While I would normally endeavor to make every trip to Walt Disney World 6 nights or longer, I sometimes have to accept I don’t have the luxury of time. I often run into clients who wonder, is it really worth going to Disney if you only have a couple days available? Is it even possible to enjoy Disney for such a short time? My answer is always — YES! Whether it’s last minute or planned in advance, a short visit can be just as memorable as a long one.
Carrie's Top 7 Tips for a Short Trip
Tip #1 - Take Advantage of ParkHopping
To park hop or not is a constant dilema for Disney vacation planners. With the prices increasing each year, guests most certainly are looking to shave off expenses where they can. For a short visit, at approximately $85/person to add the perk, I can certainly understand why some question if it is worth the expense. In the case of a short visit - don't second guess - in most cases it is a MUST! Park hopping will allow guests to pack in the maximum amount of park experience as is possible.
Tip #2 - Use Extra Magic Hours to Your Advantage
Especially if morning Extra Magic Hours are available - guests on a swift touring plan need to be there! If another park offers later hours, or night Extra Magic Hours, this too will come in handy to get the most bang for your buck out of your park tickets.
Tip #3 - Rope Dropping is a 'Thing'
If morning Extra Magic Hours are not available, still plan to be up early! "Rope Dropping" is the practice of showing up at the parks no less than 30 minutes prior to the published park opening time. Each Disney park allows guests in to the park -- up to a certain point -- where you'll find Cast Members holding the crowd at bay witha literal rope. While many guests "plan" to be present for rope drop, the reality is most do not make it out that early.
Using this tactic can help guests experience a good number of attractions within the first hour of park opening. My personal record is 3 attractions in an hour.
Tip #4 - Stay On Property
As a travel agent, I often work with guests who firmly believe staying off property is just the ticket. When adding up the dollars and cents many guests are surprised to learn that the off property "deal" can cost as much, or sometimes more, compared to on property. Beyond that, I cannot stress that TIME IS MONEY, especially in a short trip scenario. So, unless you get that off property stay for free - do yourself a favor and stay on property.
The value here goes back to what your time is worth to you. With 1 to 3 days to pack in what you can, the perk of resort transportation is where your time earns some dividends. You don't have to battle the Orlando traffic; you can avoid the likelihood of getting lost along the way as we await all of the map apps to update Disney's new by-passes; and only Disney transportation can deliver you right to the gates!
My favorite mode of Disney transportation is the Minnie Van. While it adds to the bill, what you gain in saving time is most definitely worth the cost. Imagine getting picked up at your resort location, then whisked away on a quick trip to the closest point near the park gates. I utilize this service during those early morning runs to the park, as well as for the late night return to the resort.
Tip #5 - Depart from the "Norm" when Booking FastPass+
I do not doubt this tip will be hotly debated, and I don't disagree -- it is a bit controversial. I suggest booking your FastPass+ for midday/afternoon, at your second park of the day. I am of course assuming you A) plan to stay on property in order to take advantage of Disney's transportation; B) are taking advantage of morning Extra Magic Hours, or are rope dropping; and C) are park hopping. The typical advice would be just the opposite -- stack FastPass+ in the morning. But, hear me out, as I have put this to practice many times. With early entry to the parks, guest can experience a good number of attractions before 11:00am. For parks with Extra Magic Hours, 11 am tends to be the time when crowds increase and start to peak ... remember we discussed the good intentions to show up early, but most don't? That's right they show up en-force just at the lunch hour!
By the time the crowds arrive, I have already experienced a handful of attractions. I like to take a lunch break at this time and then make my way to the second park of the day by 1pm. At this time the second park is likely also busy, so having the FastPass+ set at this point gives me the next 3 hours to enjoy little to no wait for attractions. After I wrap up my last FastPass+, I may pick up another. Meanwhile I will pit stop for dinner, and then enjoy the remainder of my evening with shorter wait times as the hours grow later.
Tip #6 - Skip the Big Meal
With so many wonderful dining experiences, I know it is hard to pass up making dining reservations. I highly encourage however skipping the table service reservations, and use the quick service mobile order instead. The average time spent on a table service reservation is 2 hours. In contrast a quick service mobile order can have you back to business in about 30 minutes!
Tip #7 - Consider Special Events if Available
Extra Morning Magic tickets can afford guests an additional 3 hours, with little to no crowds. Plus, you receive a breakfast at your leasure within that time frame. You must still have general park admission in addition to the special event ticket, but in the long run it's a nice compliment to your day.
Disney After Dark/After Hours/Special Party event tickets can easily take the place of a 1 day ticket/parkhopper. This nearly 5 hour experience gives you unique entertainment, the run of the park with limited attendees, and often free treats! Who needs a Premium Mickey Bar? (everyone!)
So, to put it all together, my all encompassing advice when considering a short stay at Disney - be prepared to compromise! Expect that your time is after all still very limited. You will have to pick and choose what handful of experiences mean the most to you. And... plan to come back!
If you know you are in the market for a short stay, but not sure where to start, give us a call -- we will get you on track in a jiffy!