I feel like I may be pulling one out of thin air today, friends. When I requested feedback on what Disney questions you wanted answered, nobody asked this one. To be honest, I was surprised, because it is the one thing I am most frequently asked by people who have begun thinking about planning a Disney World vacation.
“How early should I start planning my trip?”
What I’d really like to say is, “As early as possible!” But of course, the answer is a little more complicated than that.
One of the things I (sort of) base my answer on is the fact that you can make your Disney World dining reservations 180 days in advance of your check-in date. For the most popular restaurants – Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Chef Mickey’s, ‘Ohana – this is an absolute must, especially if you’re traveling with a large party. It is sometimes possible to snag a reservation at these places less than 180 days from your trip, but it’s difficult. And most of the time, it’s going to be a really weird meal time – think 9:30pm for dinner. This just doesn’t work for most families with young children…or people who get grumpy when the normal dinner hour has passed and they still haven’t eaten, like me. To ensure that my clients get the dining reservations they want, I like to encourage booking as early as you can. I’m not saying I can’t get you a dinner reservation one month before you travel, but it may not be your first or even your second choice.
Having said that, when you book over six months in advance, there usually are not discounts available for your travel dates yet. (One exception to this are my military travelers – depending on the time of year.) You can choose dates to travel based dates when Disney has historically released discounts (example: free dining in the fall), and if/when a better rate becomes available for your trip, I can rebook it under the new rate. The bonus in doing this is that you have held a room at the resort you want, and we’ve already made sure you have reservations for the dining experiences you prefer.
Do you lose anything by making your reservation early and rebooking with a discount when it becomes available? No. When you make a package reservation at a Disney resort, you make a $200 deposit to hold each room. The deposit amount is one night’s stay if you are only making a room reservation (meaning you don’t need a dining plan or tickets). The very same deposit can be reapplied to the new reservation when I change your package to the discounted rate. The same cancellation policies apply, but you will not lose the deposit money.
I also get inquiries from people who know that they won’t be able to travel until next year sometime. There are a myriad of reasons – the kids will be the right age (this varies completely by family), you’ll be better set up to take time off work, you need time to save up the money. If this is you, don’t worry. While the exact rates for 2015 are not yet available, I will gladly work out a quote for where you think you want to stay, the dining package that suits your family best, and the park tickets you’ll need based on this year’s rates. These numbers will change some by next year, but it gives you a number to think about, something more tangible to save toward. Then when it is time to make that reservation, you’ll call me back and let me help, right? I mean, why wouldn’t you? It’s free! 🙂