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2020 Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Guide

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Now is as good of a time as ever to plan a Walt Disney World vacation. While March 2020 brought resort park, hotel, and Disney Springs closures, if you are comfortable traveling from April onward there are some deals to be had with flexible cancellations (always read the fine print) just in case current events warrant a change.

The goal of this 2020 Disney World vacation guide is to help you save time and money while seeing as much of the resort as possible.

When to Visit Walt Disney World

You may want to plan your Disney World vacation around some events and new openings at the parks.

Guests on Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway in front of a screen showing cartoon shorts at Walt Disney World.
Guests travel underwater as part of their journey through the vibrant world of “Mickey Mouse” cartoon shorts in Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the family friendly new attraction in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (Kent Phillips, photographer)

Whenever you go during the course of the year, there are some attractions and events to bear in mind. One, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opened in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in March to rave reviews. The trackless dark ride sends you crashing through some iconic moments in the Emmy award-winning Mickey Mouse series.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is where you can also experience Toy Story Land, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Which recently opened its huge second attraction Rise of the Resistance. Now that the new Star Wars-themed land is fully fleshed out and guests have had an opportunity to visit it for months, 2020 is the best time to go check it out for yourself.

Epcot will have made significant advancements in its transformation during the fall. Space 220, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure should all open by the end of the year. We may also have the Journey of Water walkthrough inspired by Moana up and running.

Slinky Dog Dash at Toy Story Land, a themed land at Walt Disney World
Slinky Dog coils twist and turn around the curves, hills, and drops of Slinky Dog Dash at Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The family-friendly coaster is inspired by the hit Pixar Animation Studios Toy Story films, and is Disney’s first coaster with a double-launch. Walt Disney World Resort guests get to race and dive around a track that stretches across Toy Story Land. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Off-Season Is Best

The best times to visit Walt Disney World throughout 2020 will be while kids are still in school. January and February are typically great months to visit. Spring break is a terrible time to visit if you’d like to avoid crowds (however, the parks will be closed during this time frame anyway). Late August through November are also excellent times, aside from the week of Thanksgiving.

December, up until Christmas week a good time to visit as well. Plus you have the option of attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Attendance will get a bit of a shakeup during the holiday season in 2020 because of mass interest in Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you book your vacation during this time, expect the attendance to spill over into other parks.

Festivals

Epcot, in particular, is known for its many festivals throughout the year.  The International Flower and Garden Festival is scheduled until early June, so it should be back after the limited Spring closure. The International Food and Wine Festival and Festival of the Holidays occur later in the year with Food and Wine starting in the middle of August.

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival
A magical floral topiary starring Disney characters Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto and Goofy welcomes sunrise at the 25th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. The festival features dozens of character topiaries, stunning floral displays, creative gardens and exhibits, 15 Outdoor Kitchens with herb and produce gardens, plus the Garden Rocks concert series. (Matt Stroshane)

Plan Ahead

Plan your 2020 Disney World vacation at least six months out. This provides enough time to secure the dining reservations that you really want. Some of the more popular restaurants fill up very quickly and it’s imperative to make your reservation as soon as the window opens up to you which is 180 days ahead of your check-in.

Planning your Disney World vacation is easy and fun, but you have to be aware of key dates so that you don’t miss out on important features that come with your vacation package.

Tip: You can use the complimentary concierge service that comes with booking your Walt Disney World vacation package at Get Away Today. They will handle your dining reservations.

Where to Eat

You’ll find great dining all over Walt Disney World. Character meals occur in each park and many of the resorts. Most offer a chance to meet Mickey and friends, but there are also princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom as well as Akershus in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot.

One of the best character breakfasts you can attend is the Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria Al Forno, which features Rapunzel, Ariel, Flynn, and Prince Eric.

Space 220 is just one of the great new themed restaurants we’ll be seeing at EPCOT in 2020. The Regal Eagle is a brand new quick service smokehouse. Find it in the American pavilion, located at the back of the World Showcase.

Enter Disney World Early with a Breakfast Reservation

One strategy to give yourself a head start in the parks is to get an early breakfast reservation which grants you access to the park before it opens. This will also give you a head start in the park on selecting FastPass+ for the day.

There are a few issues to be aware of like possibly queuing to enter the park, availability of these coveted reservations, and also the time it takes to dine that would possibly take away from your time on rides. Consider advanced dining reservations at these Disney World breakfast restaurants:

Entertainment Packages

Some restaurants offer packages for preferred viewing of nighttime shows or parades. Consider these if you don’t want to spend time staking out and occupying a viewing location.

This goes for Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios as well as HarmonioUS which is coming to Epcot later in 2020. 

The Hollywood Brown Derby, one of the best restaurants on the resort, offers a chance to meet with a real Disney Imagineer. You can also do this at Citricos inside the Grand Floridian.

Themed Restaurants

Some of the best Walt Disney World restaurants are the heavily themed eateries like Sci-fi Dine-in Theater and 50s Prime Time Cafe, both in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

One upscale themed dining experience is Tiffins, a signature dining venue with international cuisine inspired by exploration and adventure at the Animal Kingdom Park. This restaurant also offers a Rivers of Light dining package.

Tiffins at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Tiffins, a restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates the art of traveling and includes the adjoining Nomad Lounge with waterfront views with outdoor seating. Open for both lunch and dinner, Tiffins’ menu features a diverse menu drawing from places that inspired the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The Indian English word “tiffin” means a midday meal or type of container used to carry food while traveling. (Scott Watt, photographer)

Jungle Navigation Co Ltd Skipper Canteen in the Magic Kingdom is a happy medium, with great food and remarkable detail and humor.

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opened with five fabulously themed food locations including the notorious Oga’s Cantina. The ultimate themed dining experience is yet to come when Space 220 sends diners into orbit (220 miles above Earth) for a futuristic meal that’s out of this world.

FastPass+ Selection

FastPass+ is Walt Disney World’s system that allows ticket holders to reserve park attractions, entertainment, and Character Greetings in advance.

You must have admission tickets linked to your Disney account and also linked to the people to it that you intend to secure FastPass+ for.

Disney resort hotel guests can begin making selecting FastPass+ selections 60 days prior to arrival for the entire length of stay. All other park guests begin selections at 7 a.m. ET, 30 days prior to arrival. You can make these selections online or through the app.

Hopefully, by this point, you know where you plan to be, what you plan to do, and when. The FastPass+ system is great for ensuring you will have an opportunity to experience favorite attractions, but it also locks you into a schedule. Try to afford yourself plenty of time and flexibility.

You are allowed to choose three attractions. On the day of your visit, you can choose more once your three FastPass+ are used.

FastPass+ Strategy

Speaking of using FastPass+, it’s no longer a paper ticket. MagicBands (pictured below) not only serve as FastPass+ entry but they also allow you to charge food and drink, open your hotel room, and much more enabling guests to travel light when inside the park. 

If you don’t opt for a MagicBand, as they do require purchase (starting at $14.99), you’ll be issued a card with an RFID chip.

MagicBand in use during a Walt Disney World vacation
A Walt Disney World Resort guest uses a MagicBand to enter Magic Kingdom theme park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Guests also can use MagicBands to enter their Disney Resort hotel room, buy food and merchandise, enter Walt Disney World Resort theme parks and water parks, access their selected FastPass+ experiences and connect to Disney’s PhotoPass. MagicBands are part of the new MyMagic+, which has the ability to connect nearly all aspects of the guest vacation experience at Walt Disney World Resort. (Kent Phillips, photographer)

If you have early entry to a Walt Disney World park by purchasing an upgrade or making breakfast reservations, take this into account when selecting FastPass+. You will have a head start on the biggest attractions before most guests have a chance to get there.

With that in mind, don’t get fast passes for those rides. For example, after breakfast At Cinderella’s Royal Table, you can go straight to Big Thunder and Splash Mountain before the queue starts to fill up.

Guide to planning a 2019 Walt Disney World vacation
SPLASHDOWN! — Brer Rabbit’s quest for adventure and his rival’s plot to do him in launch Walt Disney World Resort guests on an action-filled journey with a thrill-packed, five-story “splashdown” finale on Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom. The attraction is based on animated sequences in Walt Disney’s 1946 film “Song of the South.” Magic Kingdom is located in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Garth Vaughan, photographer)

Select your FastPass+ for late morning to early afternoon, as the park begins to peak in attendance.

Continue to save some time by ducking into a restaurant to have lunch around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. when the crowds start to peak and the sun intensifies.

Tip: Get Away Today’s complimentary concierge service is complimentary when you book a Walt Disney World hotel vacation package with them. This includes FastPass+ and dining reservations.

Saving Time at Disney World Parks

One of the best ways to save time and sanity at Disney Parks is by not purchasing Park Hopper tickets.

When you choose a park, for the day, this allows you to fully enjoy it. Moving from park to park is okay if you only want to sample each park for a short amount of time.

However, in most cases, the transportation from park to park and the additional security checks are far too time-consuming to make visiting multiple parks in a day realistic, especially with kids in tow. Unlike Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure parks in Anaheim, the Walt Disney World parks are quite spread out from each other.

Security Checks

Be prepared to stop for security before entering every park. You will also be met with security checks anytime you get off the monorail.

Bypassing Crowds

There are some places where you can bypass the majority of crowds. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a separate entrance through the Rainforest Cafe gift shop, for example.

Epcot has a rarely used side entrance to the World Showcase called the International Gateway. This gem has flown under the radar for decades, although this will soon change with the arrival of the Skyliner Station in fall of 2019.

A variety of VIP tours are available through Disney and other service providers which will help you minimize wait time or skip queues altogether. You can read more about our Magic Kingdom VIP tour.

Walt Disney World Hotels

There are lots of tips and arguments out there about where to stay for the ultimate Walt Disney World vacation.

Sometimes, value resorts are the answer if you are looking to save money. Moderate Disney World hotels are somewhere in the middle, which is either the best of both worlds or the worst, depending on who you ask.

Deluxe resorts offer more convenience, more accommodations, and more detailed thematic environments. We prefer Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World for a nice combination of Disney, quiet luxury, and Extra Magic Hours (and our readers enjoy perks here that you can ask about).

Those looking for luxury on Walt Disney World vacations should choose Four Seasons Orlando
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort

There are no wrong answers, concerning which Disney World hotels to choose. Staying at a Disney World resort hotel definitely has more benefits that include:

  • Extra Magic Hours
  • Constant Disney surroundings
  • Free transportation and parking
  • Priority access to FastPass+ reservations
  • The convenience of having purchased merchandise sent to your hotel

The newest hotels to open up at Walt Disney World are the Riviera and the Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs. The Riviera is a Disney Vacation Club resort near EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s right on the Disney Skyliner path and it’s one of the more stylish and luxurious hotels to stay in 2020. The Gran Destino Tower is a huge upgrade for the moderate resort it was built on. It includes a rooftop Tapas restaurant and lounge as well as aesthetics inspired by Antoni Gaudi and Salvador Dali.

When you choose your hotel, remember that it is the largest cost factor in your vacation and downgrading could mean more freedom in dining and entertainment. You may stay at the Disney’s Contemporary Resort because you want to eat at California Grill, one of the best restaurants on property. But, you could just as easily take an Uber, or a Minnie Van from Port Orleans and save a hefty chunk of change.

Get Help with Walt Disney World Tickets and Hotels

It is completely possible to secure a legitimate Walt Disney World tickets discount from authorized sellers.

When you book your Walt Disney World vacation package including a stay at a Disney Hotel and Walt Disney World Resort tickets with Get Away Today (my favorite WDW authorized seller), you get their complimentary concierge service. This includes assistance with FastPass+ and Dining reservations as well as price monitoring service. If a lower price comes out after you book and you qualify, they’ll automatically apply it!

Buy Disney World Tickets Request Vacation Package Assistance

If you are considering Four Seasons Orlando, this is where I can personally best help. Send me your dates.

Also take a look at our guides to Hong Kong Disneyland, Shanghai Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris.

Top photo credit: Kent Phillips, photographer, via Walt Disney World Resort

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