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9 Things You Have to Book in Advance for Disney World Vacations

For some trips you can just grab your suitcase and go, but if you want to get the most out of your Walt Disney World vacation, you're better off planning ahead. Read on for some of the things that tend to fill up before you arrive at the park.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Raoux/AP/Shutterstock (10442147a) Guests watch a show near a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Disney World employees are easy targets. Tourists scream at them, sexually harass them and in the most serious cases, physically attack them, according to law enforcement reports Exchange-Disney Workers Abuse, Lake Buena Vista, USA - 09 Jan 2019John Raoux/AP/Shutterstock

A trip to Disney

Going to Disney is always an adventure. However, sometimes planning in advance allows you to have the most fun. Before you go, make sure you know what to book in advance so you can skip the lines and make the most of your trip. This is the truth behind 12 Disney Park rumors.

Disney-World-VacationCourtesy Walt Disney World Resort

FastPass+

FastPass+ lets you and your family reserve access to rides and attractions—including It’s a Small World, Space Mountain, the Tomorrowland Speedway, and more—30 days in advance of your Disney World vacations. Best of all, if you stay at one of the resorts in the park, you can make plans 60 days in advance with no extra charge. Three FastPass+ reservations per day are included in the price of your ticket. Then, when you’re at the park, you’ll have fewer lines to wait in and get to go on more rides. Here are 17 things you can get for free at Disney World.

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Character meet and greets

At Walt Disney World, you can pick your character and make a plan to meet them by rides or buildings that are related to the character’s story, perfect for photo ops. Think Belle in Epcot’s France, Chewbacca at Star Wars Launch Bay, and Ariel in her grotto. These can be booked via FastPass+. Find out more insider secrets for the best Disney World vacations.

Disney-World-VacationCourtesy Walt Disney World Resort

Character meals

Take the star-struck moment one step further and dine with a character at restaurants like Cinderella’s Royal Table in Fantasyland or Chef Mickey’s buffet at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Both of these events cost $35 to $60 per person and can be booked 180 days out from your trip.

Disney-World-VacationCourtesy Walt Disney World Resort

Holiday events

Disney World hosts a variety of special events, from Halloween and Christmas parties to a Star Wars-themed party. With everything from costumes to fireworks, you won’t want to miss these holiday parties, which start at $90 per person. These are generally available for booking as soon as they’re announced. Interested? Read on for more tips on beating the crowds at Disney World during holidays.

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Backstage tours

Disney World offers impressive behind-the-scenes tours of the parks. Lasting seven hours (and costing $275 per person), these full-day events include Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour, Disney’s Family Magic Tour, and more. On these special tours, you can visit the costuming area to meet with real designers, enter secret underground service tunnels, and learn about how Walt Disney brought the park to life. Most tours can be booked 90 days in advance of any Disney World vacations.

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Imagineer dinners

Sure, there are lots of fun places to eat in the park. But true Disney lovers can dine with an Imagineer at the Mediterranean, wood-paneled Citricos restaurant in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. You’ll find yourself in a small group, eating a four-course dinner and asking questions about the work. All dining options can be booked 180 days in advance for the length of Disney World vacations. Check out this list of our favorite new places to eat at the park.

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Dessert with a spectacular view

Hate standing in a crowd looking up at the sky? Sign up for one of the park’s fireworks dessert parties—held at Tomorrowland Terrace—and you can watch the show from the comfort of your own seats. For $79 per adult and $47 per child, you’ll get a buffet of sweets and sweet non-alcoholic beverages (cocoa, cider, lemonade, coffee, and tea) and a chance to see the show light up the sky over Cinderella’s Castle.

Disney-World-VacationCourtesy Walt Disney World Resort

Dinner shows

At Disney’s Polynesian Resort, you’ll find the Spirit of Aloha dinner show. The luau-style event costs $66 to $78 for adults and $39 to $46 for kids, depending on seating. You’ll see hula and fire-knife performers and see traditional South Pacific dancers, from Tahiti to Samoa and Tonga. These are the discontinued Disney rides we wish would come back.

Disney-World-VacationCourtesy Walt Disney World Resort

The princess treatment

In the Magic Kingdom, you’ll find the unforgettable Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Here, kids ages 3–12 can get a full princess makeover, complete with hair and make-up applied by a Fairy Godmother-in-Training. The hair package starts at $74.95 per child; the knight package (designed for boys) starts at $20. Makeovers can be booked up to 180 days in advance. Next, don’t miss these secrets Disney employees won’t tell you.

Sherri Eisenberg
Sherri Eisenberg is an award-winning glossy print veteran for top travel, bridal. food, and lifestyle magazines who is equally deft with digital, social, mobile, and branded content. She has written for Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, and Bon Appétit, and has served as cruise editor for Travel and Leisure and Travel Holiday as well as Cruiseline.com and ShermansCruise.com. She has also been a columnist for The Los Angeles Times and, as senior travel editor of Condé Nast's Brides, she won the Lowell Thomas Gold Award for best travel coverage in a non-travel magazine. Sherri is the author of "The Food Lovers Guide to Brooklyn," which was published by Globe Pequot Press in 2010 and covered by everyone from The New York Times to Time magazine. She keeps a bag packed at all times and has no plants or pets so she can hop on a plane — or a ship — at a moment's notice.