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. 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.
Planning a Short Walt Disney World Vacation
If you’re hoping to shove your Walt Disney World Vacation into a long weekend, or less than 5 days, this post will give you some things to consider. From maximizing your time to which tickets make the most sense. And with Park Pass Reservations now required, and opportunities to skip the ride lines with Lightning Lane and Disney+, planning is essential! Thankfully Disney World has introduced things like Meals To-Go, Mobile Ordering, Mobile checkout, and more to help you make the most of a short vacation to Walt Disney World. Let’s dive in. However, keep in mind we never recommend a short Disney vacation if this is your first Disney Vacation.
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 a Resort within walking distance of Walt Disney World? 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?
Walt Disney World Resorts within walking distance of the parks are your best bet. However, there are several transportation options that make certain parks easier to get to. The Disney Skyliner Resorts for example get you close to EPCOT Park and Hollywood Studios. While those resorts aren’t within walking distance, this transportation option helps you skip the lines at the buses. And some Disney Resorts offer boat transportation.
- Animal Kingdom: Closest to Animal Kingdom is Animal Kingdom Lodge, this park is the farthest from most of the parks. It is, however, just a 10-minute bus ride from Animal Kingdom.
- EPCOT or Hollywood Studios: Try a Disney Boardwalk Resort, or the Swan and Dolphin Hotels. Both are within walking distance of EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.
- Magic Kingdom: Staying at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds, Wilderness Lodge or the Monorail Resorts gets you the closest and easiest access to the park.
- 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. They also offer boat transportation to Disney Springs.
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 can you grab the best food at the 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 are quite a few wonderful quick-service walk-up counters across the parks that do just fine for a last-minute trip.
Find Disney Restaurants that Have Last-Minute Dining Reservations
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. Be sure to check out our post on which restaurants are best for Last Minute Disney Reservations at Walt Disney World.
Mobile Order at Walt Disney World
Avoid waiting in line with mobile orders at Walt Disney World. This allows you to preorder your food in the My Disney Experience App and pick it up at the window when you’re ready. No waiting in lines and the food is ready when you are. This is available at select restaurants so be sure to check the app for options.
Order Disney Meals To-Go!
Walt Disney World has many restaurants that offer a To-Go Menu. Fancier restaurants like Sanaa, Ale and Compass, and Steakhouse 71 all have To-Go Menus. While the full menu at most restaurants is not offered as To-Go, you can find many of the main dishes and sides available. Just pull up the to-go menu in the app, pick an arrival time and order everything you need.
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. And 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 a home for all our resort information, tickets, Lightning Lane Passes and Disney Genie +, Park pass reservations, restaurant reservations, and more, you need this app on your phone.
- Book Lightning Lane and Disney Genie+ so you don’t have to wait in line for select rides.
- 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.
- Self-Checkout at Disney Gift Shops with Disney Mobile Checkout.
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. Without things on a schedule, 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. Check out our best Disney Ride Strategies to make the most of your long weekend at Disney World.
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 wants 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.
Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.