Top Five Tips for a Last-Minute Walt Disney World Tripby Gavin Doyle, contributing writer
The words "last minute" usually don't apply to Walt Disney World vacations since in the past, guests had the flexibility (and were practically required) to book experiences like dining 180 days in advance. That's nearly six months before your trip! Most of Walt Disney World's travel planning has usually been structured to accommodate guests planning for trips far out in the future. This makes planning a trip to Wa;t Disney World seem daunting for many guests as they try to navigate how to effectively plan out each step of their trip.
Well, that's all changed now with Walt Disney World's reopening after the longest closure in park history in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the long-held rules we once knew about planning a Walt Disney World vacation have been turned upside down. But this switch comes at a benefit for many folks looking to make a quick visit to the Most Magical Place on Earth—it's easier than ever right now to book a last-minute trip to Walt Disney World. For all those Disneyland fans who are open to traveling, the current Walt Disney World touring experience will once again feel a lot more like our smaller California resort.
Traveling now doesn't come without risks, as the United States still struggles to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control. Walt Disney World recognizes this risk, and you will be asked to acknowledge it with the following reminder when you visit the resort: "An inherent risk to COVID-19 applies to any public space where people are present."
Choosing to travel to Walt Disney World right now is a personal decision that families must make based on their own comfort level and personal health risks. The good news is that the Walt Disney World reopened successfully, with Disney going above and beyond, with stringent safety measures. Many of the guests visiting the resort since it's opened have reported that it's the safest they"ve felt in any public place. Perhaps even safer than your local grocery store.
So with that in mind, if you're planning to make a last-minute trip to Walt Disney World, here are the five top tips to help you pull it off and have a magical time.
1. Make a Park Pass Reservation
One of the new changes that Disney World has implemented to create a safe environment for guests and cast members is to limit park capacity and require advance reservations. Your first crucial step is to make a Park Pass Reservation once you've bought your theme park tickets to ensure you have access to the theme park on your trip. This should be your first step of the planning process!
- Link your park tickets/admission to your Disney account. You will need valid park admission to make a reservation.
- Create your party. Before you make a reservation, you'll be prompted to create a party from your Family & Friends list on your account. This ensures your group has the same reservations for your trip.
- Select a date and park. Choose the date and time you'd like to visit from the available reservations.
- Review and confirm your plans. You will also be prompted to agree to a COVID-19 liability waiver.
You will need to create a My Disney Experience account and from there, you can link your theme park tickets, annual pass, and/or Disney Resort hotel reservation. Guests are able to select one park per day; there is currently no park hopping at Walt Disney World. I explain all the details and give tips on the Park Pass system in our Walt Disney World tickets guide.
I recommend making your reservations as soon as you know your trip dates and have your tickets since availability can change at any moment, though this hasn't been an issue up to this point.
2. Book Your Dining Reservations Soon
Walt Disney World has retrofitted its dining options to keep with the new distancing standards. Dining plans are temporarily suspended, with restaurants operating at a lower capacity to accommodate social distancing safety measures. My Walt Disney World dining guide. outlines more specific changes and policies like no room delivery in phase one, the specific changes to Character Dining, and the expansion of Mobile Ordering
It is crucial to make an advance dining reservation for tough-to-get table-service restaurants, especially since they may have limited availability and capacity, as Disney balances its new safety procedures.
You can now make dining reservations 60 days in advance for your Walt Disney World trip. You can make dining reservations online or by calling (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463. Guests under 18 years of age must have parent or guardian permission to call.
3. Prepare for New Safety Procedures
Disney has gone above and beyond in implementing stringent safety policies to keep cast members and guests safe. Its dedication to detail in these policies is admirable, and demonstrates its inclusion of medical experts in its reopening plans.
Some of the highlights of these new safety procedures include:
- Limited capacity in the theme park, ride queues, restaurants, and transportation
- Face coverings required for all guests ages 2 and older
- Face coverings must have ties or ear loops—no gaiters or bandanas.
- Face coverings can only be removed for dining. If eating outside a restaurant, guests are asked to remain stationary when they remove their masks to drink or eat.
- Mask relief areas (Relaxation Area) are provided for guests to remove their masks and cool off in the air conditioning.
- Temperature screenings prior to entry – guests with temperatures of 100.4 F or above will not be allowed entry and those in their party will not be allowed entry either.
- Plexiglass has been installed in areas of the park that prevents adequate social distancing such as ride queues, ride vehicles, entrance booths, food stands, retail locations, and more.
- Social distancing floor markers are located all over the theme park, resort hotels, and transportation areas to remind guests to keep a six-foot distance between other parties.
- Separating parties from each other on rides—even if that means giving one small group the entire Millennium Falcon ship to fly (now that's a cool perk!) in order to prevent mingling between groups.
- Modified character interactions and dining
- Nighttime spectaculars, parades, and other entertainment options that draw large crowds will return at a later date
Prepare your family for these new changes before your visit—practice wearing masks for longer lengths of time and pick out cute Disney-themed styles.
4. Plan Your Itinerary
Here's the most exciting part of planning a trip to Walt Disney World right now—map out your itinerary! There is currently no Fastpass+ for attractions at Disney World because it's simply not needed, since wait times are so low.
It's also helpful to keep in mind that Walt Disney World is currently operating with shorter hours, with parks typically closing by 7:00 p.m. The good news is that the minimal to non-existent ride lines makes it easier than ever to do everything you want in a day. Plan a fun evening back at your hotel to relax and enjoy a leisurely pace for your vacation.
Character cavalcades spontaneously occur at all the Walt Disney World theme parks with no posted times to discourage guests gathering. But if you just take a moment to slow down in the parks, you will likely see them come by as some of the cavalcades are as frequent as every 15 minutes.
Also important to note: Walt Disney World has announced cancellations and changes to some of its popular festivals and after-hours events. The Walt Disney World experience is different, but the lack of crowds due to enforced capacity makes this year an exciting time to visit.
5. Book With a Disney Certified Travel Expert
Now it's more helpful than ever to book your trip with a certified Disney travel expert, especially as policies change swiftly during these reopening stages. Booking with a travel expert like Get Away Today will ensure you have the best price guarantee and free concierge help for planning your last-minute Walt Disney World trip.
For a limited time, when you book a Walt Disney World package with Get Away Today you will get a $50 Disney gift card and $50 travel credit for future travel to any destination.
Gavin Doyle is the founder of MickeyVisit.com and DisneyDose.com. His tips help people save money and experience more at Walt Disney World and Disneyland and have been featured at Forbes, Travel+Leisure, OC Register, ABC News, LA Times, Yahoo! News, and more.