At Walt Disney World, you can begin booking your dining reservations 180 days in advance! In this article I will discuss my tips, tricks, and best practices for booking Disney World dining. From when to book to how to prioritize and what to watch for – as the family planner I’ve booked (and rebooked, and searched for) SO many reservations! I can help you work out what to book and when.
Like so many vacations, where you stay at Disneyland is going to depend on what your goals are for the trip, your budget, and your timeline. In this article I will discuss where I recommend staying, what I recommend you look for, and how to figure out and break down the best choice(s) for your traveling party.
The map of Disneyland…
If you search travel or Disney blogs, you’ll get hundreds, thousands… well – a LOT of results! So how do you know which ones to follow and/or how to utilize the information to benefit your travel needs? In this article I will explain how we use the information as well as what I look for in blogs/social media accounts I follow. I follow the Disney Parks Blog and Disney accounts on social media – so I do already get any/all “official” announcements made. That is my starting point…
#1: What is the information shared?
The first thing I look at is what information the person (or group) is sharing. Are they simply reposting press releases/info that is widely available? If so, I already get this! In addition to not following accounts that simply repost official statements, I do not follow accounts that are rumor happy. It can be confusing enough keeping up with facts and regulations when traveling, I don’t need to add rumors and maybes into the mix. I am looking for facts, personal experience, great photos or videos, and advice that helps me plan my trips.
#2: What is the tone/outlook shared?
I like a blogger that is positive and whose approach to travel is similar or at least compatible with mine. I’m looking for someone who can share helpful information in a (usually) positive way that will add to my planning or trip experience. I do not enjoy blog where there is a condescending tone, or those who travel so often that they forget what it’s like for us regular folks who don’t vacation monthly.
#3: How up to date are they?
I admit – I’m still balancing out the scheduling and content on this blog! But really, how up to date is the content, information, and relevant details shared? I do not want to read about how to get tickets for an event and find out the information is five years ago – that the new procedures are quite different. For this criteria I try to read through a few posts and find fact(s) that I know for myself and compare to what is written.
#4: Do I enjoy what they write?
This really is the bottom line! I need to enjoy the tone, frequency, and overall content of the blog or social media account.
How do I use the information shared?
To each their own – but I use travel and Disney blog information a few ways:
Eliminate places/activities: Positive or negative review – often it will tell me enough about a place or activity to make a choice if it matches up with what will be good for us. Just because someone says it is “a must” doesn’t mean it is for me! I look for details to see what can be eliminated, or what would add something to my ‘must’ list for the family.
Tips and tricks: This is the big one. Everything from maximizing my time to packing tips to best times to book things… well I am all about the tips and tricks! I’ve learned so much from the fact that yes, you should log right on and book when your window opens (especially Disney!) to how to minimize waiting in lines – this is definitely what I get the most from reading up! In fact, I was warned about a “time share area” you pass through in the Puerto Vallarta airport and how it would seem official and as though you had to stop after customs, but don’t. These little tips that I learn add up to making a big difference in my vacation!
Day/Trip planning: I love reading day plans and trip reports as they help me figure out what is/isn’t realistic about my own plans!
Forever the foodie: We are a food loving family. So reading about good food, and the why not just “good” “not good” – is always a plus. We love knowing where the great places are to eat, and why people recommend them.
Overall, we don’t put all our trust into any one source of information but rather gather information based on our current trip planning needs. I like instagram for keeping up with a lot of bloggers/social media users who post regularly as it doesn’t take much time and gives me a glimpse of things going on places I may or may not be visiting any time soon. Our hope here at Adventureland Girls is to bring you our own experiences combined with what worked or didn’t, and the why behind it!
Ask which hotel to stay at in Orlando, and you’ll get a different answer every time! The answer is going to be very subjective, and will totally depend on you, your preferences, and your personal needs. I will never forget the first time I logged onto Disney World’s website back in 2001 and marveled at all of the incredible options! The theming and details in the resorts has never disappointed me, and I know folks who have enjoyed every single one of them so know right now: whichever one looks good to you, will be wonderful indeed!
This is a question I see a lot, and today I’m going to share our personal answer as well as notes on each month. Because honestly? The “best time” is whatever time you can go! Ok but as that is not especially helpful I will explain when we go/why as well as why we avoid other months.
When we like to go: Mid November through February is our window. The two weeks after Thanksgiving used to be the sweet spot, but alas our kids are old enough that taking them out of school for extended periods is just too hard now. Yes, while in elementary school we’d fill out independent study paperwork and no absences were recorded. Awesome! For our next visit we will likely try President’s Day week or Thanksgiving week. Busy? YES! But we can work around that.
When we won’t go: April – October is hot, stormy, most of that time is hurricane season, and it rains. a ton. As I am typing this Orlando has been having rain daily for… well a long time. Reports I’ve seen from those there right now are that it’s been generally miserable. Why would we spend all that money to do that? I’d take cool and holiday crowds over hot and soaked by monsoon rains.
When should you go? We know a LOT of folks go during the large chunk of the year we won’t even consider going during, and we know they have a wonderful time! I believe there are a few factors to consider:
- heat & humidity tolerance. Be honest – how do you do? How will you do when it is hot and you can’t escape the high humidity?
- work/school schedules – most of us have to work around this, leaving few windows when its possible
- how are you with crowds? They can’t be avoided – but some times are lets say maxed out vs others. Will that be a problem?
Those three factors may narrow your choices down quite a bit! When narrowing to exact dates within a month, take a look at any races, festivals, local happenings, and other details that could swing the crowds heavily. That said, I wouldn’t avoid many dates (outside the week between Christmas and New Year, and 4th of July) for fear of crowds. There is one thing I always assume:
It will be busy, and there will be crowds
Going in with this mindset I am never disappointed about lines, upset about crowds, or expecting the place to myself. It’s Disney World, and they do their best to keep it hopping!
Month by month guide:
January: Crowds tend to be lower in general, weather cooler, and the start of the Festival of the Arts (in recent years) has been a plus. If you’re living in a cold weather location this could feel nice and warm! Some years our kids have the first week in January off, and I believe going New Year’s through then could be a great trip/time with the parks beginning busy and getting quieter as the trip went on.
February: Our personal sentimental favorite (honeymoon!) and now with Festival of the Arts (in recent years) happening for the first part of the month, a real contender for a top pick on when to go. The weather could swing cold… or warm. We’ve needed jackets some visits, and been in shorts other days. Florida winter isn’t steady cold!
March: Weather could be warming up – or not. This last year it seemed to stay a bit cool. Now for us, this is great! But if you’re wanting some heat you may want to wait a month. On the upside – the Flower & Garden festival will be happening at Epcot! If this is a good month for you, I can’t think of a single reason not to go this month.
April: Flower & Garden festival, and if you time it right maybe some Easter Eggs (assuming Easter is in April) – and weather is getting warmer.
May: Still Flower & Garden Festival… and weather still warming up. This year May saw quite a bit of rain – so remember summer and fall are the rainiest times in Florida!
June – July: It’s going to be hot, humid, and some days you should expect afternoon storms. It’s going to be crowded with summer visitors- though not necessarily any more so than other times of the year. The park hours should be long (yay) – but you’ll need it as afternoons are brutal and demand lengthy pool breaks.
August: I really have nothing nice to say about August. The weather is just getting more humid, storms more likely, and there are no special events to speak of. This would be my pick for worst possible month to go.
September: The upside is a full month of Halloween parties and fun.. and the epic Food & Wine festival at Epoct! The downside is that (for us) you also get oppressive heat, humidity, and threat of hurricanes. I’ve watched storms go through and while it might not be “that bad” at Disney World itself – have fun with your flights. I just would not want to be anywhere near any of that, it makes me way too anxious! If stormy travels don’t make you nervous or you can drive via car? This could be an ok choice.
October: If it wasn’t for the heat, humidity, and storms (oh yes, it’s still storming) I would seriously consider an October visit. The Halloween parade alone (at the special Halloween parties held a few times a week) looks worth a trip! Seasonal food, the Food & Wine Festival too! I think the last few days of October + first week of November could make a really fun trip!
November: The first half of the month you’ve got Food & Wine Festival winding down, and usually by around the 10th or so the Christmas parties have begun. Yes, they start the party early! It could still be quite warm… but less so. With days shortening there are a lot of opportunities for cool night touring and yet enough warmth for pools & fun. We’ve been this month before – and I dare say we’ll go again. On our last trip we took a Disney Cruise to Castaway Cay (worth it!) and then moved to Disney World where we enjoyed the final day of Food & Wine, then a week of the parks. I can definitely recommend this to you – even with Thanksgiving crowds. We’ve also been the week after Thanksgiving and that was absolutely lovely as well- though no Epcot festivals or fun was happening.
December: I could really argue this is the best month to go. Everything is beautifully decorated, there are parties, huge gingerbread displays, characters in seasonal attire… and the weather tends to be good. Celebrities host nightly Candlelight Processionals in Epcot, and I could go on. They really get into the season. Our 2016 trip we had 3 days where it was over 85 and a bit humid, but the rest of the trip was mild in 70s at most. We’ve had it dip into chilly – it is winter and the evenings can be cold especially- but that adds to the Christmas spirit!
Whether you take storm risks or battle summer heat or Christmas crowds a day at Disney World is better than a day most anywhere else… most of the time! Taking the time to visit some weather websites for historical information, reading up on special events, and really being honest with yourself about what you are getting into are all worth it when investing in a Disney vacation. There are sites (TouringPlans.com is my personal favorite) that have crowd calendars and predictions… but I really wouldn’t pick a week based on low crowds. I would avoid say race weekends or other events like that which raise prices on rooms and guarantee more crowds, but only if I had a lot of flexibility in planning.
I really believe that good planning of your trip and use of the fast pass system will beat a low crowd guessing game on every trip. But more about what to do in high crowds another day! As we begin planning our next trip (hopefully 2019!) I will continue to share posts here about planning, taking, and making the most of your Disney vacations.