It’s Friday afternoon, and you have work off next week. The kids are out of school, and you’re planning a quiet staycation at home. Well, why not go to Walt Disney World instead? It is possible to plan and execute a DVC vacation in less than 24 hours! Ready, set, here we go…
1. Realistic Expectations
This is a last minute trip, so it will not be as glamorous as a vacation that was planned for a year or longer. Will you secure a dinner reservation at Le Cellier Steakhouse? Probably not. Will you get to ride the Seven Dwarfs’ Mine Train? Not with FastPass+. Will you forget your sunscreen? Maybe, but they do sell it in Florida; I know from experience.
Remember not to measure this trip against past vacations. Instead, compare it to what else you could be doing during your unexpected week off. By any measure, going to Walt Disney World is better than mowing the lawn or alphabetizing your DVD collection, so keep calm and plan on.
2. Resort Accommodation
The Disney Vacation Club website allows you to search for last minute resort availability by clicking on “Stays in the Next 60 Days” under the Plan Vacations menu tab. This is helpful for using “hold” points and for planning with shorter notice. The main page allows you to see availability in weekly lists, or you can search for specific dates. When you see an available room that you want, reserve it as quickly as possible because they are sometimes taken in a matter of minutes. If in doubt, simply call Member Services.
Sample of some availability over the next 60 days
Whatever method you use to make your reservation, be aware that you cannot be picky. If you want a specific room type, like a two-bedroom villa, then you will have limited resort selections. If you have to stay at a certain resort, then you will be limited when it comes to available rooms.
Most likely, you will have to resort-hop and spend different nights in different DVC resorts. This, I can say from experience, is not as intimidating as it sounds. The resorts’ luggage services will move your suitcases from one hotel to another while you spend the day in the parks. Plus, you can purchase a Disney Dining Plan for part of your vacation because each resort stay is technically a separate reservation. Just make sure that each resort confirmation number is linked on your My Disney Experience account and your Magic Band to avoid getting locked out of your room (and if that happens, the front desk’s cast members will be happy to offer assistance). Also remember to pick up your Magic Band at the front desk before you enter the parks because they will not be shipped to your house.
3. Park Tickets
If you do not have an Annual Pass, buy your tickets online before you leave in order to link them to your My Disney Experience account. This will enable you to make your FastPass+ selections as soon as possible and will ensure that your Magic Band is updated when you arrive at your resort.
If you plan to leave within 24 hours, then driving is your best bet. If you live too far away to drive, then budget airline carriers will be more likely to have affordable tickets. National airlines usually charge exorbitant amounts to get you to Orlando the next day, so carefully weigh the time it will take you to drive against the cost of the flight.
If you do fly, you will have to call Magical Express (ME) to notify them of your flight number and arrival time. Remember to pick up your checked suitcases from the luggage carousel and bring them to your Magical Express bus because you won’t have time to receive ME luggage tags via snail mail. Print your Magical Express confirmation email at home, and have it handy before you board the bus at the Orlando Airport.
When you start thinking about restaurants, keep in mind that it may not be possible to purchase a Disney Dining Plan (DDP). DVC members must purchase a DDP at least 48 hours before the start of their resort reservation, so it may not be possible to get one in a truly last minute scenario. Many restaurants offer discounts for DVC members, so don’t forget to bring your Member ID card and your photo ID into the parks.
Unless you have a fairy god mother, you probably won’t get an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) for Cinderella’s Royal Table, but you could get some great ADRs at the last minute. Look for availability at character meals outside of the parks, like the Bon Voyage breakfast with Ariel, Eric, Rapunzel, and Eugene at Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk. Inside the parks, try a classic restaurant like Tony’s Town Square or Liberty Tree Tavern. Some more exotic restaurants, like the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen in the Magic Kingdom, can even have walk-up availability. Just don’t get frustrated if you can’t get exactly what you want. There’s always next time!
Prepare yourself for some long lines if you have to ride Frozen Ever After or anything in Pandora: The World of Avatar. Your FastPass+ options will be incredibly limited, but it is still worth making selections even if you save thirty minutes in line at The Haunted Mansion. If you desperately want to ride the most popular rides, try to get in line during parades or fireworks, when it is likely that the waits will be shorter.
In a perfect world, you saved your packing list from your last Disney vacation. If not, then make a list now because you never know when you will need it. In a last minute scenario, the packing pressure will be on because you will have limited time to wash clothes and buy supplies, so be as efficient as possible. Try using packing cubes to organize your clothes, especially if you are changing resorts, and don’t forget “obvious” essentials like your purse/wallet or your child’s favorite stuffed animal. If you do forget something, just tell yourself that you can buy it when you get there.
Finally, remember that a vacation is fun! Preparing for a last minute trip can be stressful and chaotic, but it will be worth it to spend time at “The Most Magical Place on Earth!”