Surprise! Your boss has given you some extra time off. Or maybe you decide that this is the year that you're finally going to experience the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, or you simply have an annual pass that's burning a hole in your pocket. Whatever the case may be, you know that there's only one place to go: back to Walt Disney World. But unlike other World travelers who have months to make dinner reservations, choose FastPasses and get the best airfare deals, you have a very limited amount of planning time, and that can be quite a big challenge.
However, there are ways to plan the trip of your dreams (and get some deals too!), even if you only have a few days to do it. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan a spur-of-the-moment trip.
1. Find your resort first
Whether you already have your park tickets or not, the most important thing is to have a place to stay when you get to Florida. Fortunately, Walt Disney World has thousands of hotel rooms on property, so there's usually a good chance that one will be available. And Disney typically offers discounts for their rooms. But the bad news is that all of those discounts are good for certain dates and each one has its own "book by" date. For example, if you start planning a trip on April 10 for a trip that would take place April 23-24, you wouldn't be able to get the 25 percent room discount that was offered for those dates because you didn't book them by March 31. And sites like Priceline and Expedia probably couldn't help you out either, because those travel sites normally only get the same ones that are offered to the general public through Disney's website.
But there are still ways to obtain some sort of discount. Disney usually offers deals to its annual passholders with more generous "book by" dates, and if you're even more flexible about where you stay, you could get deals at Expedia, Priceline and Hotwire for non-Disney-owned resorts around the Disney Springs area. Another way that you could check for deals is through an app called Hotel Tonight, which is meant for last-minute travelers and has the best deals one to two days in advance of a trip.
2. Plan to get there with time and money to spare
Airfare can be tricky. Since many airlines have cut back on the number of flights they offer, many of them will typically be full — and the airlines usually charge passengers the highest fares they can get away with. But that's not to say that there won't be flights and discounts available for your trip. You can search for the lowest prices with Google's ITA Matrix Software. Just put in your departure city and destination, and you can either search for exact dates or view a calendar of the lowest fares if you can afford to be flexible on your dates (which is recommended). If you need to rent a car, you can use the same discount websites that are available for hotels, but it's probably easiest to use Disney's or your hotel's transportation. Disney's Magical Express can send your luggage tags to you in just a couple of days (via Express Mail, at no extra cost to you) if you call them directly at (866) 599-0951. And if you won't be checking bags, you can have the Cast Members at the counter look up your reservation and print off your Magical Express vouchers for you.
3. Decide where to dine
Planning your meals can be stressful, because you won't have the luxury of making reservations months in advance. But that doesn't mean that you'll be out of luck when it comes to table service meals. For most restaurants, you can get in with just a week's notice. And if your favorite restaurant happens to be booked solid, there are lots of other similar options that will probably be available. Since cancellations happen frequently, you could call the restaurant or walk up to the podium that day to see if there's a table available — even if the website says there's not. Sometimes you might be surprised. And don't discount the wide variety of counter-service options, as well as restaurants in hotels.