4 Tips for Booking a Last-Minute Disney World Vacation

by  Christine Dayao | Jan 13, 2016
Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort
Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort / Christine Dayao

Planning a Walt Disney World vacation has a lot of moving parts, from picking a hotel to deciding how many days of tickets to buy to making dining reservations. While we’ll admit that we’ve often spent months planning the perfect trip to the House of Mouse -- many start planning at least a half-year out -- it’s worth pointing out that you can book a great last-minute getaway to the Florida resort. Here's how to do it.

Check the Disney World website for special offers.
One of the first things you should do is check Disney World’s special offers page. For most of the year, Disney offers some sort of promotion that ranges from hotel discounts to a free Disney Dining Plan if guests book an onsite hotel. For a current example, visitors who book now through March 31 can get up to 25 percent off rooms at select properties, for stays between March 15 and June 11 -- perfect for those who aren't planning a good six months ahead like many do.

Made the decision to visit after an offer has expired? Check out Undercover Tourist, which for years has been selling discounted Disney World tickets and recently began offering discounted hotel rooms. When comparing its prices to the ones on Disney’s website, we found that Undercover Tourist lists the rooms for about $5-$31 cheaper (the more deluxe the resort, the higher the dollar number in discount). The one caveat, however, is that Undercover Tourist can have different inventory -- some hotels that are unavailable on the site might actually still have openings on Disney World's official booking engine.

Be flexible with hotel choices.
Did you know there are more than 30,000 hotel rooms across the 28 Disney World hotels? That’s a lot of rooms to fill. It's a testament to Disney's popularity that, depending on the time of year you’re visiting or how close you’re cutting it, there’s a chance that most (if not all) of those rooms will be filled up by the time you book. This tends to happen around the holidays, summertime, and generally whenever kids aren't in school. Don’t be discouraged, though -- if you find yourself locked out of all of the Disney properties, expand the search to nearby hotels. We're apt to taking a look at the Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels, which are adjacent to Disney Springs, provide shuttle transportation to the parks, and offer several promotions throughout the year.

Skip the Disney Dining Plan.
We love the Disney Dining Plan -- which offers at least two meals and a snack per person, per night, paid in advance -- when we book trips at least six months out. That said, we don’t recommend it for last-minute vacations. Here’s why: many table-service restaurants require diners to make reservations 180 days in advance, so spontaneous travelers are almost certain to get shut out of many eateries and get stuck with unusable meal credits. If you like the convenience of having your food already paid for, the Quick-Service Dining Plan may be something to consider, though you’ll be limited to counter-service meals.

Make FastPass+ reservations.
No matter what time of year you’re visiting, we always suggest that you make your three initial FastPass+ reservations online, so that you can schedule a time to show up at a specific attraction and cut your wait times in the parks. You can do this starting 60 days prior to arrival if you're staying at a Disney property and 30 days prior if you're a day guest. You may not get your top picks on the first try, but we like the ease of using the My Disney experience app to change the reservations before and during the trip.

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