Disney Planning Tips from a Travel Agent

Disney Planning Tips from a Travel Agent

  Here are some Disney Planning Tips from a Travel Agent to help you make the most out of your Disney vacation.  These are tips that come from years of planning Disney trips for my clients as well as our own personal vacations to the most Enchanted Place on Earth! Using a travel agent might seem like old news in the age of the internet, but it can save you tons of money, time and stress on your Disney vacation. Disney travel agents know all the deals and discounts there are, even some that aren’t known to the public. That means they will get you the absolute best price on your trip! They can even add new specials to your trip if they come available! They help take away all the stress of planning out your air travel, Fast Passes, and dining reservations. Many travel agents also throw in a few special surprises for you like ear hats in your hotel room when you arrive, making your vacation magical from the start.  

Take a look at some expert Disney Planning tips from your resident travel agent:

  • Pick your travel dates. Are your dates flexible

If you are flexible with your travel dates, then you might want to consider traveling during the time of year when the parks are not as crowded.  Usually when school is in session… Typically, mid-January through early March unless it’s a holiday weekend.  September is also quite a good month, as many children have gone back to school.  October and November are also generally good, but can see spikes in guest attendance here or there for the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.  
  • Make Dining Reservations EARLY

Disney has some amazing restaurants (I don’t think I can pick just one favorite) but because of that, they also book months in advance.  Currently, Disney allows guests to start booking their dining reservation 180 days in advance.  And for some restaurants – like  Cinderella’s Castle, Storybook Dining, ‘Ohana, Chef Mickey’s, and Be Our Guest, to name a few – you will most certainly need to book that far out in order to get good seating times. If you are staying on Disney property for your trip, you get an extra benefit: you can begin booking your dining reservations 180 days prior to your check-in date for the entire duration of your trip! They release early that morning at exactly 180 days out! Another perk of having a travel agent!  
  • Book Fast-Passes early too!

At exactly 7 AM EST, 30-60 days before your vacation, go to the Disney World FastPass+ site and make your 3 ride selections — do this for each ticket holder in your group. (***If you book through a travel agent, they should do this for you! Enchanted Woods Travel does!) Just like restaurants, there are rides that notoriously book way ahead of time too.  FastPass+ for rides like Frozen Ever After, Toy Story Mania, and 7 Dwarfs Mine Train disappear quickly.  Disney will allow guests who have pre-purchased tickets tied to their My Disney Experience account to secure Fast Pass+ for rides 30 days in advance. And if you’re staying on Disney property for your trip, you get a huge advantage: you can book your FP+ 60 days prior to your check-in date!  
  • Have a Park Plan

Disney parks are huge and intense.  I always encourage my clients to understand the layout of the parks so that they are not running from one side of the park to the other unnecessarily and wasting valuable time. Plan your FP+ so that it follows the route you are going to take when touring the parks.  Don’t get me wrong – not everything has to be planned to the last minute of the day.  Planning could be talking to a friend who knows a lot about Disney and getting their advice.  Or better yet, if you have a travel agent that specializes in Disney, pick their brain in terms of what recommendations they have. Having a plan can save you time, cause less stress, and allow you to make the most of your vacation.   Walt Disney Ride  
  • Memory Maker

I was unsure about the $169 investment for Memory Maker, but I quickly found out that there were so many benefits. First, I was actually IN the pictures!  We have beautiful family pictures for years to enjoy.  Second, we received ride photos and videos for free as part of Memory Maker.  We still laugh when we see the petrified look on my daughter’s face when she rode Dinosaur for the first time.  Third, we get these fun pictures called Magic Shots.  “Hold out your hand just like this and look surprised,” the PhotoPass photographer would say.  And lo and behold, when I look at the picture minutes later, Chip is sitting right in the palm of my hand!  They are always changing the characters for those shots, so it’s always a nice surprise. I was just amazed at how many pictures we get every trip!  I thought we wouldn’t even break 100 shots, but we probably get three times that amount every trip.  That, to me, makes Memory Maker absolutely worth it and no lugging my camera around of fishing for my phone.  
  • Consider the Disney Dining Plan

Debating whether the Dining Plan is worth it could be an article in and of itself.  But if your planned vacation fits into any of these criteria, it might be cost-effective for you to consider the Dining Plan: -If you are looking to book a lot of character dining or all-you-care-to-eat dining locations. Character dining is often more expensive than going to other table service restaurants.  Under the Dining Plan, most character dining locations (Cinderella’s Royal Table & now Be Our Guest being notable exceptions, for example) only requires 1 table service entitlement. The characters are by far my favorite! -Book a table service restaurant for lunch or dinner. Dining at lunch or dinner is more expensive, so it gives you more value for your Dining Plan credit. Storybook Dining This one is my newest favorite Storybook Dining with the Evil Queen! -If you are going to an Epcot Festival. Whether it’s the Food & Wine Festival, International Flower & Garden Festival, or the recent hit Festival of the Arts, Epcot offers a stunning array of food kiosks that cater to a particular specialty.  For example, at the Epcot Festival of the Arts, a themed treat may cost $7.50 out-of-pocket, but for these festivals, Epcot allows guests on the Dining Plan to enjoy many of these offerings in exchange for 1 snack credit entitlement.  This is a great deal, especially considering that most selections for a snack credit costs $5 or less. -Eat a sit-down meal as a late lunch instead of dinner if you want a break and missing the dinner crowds.. then you have time for fireworks and late park nights after. -If you are paying out of pocket… or may be short a dining credit..Pay out of pocket at Breakfast for a table serve or character meal you can save as much as 35%  
  • Spend time outside the parks

Sure, you will spend the majority of your time at the parks.  But there is so much to see and do at Disney outside the parks. Staying at a resort on property.. they all have super cool stuff to see and do.?  There is something very serene and beautiful about starting your day with a cup of coffee while watching the animals right outside your balcony if you are staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Are you at the BoardWalk Inn?  See the boardwalk come alive at night with entertainment and midway games. Or how about the Grand Floridian?  Hang out at the lobby and listen to the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra or to the beautiful songs of a Cast Member accompanied by the grand piano. Staying at Port Orleans?  Take a leisurely boat ride from your resort to Disney Springs.  Disney imagineers have taken great care to ensure that each resort is beautifully-themed and offers guests more Disney magic outside of the parks. PS you don’t have to be staying at these resorts to visit them!  
  • Be on the look out for Magic Moments

Sometimes it’s when you spend a few extra minutes to interact with a Cast Member.  Or when you take those silly pictures with a PhotoPass photographer.  Or when you take several loops around the resort monorail line for the fun of it. When you can – spend a few minutes to slow down and take it all in – you never know, you may just get a dose of Disney magic when you least expect it. Magic moments with Chip - wal  
  • Buy Disney gift cards at Target

Use your REDcard to save 5% instantly, then use this to pay towards you vacation. I believe Costco and Sam’s and a few others have them too. (PS your travel agent can apply gift cards too)  
  • Get a free button

If you’re celebrating an Anniversary, Birthday, first Disney visit, or other Special occasion.  
  • Don’t buy bottled water.

You can go to any quick serve or table serve and they will give you ice water for free.  
  • Set your lock screen to your FastPass+ schedule to save battery.

Download the free My Disney Experience app on your smartphone, and once you select your FastPass+, take a screenshot of your schedule and set the image as your lock screen. This way, you won’t have to open the app every time you want to check your reservations.  
  • Attending a special event with multiple shows or parades? Always go to the second showing.

The first showing is always more crowded. This gives you a chance to check out some rides with less of a crowd.  Also, after the fireworks, a lot of the younger kiddos are tired, so people leave, stay as late as possible and hit a few more rides.  
  • Buying a few items before you leave can save you tons!

-Hit the dollar store, there are some things you can purchase before your trip that could save you some money at the parks later.  Light up toys for evening  is definitely one of them, but there are so many others, like ponchos, mini-fans and cooling towels.  Disney sells neon necklaces for a large amount of money (much more than the dollar store). -Souvenirs are expensive in Disney, not that I don’t buy 1 each visit, but you can go to the local dollar store and get a ton of Disney trinkets to hide in the rooms from Mickey on your return from the parks.. I cant tell you how many times my daughter thought I was crazy when we left the room cause I always had to run back in and potty.. aka, put out something from Mickey. -Disney Costumes can get super pricey. Buy them before you leave. …there are a ton online or people probably have some their kids have outgrown. -Buy Markers, Autograph books and pens before you leave at the parks, crazy cost.  
  • Start from the back

Start from the back of any park and head forward or go to the left from entry and start (unless at Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom where Toy Story or Pandora and the new openings are that direction. If you’ve gotten in line early and are coming in through the gates with the masses and not headed to a Fast Pass, head to the back of the park. At Magic Kingdom, for example, you’ll take advantage of minimal waits for great rides like Pan, Pirates, Haunted Mansion. Plus this way you are working your way towards the front when time to leave and take a break! The busiest time at the park is generally (not always) mid afternoon.. I have no idea why.. we leave after the mid day parade and go rest and clean up before dinner.. hang out by the pool etc.. plus you are avoiding the heat of the day.  
  • Get a Disney Vacation Planner!

They will do all the work for you and give you more tips and tricks. Along with getting up early and setting up your Fast Passes and Dining for you! They’ll do all the deal searching for you, saving you time and money. Plus, it’s free — Disney pays these agents a commission directly! The amount of research necessary to plan all the details of a Disney vacation can be too time-consuming or even intimidating for some people. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the options, a great (FREE) solution is to use the services of a travel agent like Melissa at Enchanted Woods Travel who specializes in Disney travel.   IMPORTANT:  Make sure they have been to Disney MULTIPLE TIMES! There are many “Disney Specialists” that have completed the College of Disney Knowledge, an online course offered by Disney that covers Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney. This is a great starting point, but frankly it’s not enough. Believe it or not, a travel agent can easily become a “Disney Specialist” in a few hours, without ever having visited a Disney vacation destination in person! You want one who has personal hands on knowledge! For that reason, we recommend picking an agency such as Enchanted Woods Travel that focuses on Disney has advanced experience with Disney destinations, including in-person, on-site visits.   REMEMBER:   Because they work on a commission basis, it’s unfair to ask a travel agent to do a lot of research for you, and then book elsewhere or yourself. (would you want your boss to pay someone else for the work you did?)  Likewise, a reputable travel agent normally will not take over the booking of a trip from another travel agent, because this is considered “stealing” someone else’s earned commission.  

Here’s how the Disney Vacation Planner process works.

Enchanted Woods Travel uses a quotation system that helps them offer the best discounts available. Submit a request for a price quote through this link.
  1. Based on your needs and your location, Melissa will work with you right up through the time of your trip. (Melissa is located in Texas but has clients throughout the world.
  2. Melissa will contact you by email to determine what your preferred method of communication is and will provide you with your quotation along with her phone number that allows you to reach her directly and discuss the details of your vacation.
  3. From that point on, your contact is one-on-one with the Melissa and completely personalized
    Ready to plan your vacation with Enchanted Woods Travel? Where do you want to go? Walt Disney World or Disneyland:   Request a Walt Disney World/Disneylany vacation price quote from Enchanted Woods Travel Disney Cruise Line cruise:   Request a Disney Cruise Line cruise price quote from Enchanted Woods Travel Universal Orlando:   Request a Universal Orlando vacation price quote from Enchanted Woods Travel Aulani Resort & Spa in Hawaii:   Request an Aulani Resort vacation price quote from Enchanted Woods Travel   Download Enchanted Woods Travel’s Free Disney Planning Checklist here. Free checklist   You will always receive helpful planning information and literature when you book with Enchanted Woods Travel. We never charge for our services.   If you’ve found this content beneficial please recommend the site to your family and friends. And if you liked this post, please tweet, pin and share – I’d really appreciate it! You can also follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter!