Most people who take a Walt Disney World vacation plan for months, sometimes even years.  I’m usually one of the people who has made my dining reservations close to my 180 day window, but this time around I booked a trip to WDW only about 10 days out!  What was I thinking?!  I was thinking I needed a quick get away to one of my favorite places with a few great friends to recharge the old batteries.  So I wanted to take this week’s post to discuss how to go about planning a last minute, quick weekend trip to  the world’s most popular vacation destination.

My first order of business was to try to book flights for this weekend extravaganza.  If air fare was too expensive, I wouldn’t be able to justify the trip.  I hopped online to try to find decently priced flights from Newark to Orlando and reserved my seats without hesitation.  I was in luck!  I was able to find and affordable ticket to fly down after work on Friday and come home first thing Monday morning to go straight to the office (the things we do for Disney).

But where to stay?  I’m trying to keep this trip as cheap as possible so I’m heading back to my home away from home, Pop Century.  I had my travel agent also check into rates at the Swan/Dolphin for its convenient location within walking distance of Epcot, but decided to opt for the more affordable Pop.  I figure that with such a quick trip, I’ll barely be at my resort other than to sleep.  Why pay so much more for something I won’t have time to enjoy?  I will save my first Swan/Dolphin experience for when I can really enjoy it.   I also had to have arrangements made for me to use Disney’s Magical Express between the airport and Pop Century.  I wanted to rent a car for the trip since time will be scarce.  I thought I’d maximize my time on property by providing my own transportation.  Alas, the price of the car ridiculously expensive for the amount of time I would use it so I opted to use Disney transportation this time.

Photo by Ashley Simmons

So now that I have all of these things booked what will I do on my two full days on property?  Of course, I have consulted with our crowd calendar to find that my days in the park will be typical busy summer days.  How’s a girl to combat the crowds and the heat?  I’ll be heading to the water parks each day to do research, enjoy the slides, and squeeze in some relaxation.  My plan is to hit these water playgrounds well before opening each day, claim a shaded lounge chair, enjoy the slides before crowds get heavy, and then relax for the rest of the afternoon.   Since I’ll be doing research while I’m there be sure to check back here in the coming weeks to read more about Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.

After I’ve had my fill of the water parks, I intend to head back to Pop Century for a break before heading back into my park of choice for the evening.  My friends and I have a short wish list to accomplish in the during our night time touring.  I missed out on seeing Illuminations: Reflections of Earth on my last trip so that is at the top of my to do list for the weekend.  We’ll also be taking advantage of the evening extra magic hours at the Magic Kingdom to try to get lots of attractions done.  Since it is summer, the park hours are long so we should be able to enjoy a decent amount of time in Epcot and Magic Kingdom along after a day in the water parks.

As for dining during the trip I’ve made only one Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR).  Not only am I looking to keep my budget in check, but I’m trying to embrace the no plan, plan.  We were able to book a dinner reservation at the Captain’s Grill for Saturday night without a problem.  I decided to try that since its Yacht Club location makes it a bit off the beaten path so I thought it would be easy to snag an ADR.  I also wanted to try somewhere I’ve never been before so I’m really looking forward to trying somewhere new.  Otherwise, we’ll just enjoy our favorite counter service eateries for the weekend.

While, I have a lot of plans in place for the weekend, I’m hoping to try to relax as well.  Other than trying to see the fireworks each night I don’t know what we’ll be up to in the parks during the evening hours.  There are a lot of activities (like grabbing a drink at La Cava del Tequila) on our wish lists, but we are realize many of them won’t happen this time.  I’m looking forward to winging it for a change.  My last several trips have been really hectic and jam packed with commitments.  While I loved each of those experiences, I’m aiming to take it easy a bit this time around. I think jumping at the chance to go to WDW at the last minute will allow me to fly by the seat of my pants and I’m really excited to give that a try!

How about you?  Have you taken a last minute trip to WDW?  If you have some advice for me or other readers please let me know in the comments!



  1. I, myself, am a extreme planner. I visit WDW 3 times a year. I start figuring the day after I get back from my last trip for my next one and it does’t stop until I get there. My wife says that I would enjoy it more if I wasn’t so schedualed. But that is just the way I am. I’ve tried to break my patern, and get her to fly down for a weekend and just relax, but she always has other things to do. Maybe I’ll get her to follow your trip idea, she won’t listen to me. Let everyone know how it went. Have a great time.

  2. Great post Kristen, thanks. I am also an uber-planner, but with the credits we just snagged on SW this last weekend (when our airfare for our next trip went down) we’re hoping to get the opportunity to use those credits for a quick trip at some point. Be sure to let us know how your trip goes. Thanks.

  3. Last year, after a discussion with a coworker that included the question, “How inexpensively can you do Disney?” I ended up booking a 4 day trip at about 35 days out. Did POP with an AP discount,cashed in airline miles, used ME and ate counter service (very unlike me who is usually on the laptop at 6:00 AM 180 days out). The best part of the trip…inviting my DDIL(who had an AP) along with my 2YO DGD and ‘surprising’ my 12 YO DGD. Literally, she did not know we were going until we went to the airport to leave. She thought we were going camping for the weekend. Did that trip for about $800.00!!! That was four of us including food and tickets and room and tips! My advise for a trip like that…go basic…you can always upgrade. Have reasonable expectations.

  4. I am also an uber-planner, but we made a last-minute weekend trip last December to celebrate some really good news. Booked flights 7 days out to get a good fare, took whatever on-site reservation we could get (bunk bed room at Wilderness Lodge — WOOT!), bought MVMCP tix, and were able to get a Sunday breakfast reservation at Whispering Canyon for a party of 9! And had The Most Awesome Time Evah! Now the kids want this to become an annual tradition. 🙂

  5. All our trips our last minute. We have annual passes and live about 7 hours away so we drive. We book resorts (on or off-property) just a few days before we go. Sometimes we have decided on a Thursday that we will take Friday off and do a long weekend at Disney World. We have never had trouble getting a ADR or getting the resort we wanted. We do all our prioritizing and scheduling on the drive to Orlando. We have park hours and crowd calendars on our phones. It always works out great!

  6. Living in Tampa for the last 8 years has given me ample opportunity to do just that…decide at the last minute to head over to Disney. Granted, we don’t have to worry about airfare, just tickets and accomodations. We just wing it. checking for ADR’s at that late date means you may eat somewhere new. Also, we have shown up at the restaurant and found that with a wait of about 45 minutes they can seat us anyway. we arrive with no expectations, so there is no disappointment. just more wonderful memories of yet another Disney trip.

  7. Great post! I’ve not made a short-notice trip, but I’d like to as we’re activating our premium annual passes at the end of August!
    Accordingly, I’m looking forward to the water park posts. I plan to go down Summit Plummet first thing after arriving to kick-off the trip!

    Thanks for the inspiration

  8. I am tipically a planner. We just decided last week that we are going to WDW for a week. My parents are taking the kids and my husband & I are taking a spur of the moment trip the last week of July. While we were just there with the kids at the beginning of May and had a wonderful timr, I am looking forward to some child free fun. =)

  9. We booked a trip 10 days out a few years back. We ended up saving $400 on the hotel and $500 on airfare from our original plan. Can’t beat that!

  10. Can you try to get some pics of the current state of construction on the west side of Hourglass Lake?

  11. We live on the fringe of what most people consider single-day driving distance from The World, about 11 hours so we never fly down. With that, we have done a couple of trips with less than a week of planning because we are on the mailing lists for several condo associations in Orlando. When you get an email for a 3 bedroom condo for a week for $199, for the whole week-last minute cancellation deals, and that week is a kids break from school, well what’s a Disney fanatic family to do other than go?! We go 3-4 times a year and get annual passes each year, so it’s not that difficult. Book the condo, wash the clothes, pack food to avoid a little of the eating out costs, pack clothes, and endure the sleepless nights until you hit the road! We’ve done a couple trips like that for around $500, excluding the spread out costs of the annual passes.

    Those spontaneous trips have been some of our best, and I hope we can keep doing them!

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