With only a little time for planning ahead and not much extra money, we decided to take an impromptu trip to Disney for some much-needed fun and a break from the freezing weather in Ohio. Goal? To see the holiday decorations before the hoards arrived. But whether you’ve got a reason or just need to get away here are our best tips to know if you’re taking a Long Weekend at Walt Disney World.
Choose the Best Disney Resort
Choosing the BEST Disney Resort for a Long Weekend at Walt Disney World is all about figuring out your priorities FIRST! Because it really does matter where you stay! Are you visiting for an EPCOT festival and need to be within walking distance? Maybe you’re just planning to visit Magic Kingdom and a monorail resort may be your best bet? Maybe you’re on a strict budget, and just need the Disney Resort to be cheap? If you are just visiting for a weekend you already know that you need to find ways to save time on your Disney Vacation. But no matter where you stay, you won’t want to waste time waiting for or riding on buses. Consider the location of your resort to the activities you’re hoping to tackle during this weekend.
Which Disney Resorts are Closest to Each Park?
Animal Kingdom: Closest to Animal Kingdom Lodge, this park is the farthest from most of the parks. For this reason, if this is your main park and you’re not at AKL, then renting a car at the Walt Disney World Car Rental may be your best bet.
Central Location to All 4 Parks: If you need to be central we’d recommend Port Orleans Riverside or French Quarter. Bus rides tend to be about 10-15 minutes to every park from here, it’s the best on-site hotel for getting everywhere faster.
Disney Pro Tip: Hotels.com is our go-to site anytime we’re not booking directly through Disney. For one thing, the rewards program will earn you a free night and Disney hotels are often included. They’re also the best place to look for last-minute deals.
Plan Your Food For Disney
We’ve become emotionally attached to at least three meals a day. But, chances are that the good restaurants will be booked on a last-minute trip. So how to grab the best food at, last minute and on a budget.
Choose Quick Service Restaurants Ahead of Time
While advanced dining reservations may be difficult to get to some of the best Disney Restaurants, you can always focus on the Best Quick Service Restaurants at Disney to hold you over. There is quite a few wonderful quick service walk-up counters across the parks that do just fine for a last-minute trip. If you’re looking for something fancier, certain restaurants, like Tiffins at Animal Kingdom, Skipper Canteen in Magic Kingdom, Mama Melrose at Hollywood Studios, and Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge usually have openings.
Disney Pro Tip: Check the Disney event schedule while you’re sitting at the airport. We were lucky enough to catch the tail end of the Food and Wine Festival during our mini trip. An EPCOT festival can be a godsend during an unplanned Long Weekend at Walt Disney World. Check out the Festivals and Events page for things like menus so you can check out the foods available at the outdoor kitchens at EPCOT.
Pack Really Light
Whether you’re checking your bags or carrying a bag on the plane there are perks to packing light. Check out our post on How to Pack Light for a Quick Trip. For a long weekend at Walt Disney World, pack as if you were carrying all your own luggage. While we may have been spoiled by the Magical Express where all of our luggage is simply managed for us, when we’re toting around our own bags, we pack less.
Disney Pro Tip: Plan simple outfits and bring good shoes. Since you are not going to have time to unpack everything into the drawers and closets, having outfits that are wrinkle-free and can be layered is key. A quick trip should be easy and fun, don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be with a full wardrobe!
Use the My Disney Experience App
Our favorite Disney Vacation Planning tool is the Disney My Experience App. As home for all our resort information, tickets, fastpasses, park pass reservations, restaurant reservations and more, you need this app on your phone.
- Book Fastpasses: Check for fastpasses in the mornings of the rides you want most.
- Mobile Order Food: Take advantage of mobile ordering so you don’t have to wait in the lunch lines.
- Create your MagicMobile Wallet: Use this wallet card to go touchless and scan in at the parks, rides and pay for food at restaurants.
Disney Pro Tip: Take a break and look up the next parade or show. Chances are during regular vacations you don’t have the time to fill your day with these little extras, but since you’re not on a schedule tied to rides or dining you can take the time to take a break.
Plan to Do LESS!
This may feel contradictory, but really this is our most important advice. You’re not fitting Disney into a long weekend so you can do ALL the things. You won’t have three-plus fast passes to use or three dining reservations a day to make. Without these things, the days will naturally feel longer. It’s actually quite amazing. Pick a ride or two you want to ride each day of your mini trip. With just a ride or two on your schedule for the day and no locked-in time you have to be there, you can afford to wait in a line and go when the wait times are lower around mealtimes.
Disney Pro Tip: “Plan” free time. Whether that’s allowing extra time to browse the shops, lounge on the hub grass at magic kingdom, or grab an ice cream at Beaches and Cream this non-schedule will help you feel like it’s a vacation instead of a mission.
Pick the Right Travel Companions
A last-minute long weekend at Walt Disney World is not for the faint of heart. And its success is highly dependent on who you travel with. We are extremely lucky to have friends and family that usually share our travel temperament of hanging out, finding the best food, and liking less of a schedule when we’re on vacation. Of course you know your travel companions best. Prep your family and friends ahead of time. Keep expectations manageable. Identify those few things each of you want to fit in this trip and make sure you do them.
Disney Pro Tip: Talk through the concept of downtime and relaxing. This may sound crazy, especially for a short Disney vacation. But if you’re like most families ( American in particular) you will be very trained to go, go, go. This mindset could be trouble on this type of vacation because during the strolling, ice cream, and waiting in line you’ll get this sense that you should be doing something. Anything. Something bigger. Or something else. That’s not what this mini-break is for. It’s not a mission. You’re not here to get stuff done. Take in a show, stop and watch what’s happening around you. These are the things that make Disney magical. Remind your people.
Do Something You Haven’t Done Before
This vacation is gonna be short. You know it’s gonna fly by and you’ll want something special to add to the memories. For us, on this last trip, it was the glitz of a new hotel experience and a full room service breakfast. But we also added simple stuff like ordering a pizza from the Trattoria al Forno pizza window. This can be pre-planned or not. It’s up to you. If you can master the strolling part of this mini-break, you’ll be able to find lots of things you’ve never done before and can do at a moment’s notice.
Disney Pro Tip: Keep your to-do list small. This isn’t an opportunity to add stuff to your vacation that will keep you on a tight schedule. It’s an opportunity to try something new.
Hopefully, this has given you a few critical tips that will make your next impromptu vacation a little less impromptu and much more fun. If you have questions ask them! We’re happy to chime in and let you know what’s worked and what hasn’t.