With only a little time for planning ahead and not much extra money we decided to take an impromptu trip to Disney for some much needed fun and a break from the freezing weather in Ohio. Goal? To see the holiday decorations before the hoards arrived. But whether you’ve got a reason or just need to getaway here’s our best tips for what you’ll need to know to tackle Disney in a last minute trip on a long weekend.
Location, Location, Location: It really does matter where you stay when you visit Disney last minute for a short period of time. Mainly because bus rides or staying too far away from property will eat your time up like you won’t believe.
Tip: Hotels.com is our go to site anytime we’re not booking directly through Disney. For one thing, the rewards program will earn you a free night and Disney hotels are often included. They’re also the best place to look for last minute deals.
Tip: Stay close to where you want to be. Let’s face it, you’re not going to fit all four parks into a long weekend. Before you book the hotel, decide where you’re going to spend the bulk of your time. If you need to be central we’d recommend Port Orleans Riverside or French Quarter. Bus rides tend to be about 10-15 minutes to every park from here, it’s the best on-site hotel for getting everywhere faster. Our absolute best suggestion would be to stay at a monorail hotel, which can get pricey. We recently stayed at the Swan and Dolphin which offered us the best rate on short notice, and got us walking distance to Epcot and Hollywood Studios and monorail access to Magic Kingdom.
Have a Food Plan: I’ve become emotionally attached to at least three meals a day. Chances are good that restaurants will be booked on a last minute trip and you won’t want to drop too much cash on food.
Tip: Check the Disney event schedule while you’re sitting at the airport. We were lucky enough to catch the tail end of the Food and Wine Festival during our mini trip, and chances of you visiting during a festival is pretty good these days. Epcot has many throughout the year that offer food stands with little 3-6 dollars dishes. The food is always amazing and a nice change from the typical restaurant fare.
Tip: Don’t forget the old standby options. You can also always grab food at the quick serve counters anywhere in the parks for about 8-10 bucks a person if you’re bringig your own water. But don’t forget the basics like pizza delivery to your room and making sure you’re at a hotel that serves breakfast to help keep the costs down.
Pack Light: Whether you’re checking your bags or carrying on the plane there are perks to packing light.
Tip: Pack as if you were carrying all your own luggage. We were unable to take advantage of the Magical Express because we were at a non-Disney hotel, which meant we had to Uber. Now, we do love Uber, but we don’t love lugging around loads of luggage for a 3 or 4 day trip.
Tip: Plan simple outfits and bring good shoes. Since we were not going to have time to unpack everything into the drawers and closet as usual we needed things we could just drape over a nearby chair to de-wrinkle and put on as needed. A quick trip should be easy and fun, don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be.
Use the Mobile App: The Disney My Experience App is a lifesaver when looking for last minute dining or fast passes.
Tip: Check for fastpasses in the mornings of the rides you want most.
Tip: Take advantage of mobile ordering so you don’t have to wait in the lunch lines.
Tip: Take a break and look up the next parade or show. Chances are during regular vacations you don’t have the time to fill your day with these little extras, but since you’re not on a schedule tied to rides or dining you can take the time to take a break.
Do LESS: This may feel contradictory, but really this is our most important advice. You’re not fitting Disney into a long weekend so you can do ALL the things. You won’t have three plus fastpasses to use or three dining reservations a day to make. Without these things the days will naturally feel longer. It’s actually quite amazing.
Tip: Pick a ride or two you want to ride each day of your mini trip. With just a ride or two on your schedule for the day and no locked in time you have to be there, you can afford to wait in a line and go when the wait times are lower around mealtimes.
Tip: “Plan” free time. Whether that’s allowing extra time to browse the shops, lounge on the hub grass at magic kingdom, or grab an ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery on the Boardwalk this non-schedule will help you feel like its a vacation instead of a mission.
Pick the Right Travel Companions: This type of vacation is not for the faint of heart and it’s success is highly dependent on who you travel with. I am extremely lucky to have friends and family that usually share my travel temperament of hanging out, finding the best food, and liking less of a schedule when i’m on vacation.
Tip: Prep your family/friends ahead of time. Keep expectations manageable. Identify those few things you want to fit in this trip and make sure you do them.
Tip: Talk through the concept of down time and relaxing. This may sound crazy, especially for a Disney vacation, but if you’re like most families ( American in particular) you will be very trained to go, go, go. This mindset could be trouble on this type of vacation because during the strolling, ice cream, and waiting in line you’ll get this sense that you should be doing something… something bigger, something more, something else. That’s not what this mini-break is for. It’s not a mission. Take in a show, stop and watch what’s happening around you. These are the things that make Disney magical. Remind your people.
Do something you haven’t done before: This vacation is gonna be short. You know it’s gonna fly by and you’ll want something special to add to the memories. For us on this last trip it was the glitz of a new hotel experience and a full room service breakfast. But we also added simple stuff like ordering a pizza from the Trattoria al Forno pizza window and trying out the beach side quick service Hurricane Hannas at the Yacht Club.
Tip: This can be pre-planned or not. It’s up to you. If you can master the strolling part of this mini break, you’ll be able to find lots of things you’ve never done before and can do in a moments notice.
Tip: Keep it small. This isn’t an opportunity to add stuff to your vacation that will keep you on a tight schedule. It’s an opportunity to try something new.
Hopefully this has given you a few critical tips that will make your next impromptu vacation a little less impromptu and much more fun. If you have questions ask them! We’re happy to chime in and let you know what’s worked and what hasn’t.