A majority of the 50 million people that visit the Walt Disney World Resort each year do so with a plan in mind. Some hit the parks with an hour-by-hour schedule of rigidity that they’re sure will guarantee a successful experience at Disney. Other Guests make a point of creating spreadsheets of reservations, FastPass+ times and the best times to enjoy attractions for which they didn’t score a FastPass+ time.
Is there anything wrong with this kind of planning? Is there any sin in preparing every last detail? We don’t think so at all. However, there are times when responsibilities and hectic schedules make it nearly impossible to take a vacation, let alone to plan that vacation with strict attention to every minute detail. There are also times when you find yourself wanting to break away from it all–from schedules, deadlines, strings of demanding timelines and the like. Sometimes, you want to just go on vacation with very little planning and see where the adventure takes you. And for each reason that it’s a good idea to rigidly plan for a Disney trip, there is another reason that it’s good to just go with the flow, be tossed by the wind and see where your Disney World adventure will take you.
This, my friend, is what we call “winging it.”
Winging it can be an exciting approach to your Disney vacation. (We don’t necessarily recommend it on your first trip to the parks because there’s just so much to see and do that the options might overwhelm you.) After all, Disney World is the most magical place on earth! If you choose to wing it, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Don’t wing it with money. Disney World can be a pricey vacation, and if you throw caution to the wind when it comes to financially preparing for your trip, you will almost certainly regret it once you’re home. That trip to the mailbox to pick up your credit card statement might have you regretting your trip to Florida altogether. Instead of winging it with your money, commit to saving for your trip well in advance of your departure date. Saving for your trip will allow you more freedom to wing it once you get to the parks. It will also allow you the wiggle room to enjoy more experiences, more restaurants and more of everything Disney World has to offer.
If you don’t mind waiting in the queues, you can easily wing it with your FastPass+ reservations. Don’t worry about making your selections 60 days in advance if you’re staying on Disney property or 30 days in advance if you’re staying elsewhere. Instead, wait until you get to the parks and access the My Disney Experience app to make selections from remaining available attractions and times. If lines don’t bother you, you’ll be just fine. Or if you’re traveling with a small group or during non-peak seasons in the parks, your wait times won’t be terrible anyway. Skip the advance FastPass+ selections and wing it once you get there. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, forgo the selections altogether! (Now that’s Merida-level bravery!)
Disney World allows Guests to make dining reservations at table-service restaurants up to 180 days in advance of their trips. I always make several dining reservations before my trip, but I like to live on the edge a bit and leave some of the dining reservations for once we get there. It doesn’t always land me the experience I want, but I can tell you that winging it on some of my dining reservations has scored lunch at Hollywood and Vine at Hollywood Studios, breakfast at Chef Mickey’s and dinner at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant at Magic Kingdom, among others, and those were all in June and July–prime peak season at Disney! Again, if you’re traveling with only a few in your group or if you’re visiting during non-peak seasons, you’ll have even better luck!
Also known as meet-and-greets, character encounters at Disney World can be some of the most exciting experiences you have in the parks. But many Guests try to fit too much into a greeting. It’s not uncommon to see large groups in line to meet Mickey, Woody, Buzz, Merida or any other character, and each one of them has an autograph book to be signed. After the stack of autograph books are signed, the aforementioned group has a leader who has a photographic agenda: she wants a wide-angle group shot of Mickey and the entire traveling party, then a shot of members of the party–a different photo of each sectioned off group within the group. And then she wants one more panoramic shot of everyone again–just for good measure. While this is in no way against Disney policy, it has the tendency to suck all the fun out of the experience. So try winging it with a few of your character encounters. Skip the autograph books here and there and opt, instead, to step right up, give Mickey a hug and tell him how he’s influenced your life. Run up to Woody and Buzz and show them your Toy Story-themed backpack and see what happens. (I did this–true story–and it was the single most fun meet-and-greet I’ve ever had!) No matter what, don’t over plan a character encounter! Wing some of them at all costs, and you will be happier than you ever dreamed! Plus you’ll have the PhotoPass photos to prove it!
A trip to Disney World is the most amazing vacation you can take. And we understand if you feel the urge to plan every day of your trip. But we can guarantee an adventure unlike any other if you wing it–on a few things anyway!
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