Planning vs. Winging it at Disney

We aren’t Disney Pro’s after just one visit, there is SO much to learn & so... it’s a world of its own. But, I did want to share how to balance planning at Disney. Brad likes to go with the flow on vacation & I like to have a “guideline” of a plan... when it comes to Disney, you have to go in with some sort of plan or you’ll be waiting in lines and missing out on getting in the good restaurants and attractions.

Our approach to balance for us was this:

1. One dining reservation per day

Planning out all three meals would have created a rigid time schedule for us to follow, and with nap times in the mix... we needed a daily ebb & flow. We ate quick service meals and snacks throughout the day & honestly I loved the freedom to snack here and there all throughout the parks.

We scheduled character meals for breakfast times because they are the least expensive compared to lunch & dinner. We ended up cancelling our character breakfast on the last day because Ren preferred the characters from afar & we preferred snacking throughout the day and having the freedom within our daily food budget, rather than starting the day with a $100+ breakfast.

Tip: make dining reservations as far out as you can. if you can‘t get a reservation keep checking (even up to the night before) or set up an alert through Touring HPlans ( it’s a member site & my sister is to thank for this, she set up the alerts for me).


- Tony’s Parade Package Lunch

This meal was $50 per adult, so it was a pricey one. It came with a drink, appetizer, entree, and dessert for each person. It was a delicious feast. We surely felt fancy (hence Brad with his pinky up) and received parade viewing passes as a part of the package. The passes allowed us to view the parade from the center flag pole with a small group of people. So we each had a spot in the front and didn’t have to arrive until right when the parade started. This not only allowed us a great view, but we were able to sneak in a ride right before the parade when everyone else was saving their seats instead of waiting in line. We hopped right on the ride without a fast pass and then right to our parade spot right before it began. Definitely a win.

- Ohana Character Breakfast with Mickey, Lilo & Stitch: unlimited breakfast food delivered right to your table, yummy Hawaiian cinnamon honey bread (even a gluten free version), & delicious guava punch make this a unique breakfast that will leave you full all day.

- San Angel Inn: Mexico in Epcot

We made a reservation for this on a whim the night before & it was our favorite dinner! The menu was authentic, delicious, and had just enough uniqueness in it to not make it weird, lol. The avocado & jalapeno margaritas really sealed the deal for Brad.

- Gasparilla Island Grill: Quick Service at the Grand Floridian

This was so delicious and so convenient. It was a few steps from our hotel room & had a view of the castle and fireworks from across the water. The chef was super accommodating for gluten free & would make me anything I wanted from the menu. Plus, she was a balloon artist & made Ren a new animal to enjoy. We could get Mickey waffles, chicken tenders, pizza, a custom wrap or salad bar, custom quiches and more. It had a coffee bar with pastries & teas... we literally could have eaten every meal there.

Our second approach to balance daily was:

2. Staying on Disney property

It definitely will cost you more, but it will allow you to get the most bang for your buck. Staying at a Disney resort allows you earlier access to fast passes & reservations, free transportation from the airport & to the parks, and extended hours at the parks. The biggest pro for us was being so close to the parks that we could come back in the middle of the day to nap & enjoy the pool. This gave us the boost to make it through fireworks in the evening with a toddler.

Our third attempt at balance was:

3. Taking advantage of Fast Passes

I was one of those crazies that got up to book fast passes right at 5am when our eligible booking window opened up. We scored a few of our hopes & didn‘t score some others. Honestly, I was so overwhelmed with what rides we would ride when & how we would get from one ride to another on time... then we decided heck... if we miss them, we miss them. We aren’t trying to get on the fast thrill rides, we are just here to experience whatever excites Ren. So if that is sitting with an ice cream cone instead of high tailing it to another ride - that’s what we did.

Once you use your three for the day you can book three more. We often made changes to ours to fit was we did as the day went on. Checking in the middle of the day even scored is a fast pass for Frozen! It wasn’t a crowded time and we never waited longer than 20 min for any ride. I would suggest choosing your top 3 rides, securing a fast pass for those and going with the flow for the rest -checking in for last minute openings here and there.

Obviously this is what worked for our family & all families are different. The next time we go it will surely be different. But, just in case you wanted to learn a little more about our trip & take a little nugget of advice or two.

ps: Disney Food Blog videos on YouTube were an amazing source of info pre trip! Also, I have 3 sisters who enjoy Disney frequently (all in different ways with their fans) and I took a little piece of advice from each one of them to make it our own. Now go make some magic of your own too - even if that’s sitting down at home with a Mickey Ice Cream Bar... yeah - they sell them at Walmart now...

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