Posted by : Jameson Durall Tuesday, August 02, 2011

I'm about 10 days away from our next Disney World vacation, so it's time to start getting the last minute details figured out.  As you probably know, I do most of my initial planning about six months before our trip so I'm sure to get the Dining Reservations we want and on the right days for lowest crowds.  But, there are a few things that should can/should wait until closer to the trip...so get your notebook ready!

The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World is my Disney Trip Bible and I've been reading it over the last few months, but now it's time to use the affiliated touringplans.com to nail down exactly how we're going to spend each day in the park.  You might be thinking "Who wants a structured plan for their park days?" or "I don't want my relaxing vacation to so planned".  But what if I told you that in 15+ days I've used them, they saved me at least 2-4 hours of standing in line each day?  Even if you don't like the idea of a plan, at the very least it can remove the situation of standing around deciding what to do next and ensure that you get to do everything you want experience.  Try it for ONE day and see if it doesn't make a huge difference in how you experience the parks.

If you haven't already done so, first look at the Crowd Calendar to see what the expected crowd levels are like on each day of your visit.  I tend to pick the park they suggest as a Best Park since it generally has the lowest crowd levels for that day.  The reason you should do this in the week or so leading up is because the numbers can change as things like extra Fantasmic! showings are added or park hours are extended.  If you have Dining Reservations made, it may limit your ability to change parks on a day...but it might help you decide to switch parks at the half day point.

I prefer to have a rental car during our trips since it not only gives us freedom to leave the park but gets us to most parks much faster than the buses can. We also have the ability to run to Walmart off property and get bottled water and snacks to save money.  Also, having to use Magical Express to get to and from the airport would take a few extra hours of waiting around that we could spend with the Mouse.

I first make a reservation a few weeks leading up to our trip, but it's really important to keep checking rates every few days up until the trip starts.  I've seen rates move hundreds of dollars up and down in the weeks before a trip and even saw this trips amount go from $440 down to the $240 that I'm now booked at.  That number could even drop as we get just a few days from our travel date.  No charges are made for a reservation until you pick up the car, so book as many as you want leading up to the trip.

I highly recommend keeping an eye on the mousesavers.com rental car section since it keeps up to date on coupon codes and deals across all the major lenders.  I tend to prefer National but found the best deal this time with Alamo so be flexible!  Also, sign up for ALL of the frequent renter programs with the major companies since it costs you nothing and they often give special perks to their members.  They also allow you to skip the line and walk straight to the car pick up area saving a ton of time :)

The next thing to start thinking about is FOOD!  Hopefully you've already made any ADRs that you need for the trip, but it's also good to get an idea of where you'd like to eat your other meals and what snacks you might want to enjoy as you make our way around the park.  Some snacks are only available in certain parks and maybe at one or two locations in that park so knowing where to go is crucial to saving time and getting that fix quick!  Also, when following a touring plan, it means you'll be in a certain part of the park during lunch and dinner time so knowing what your near by food options are ahead of time helps a lot.

There are two resources that I highly recommend for making your dining experience at Disney World the best it can be.  AJ from The Disney Food Blog has a series of E-Book guides that condenses all the great info from her site into easy an easy to use format that you can even have on your your phone during your trip.  Everyone should download The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining which covers all the parks and dining locations.

Be sure to also download the DFB Mini-Guide to Magic Kingdom Snacks so you'll know exactly where to head for all the amazing snacks the park has to offer.  There are so many to choose from at Magic Kingdom and they can be difficult to find if you don't know where to look.  I must have a Dole Whip on any trip and this time I'm also looking forward to trying the Sweet Cream Cheese Pretzel.

The last thing you might want to think about is how you're going to handle your spending on the trip.  If you are staying at a resort on Disney property your room key is a Key To The World which can have your credit card linked to it. You can then use your key to get in your room, get in the parks and do any purchasing around Disney World property.

The convenience is great, but keep in mind that your credit card isn't being charged yet...your room is and there is a $500 limit on the purchases. Once you hit that limit...your Key To The World it gets denied (which happened to me).  I had to call my resort and have them immediately charge my purchases to my credit card which then gave me another $500 available to spend in the parks.  Not a huge deal, but something to keep in mind.

If you want to keep better tabs on your spending or even set a budget, I'd suggest buying a Disney Gift Card at the start of your trip or even before you leave.  They can be used pretty much anywhere on property and will help curb the impulse buying that can easily happen.  My son got some extra birthday money this year so I ordered him a special Phineas and Ferb gift card from The Disney Store so he'll be able to purchase whatever he wants in the parks as a souvenir.

Hopefully this info helps you get those last minute details taken care of and makes your trip as stress free and cheap as possible :)


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