, have a snack, or apply your sunscreen (you forgot that while rushing out in morning, didn't you?)
We've received no promotional consideration from WDW, or any app related to WDW. All photos credited to Jeffrey Klofft. Let us know if you have any other good tips for Last Minute, Late Start Disney trips!