“Tiiiiiiime is on my side… yes it is!” The infamous song by the Rolling Stones is running through my head as I write this post. I know that many people ask me when the best time to visit Walt Disney World® is, and that’s subject for another post, but here I’m going to talk about when the best time is to BOOK your Disney vacation. And in this case, when you have a lot of time, it IS on your side. Yes it is!
So let’s get right to it. In my professional opinion, the best time to BOOK your vacation is at least 7 months out from the day you want to check in. Now don’t look at me like I’m crazy… it’s true! And here’s why:
- Dining reservations can be made 180 days in advance, so booking 7-months out gives us time to come up with a preliminary park plan and secure those must-have dining reservations for you. Trust me. I know you have no idea what you’ll be in the mood for 6 months ahead of time. But let me tell you – the most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World® book up at 6 a.m. on your 180 day-out date. Why? Because they are excellent… either excellent food, atmosphere, service, or all three. Restaurants like the California Grill at the top of the Contemporary Resort where you can see the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom… Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom which is modeled after the ballroom & the west wing from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom where you can eat in Cinderella Castle and dine with the princesses, Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort where you can eat with Mickey & his pals, Le Cellier in Canada at Epcot where you can feast on some of the most delicious steaks you’ve ever tasted, and the Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater at Hollywood Studios where you eat in cars while watching old 1950s Sci-Fi clips on the big-screen in a drive-in setting… all these places and many others – especially character and princess dining experiences – are just a handful of examples that book up quicker than you can say “Mickey Mouse.”
Booked closer to your check-in time than 180-days out? Unfortunately many times these popular places to eat are completely booked when we look for reservations. The good news is that many times I’ve seen reservations come open for these places at random times, but it does make it all the more difficult to snag what you want. If you book 7 months out, we can discuss your wishes and where you would like to eat so that at 6 a.m. on your 180-day-dining reservation date, I’m up and at ’em with my phone, iPad & computer searching for your dining reservations. The likelihood of you getting EXACTLY what you want, when you want it is much greater if we have a plan and can be johnny-on-the-spot at your 180 day mark.
Images above are from Be Our Guest Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom. One of the hardest reservations to secure, oftentimes if you don’t reserve exactly at the 180 day mark, your likelihood of eating here (especially for dinner) can be slim.
- You have many more options for on-property hotels if you book way ahead in advance. This one isn’t quite as critical as your 180-day dining date, but if you’ve always wanted to stay at the Contemporary Resort in a room with a view of the Magic Kingdom, or your little girl would simply be in heaven if she had a room fit for a princess at Port Orleans Riverside, again, the best bet of getting exactly what you want is to book as far in advance as possible. You don’t get to Disney that often and it can be (doesn’t HAVE to be, but can be) quite expensive… why shouldn’t it be what you’ve always dreamed of?
- Related to your resort, booking ahead of time (before a promotion or discount comes out) gives you a greater change of securing a discount or promotion if and when a promo DOES come out for your dates. When you book with me, I always will look for the lowest price for you. If a promotion has not come out for your dates yet, never fear. Part of my complimentary services to you include price-watching. If a promotion does come out for your timeframe that is applicable and available for your package, I will automatically adjust the price down for you. Not applicable to your package? If you like, I can look at other resorts or different time frames that may work and we can adjust your package accordingly.
- Fastpasses can be booked 60 days in advance of your check-in date. Again, not as critical as the dining date or your hotel, but I’ve seen many a popular ride (think: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Frozen Ever After) have zero fastpass times available for a certain date when going back in and looking on a client’s 58-day out mark (thankfully I had already gotten them what they wanted… phew!). If there were still fastpasses available then they typically weren’t until late in the afternoon, which isn’t exactly ideal for your park plans (which I explain when you book your vacation with me!).
Your Fastpass+ experiences can be booked up to 60 days prior to your check-in date.
- Get the party dates you want. During the Halloween & Christmas seasons, two separately-ticketed events take place: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Both are highly-anticipated events that can have a tendency to sell out quickly, especially as you get close to the actual holidays. Advantages to going to these parties include lower wait times at some of at the more popular attractions in the Magic Kingdom, special character meet-&-greets, special parades & shows, and even snowfall on Main Street USA for the Christmas Party. If you’ve booked well in advance, I can be watching for the dates those go on sale and get you the exact day you want.
Special parties during the Halloween & Christmas seasons can fill up quickly. Seeing beautiful decorations throughout the parks like the ones shown above are just one of the many reasons visiting during Holiday Seasons require planning and booking ahead!
- It only takes $200 down to hold your package, with the remainder due 45 days prior*. So why not book in advance? The $200 is fully refundable until about 45 days prior to your trip. Going ahead and booking gives us the ability to secure those dining reservations and fastpasses for you.
- When you book early, you have more time to save for your trip. This one’s kind of a no-brainer. The earlier you plan and know how much the trip will cost, the earlier you can start saving. OR – the earlier you can apply for a Disney Visa Credit Card from Chase. While I’m not condoning credit card debt, this is a GREAT way to earn FREE money for your Disney trip (yes, you read that right!). It’s a no-annual-fee credit card that allows you to earn 1 Disney Dream Reward Dollar for every $100 you put on the card. Another perk of the card is that many times discounts and promotions for resort hotels come out to Disney Visa Cardholders before they come out to the general public.
What have I been doing lately? Paying all my bills with my Disney Visa then paying them off right away to earn Disney Dream Rewards Dollars. I also upgraded to the Premier Disney Visa card ($49 annual fee) so that I can earn points faster, earning 2% at places like Disney locations, restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores. They also will give you points for referring friends and family. What does that mean for me & my family? Next time we head to Walt Disney World® we have over $400 in Disney Dream Reward Dollars to spend however we like in the parks (restaurants, merchandise, etc.). Woo hoo!
- More time to research, read, and get excited! While there is fun in a spur-of-the-moment, last-minute trip, if you are going to Walt Disney World® for the first time you may want to read up a little bit about all there is to see and do in the parks. Part of my services to you is to let you know as much as possible about Walt Disney World® as I can, but the place is so huge and there is SO much to do that you may want to check out a book or two from the library or download some on your kindle. Some of my favorites include The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness, The Complete Walt Disney World Fun Finds & Hidden Mickeys by Julie & Mike Neal, and The Imagineering Field Guides to the parks. You can find all these on Amazon. Also you can watch Disney movies to start getting your kids excited too. Part of the fun of a Disney Trip is discovering all there is to see & do!
What did I leave out? What advantages have YOU discovered when you booked early? How about the other way around – why is planning a last-minute trip better? I’d love to hear from you!
*45 days prior to check-in date is when Ears of Experience® requires final payment due on your package. If you book directly with Disney, the date is 30 days prior to check-in date. The reason why Ears of Experience® requires 45 days out is to give us as agents enough time to secure your documents and ship you your package full of park tips & tricks, your personalized itineraries, etc. If you have a special circumstance and you need to wait to pay only 30 days prior, please let me know up front and we will work something out!