Guide to Planning a Last-Minute Trip to the Walt Disney World Resort

A Disney vacation might seem like something that in itself requires a great deal of planning. While planning before your trip can save you time (and sometimes money) during your stay, it is not entirely necessary. And while many guests fear the thought of planning a last-minute trip, it is actually doable if you don’t mind being a little flexible.

Check for resort reservations asap

Before you plan dining reservations, FastPasses, or anything else, be sure to check for resort reservations. Securing your resort first is important for a couple of reasons. If all of Disney’s resorts are fully booked, you know you’re in for a busy week at the parks. Even booking as late as a day or two before you can typically find some room available (granted it may not be at your first choice of a resort) but if there are no rooms available you’ll know what kinds of crowds you’ll be dealing with. Furthermore Disney’s resorts can book up quick, especially as it gets closer and closer to your trip. If staying on Disney property is a priority for you, you’ll want to check for rooms as soon as you know you’ll be taking this trip.

Know where to look if you need to stay off-property

I’ve booked last-minute trips to Walt Disney World before where I’ve had to stay in non-Disney hotels because everywhere in the resort area was full. Before you panic, there are a couple of resorts that are not official Disney resorts but are still close to the magic (and endorsed by Disney) so they’re worth checking out. First, check the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. These resorts may not be for you if you’re shopping with a value resort-budget, but they can often be a deal compared to the rest of the Epcot area resorts, and sometimes they have rooms when Disney resorts are sold out. If this doesn’t work out, move onto the Disney Springs area resorts. (There is even an entire Disney-run website devoted to helping you find a room in this area– If you can’t find anything there, check out Disney’s Good Neighbor hotels. They’re a little bit further away from the parks than your first two options, but they still include beautiful resorts that are backed by Disney, and are able to sell Disney park tickets and arrange transportation for the parks.

Don’t over-plan your dining reservations

If you’re anything like me, the fact that you’re planning a last-minute trip probably means you won’t actually have tons of time to spend at Walt Disney World. (Most of my last-minute trips are the result of randomly ending up with an extra day off from work, or deciding to spend a long holiday weekend at the parks). If you’re short on time, don’t take up too much of your trip with time-consuming dining reservations. Seek out quick service restaurants you’ve always wanted to try and eat on the run. Maybe you’ll even try some new quick service restaurants you haven’t given a chance to before.

Choose your FastPasses, but don’t stress if your favorites aren’t available

Booking last-minute means you’re probably going to get the short end of the stick when it comes to FastPasses, but it’s fine. A quick trip to Walt Disney World is better than a couple of days at home. Use this trip as an opportunity to see the attractions with shorter lines that you usually skip, and plan on getting up early and staying in the parks late to visit some of your favorites without the long lines. Don’t forget that people do sometimes change and cancel FastPass selections, so if you keep checking on your phone you may find some availability opening up during your trip.

Avoid over-packing

Ear headband is from OddsNEars on Etsy, bow is from MadewithMagicBows on Etsy, and bangles are from MouseGears on Etsy.

With a last-minute trip, you may not have too much time to think about packing, and you don’t want to spend that precious time of yours packing and unpacking tons of unnecessary items in your resort room. Pack the basics that you know you’ll wear and one to two pairs of shoes, along with the necessary accessories and toiletries and be on your way. If it’s a short enough trip, try to pack using only a carry-on. Not only will you save airline baggage fees, but you won’t waste time waiting around baggage claim if you aren’t able to use Disney’s Magical Express Service.

Don’t rush

This point is especially true of short trips, and even more true if you’ve been to the parks many times before and know you’re going to be back. Don’t rush. It’s tempting, but don’t. Slow it down and take in all of the details, and prioritize the things you really want to do. If you miss something you wanted to see, remember if you planned a last-minute trip once you shouldn’t have a problem doing it again if need be.

Have you planned a spur of the moment trip to Walt Disney World? What tips would you add to this list?

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