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Planning a Vacation to Disney World — The Basics

The first step in this series is to discuss the “basics.” This is your starting point. While there is a lot of information, there is no need to feel overwhelmed; if you learn the following you will be able to navigate the planning process for your next Disney vacation like a pro… or more like a well-informed consumer.

Disney has implemented several changes in the last couple of years in an effort to make your stay as magical and painless as possible. There are different tools and systems that have been put in place to make the booking and planing experience extremely easy and user friendly. We will discuss My Disney Experience app and website, ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations), FastPass+, Magic Bands, and how to choose the right hotel for you. So, lets get down to business… to defeat the Huns…

*Please note that originally I was going to do this post for five categories, but accommodations got toooo long making it a monster of it’s own, so I had to break the original Basic’s post into two. First we will discuss My Disney Experience, ADRs, FastPass+, and Magic Bands. Then we will go over Accommodations (Disney resort categories. Staying on property v. off, etc.).

1- My Disney Experience

Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

My Disney Experience is the new inclusive personal account which can be accessed through Disney’s website and has it’s own app. It is literally a way to plan your “experience” and keep track of everything important. Here you will be able to book your vacation, make and keep track of your dining reservations, your FastPass+ reservations, see all the details for every single attraction, ride, event Disney World has to offer. You can keep track of your itinerary, check in to your hotel from the comfort of your home, and so much more.

Create your account (online or after you get the app), download the app, and explore. There are several blogs out there with great information on how to use this wonderful tool. But in my opinion the best way to learn it and feel comfortable with it is to just spend a few hours with it. It is very user friendly, but if you and technology are just not a good match, then don’t despair, as I mentioned before there are several “how to” blogs just a google search away!

2- ADRs & Dining Plans


Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Advanced Dining Reservations or ADR is the system that allows you to reserve the restaurants you will be dining at while in Disney property. These reservations can be made as far in advance as 180 days before your check-in date. Make sure to try and make your reservations as soon as possible since there are several restaurants that are very popular and will be fully booked months in advance (Cinderella’s Table, Chef Mickey’s, Be Our Guest, etc.).
In order to book and ADR log in to My Disney Experience, go to Things To Do, and under Dining click on Make A Reservation. Then select the date and time you want the reservation for and the size of your party. Then depending how early on you are booking you will be presented with a very long or very short list of possibilities. You can further dwindle this list down by selecting which park or resort you are looking to dine in. Keep in mind that a reservation time does not mean that you will be seated at that time, you will still have a waiting time of about 15 minutes, it just guarantees that you will be given a table.


Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Dining Plans are prepaid meals that you can purchase when buying your vacation package. There are three dining plans currently:
– Quick-Service Plan — 
You get $46.34 to spend per adult per night. This includes 2 quick-service meals, 2 snacks, and 1 refillable drink mug, the mug can only be used in the resort.
– Disney Dining Plan —
You get $67.33 to spend per adult per night.  This includes 1 quick-service meals, 1 table service meal, 2 snacks, and 1 refillable drink mug, the mug can only be used in the resort.
– Deluxe Disney Dining Plan —
You get $103.57 to spend per adult per night. This includes 3 meals (quick-service or table service), 2 snacks, and 1 refillable drink mug, the mug can only be used in the resort.
The main thing to remember is that you don’t get the dollar value, you get a preset number of meals. Which means your meal could end up costing more or less than the amount you pay for the dining plan. With a little bit of planing you could end up saving a lot of money. I find Disney Tourist Blog to be a great guide to making the Dining Plan work for you, they also have lots of other great information so make sure to check them out.

*Please note that Advanced Dining Reservations and Dining Plans are only available to those staying on Disney property.

3- Fast Pass+


Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

You can book your Fast Pass+ through My Disney Experience (app or website). You are allowed to book in advance 3 Fast Passes per person per day. On the day of once you have used all 3 of your Fast Passes then you are allowed to get one more per person, and so on.
The main difference here is that if you are staying on Disney property you get to book your Fast Passes 60 days in advance (starting at midnight), if you are not staying on property then you get to book yours 30 days in advance (also starting at midnight). Which is actually kind of a big deal if you are trying to get those hot attraction tickets (Want to meet Anna and Elsa? Then you better get online at 12 on the dot!).

4- Magic Bands

Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Magic Bands are your keys to the Kingdom… Literally. They function as your ticket, the key to your room, your Dining Plan pass, and your credit card. They make it extremely convenient. No need to carry a wallet or key, you can just wear these waterproof bands and be able to enjoy your time bag free (you might still want a bag for diapers and change of clothing, but it is nice to dream).
You will receive your bands about three weeks before you travel. They will be shipped to your house if you make the reservation with enough time. If you make a last minute reservation they will be waiting for you at the front desk when you check-in.

There you have it! The basics you need to know in order to start planing your next Disney vacation. Make sure to come back Saturday for our next post: Planning a Vacation to Disney World — Where to Stay.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Planning a Vacation to Disney World — Where To Stay | DIY Bento

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