f. When Your Plans Need to be Firm

By Dave Shute

When Your Disney World Plans Need to be Firm from yourfirstvsit.netYour plans should be firm–that is, you should be able to commit to all required Walt Disney World reservations–more than 180 days in advance of your arrival date.

If it’s already fewer than 180 days from your arrival date, see this.

WHY SO FAR AHEAD?

The specific driver of this timing is the need to make what Walt Disney World calls “Advance Dining Reservations.”

Dining reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance of your arrival date, for your entire stay.

Many of the recommended dining events and shows are signature Disney events, and have their capacity filled very quickly.

Other reservations need narrow time windows during your visit to properly fit them around scheduled events in the parks (such as parades and fireworks), and these windows are popular with others for the same reason.

To guarantee the right meals at the right times, you have to have your plans set in stone more than 180 days before your trip, so that you can be on Disney’s online dining reservation system exactly at 6am EST 180 days before your arrival date. All required steps are on the To-Do List.

180 Day Disney World Calendar from yourfirstvisit.netScan down to your dates, or click the image to open it.
If you click it, when open, click it again to enlarge it!

LINKS FOR WHEN YOUR PLANS NEED TO BE FIRM

When Your Plans Need to Be Firm

Already Too Late?

180 Day Calendar

ITINERARY LINKS

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31 comments

1 Terri { 07.10.12 at 8:36 pm }

Dave -

First off, your site is beyond amazing!! (I’ve become slightly addicted to it…) I”m planning a trip for the week of April 20, 2013, and have 2 questions:

1) How far in advance would I need to book rooms in the Polynesian, to get one of the buildings you recommend that are close to TTC (I don’t want to risk those booking up).

2) Is there any risk in booking a room only reservation, and adding on the dining plan and tickets later on? Do these things sell out at any point as you get closer to the date?

Thanks!!!

2 Dave { 07.11.12 at 7:31 am }

Hi Terri, and thanks!

On 1, I have been told that that the resorts fill special requests in reservation order, so, if this is true, there’s some value to getting your booking earlier. I can’t quantify how far in advance, but as soon as you can commit, do it.

On 2, tickets and the dining plan don’t ever sell out, so you can add them later…

3 Amy { 10.01.12 at 10:22 pm }

Dave,
Ok date picked 4/20-4/27 2013, wilderness lodge and the dining plan you suggest. Here’s my question-I want to book dinner reservation 180 days out like you suggest and I’m using one of your itineraries as a guide, but to do this I want to know when the parks have early/late park openkngd

4 Amy { 10.01.12 at 10:24 pm }

The schedule is not out yet for early/late openings plus parade scedule. Looks like they come out 6 months prior. Can I wait for the scedule before booking dinner reservations?

5 Dave { 10.02.12 at 6:32 am }

Hi Amy, the schedules will be out any day now!

Amy the schedules are out now!

6 Rossana { 12.28.12 at 1:15 pm }

Hi Dave. I have found your website to be incredibly helpful. I have visited Disney a lot in the past but our upcoming February trip will be my husband’s second visit to WDW. We will be staying at the Polynesian resort and have already booked several dining reservations. We are now down to planning activities inside the parks. Do the weekly schedules get posted way in advance or do we have to pick one up at the hotel/park when we are there? Normally the pareades are at 3pm and fireworks late towards park close, but we are mainly interested for instance at EPCOT the shows at each of the countries? They only have 3-4 showings per day and since we have lunch reservations at Le Cellier we want to be sure to plan accordingly.
Thanks in advance!!!

7 Dave { 12.28.12 at 3:28 pm }

Hi Rossana and I’m so glad the site is helping!

Disney’s schedule is usually posted 6 months in advance, so February is out. For example, go here and click on your day: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/calendar/?showMonth=february2013

The calendars can be a little annoying, so see also this if you have trouble: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/07/05/how-to-use-the-online-park-calendars-at-walt-disney-world/

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8 Sarah { 02.18.13 at 1:33 pm }

Hi Dave,
I’ve been reading your site for sometime now. (Love it BTW) I am planning a September 2013 WDW trip with my family the week of the 22nd. I know you’ve said it before but I just want you to comfirm it with me. If I book a room only reservation 181 days out, do I lose money on not making it a magic your way package? Obviously I’m hoping that they will come out with a deal of some sort for Setpember. But I’m nervous it won’t come out till after the 180 days out. But I’m also nervous that I won’t be able to change my reservation and add tickets to it with out some sort penalty. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are. Thanks so much,
Sarah

9 Dave { 02.19.13 at 8:33 am }

Hi Sarah! Glad you like the site!!

Couple of things. At 180 days you can book restaurants even if you have NO Disney package. Having a reservation lets you book for the next ten days as well, but you still have the opportunity to reserve without them.

Second, if you do reserve a room, it’s better to book a package–e.g. tickets and a room–rather than room only…for technical accounting reasons, it’s easier for Disney to move you into a deal, if one comes out, with a package than with a room only…

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10 Sarah { 02.19.13 at 9:42 am }

Dave,
Thanks so much for getting back to me. I will take your advice and book a package. I’m glad I double checked!

11 Dave { 02.19.13 at 12:40 pm }

You bet, Sarah, and have a great visit!

12 Jamie { 02.19.13 at 4:29 pm }

H Dave, we have firmly decided on December 1-8th for our trip to disneyworld! We are also pretty certain we want to book a family suite at art of animation. That being said would you recommend we book now? If we do and the price changes, or a deal comes out between now and then, will disney offer a price adjustment? Thanks!!

13 Scott { 02.19.13 at 4:55 pm }

Jamie,

For what it is worth, my family and I were at Disney last year from December 7 -16. We spent one night in a hotel in downtown Disney and the rest of our stay at the Art of Animation. We spent two nights in a Lion King suite and the rest in a Car’s suite. We originally booked our trip in March. In late Spring or early Summer Disney offered free dining. My wife called when the offer came out and we were able to arrange our stay to allow us to get the free dining. This is actually why we were two nights in one suite and the rest in another as the free dining did not start until December 10.

I would highly recommend doing the Candlelight Processional at Epcot. Next to the time spent with my wife and two of my sons this was my favorite thing.

This was our fourth trip to Disney but our first during the Christmas season. It is a great time to be there, especially if you have younger kids.

14 Jamie { 02.19.13 at 6:20 pm }

Scott, Thanks so much for your comments. Any advice in terms of the art of animation resort? Do you recommend either suite over the other? We will definitely have to check out the candlelight processional at Epcot. I have not heard of this before so will definitely look into it. Thanks again for the information!!

15 Scott { 02.19.13 at 9:22 pm }

Jamie,

My pleasure. I am glad to share our experience.

We personally liked the car’s suite over the Lion King. It had a more comfortable couch and we just liked the overall appearance more. In the end you cannot go wrong with either though. The Art of Animation is very nice.

As for the Candlelight Processional, it is a retelling of the Christmas Story (Gospel of Luke) with a celebrity narrator and a full orchestra. Our celebrity narrator was Jodi Benson and she was amazing. This is something that you will want to get the Candlelight Dinner Package for as it will guarantee you seating. Last year the dinner packages became available for booking on June 26.

If you search on Dave’s website you will find valuable information about this. This website is excellent and really provides everything one might need to help plan their Disney vacation.

16 Scott { 02.19.13 at 9:40 pm }

Jamie,

Disney typically raises their ticket prices annually and this has been in June or so the past couple of years. I have read that this year the annual increase could actually happen as early as the beginning of April. Disney typically does not provide much notice that this is happening and I do believe that if your package is not paid in full before the increase your package would be subject to any increase in ticket prices.

We actually had our trip booked and paid in full before the June ticket increase. However when the free dining offer came out we adjusted our package and were subject to the increased ticket prices. The free dining more than offset this and afforded us the opportunity to extend our stay by a few days.

17 Dave { 02.20.13 at 7:05 am }

Hi Jamie, I’d book room and tickets now. If prices then go up (which they likely will for tickets) then you won’t have to pay more.

f a deal comes out, you can call Disney and convert to the deal (at the new ticket prices, tho…). They won’t “offer” you the deal—you have to find out about it and call them…Deals as they come out can be found here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/03/29/walt-disney-worlds-latest-spring-and-summer-deal/

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18 Dave { 02.20.13 at 7:05 am }

Thanks for the details, Scott!!

19 Dave { 02.20.13 at 7:07 am }
20 Dave { 02.20.13 at 7:08 am }

Garrsch Scott, thanks! (“Garrsch” is my attempt to note that sound Goofy makes when he’s kinda bashful and thankful at the same time…)

21 Dave { 02.20.13 at 7:10 am }

Jamie, there’s more on the Family Suites at AofA starting here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/06/10/review-the-family-suites-at-disneys-art-of-animation-resort/

22 Jamie { 02.20.13 at 4:05 pm }

Thanks, you both rock!!!

23 Scott { 02.20.13 at 4:34 pm }

Dave,

I am glad I was able to contribute. My family and I love Disney and anything I might offer to make somebody’s Disney vacation better I am more than happy to do.

24 Tara { 02.25.13 at 7:34 pm }

Hi Dave!! Your website has been such a help, I didn’t realize all the planning involved with a Disney trip!! This is our first time going and I want it to be a wonderful experience!! I have two questions 1) I was told that I should book the room within a 14 day grace period so that I can work it around airline deals? Do you have any experience with this will Disney let me knock off some days once I narrow down my exact travel dates? 2) want to make sure I understand you correctly we can make dining reservations with a character 180 in advance even if we do not have a dining plan…and then if we do get one use our credits? And If we do not end up getting a dining plan and I have to cancel some of the reservations is there a fee ?

25 Dave { 02.26.13 at 7:25 am }

Hi Tara and I’m glad the site is helping! On the first point–I’v never done that, so don’t have a comment. On the second you can pay cash for any meal you book. The dining plan is just a way to pre-pay–you can still make and use reservations 180 days out with or without it!

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26 Lisa { 04.27.13 at 10:57 pm }

Has WDW offered annual pass discounts on family suites, or only standard rooms?
Do you think pass rates are possible in October?
Thanks

27 Dave { 04.28.13 at 11:35 am }

Lisa, the honest answer to your first question is probably, but I don’t know for sure. The AP discounts don’t come with a list of what’s eligible–you just have to try and see. But since the Family Suites have been in the regular discounts for a while now, I suspect they do.

On your second question, the answer is yes!

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28 jamie { 05.01.13 at 11:43 am }

Hi! So I want to book a magic your way package for September. Knowing this is the time where free dining will most likely come out. If I book and I then find out about a free dining do I just call and rebook? Is this a fairly simple process? Thanks so much!

29 Dave { 05.02.13 at 6:46 am }

Hi Jamie, yes, you can do exactly that, and it is simple…

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30 Roxanne { 06.08.13 at 11:36 pm }

You may have this somewhere but I have not been able to find the answer! When you book an ADR, some of them like Cinderellas Royal table require full payment in advance, what if you have the dining plan and will use credits? When you make the reservation will it ask you that so you dont have to charge your card? Thanks for your help!

31 Dave { 06.09.13 at 9:03 am }

Roxanne, for meals like this, the credit card is to ensure that you still pay if you don’t cancel in time (as they can’t deduct a no-show penalty from the dining plan) You can still book it, or convert it, to dining plan, but they’ll still do the credit card. If you show up and pay via the dining plan, or cancel before the penlty, you won’t have a charge…

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