Tips for Spending a Long Weekend at Walt Disney World

Long Weekend Feature Image

If you’re like me, you’ve probably had that urge to get away and escape to Walt Disney World Resort on more than one occasion. Even a short visit may offer the catharsis you readily seek from the real world. But is a quick trip to Disney World even doable? There is, after all, so much magic to take in, so much to cover, and even more to plan for. But the good news is that when you play your cards right and plan accordingly, even a short trip, like an extended weekend getaway, can be enchanting. Need some advice on just how to do so? Here are some helpful tips and suggestions for spending a long weekend at Walt Disney World.

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Prioritize You Packing

Most folks looking to have an extended weekend getaway at Walt Disney World Resort understandably arrive via air travel from one of many popular airlines. And on that note, it’s always a good idea to go light on the baggage you bring along. You would do well to pack only the absolute essentials you will need for the duration of your mini vacation, forgoing anything else that may not be necessary and will otherwise only take up space.

If you play your cards right, you may not even have a need for any checked luggage. Most airlines allow each passenger to bring along a smaller, carry-on luggage and a personal item, which can be a duffle bag that meets the sizing limits. And depending on how many people will be traveling within your party, you can all coordinate in packing to be sure you are dividing up all the essentials and omitting the need to check any additional bags. Now that Disney’s Magical Express services have been discontinued, it can be a hassle and an unnecessary time-waster for those with limited time to have to stop in at baggage claim!

Carry-on Luggage Options

Credit: Nomad Lane

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Four Days Optimal

Ideally, no Disney vacation—even a mini trip to Disney World—should ever fall short of at least four full days. And you may want to adjust your concept of what constitutes an extended weekend. For instance, I’ve personally found that timing a shorter trip so that your home departure/Disney World arrival day falls on a Thursday works better than getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of Friday and Saturday travel times. Likewise, you should aim to return home on a Monday rather than a Sunday. Of course, there are those instances when you have a three-day weekend from school or work. And in those cases, you don’t even have to call out on Monday!

Disney's Four Theme Parks

Credit: Disney

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Off-Season Travel is Better

Flight and even lodging costs are sometimes cheaper when you avoid peak travel times. So, it may be to your advantage to plan your extended Walt Disney World weekend getaway at a time when most other folks are largely staying put.

While it’s true that Disney World is never “uncrowded” per se, there are times when crowds are lower. For instance, that time between the holiday season and the still-distant springtime may be an ideal time to hightail it from the winter blues. Furthermore, several three-day weekends are thrown into the mix, like President’s Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, meaning you’d only have to take off one day to do the four-day idea. You also have the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts going on around this time, which may make for entertaining extras to enjoy during your mini-visit.

Festival of the Arts Signage

Credit: Disney

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Choosing the Right Accommodations

There are two things to consider when choosing a Disney World accommodation for a shorter duration trip—budget and proximity to the Parks you intend to visit most. Ironically, where many accommodations on Disney property are concerned, the longer you stay, the cheaper the nightly rates become. But you already have limited time as it is if you are only visiting for an extended weekend, so you have to be a bit more frugal in this regard.

You must balance budget and convenience while being mindful of the complimentary transportation services you will utilize while visiting Walt Disney World Resort. For instance, many of the closest dwellings to Disney Parks are Deluxe Resorts. On the flip side, Value Resorts, which may be ideal for a quick weekend getaway, largely rely on shuttle transportation to take you where you need to go. There are some exceptions, however. For instance, Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort are on the Disney Skyliner route. This may make getting to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios much easier. And if you don’t mind roughing it a bit, near to Magic Kingdom Park there’s always Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, which even features Cabins for those not too keen on hardcore camping. Essentially the decision is up to you on what works best for your trip.

Different Accommodation Options and Skyliner

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Don’t Sleep In

It may be tempting to sleep in, but you’ll want to get as early of a start as possible given your limited time. Fortunately, if you are a Guest staying onsite at a Disney Resort, you can enter whichever Park you have a Reservation for an additional 30 minutes before its official opening time to the public. And as a special note to those who can afford to splurge on a Deluxe Resort for such a limited amount of time, Disney offers Extended Evening Hours on select evenings on a rotational basis at different Parks. Again, this is exclusive to those Guests staying at a Deluxe Resort. But the benefit is getting to experience up to two additional hours past the public Park closure for the evening.

Side by Side Special Hours for Guests

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Get Park Hopper

As you remain mindful of your budget and what splurges are worth the extra cost or not, do at least weigh the benefits of purchasing Park Hopper, even if you aren’t usually a fan of this service. There are, after all, four Disney World theme parks, many of which have so many multiple-day offerings. And you have limited time as it is. Wouldn’t it be nice to hop around and make the most of this Park and that Park accordingly? Perhaps you want to see this nighttime spectacular on that day, and so on and so forth. Having Park Hopper really does pay off for a traveler with limited time in such instances.

Screen Showing Park Hopper

Credit: Disney

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Book Advance Dining Reservations

Given the time margin, you may decide to forgo table-service restaurants entirely. Your Resort, after all, will meet all your needs via its onsite eatery. Still, some folks do want to have at least one nice sit-down meal—perhaps even a Character Dining experience or something else to splurge on (just once). In that case, do plan accordingly and make any and all advance dining reservations well ahead of your trip. You can even do so up to 60 days before your arrival date.

Couple Dining at Topolino's Terrace

Credit: Disney

Utilize Mobile Ordering

In getting back to the idea that you may mainly prioritize quick-service dining options, you would do well to utilize mobile ordering via the My Disney Experience App. on your smart device. This makes “quick” even quicker and more convenient since you don’t have to wait in a long, extensive beeline to order your favorites. On a side note, you should also use the My Disney Experience App. for other needs, including checking wait times, schedule changes, directions, etc.

Mobile Ordering of Food

Credit: Disney

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Have a Plan

Most importantly, you should never, under any circumstances, wing a Walt Disney World Resort trip. You need to have a well-planned strategy with specific goals spelled out on what you strive to do, even if you’re only visiting for a short time. You need to have familiarity with the lay of the land before you arrive and know all the ins and outs of efficiently navigating. Furthermore, it goes without saying that a weekend visit should never be your first Disney World experience to go by. If you’re a first-timer, you need more time for the most magical Disney experience.

Disney Planners to Make Trip Easier

Credit: This Worthy Life

There are many other more individualized approaches to consider for a long weekend getaway to Walt Disney World Resort. But if you cover these basics, you should do just fine. And everything else will fall into place.

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.