#RWA17 at Walt Disney World Planning Guide


This year’s Romance Writers of America® Annual Conference is being held at Walt Disney World Resort from July 26-29th. My friends already know that I’m a nerd when it comes to romance and a nerd for all things Disney. So to have both of my worlds merge come next July for #RWA17 is magical. It’s truly where all dreams come true (to use Disney-speak). I’ll be the girl not only wearing her RWA badge and pins but also my Mickey ears hat with pride. I just need to get a hat embroidered with “Elle” in advance.

I love helping friends and family plan trips to Walt Disney World. So I thought that I’d create an Unofficial Planning Guide here on my blog to help you plan your visit. Here are the links to the topics I have posted so far in my guide, so you have them in one handy spot.

  1. Overview
  2. Lodging 
  3. Transportation
  4. Discounted Theme Park Tickets (updated to reflect new pricing & options)
  5. Interview with Farrah Rochon, author and RWA Board Member
  6. Interview with Erin Fry, RWA’s Editor and Publishing Manager
  7. Disney Dining and Making Advanced Dining Reservations 
  8. New Experiences at Disney 
  9. Free Time Fun 
  10. RWA Disney Park Event
  11. Disney Parks Touring Strategies 
  12. Making FastPass+ Reservations 
  13. Final Tips

*Bonus! Check out the Pinterest Board I’ve created to complement this planning guide.

Overview of #RWA17

The Annual Conference is returning to Walt Disney World for a second time. Back in 2010, the conference was relocated here, a mere two months before the conference due to horrible flooding in Nashville. I’m guessing many of you will be stretching this into a vacation and bringing family and friends along. There’s so much to see that I really encourage you to add a couple days (or more) on the front or back ends of the conference. While you won’t want to miss the fabulous workshops and speakers, you’re going to have to leave time for that all-important selfie with Mickey Mouse and a boat tour of Arendelle. Who doesn’t want to hear Let It Go just one more time?!

This post is a general overview. Click on those links at the beginning of this post for more detail about lodging, dining, and touring Walt Disney World. If you have tips to share, by all means, respond in the comments section below. It might seem crazy that I am starting this guide so far in advance, but the conference takes place during summer, a busy season at Walt Disney World. For instance, did you know that dining reservations open up 180 days in advance and many popular restaurants/times fill up at that time? By planning your trip, you’ll ensure yourself a most magical (there I go again with that word) vacation as possible.

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom


If you haven’t attended RWA’s Annual Conference in the past and you’ve been wishing upon a star to go, then 2017 is your year. Since Orlando is such a huge travel destination, you’re bound to find a reasonable flight, and with the conference happening within the Disney bubble, you’ll have everything you need nearby. Once you check in at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort (I’ll call it “Swolphin” for short) or surrounding Disney-operated hotels, you won’t have to leave the resort until the day you go home. You’ll have complimentary transportation to the theme parks and other major destinations at Walt Disney World. Not to mention, there’s plenty of things to see or do within walking distance. Chances are, you won’t need to rent a car or call an Uber!

Tip! If you’re an RWA conference first-timer, check out these helpful tips from me and my fellow Golden Heart ’15 finalists, The Dragonflies.

The Resort has grown in leaps and bounds since it first opened in October 1971. Aside from the four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios) and two water parks ( Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach), there’s a whole lot to experience. Did you know Walt Disney World is the size of San Francisco (40 square miles)? As a Floridian, I’ve visited many times and am nowhere close to checking every must-do off my list. There’s just so much to experience!

If shopping and dining are on your agenda, you can take a bus to Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney. To satisfy all palates and budgets, this area has been completely reimagined in the past year with added shops and restaurants. From the Swolphin, you can also stroll over to Disney’s BoardWalk, which has several restaurants, quick eats including an amazing bakery, live entertainment (a fabulous dueling piano bar and dance club), and shops. There are several golf courses and even two miniature golf courses (one is right next door to the Swolphin). I also love hopping to Walt Disney World Resort hotels and checking out the grounds, shops, and restaurants. A popular activity is taking the “monorail loop” and exploring the expansive resorts (and bars!) at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. I’ll get into more specifics in my future blog posts.

Planning Calendar

*The Walt Disney World travel agent calendar for July 2017 can be found here.*

Now-Nov. 15th: RWA is currently accepting workshop proposals. Visit here to submit your online application.

Mid-November: RWA will announce registration fees and featured speakers.

January 2x: Depending on your check-in date, Advance Dining Reservations for restaurants and special events at Walt Disney World can be made 180 days in advance. (refer to guide post on Dining for more information).

Feb. 7th: Bookings accepted for room reservations at the conference hotel.

Feb. 7th-Apr 19: Early Registration

April 19th: Last day to cancel conference hotel booking without a penalty.

April 20th-June 21: Regular Registration

June 21-July 29th: Late Registration

May 23rd, 5PM CT: Deadline to register for RWA’s Walt Disney World Park Event

May 2X: Depending on your check-in date, FastPass+ reservations can be made 60 days in advance for many rides and attractions at the Disney Parks. (For those staying at conference resort or a Disney Resort hotel

July 26-29th: RWA Annual Conference. The full schedule can be found here.


As Mickey Mouse says, “See ya real soon!”

This unofficial guide is not associated with Romance Writers of America® . I am not receiving any compensation or gifts for these blog posts.

Please share this blog series on social media. I want to encourage many people to attend and make the most out of #RWA17. By planning ahead, you can experience all that the conference and Disney have to offer. To ensure you don’t miss the next topic in this planning guide, follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Links are up on top.



This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. I live on the West coast and visit Disneyland often, but I’ve yet to go to Disney World. My friends who’ve been all tell me how much you have to plan. I feel a little lost so I’m glad (and thankful!) you’re doing these posts. I need all information you can share.

    I’m thrilled Nationals are at Disney next year. Going to be a lot of fun and I’m sure many will be taking their fams with them. Eager for your next post!

  2. Hey Jackie, thanks for stopping by! I grew up with Disneyland, and now that I live in Florida, I’ve changed “home parks.” You’ll find Walt Disney Word is a whole other beast (not *that* beast). I think I’ll do a comparison post at some point for those more familiar with the parks in Anaheim.

    If you have any questions as I post along the way, just let me know. I’m happy to help out.

  3. Dear Elle, I shared it and thank you for this valuable guide. I’ll be attending. It’s time that I attend again RWA event and the last time I attended a chapter event was that one of Florida Romance Writers Fun in the Sun in Fort Lauderdale in February 2003 where I met Suzanne Brockmann, Carla Neggers and other novelists. Looking forward for RWA 2017.
    Best regards, Angelica (I’m based in The Hague, Netherlands)

  4. Hi, Angelica. You’re welcome. Funny you mention the FRW Fun in the Sun cruise conference. I’m going this February for the first time. That’s my home chapter. Is next year’s Annual Conference your first? It’s huge and amazing. If you have any questions a long the way, feel free to ask. Elle

  5. Super excited for this one, so thanks for the information. I attended my first RWA National this past summer in San Diego and had an amazing time! My plan wasn’t to go next year, but it was so awesome that I decided to alter my vacation plans for 2017 to make it a priority. I have never been to Disney (Land or World) so it’ll be a brand new experience for me on that front. Now I just have to convince someone to come with me, because I don’t think waiting in the lines will be all that much fun by myself! 🙁

  6. Your first Disney experience ever?! Oh, wow. You will have so much fun. But planning really is key when it comes to the World. If you have any questions along the way, post or contact me via my web site and I’ll help you out. I’m sure you can find a friend who will want to come along. If you follow my upcoming tips, I’ll show you how to limit the amount of time you have to wait in line. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. I’ll be on the FRW Cruise Conference too as it’s my home chapter. I’m also active in FMWA and attend SleuthFest every year. I will look forward to seeing you at one of these events.

  8. Elle, this post is an excellent planning tool! I shared in a couple place; thank you for it. I’m a huge Disney fan and super excited that my first RWA Conference experience is going to be at Disney World. 🙂 Don’t think they could have combined my two loves any better!

  9. You’re right, Nicole. It couldn’t be any better! Thanks for your kind words about my guide, and I hope to meet you in July!

  10. Great blog, we are huge Disney fans and Disney Vacation club members. We go every year and have about 35 trips total. I am looking forward to RWA being there.

  11. A fellow writer friend sent me a link to this guide because we (me, my husband, and my 13 yr old son) are going to Disney World for the first time at the end of May. It is my celebration for kicking leukemia’s butt and surviving my bone marrow transplant. This will probably be a once in my lifetime visit so I am trying to get the most out of it. Thank you for all this information! It has helped me plan the best way to maximize our dream vacation.

    Thank you so much for creating such an extensive guide. Enjoy RWA !

  12. First, may I say that I am so happy you kicked leukemia’s butt? I can’t imagine what you’ve been through, but I think celebrating with your family at such a joyous and fun-filled place is certainly the best thing you can do! I am so thrilled to know you’ve found my advice helpful. Have a wonderful vacation!!! If you have any last minute questions, feel free to send me an email or tweet me. BEST WISHES!

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