Throughout my recaps of my Disney days, I frequently referenced my hours/day/months of research leading up to our Disney/Universal trip, so today I want to share some of the helpful sources and tips that made our trip flawless.
My first suggestion is to seriously sit down and plan ahead. Maybe you prefer the chaos of spontaneity (I don’t at all), but I think you’ll have more fun if you have some sort of plan.
Below are the sites I used most frequently during my planning process:
- My Disney Experience – this is accessible via computer AND there’s an app! You can schedule dining reservations, FastPass+ times, and set up a daily itinerary.
- Undercover Tourist – another really helpful site for planning (and there’s an app). You can also purchase tickets from this site. I was skeptical at first, but I bought our Universal tickets from them and they’re totally legit. They also provide downloadable plans to schedule your day that are really helpful.
- The Disney Food Blog – access to lots of Disney food news and in-depth info about the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot.
- WDW Prep School – this site has a crowd calendar broken down with holidays and even provides a 6-process planning guide.
- Disney Tourist Blog – this is helpful for Disney, but there’s also a lot of helpful planning info for Universal.
- And here’s a link to my Disney/Universal Pinterest board where I’ve pinned some fun, helpful, and interesting links!
While we were at the parks, I went back and forth using the first two apps in the list above, as well as the Universal app. They all provide wait times for rides and maps that are helpful while you’re in each park.
And now for a very long and dramatic explanation of my FastPass+ experience.
FastPass+ info: if you’re staying at a Disney Resort, you can book your FastPass+ up to 60 days before your trip!
I had a list of rides and times that were our top picks (and based on suggestions from the sites listed above). I set my alarm for 11:50pm so that I would be ready to get our top FastPass picks as soon as the clock struck 12. I was using my laptop because the app kept showing that our tickets weren’t connected (even though they were), but even with the laptop I wasn’t able to go to the FastPass section and make my picks. I woke up again around 1am thinking that maybe the picks weren’t available until the parks closed (I was really frustrated and in a panic, so I was thinking of any logical and/or illogical reason things weren’t working). The next morning I tried again and failed. The boyfriend reassured me that everything would work out and that he’d call Disney. I kept playing around on the My Disney Experience site until I found the itinerary pages. Voila! FINALLY I found the magical place to set up the FastPasses!
I dried my tears and lowered my heart rate (I told you it was dramatic) and, for the most part, I was successful.
Epcot: Frozen was already completely booked, so we opted for Mission: SPACE, Test Track, and Spaceship Earth (when did that ride get so popular??).
Magic Kingdom: we followed Undercover Tourist’s suggestion and scheduled Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Splash Mountain, and Peter Pan’s Flight.
Hollywood Studios (tier system; choose one from Tier 1 and two from Tier 2): The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania!, and Star Tours.
Animal Kingdom: Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safari, and Expedition Everest
Get Disney gift cards from Target using your red card (5% off!) or from Sams Club. I purchased a $500 one (it cost me $475) and that’s how we paid for meals. I’ve seen from some real savvy Disney savers that they use the discounted gift cards to even pay for hotel rooms! Smart!