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This post brought to you by Christina Wood of Pixie Vacations, the preferred Disney vacation travel planner of The Disney Blog.


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Back when Disney opened up dining reservations for guests 180-days in advance of travel, there was  a lot of grumbling about how this meant too much planning and took a lot of the spontaneity of your trip. And they were right. It’s difficult to predict what you’ll want to eat next week, much less six months in advance. Add to that variables like heat, crowd levels, sick kids, grumpy uncles, and the occasional cash flow problem and it can be downright stressful to plan your meals that far in advance.  But here we are years later and most of us have adapted to the system just fine. Of course, now there’s a new wrench thrown into your plans: Fastpass+.

With Fastpass+, you’ll plan your fastpasses up to 60 days prior to travel (30 for off site guests).  Since you’re already planning your meals months before that, you’ll need to plan your fastpasses around those meals. Fortunately, if you’re using My Disney Experience and you’ve either made your reservations with that system or adding your confirmation numbers to your profile, your dining reservations will pop up when you make your fastpass selections, alerting you to any overlap.  You’ll choose your three fastpasses and then be offered up to four groups to select from. The first one is supposed to be ideal and usually doesn’t conflict with your dining time, but the rest will often have an overlap for at least one ride. Don’t fret about that. Instead, make your selection and once you’ve processed it, go back in and change that time–you’ll usually be given several other options.

So how do you organize all this?  I know a lot of you don’t like all this planning and what I’m seeing is that for the average guest, it seems like a lot of extra work, but with a little extra thought, it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a timeline to help:

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I’ll admit it right now: I’m a park hopper. Sometimes I’ll spend less than two hours in a park before I’m off to greener pastures (usually Epcot, because I want to eat) and then I visit a third park before the night is out.  A hopper lets me join friends in another park if I want or do extra magic hours in the Magic Kingdom then head over to Animal Kingdom before it gets to crowded.  Without question, it’s the most convenient ticket option, but I can understand why some people wouldn’t want to add it:  hopping takes up valuable park time and it’s expensive, at about $60 per ticket.  So is the extra cost worth it to you?

One of the biggest reasons to add the hopper option to your ticket is flexibility.  I know that this is blasphemy to say among Disney people, but I don’t want a ten page spreadsheet where I’ve planned out every detail of my trip months in advance. I want to be free to make changes as I go, based on everything from how I feel to what the weather is like that day.  I can do that with a hopper, but without one, I’m absolutely committed to staying in that one park, especially if I have dining reservations.