Planning a Disney World Vacation in a Week

Today at Mint Fox Meadows we’re taking a break from planners and discussing how to plan a Walt Disney World vacation in a week. Believe me, the whole concept sounds crazy, but it’s entirely possible as long as you remain flexible. In fact, I planned a whole Walt Disney World vacation in a week, for a week, but due to multiple circumstances, was not able to go. That doesn’t mean that you can’t, though! While Walt Disney World currently relies heavily on pre-planning currently, you can absolutely do everything on a whim.

First thing’s first, do not attempt to do this without having the proper funds or without doing previous research ahead of time. A vacation at Walt Disney World is very expensive, but there are definitely ways to cut costs; at the end of the day, it comes down to what you’re willing to pay and what you’re able to afford. If you’re prepared to jump into putting together a vacation, knowing that in seven days you’ll be spending time with Mickey Mouse and walking down Main Street, U.S.A., then keep reading!

When preparing for your trip, analyze the costs of how to get to Walt Disney World as well as analyze the cost of staying on Disney property as both things rely on the other. If you have the time to make your way to Orlando by driving, this will also affect your travel decisions as well as the cost of your trip. If you’re working on a slimmer budget, driving to Orlando and staying off property will be the most cost-effective overall, but if your budget is a little bigger, then you can adjust your trip as needed.

When it comes to finding a flight, I suggest creating an email specifically for this purpose if you don’t want to receive emails daily on flights. Sign up for every airline that’s local to you and see what deals pop up for you. If you’re lucky and live by an airport that serves a budget airline, those might be your best options. As long as you’re okay with traveling light or can combine everything into a single carry-on bag, a budget airline will be the most cost effective. If you think you want to drive, you have to consider the wear and tear on your vehicle as well as the price of gas. Sometimes this seems like the best option as you can afford the most flexibility during your time in Orlando, but sometimes the cost of bringing your car outweighs the cost of flying in and having to use a taxi service to get to other places that you need to visit. When it comes to booking the flight, I recommend having your hotel booked before purchasing your flight unless you purchase travel insurance or fly with an airline with a booking policy that allows you to cancel with no penalty. There’s no point to buying the tickets without having a place to stay.

My recommendation will generally always be to fly in to Orlando and stay on Disney property just on convenience alone, but I’m aware that staying on property isn’t always an option due to the price. Depending on the season at Walt Disney World, accommodations will range anywhere from $70 for a space at their full-service campground and upwards to $1500 a night for their deluxe resorts. While Walt Disney World offers a plethora of options for their guests, sometimes you also run into the issue of whether or not accommodations are available in your price-range.

If you’re looking to spend your time on-property and you have a specific amount that you can budget towards accommodations, I recommend checking daily to see if anything has opened up. During my own personal search, I knew I wanted to stay at Pop Century; one day there was no openings, a few hours later a room opened up for more than half of the time I was planning to spend at Walt Disney World, the next day the full week opened. The best part of booking a room at Walt Disney World is their booking policy can be very lenient. While I was asked to pay the full-price up front, I had up until two days before I planned on arriving to cancel and receive the full amount back. I had called into the reservation line and was also given the ability to add on a deposit and have up until the day off and only have to loose the non-refundable deposit if I didn’t show up, in lieu of paying for the room 100% at that time. Sometimes all it takes is a quick phone call in order to receive more information and find out what other options would be available for you. Also, rooms can sometimes be offered as a package only versus room only. Definitely try multiple options if you don’t see something immediately.

If you’re willing to stay off property, then Trip Advisor will be your best friend. Look for hotels in your price range, read reviews of people who’ve stayed previously, and also make sure to research any amenities that they have that would be extremely helpful. A lot of Orlando area hotels offer shuttles to and from the parks, which generally solves the issue of getting to where you need to be. Once you’re on Disney property, you’re able to take advantage of their transportation and can travel to any location that you need to be at, whether it’s at a park, Disney Springs, or even at a different resort. Finding a hotel with complimentary breakfast is also a great perk since it’s one you won’t find on property.

An additional option that most people don’t know about is renting Disney Vacation Club points. Usually these bookings need to be made well in advance, but if you do your research and go through a reputable DVC point renting service, sometimes you can find someone renting out your week at a steeply discounted rate. This means you get to take advantage of the Disney amenities and have confidence that your entire trip you’ll experience what I call the “Disney Difference.”

This will lead me to mention this small bit on car rentals, as I’m sure this will be something that you’ll be wondering about. If you’re staying off property, I do recommend renting a car to get around, but if you’re staying on property, I would pass. However, this depends entirely on whether you want to venture outside the Disney bubble as their is tons to do in Orlando. Do your research on this as well because your situation is going to be unique.

Once you’ve successfully found your room and you’ve booked your flight, it comes down to purchasing tickets. Unfortunately their is no true discounts on tickets. You can either have purchased your tickets as a package when staying at a Disney resort or you can purchase them separately. There are very few sellers of Disney tickets that offer discounts, but they exist. If you decide to purchase from someone not directly associated with Disney and on their property, DO YOUR RESEARCH. While tempting, there’s no point in losing your money on fake tickets.

Once everything else is in order, now comes the time to truly be flexible. With Walt Disney World’s new process, guests are able to make their Fast Pass and dining reservations well in advance. Unfortunately this means that a lot of experiences are planned out and often times full before you get on property. Luckily there’s work-arounds, but they rely heavily on being flexible with your plans. Don’t go in with any expectations and you’ll be able to avoid any disappoints you might have. If you book your stay on Disney property, you’re able to start booking your reservations right away, but if you’re staying off property, unfortunately you have to wait. If you’re on property and able to start booking, then watch My Disney Experience attentively to snag the fastpasses or dining reservations that you’re looking for. People drop their reservations every day and even the most sought out locations can be picked up, even on the same day that you’re visiting a location. If you’re staying off property and need to wait, you’re able to visit a Fast Pass+ kiosk located in park and make your reservations. If it’s a specific dining reservation that you’re looking for, sometimes it pays to visit the location and inquire about making a reservation or find out their availability in the coming days. Sometimes if you’re nice you can experience a magical moment, but never expect one.

My other recommendations are to venture outside of the normal Disney spectrum and just people watch at Disney Springs or at a resort. There is so much to do on Walt Disney World property that it’s impossible to take it all in. Give up a few days in the parks and spend time appreciating everyone else enjoying their time at Walt Disney World. Some of my best moments have been sitting on a bench watching everyone else and seeing the joy that they have. Sometimes it comes from talking to the child who just so happens to want to have a random conversation with you or the older couple holding hands and walking around with the goofiest smiles you’ve ever seen because they’re so in love.

Hopefully this post has helped you out a little and have given you consideration in planning a trip with very little time to spare. It can be worth it if you’re able and the spontaneity of the trip will only add to the magic that much more.

 

**I do not work for the Walt Disney Company. The views and opinions in this post are my own.**

9 Comments

  1. Brooke
    November 8, 2016 / 3:16 pm

    But what are the advantages of planning all of this in a week? Wouldn’t it be a lot less stressful to book this vacation in a time frame that’s more realistic? Disney is not really a “wing it” kind of vacation, especially if you are traveling with children. Dining reservations, Room reservations, and fast passes are all on a first come first serve basis. If you’re going on a pricey vacation, wouldn’t you want to take the time to do it right?

    You, as a young adult, may be flexible with your plans. Children are not. As you probably know, children can get tired, hungry and cranky at the drop of a hat.

    You’re giving advice for folks who want to plan this trip in a week, right? You stated above that you tried to do this yourself, but weren’t able to due to reasons not mentioned. Do you have any success stories from any families who planned this vacation in a week?

    Also, you mentioned if you wanted to fly on a budget, take just a carry on bag. With just a carry on per person is almost impossible for families with young children. Since Disney is such a family resort, it is nearly impossible to pack for children in a travel bag. Sometimes you need a bag just for the travel portion of the trip with snacks activity books for the plane.

    For first timers, do you have suggestions to what off property hotels there are? Yes, trip advisor is a great place to browse. Why don’t I just go to trip advisor to plan my entire vacation? What point does this post have then?

    Disney trips are getting more expensive every year, and not everyone can justify paying the price they do to sit on a bench and spectate, or travel off property for food, or even eat at a quick service restaurant every night.

    The point of this is that I don’t think this post is very helpful for a Disney vacation. Especially for Disney first timers. If you want an enjoyable Disney vacation, you definitely shouldn’t advertise planning this trip in a week.

    Some people plan this vacation years in advanced because it’s something they’ve been looking forward to. Planning to Disney can’t be treated like a trip to a beach or Busch Gardens.

    • November 8, 2016 / 4:03 pm

      Brooke, when I first read your post, I was immediately taken aback at the novel that you wrote. You have decided to dissect my post and turn it into everything that it is not. While I’m aware that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I do have to mention that you’re adding in information that was never mentioned or was even a point *for a reason.* I made the disclaimer in the first paragraph that several factors needed to be met before even attempting a vacation such as this in a week. This statement was mentioned many times through-out the post. I never said this was a first-timers guide at any point in time, you are assuming that this post was written that way.

      It’s very clear that you have read my post only in the way that you wanted to read it, which is fine. I purposely kept the post as vague as possible as a guideline and not as the absolute 100% way to plan a Disney vacation, which this post isn’t. You are putting weight into a situation that is strictly on a case-by-case basis and not viewing the post as the whole picture. This post was written specifically for people who are fully prepared to jump into creating a vacation on a whim and because they CAN. If they have kids, great, they’ll be excited about going to Walt Disney World. If they don’t have kids, then also great! They can also be excited about going to Walt Disney World. Every vacation is different and can be taken different ways. There is no set way to have a Walt Disney World vacation.

      As much as I would love to respond to every point you’ve made, it would require an entirely separate blog post. I hope you have a magical day and I hope you can re-read this post and see it with the intention of how the post was written. If you would like me to write a separate post later on explaining different situations, then I absolutely will since I enjoy talking about Disney and all things related.

      “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney

      • Brooke
        November 9, 2016 / 9:23 pm

        Thank you for your response. I am sorry that you reacted so defensively to my post. To upset you was not my intention. I just wanted to know the benefits of planning it in a week vs. in advanced.

        Also, you may want to be aware that I can see your tweets about me on the twitter on your side bar. Not very professional.

      • November 9, 2016 / 10:54 pm

        If your question was asking what the advantages were of planning in a week versus planned well in advance it would have saved much more time to ask it as such. Receiving several questions on points that were already made was extremely offputting since it didn’t appear as though you truly read the post for what it was.

        I am aware that my tweets can be seen in the side bar. My Twitter isn’t only for the site but for my life. The election was yesterday and I made the mistake of discussing my political views on my personal Facebook page. I pride myself in professional interactions with everyone I come in contact with but I’m also a real person with real opinions and Twitter is my personal space. If you assumed those tweets were about you, I’m sorry, but again – outside influence.

  2. Emily
    November 8, 2016 / 4:24 pm

    every single one of my family vacations to disney were planned in a week. 🙂 normally i dont reply but i saw the other comment and had to chime in. planning for disney in a week is totally a thing and its honestly more fun since nothing is planned. great post for anyone who doesnt know where to start!

    • November 8, 2016 / 4:39 pm

      Thank you, Emily! I’m almost positive that when I was super young my trips were always planned with very short timelines. My trip this year was planned on a short timeline too and everything was planned day of while I was there with the exception of landing my reservations the day before we left. My fiance and I wouldn’t have changed a thing from our trip. 🙂

  3. Allison
    November 9, 2016 / 12:19 am

    Hi Caitlyn,

    This post is an awesome way to start the ideas for a Disney vacation planned in a week before or so. Thank you so much for the information.

    Meanwhile for Brooke, I would like to point out that you asked if she has any success stories for trips planned in a week for families. My family is a size of 4 and I do the planning.

    I have planned most of my Disney vacations in a week. Unless it was for some big special occasion then I plan ahead. It’s not hard to do and you can get great deals that way if you plan in a week. Because most hotels even Disney want to sell all of their rooms and will lower rates if they are not selling out as quickly as they forecasted. You can call the hotels directly that are off site to see if they have any deals going on or even if they have special rates if you have AAA or some other membership card. For Disney I usually plan a week in advanced when they offer free dining or really good discounts on the rooms and I only stay on Disney property I have never spent over 4K for a family of 4. Mainly by doing values.

    It is possible like Caitlyn said you need to be flexible with your itinerary. As for the kids take time to go back to the resort for like 1 hr and chill. Trust me I do this also as an adult.

    As for the flight and bag situation I recommend southwest due to they allow 2 checked bags free and 2 carry ons with no hidden fees( yes they may be a little expensive at times but if you catch them at the right time, especially since they run deals like crazy $79 one way it can work out) I have gotten a round trip flight for $175 before from Chicago to Orlando.

    For the food share a plate, trust me if you eat on Disney property they give you enough food to feed two people on a plate.

    And there is a lot of free stuff and thing to do at Disney. There are different articles telling you where to find them and what they are.

    Have a magical day 🙂

    • November 9, 2016 / 4:36 pm

      Thank you for commenting, Allison! I knew I couldn’t be the only person who planned these vacations out in a week.
      Also, thank you for adding all of your additional points that I didn’t cover! That’s all also helpful information to show that it’s doable. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will be cheap, because Disney obviously isn’t, but any ways to help minimize costs are great!

  4. Alexis
    November 17, 2016 / 12:32 am

    Really informative! I don’t Plan to go to Disney any time soon, but if I do noq I definitely know what to pay attention to. Thanks!

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