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Disney Vacation Planning For Beginners – Part 3

January 31, 2020

We finally have the continuation our in-depth look at Disney Vacation Planning for Beginners.

If you have not checked out Part 1 or Part 2, I highly recommended reading that post before continuing with Part 3.

Part 1 focused on the basics. We helped you choose vacation dates, recommended Resorts, and the type of tickets that work best for you.

Part 2 focused on 2 Disney Package add-ons: Memory Maker and the Dining Plans.

This time, we will be focusing on the best part of Disney planning – Advanced Dining Reservations and FastPass+.

Part 3: Advanced Dining Reservations and FastPass

Disney Vacation Planning for Beginners - Part 3 - Fastpasses and Advanced Dining Reservations

Advanced Dining Reservations

Whether or not you stay on Disney property, you can start booking your dining reservations at 7AM EST, 180 days in advance.

However, Guests who choose to stay at a Disney Resort gets an additional perk. These Guests are able to book reservations for their entire stay 180 days prior to check-in.

While it seems straightforward, I’ve seen this perk worded in a way that seems like on-site Guests get to book even earlier than 180 days. So, I’m ready to hopefully clear up some confusion.

Guests Not Staying On Disney Property

These Guests get a flat 180 day rule. This means that if they are planning on making reservations for more than 1 day, they must log in when each of these days hits the 180 day mark.

Guests Staying At A Disney Resort

These Guests have the perk of being able to book your entire vacation’s dining reservations at that 180 day mark (for a maximum of 10 days).

This means that when your dining window opens, you have the ability to book for every day of your trip at once. This cuts out the hassle of having to book each individual day as that window opens.

In my experience, the confusion comes when this perk is described as “the ability to book 190 days in advance.” This makes the perk seem like on-site Guests get to book 10 days prior to off-site Guests.

The sign for Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom

Choosing Where To Eat

Before choosing which restaurant you will be eating at, I recommend planning a few things first.

  • Know which day you will be in which Park
  • Have a simple plan for what you want your day to look like.

Why does this help?

There are more than 200 different places to get food in Walt Disney World, including food carts. So, by having a general plan of where you will be, you can focus on a smaller number of food venues at a time.

This also helps cut down on unnecessary traveling. If you know that you will be in Animal Kingdom, then it doesn’t make the most sense to book a dining reservation at Ohana, at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, when you know you will be in Magic Kingdom the next day.

It’s tempting to want to book many reservations and try as many delicious food as possible. But, you need to remember that your time at Disney is limited.

Of course, everyone needs to eat. But, other things should be taken into consideration, as well. If riding as many attractions as possible is your goal, then maybe Quick Service Restaurants, that doesn’t require dining reservations, would be a better option. This way, you can keep your schedule open, in case an attraction suddenly has a lower wait time.

For this reason, my family does not schedule more than 1 or 2 Table Service restaurants per trip. We mainly stick with Quick Service Restaurants, so we can focus on what we really want to do.

Chili-spiced Crispy Fried Tofu Bowl at Satu'li Canteen in Animal Kingdom

How To Book Dining Reservations

While you can call to make reservations, I’ve always found it easier to book on My Disney Experience. This way, you can see all of the available time slots.

My Disney Experience can be accessed on the app or through a web browser.

Whether or not you will be using the Disney Dining Plan is irrelevant at this time. So, if you are still considering a Meal Plan, it won’t have any effect on your reservations.

Once you have choosen your date, restaurant, and the time you will be eating, you will be asked to place a credit card on file.

A few highly priced restaurants will pre-charge you for your meal.

But, the most part, Disney will only charge your card in the event that you don’t show up to your reservation. This penalty is also only charged if your entire party doesn’t show. If at least one person shows up, there is no penalty, no matter how many Guests were on your initial reservation.

To avoid this penalty, make sure that you cancel at least 24 hours in advance.

If you have any questions about any of the restaurants, you can find this information on the same link you make your reservations. This includes full menus, location, price points, and whether or not they participate in the Disney Dining Plan.

Frozen Ever After Entrance


Booking your FastPasses is unarguably the most anticipated part of Disney planning. That is when you really start to feel like your vacation is right around the corner.

Planning your Fastpasses

Before deciding on which attractions you will want to get FastPasses for, there are a few rules that you should know ahead of time.

  • You are able to grab 3 initial FastPasses per day
  • These initial FastPasses must all be from the same Park
  • Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot all have a Tiered System. Magic Kingdom does not use Tiers
    • Tier One – Most popular attractions. May only grab one from this group of attractions.
    • Tier Two – The remaining 2 Fastpasses come from this tier.
  • Attractions in Tiers can change at any time. So, make sure you are looking at the most recent update when you are planning your days at Disney. The most recent changes added Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway to FastPass+ in Hollywood Studios. This also caused a major shift in Fastpass Tiers.
  • Guests staying on Disney property will be able to get their FastPasses 60 days prior to check-in.
  • Guests staying off Disney property must wait until 30 days prior to check-in.
I survived Expedition Everest

My Plan For Getting The Best FastPasses

Whether I’m planning my own vacation or a Client asks me to book theirs, I use the same technique.

I make a list of FastPasses I want to get, as well as a few “Plan B” attractions, in the event that the ones I really want are already gone upon logging in.

Although I always stay on Disney property, even that 30 day head start does not guarantee that I will get every FastPass that I want.

It can seem a bit frustrating. But, we need to remember that all Disney Resort Guests have the same 60 day window. So, I could be going to the same Park at the same time as another Guest. But, they may have gotten a FastPass that I didn’t simply because their check-in date was a day or two ahead of mine. It’s all a gamble.

So, in order to get the best possible chance at getting the attractions I want, I start booking the minute my window opens (7AM EST). I also always start with the most popular attractions first, no matter what day I will be in that Park. I also try scheduling the Park with the most popular FastPasses towards the end of my vacation. This means that we usually visit Magic Kingdom and Epcot before going to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

By doing this, I may beat out other Guests checking in the same day that I am.

If you can’t find what you are looking for, book what is available. If something better becomes available later on, you can always change your plans. That’s usually how I get my FastPasses for Flight of Passage. It’s almost always never available when my FastPass window first opens up.

Shaman in the Na'vi River Journey Attraction in Animal Kingdom

How To Book Your FastPasses

There is a reason that I always recommend downloading the My Disney Experience App as soon as possible. Not only is it an integral part of your trip, it’s always an integral part of your planning.

To book your fastpasses, you must do a few things first.

  • Create an account on My Disney Experience (it’s the same login as the Walt Disney World website)
  • Link your Tickets to that account. If you only have Tickets, you can link those under “Tickets and Passes”. Disney Packages will automatically link your tickets when you link your Resort Information.
  • If you are traveling with friends and/or family, you will need to link everyone together before trying to book FastPasses.

Once everything is set up correctly, choosing your FastPasses is easy. As long as you select the correct date, the Park, and who will be riding with you, you are all set.

MagicBands in their original shipping box

What To Expect After These Plans Are Made

If you are staying at a Disney Resort, once your Package is paid in full, they will ship your MagicBands to you. If you have not yet personalized your colors and given them your address, you should do this as soon as possible through My Disney Experience.

MagicBands that have not been personalized will not be shipped to your house. Instead, they will be sent to your Resort in the standard Grey color.

Also, if you have secured your free transportation from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) to your Disney Resort on Disney’s Magical Express, your luggage tags will be coming in the mail, as well. These will come in a separate envelope.

Once you’ve booked your FastPasses, you’re almost ready for your vacation to begin! If you haven’t paid off the rest of your balance, that will be due very soon.

Congratulations on successfully planning your Disney vacation! It is no easy feat! Now, all you need to do is pack and get ready for your magical vacation.

Got questions? Feeling a bit anxious? Not sure where to begin? We help families, just like yours.

Planning an entire vacation can be overwhelming. But, here’s the good news: we have the answers to the questions that have been stopping you from pulling the plug on your next vacation.

We understand the journey, the ups, and the downs. We’ve been through the training, made our fair share of mistakes, and learned valuable lessons from them. This is what makes us the perfect people to assist you.

From thoughtfully crafted itineraries to having direct access to your dedicated Travel Professional, our mission is to remove the stress from your vacation planning. With our simple 3-step process, we’re here to help you every step of the way, ensuring that your dream destination becomes an unforgettable reality.

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