There are some common issues with people's trip plans which made me realize that I hadn't explained some aspects of planning a trip enough.
To help you improve your plans, here are 6 things you should keep in mind when creating your Disney World trip plan.
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1. Breakfast should only be scheduled at 8 a.m.
There are so many great character breakfasts and people get excited to book them for their trip. The problem is that the best time to tour is between the time a park opens and lunchtime.
If you book breakfast during prime touring time, you are guaranteed to wait in more lines while you tour.
To avoid interfering with touring time, you can book breakfast at 8 a.m., before the parks open. Not only does this time not interfere with touring, but it lets you get into the park when it's empty and snap some pics without crowds in the background.
The same timing rule applies when booking breakfast at a resort, but you'll need to allow time after your meal to get to the park.
On our way to Cinderella's Royal Table for breakfast at 8, in a nearly empty park...
Since Hollywood Studios sometimes opens around 8:30, I would probably avoid booking breakfast there altogether. If you have breakfast at 8 and get out at 9, Toy Story Mania would have been open for 30 minutes already and the lines and FastPass times will already have built up.
2. Extra Magic Hours are not so magical
One of the things that Disney does to convince people to stay on-site is to offer Extra Magic Hours to let guests get into a park early or stay late.
The problem is that tens of thousands of on-site guests will be doing the same thing.
The best time to visit a park is often the day after it has had an Extra Magic Hour since most people won't go to that park two days in a row.
The only time I think it makes sense to use Extra Magic Hours is if you show up when the Extra Magic Hours begin in the morning, ride the popular rides that often have lines later in the day and then leave for a different park a bit later.
Even though many (most?) on-site guests will plan to visit a park that's having Extra Magic Hours, many won't show up for the EMH but will still plan on going to that park anyway. That means the crowds build up the longer you stay and it's best if you leave before it gets too busy.
3. Do not pick restaurants before creating your daily plan
In my 6 step planning process, I suggest creating a daily plan as step 3 and then picking restaurants as step 4. The reason for this is that you don't want to pick restaurants that are inconvenient to where you'll be.
A reader who is staying at 1 of the Boardwalk resorts emailed me recently and asked me to review her plans which included nightly dinners at the Magic Kingdom area resorts. I suggested she switch to the many Boardwalk or Epcot restaurants since they'll be much more convenient for her. Traveling between resorts takes a long time, plus you might as well take advantage of what's near you.
4. Don't plan early mornings after late nights
On our family's last trip, we only saw 1 nighttime show in the 10 days we were there. We opted to get up early to beat the crowds/heat and stay for as long as we could, return to our resort to shower and get to bed at a decent time.
On our next trip, we plan to see all of the nighttime shows which will be easier since we'll be staying at The Beach Club and can walk back to our room from 2 of the 3 shows. However, we can't expect to get up early after being out late so we'll have to plan accordingly.
5. Don't be afraid to eliminate things from your plans
One of the biggest reasons that I plan things the way I do is that my trips as a kid were so busy that it wasn't a lot of fun (we didn't get to go on trips much when I was a kid so I understand why there was so much planned, but that didn't make the exhausting trips any more enjoyable).
The point of family vacations is to have fun together, not to see everything.
Pare down your plans so they are realistic and be flexible during your trip to allow for plenty of time to have fun.
We've been to Disney World many times and still haven't done everything. Every trip I have a list of new things to try. I realize that's a luxury of being able to go multiple times, but it should give you an idea of how much there is to do and help you understand that you won't be doing anywhere close to everything.
6. Eat lunch and dinner early or late
Many people probably think that since they made their Advance Dining Reservation 6 months in advance, they'll be able to show up and eat at that time.
That's not how it works.
Having an ADR just guarantees that you'll get to sit down at some point but your wait time will vary.
Like all restaurants, Disney restaurants are busiest during prime eating time (noon - 1 at lunch, 6-7 for dinner).
To avoid waits at restaurants (this applies to Counter Service or Table Service), arrive for lunch around 11 or 12 or wait until the lunch rush is over by 1:30 or 2. For dinner, arrive by 5 or 5:30 or have a late dinner at 7:30 or 8.