Let’s start out by saying that there’s never been a better time to make that last-minute trip to Walt Disney World. First of all, when the world is as uncertain as it’s been this past year, it’s hard to visualize what things will be like more than a few months out. You might feel comfortable planning ahead for the next year or two, but that feels so far away. Why not just go in the next few weeks? In 2019, a last-minute trip to Disney World was more challenging to pull off, but in 2021, with dining reservations being booked only 60 days in advance, FastPass+ temporarily suspended and lower crowd levels, you are free to visit with shorter notice without feeling like you're missing out on any fun that used to be available only for advance planners. Here's how to pull it off!
Tips for Planning a Last-Minute Trip to Disney World
What is a last-minute trip to Disney World? Since many people plan their Disney World vacations a year or two in advance, we are calling a trip within one to two months "last-minute." We get it. The world is a bit crazy right now, and Disney makes a perfect escape. It’s a vacation destination with good sanitization, hard rules on mask wearing and limited capacity to allow for physical distancing. We want to get away, but we want to do it safely. Disney World blends those two needs pretty nicely. We find a visit to Disney World to be much more controlled than a trip to the store.
If you are a Disneyland frequenter and have been locked outside those gates for far too long, you might be thinking of a last-minute trip to Disney World to get your Disney fix. We’ve seen many West Coast Disneyland fans heading to Disney World for just this reason. We have a whole Disneyland fan’s guide to visiting Disney World for visitors like you. We toadally recommend hopping over to that post to learn important details, as Disney World is much bigger than Disneyland!
Determine Which Parks You Want to Visit (and When)
Which parks do you want to visit? You’ll need to know which parks to visit before you can plan your trip. Park hopping was temporarily suspended when Disney World reopened, but it returns Jan. 1, 2021, in a modified way. You’ll need to make a reservation for the first park you visit each day (more on that next) and then can hop to available parks as of 2 p.m. each day.
Look at the park hours for when you want to visit. Choose the days with the longest hours or hours that work best for you. Our post on the best time to visit Disney World will help you determine the best times to visit and those days that would be best to avoid.
Try to visit midweek and avoid holidays for the best availability (of theme park reservations and hotel rooms) with short notice. Plus the parks may be less crowded, which always leads to a more positive experience! On the other hand, at some parks, the weekday hours are much shorter at non-peak times, so you may have to take that into consideration.
Check the Park Pass Calendar (and Book ASAP)
You cannot just show up at a Walt Disney World theme park with a ticket right now. Capacity is limited and controlled by a Park Pass reservations system. You can make a Disney Park Pass through the Disney World reservation system to visit through Jan. 14, 2022. Before you purchase theme park tickets, make sure the theme parks are available for the dates of your visit. Disney Hollywood Studios consistently books up the quickest, so if that’s on your must-do list, make sure that park is free on your dates before you purchase.
We've made it easy, as you can check current park availability when purchasing Disney World theme park tickets through Undercover Tourist. You can choose between physical or E-ticket delivery. Depending on how last-minute your trip is, E-ticket delivery may be the way to go. Once you receive your tickets, we suggest linking them to My Disney Experience and immediately making your theme park reservation.
Download the My Disney Experience App
The My Disney Experience app is a great tool for planning, checking park hours, finding wait times, accessing your photos, making or managing dining reservations, mobile ordering and even joining virtual queues, such as Boarding Groups for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Once you purchase tickets, link them to the app. If you already have MagicBands, great. But if not, no worries. The My Disney Experience app can also function in a similar way to the MagicBands. The My Disney Experience app is also how you can most easily check park capacity limits (and which parks are eligible for park hopping) in 2021.
Find a Hotel Room
Do you want to stay on property? You’ll need to reserve a hotel room. You’ll want to book as soon as you get your park tickets. When we book our last-minute trips to Disney World in these times, we look at the park pass availability and hotel availability before we purchase anything. When we find the right dates and the best prices that all work, then we book the tickets, make park pass reservations and book hotel all in the same day. Here's what you should know about staying at the Disney Resort hotels at this time. The Disney Park Pass system offers different availability for Annual Passholders, theme park ticket holders and Disney World Resort hotel guests ... and often, the best availability goes to hotel guests!
Book Dining Up to 60 days in Advance
Now that you know which parks you want to visit and where you will be staying, book any dining, including modified character dining. Usually people can book dining 180 days in advance, but for now, you can book up to 60 days in advance (and guests of Disney World Resort hotels can book at the 60-day mark for the entirety of their trip!). That’s why this is a frogtastic time to plan a trip with less notice. In a normal time, you could be out of luck for dining if you did not plan far enough in advance. Note: You do not need park tickets to book a dining reservation in a theme park, but you will need a park ticket and Park Pass for the same park, on the same day, to access the restaurant. So make sure your Park Pass and in-park dining reservations align. Hop over to our complete guide to dining at Disney World for all of the details. Not able to snag a reservation? No problem! Mobile ordering locations have expanded all around the resort. Plus you can check for restaurants accepting walk-ups in My Disney Experience (we were able to walk right into Be Our Guest on our last trip!).
Decide How You Are Getting There (and Around the Property)
Are you driving or flying? If you are bringing your own car, you might feel comfortable using it to get around and reduce your exposure. But if you are coming from further away and need flights, you may be able to find a hoppin' deal on airfare while travel is still slow. If you are a Walt Disney World Resort hotel guest, there are complimentary transportation options all around the resort — and even to and from the airport! At this time, with social distancing measures in place (and thus, less froggies fitting in one bus, boat, monorail car or Skyliner gondola), waits can be long, especially right around park opening. If you'd prefer your own vehicle, your favorite froggy friends also offer hoppin' deals on rental cars. (Parking a vehicle is free at the theme parks for hotel guests, but your resort will have a parking fee, which is listed on each of our hotel information pages for your convenience).
Check the Weather
Will you be needing swimsuits or jackets (or both!)? Sunglasses or rain ponchos? Within a week of your journey, check the weather so you can pack the right clothes and accessories for the trip.
Check for Any Travel Restrictions Between Your Area and Florida
The travel guidelines are constantly changing these days. Some states or counties ask people coming from other areas to quarantine for 14 days upon returning. Find out if your area has any restrictions before you book (or travel). It's a good idea to make sure your travel plans have cancellation policies in case you need to make any last-minute changes as the situation changes. Did you know that Undercover Tourist offers travel insurance? Now more than ever, it helps to have a little peace of mind when booking your vacation.
When you travel last minute, or travel during a pandemic, not all experiences will be available to you. If you travel last-minute you might not get the dining reservations you want initially, but if you keep looking for last-minute reservations, you might find a cancellation pop up. So don't give up if you don't see anything. Keep checking and you might get lucky!
Expect things to be different for the next year due to the pandemic. Know that a socially distanced line looks a lot longer than it really is, and that capacity limits for small areas mean that you will likely wait in line to get into pavilions, shops and more. Bring multiple face coverings and a variety of them with you so you can swap them out throughout the day. If you wear glasses or sunglasses, be sure to get a mask with a nose wire to keep your view fog free. Hop over to our post on tips for wearing masks in theme parks for tons of hopful advice. Wearing a mask to a theme park all day is different from wearing one for a quick trip to the store. But mentally prepare yourself that as much as we all want an escape, the reality is that we still need to take safety precautions and that we have to adapt to the current situation. So be flexible and roll with it.
Know What to Expect at Each Park
Take a look at our updated guides for tips for visiting each of the Walt Disney World theme parks right now. You'll want to hop over to our post on planning a trip to Disney World in 2021. It has key information on what you need to know all in one spot!
The Disney World experience is altered right now. Our hopping guides for visiting each theme park in 2020 and 2021 will help you set expectations and find all the characters and Disney magic in the parks at this time at:
Don't froget about visiting Disney Springs. You do not need a reservation to visit this shopping and dining district, but do note that capacity limits, temperature checks and mandatory masks are in place there as well. It makes a great stop on your arrival or departure day! The water parks are expected to reopen in March 2021.
If you are planning a last-minute trip to Disney World, you'll want to hop to it and save money too! You can check theme park availability and purchase discount Walt Disney World Resort tickets and reserve your hotel through your favorite froggy friends! Ribbit!