Walt Disney World (FL)

Planning a Last-Minute Trip to Walt Disney World: Things to Think About

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Walt Disney World is typically seen as a vacation that must be planned months, if not years, in advance. There are some benefits to booking early, but advance planning isn’t always possible and sometimes you just have to get away NOW. If you are contemplating a last-minute Disney World visit (anything less than a month in advance), here are some things to think about.

What are the crowd levels going to be?

One of the first things you’ll want to do if you’re contemplating a last-minute trip is take a quick peek at our Crowd Calendar which shows how busy we predict that the parks will be.

For some people, seeing that they will have to contend with Level 9 or 10 crowds may be enough to deter them from proceeding any further with the idea of a quick hop to Orlando. Even if the crowd level is not a deterrent, at least you’ll know what to expect when you get there.

Another indicator of crowd levels is the pricing for a one-day Disney World theme park ticket. Rates currently range from about $109 to about $159 per one-day ticket, depending on expected crowds. The higher the price, the more likely you are to be contending with crowds.

Will I have the ability to enter the theme parks? Do I care?

Walt Disney World currently requires a Park Pass reservation. At some times of the year, Park Passes “sell out” weeks or months in advance. For example, there are currently no Park Passes of any sort available for the latter part of December 2021. If you wanted to pop into a park last minute, you’d be out of luck.

Compare this with the Park Pass availability chart for January 2022, which is wide open.

Some guests are perfectly happy to explore the Disney World resorts and Disney Springs, without ever stepping foot in a theme park, but if a key reason for the last-minute trip is exploring the parks, then checking the park pass calendar is key.

Where can I stay?

Just like the parks, the resorts fill up during busy times of the year. Your preferred hotel may not have availability at the last minute. Looking now at the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, there is zero availability at Disney’s value resorts and only limited availability at other locations.

In addition to availability, price may also be a factor for a last-minute visitors. Last-minute prices for this week are about double the prices during the slower seasons.

Off-site accommodations are always an option, but the same principles apply there as well.

Do I care where or when I eat?

Walt Disney World table service dining reservations currently open 60 days in advance. The most popular places often become fully booked at that two-month mark. Table service seats available last minute are often quite late in the evening – after 9:00 p.m.

Quick service dining is a worthy alternative for many people, with some folks preferring quick service over table service. If you’re not worried about having particular food, then you’re generally fine in a last-minute trip situation.

What are my transportation options?

If you live within driving distance of Disney World, then transportation to a last-minute Disney World trip is a non-issue. But if you’re flying to the Orlando area, things are now more complicated. Disney’s free Magical Express bus service is ending at the end of this year. There are a host of alternatives including taxis, ride shares, rental cars, limo services, and the new Mears Connect service, some of which must be booked in advance and which may or may not be available last minute at a reasonable price.

What’s your personality type?

Are you a Type-A laminated spreadsheet person or a fly by the seat of your pants person? You know who you are and can probably guess how you’ll feel if not everything is planned and perfect.

What’s going on with the pandemic?

The ebb and flow of the pandemic is factor that’s in favor of the last-minute trip. Count me among the many who has planned trips many months in advance and has had to alter those plans multiple times due to rising COVID rates.

The beauty of a last-minute jaunt is that current COVID information is available.

Are there other medical concerns I should be thinking about?

Do I need special attention due to a food allergy? Do I need to rent a wheelchair or scooter due to a physical limitation? Will I need a DAS card for anyone in my party. Sorting out those needs might need a longer planning window than throwing something together last minute.

Have you ever taken a last-minute trip to Walt Disney World? How did it work out?

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

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