We’re going to do something a little different today. Nicole has a bunch of questions about a trip to Disney World. I thought it would be best if I put this in a form of question then answer. Nicole’s questions are in italics and my answers are in regular type.
This could be fun! Take it away Nicole…
Hello! I must say first and foremost, your website is very informative and definitely easier to navigate than the other WDW sites I have found! I hope you can answer my questions and that I can get your certified opinion on some of these decisions! So, here’s the story and dilemma (I don’t want to waste your time, I know you’re a busy dad, so I’ll cut straight to the point!)
My fiancee (Will) and I first went to WDW in 2016 together – we definitely were so excited about the booking that we did not give much thought to the practicality of it all – we were running all over the place between restaurant reservations and FastPasses. So, since this year is Will’s 30th birthday I want to surprise him with a trip and do it right! Now, I have a few questions that I didn’t see quite answered on your website – or maybe if the answers are there I didn’t stalk hard enough.
First off, wow, I’m flattered that you would say such kind things about me. I hope I can help with your questions about your upcoming Disney World trip. Let’s dive in and see what we can figure out.
Question 1 – Buying Airline Tickets Through Disney
- Is it worth booking plane tickets through the WDW website? I see that it makes it easier, but other than convenience, are there better discounts or transportation included if I book through the Disney site?
Is it better to buy airline tickets through Disney? There really is no good answer for this question. It varies from case to case. Sometimes Disney has better prices, sometimes they don’t (no Almond Joy music allowed here). It depends on the airline, the time of year, the sales the airlines are having, the phase of the moon (I just made that one up but it makes as much sense as some of the reasons for pricing of airline tickets).
The one thing I will say is booking airline tickets through Disney can, let me emphasize CAN, reduce cancelation fees if you decide to cancel the trip later. If your chosen airline has cancelation fees, sometimes those don’t apply if you book your air through Disney. It also makes it easier because you can cancel everything in one place.
Important: Destinations to Travel
Before I go on, I think this is a perfect place to talk about my friends over at Destinations to Travel. Yes, this is going to sound like a commercial, but it’s not. I’m very serious about the need to use a GOOD Disney Travel Agent. A GOOD Disney Travel Agent will be able to tell you whether it makes more sense to book with the airline or with Disney. They’ll be able to help you with FastPass+, ADR’s, birthday surprises, the Disney Dining Plan, and a whole lot more including what happens when something like Coronavirus pops up.
I STRONGLY recommend Destinations to Travel and not only do I recommend them, but I use them for every trip I take even though I could easily make my own reservations (I’ve been a Travel Agent), I still let them book my trips and help me when I need it.
I just wanted to throw that in before I answered the rest of your questions about your upcoming Disney trip because I think it’s vital that anyone going to Disney World use a GOOD Disney Travel Agent.
Question 2 – FastPasses for Galaxy’s Edge
- Galaxy’s Edge is going to be a must! But I’m getting a lot of conflicting information where some sources say you don’t need to prepare for the crowds there because it’s not as bad as other attractions when they first opened, and other sources say there’s no standing room it’s so crowded. So, should I be getting FastPasses for the rides there or hope it’s not that bad and invest the passes somewhere else?
When Rise of the Resistance opened the world changed. For years, Disney had touted Galaxy’s Edge as the biggest and best land they had ever envisioned (it is). But when Galaxy’s Edge opened it was kind of anticlimactic. The crowds really didn’t Field of Dreams (if you build it they will come). There was a lot of chatter that Disney had lost its touch even though Galaxy’s Edge was pretty awesome.
Then Rise of the Resistance (RoR) opened (the best Disney ride ever) and the whole world changed.
Boom, crowds went crazy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS). I mean really crazy. Since RoR opened, DHS has consistently been the busiest (longest line) park. The lines have been so bad that they were opening at 7:00 am and people were lining up at 5:00 or earlier. It was TOTALLY NUTS.
Using FastPasses has been almost essential if you wanted to get on some of the rides at DHS. If Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is a priority, then you will probably want to get a FastPass for it. Lines for it have been around 90 minutes. That’s not terrible if you can’t get one or if you want to do Slinky Dog Dash or something else.
Another way the world changed when RoR opened was Disney introduced a “virtual queue” they call Boarding Groups. I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about Boarding Groups, you can find that on my RoR page, but getting in a Boarding Group saves you having to get a FastPass for Rise of the Resistance. You can use that FastPass for something else.
In my opinion, I would use my FastPasses for something else and stand in line for Smugglers Run. I love walking through that queue. Time passes pretty quickly and there is so much detail to look at. (And you never know when some Rebel Scum will walk through and strike up a conversation.)
PS. This is all pre-Coronavirus. There’ no telling what things are going to be like when Disney opens back up.
Question 3 – The Disney Dining Plan’s Worth
- I am interested in doing a dining plan because last time we didn’t opt for it and my piggy bank cried all the way home, but a friend of mine who goes to WDW every year with her husband told me that if I got the regular-ole-plan it wouldn’t cover going out to fancier restaurants (meaning I can’t get a $50 dinner with one table credit on the lower plan). Does the credit have a monetary value or is that an old wives tale?
Oh, the Disney Dining Plan (DDP). Here we go. I get in trouble when I talk about the DDP, but let’s see if I can clear things up for you.
Let’s start with the different kind of restaurants that are part of the DDP. There are three different “levels” of restaurants:
- Quick Service Restaurants – are fast food restaurants where there aren’t any waiters.
- Table Service Restaurants – restaurants with waiters.
- Signature Dining Restaurants – high end restaurants with waiters.
The Disney Dining Plan is based on credits. There are three types of credits, Quick Service Credits and Table Service Credits, and Snack Credits. Oddly enough to eat at a Quick Service Restaurant, you use a Quick Service Credit. Also, at a Table Service Restaurant, you use a Table Service Credit. Signature Restaurants take 2 Table Service Credits.
The Disney Dining Plan, it’s a very confusing name, but that’s what they call the standard plan, or as you call it the regular-ole-plan allows one Quick Service Credit, one Table Service Restaurant and two Snack Credits per person per day. Those credits can be used at any time during your trip. For example, if you wanted to eat at Le Cellier (a steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion in EPCOT) which is a “Signature Restaurant” and takes 2 Table Service Credits, you can as long as you have 2 credits available.
Le Cellier and other Signature Restaurants would qualify for the $50 dinner you mention, so yes, with the “regular-ole-plan” you can get a $50 dinner by using 2 Table Service Credits.
Does that mean a credit has a monetary value? No. It doesn’t. You can’t get cash for any of your credits. But…
You can kind of put a number on what each credit is worth, in fact, we’ve done that and have built a spreadsheet that you can download. The spreadsheet figures out what each credit is worth (average). This will help you figure out if the Disney Dining Plan makes sense for you. You just fill out the spreadsheet and it will tell you what you would spend if you paid cash vs. what the dining plan costs. (It’s always OK to pay cash. You don’t have to buy the DDP.)
I’m going to say something very controversial about the Dining Plan, I’ve done the math, and in my “humble” opinion, most people lose money using the DDP. Yes, it’s convenient to pay in advance, but it usually doesn’t make financial sense.
Question 4 – When do Room Discounts Come Out for Fall?
- I intend to pay for the entire trip myself, so, stretching the worth of my money is ideal, we went in September last time and I would like to go in September again – when do the discounts on rooms usually come out for the Fall season? I know the deal for April to Sept. 12th just came and went, but doesn’t Disney usually have their Fall deals in April or May??
Let me say right off the bat, that 2020 is not a normal year when it comes to Disney discounts, even without Coronavirus, but historically the early to mid fall discounts (through October) would come out in April then the rest of the year would come out in June/July-ish.
That’s not going to happen this year. I fully expect that as soon as a firm reopening date for Disney World is announced, you will see discounts come out IMMEDIATELY. Huge discounts for the rest of the year. Yes, for the rest of the year. (I don’t have any inside information, but that’s my opinion.)
This is another great reason to get in touch with Destinations to Travel. They will monitor your reservation and work on finding you the best discount when they come out.
What Can You Tell Me About Dine with an Imagineer?
- I had discovered the “Dine with an Imagineer” special experience… I was able to book it for Will but he’ll be going there alone, they only had one spot available (I’m ok with it though, this will give me brownie points for life!) But what I want to know is if this is only a one-on-one experience? There was hardly much information online about it. Or am I sending him into a room of strangers? Haha.
Nicole, the Dine with an Imagineer is a great experience. No, I haven’t done it, but the reviews are pretty awesome. In fact, WDW Magazine (which I own) did a blog post about it last year. It’s not a private meal, but it’s a very exclusive meal with a very small group of people (up to 10).
This is one of those, it’s on my list to do, experiences. Will is going to love it. What a great birthday gift.
Will Coronavirus Affect Crowd Calendar Predictions?
- Ok, so, I know you’re getting plagued with this question a lot recently and I’m sorry for having to ask it even though I think I know the answer – but I would like your Disney-pro insight. Coronavirus… So, that’s a thing. Yes, the mighty virus shut down Disney, people will have to reschedule. The people that probably booked the trip for March-April are more than likely people who want to avoid crowds, do you think this will throw the Crowd Calendar out of wack for the predictions?
When it comes to the Crowd Calendars for 2020, everyone can just throw them out the window. There’s nobody, and I do mean nobody who knows what’s going to happen when the parks reopen. Is anyone going to want to travel? When will international travel get going again? What’s going to happen with the economy? Will people have money for vacations? Do those who were canceled reschedule for the fall? There’s just no answers to these questions and until we know these answers, ALL 2020 Disney World Crowd Calendars will be totally and completely out of wack!
Yes, even mine.
No one knows what’s going to happen. Anyone that tells you different is either from the future or lying.
Surprise or Advance Warning
- Lastly, (whew!) once again, you being the Disney-pro, could I get your opinion? Since Will’s birthday is the first week of August and the trip is going to be the second/third week of September, should I tell him the surprise ON his birthday? I really want him to pick when, where and what he wants to do, but is that wise if I’m only giving him a little over a month of advanced warning? Would giving him more time than 30 days be a wiser choice for the planning sake?
When it comes to planning a Disney vacation, last minute planning is a problem. Here’s why. Dining reservations, which are called Advanced Dining Reservations, start 180-days before arrival. For some busy restaurants, all the reservations are gone even at the 180-day mark (explained on Dad’s Advanced Dining Reservations page). So you will want to be making dining reservations ASAP.
Then there’s FastPass. FastPass reservations for those staying in Disney hotels can be made 60-days before arrival. (Non-Disney hotels is 30 days.) If you wait until his birthday to start planning you won’t have the opportunity to get most of the good FastPasses. They will be gone by then.
Advanced Planning is almost essential for all Disney trips.
Thank you for taking the time to read my silly questions through. If you know for a fact you’ve already answered these, feel free to point me in a direction – I don’t want you to waste your time if these are common questions!
Nicole, thank you for your questions about your upcoming Disney World trip. I’m happy to answer them and hope I have helped. There is a lot to know about planning a Disney vacation and I hope you can find what you need here. Again, if you get in touch with Destinations to Travel they can help answer questions too.
If you have (Nicole or anyone else) more questions please drop them into the comments below or ask them over on the Ask Dad page.