#RWA17 at Walt Disney World Planning Guide – Final Tips

#RWA17 – Final Tips 


I started this unofficial guide last summer and finally, #RWA17 is nearly here! I thought I’d take the opportunity in this last guide to provide some final tips and make sure you’re all set for your big trip to Walt Disney World Resort! If you’ve missed my other guide posts, feel free to look them over. I offer suggestions on how to get around and visit the Disney Parks, ways to enjoy your free time, and where to eat. Visiting Walt Disney World takes planning (to get the most enjoyment) and, fortunately, it’s not too late. 

Annual Conference

First, let’s chat about the conference itself. By now, you should have received an email from Romance Writers of America® with information on how to install the conference app to your mobile device. This app is so handy and features the conference schedule, a list of exhibitors and speakers, hotel map, and more. It’s easy to keep tabs of the workshops and book signings you plan to attend. Load this app on your device now so you can map out your time during the conference.


For the #RWA1st timers, check out these helpful tips from me and my fellow Golden Heart ’15 finalists, The Dragonflies. I posted this article before last year’s conference, but it is still relevant for the upcoming and future conferences. Also, be sure to find tweets with the #RWA17 and #RWA1st hashtags. I’ve seen tons of helpful posts, chats, and news alerts to help prepare for Nationals.

The Annual Conference is chock-full of informative workshops, signings, elaborate events, and more. A highlight for sure is meeting up with old friends and make new ones, too. For ideas of where to spend free time with your pals, I’ve hooked you up in my previous guide.

Now that we’ve chatted about the conference, let’s move on to Walt Disney World. Even if you aren’t exploring the Parks, my suggestions cover the Resort. I also have packing tips, too.

Final Preparation

Have you secured your transportation to and from the airport? There are several options available, so be sure to read my guide on transportation. Want to know more about the conference hotel? I got you covered, too.

If you haven’t made dining plans by now, get to it. A lot of the popular spots may be difficult to score a reservation. But keep trying! There are those who hoard reservations because they haven’t finalized their plans, and those hoarders will be dropping their extras in the coming days. Don’t give up on the first try. Not sure how to make reservations or where you want to eat? Here’s my dining guide.

If you’ve been waiting to get your Disney Parks ticket admission, purchase it now. To take advantage of specially priced, multi-day tickets for the conference, you must purchase them in advance. The very latest you can purchase these particular tickets is the day before you arrive at your resort. Meaning, if you arrive Tuesday, July 25th, you must have purchased your discounted multi-day conference ticket by the 24th. Here’s how to purchase discounted conference Park tickets and how to secure FastPass+ reservations. It’s not too late to make an all-important touring plan.

Repeat (but a goodie) Money-Saving Tip!  At most places within Walt Disney World (except the conference hotel), you can use Disney gift cards. Wholesale club places like Costco and Sam’s often have them at a discount. Target Red debit and credit cardholders receive 5% off their Disney gift card purchases.


Stock up on Disney gift cards and then merge all the cards onto one or two using this official Disney Gift Card website. This website is also a great way to protect yourself. I shared why that is the case in this post.

My Disney Experience

For those of you who’ve been following my guide, you know I gave you homework a few months ago. I had you add the My Disney Experience (MDE) app to your mobile device. If you didn’t do it then, do it now with these instructions. Be sure to link your park admissions to MDE if visiting the Parks. 


Similar to the #RWA17 app above, with the MDE app, you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips. With MDE, you can make dining reservations, view maps, secure FastPass at the Parks, see current attraction wait times, and learn about other experiences throughout the Resort. It’s also a handy way to view all the plans you’ve already made. 

Latest News

Previously, I wrote an overview of New Disney Experiences, but there have been some recent updates to share. Disney has extended some of its Park hours in the past couple of weeks and may continue to do so. Notably, they appear to be extending the hours at Magic Kingdom. For those staying at the conference resort or a Disney-operated Resort hotel, you can enjoy two additional Extra Magic Hours to explore the all-new Pandora – The World of AVATAR when it’s illuminated at night. Those additional hours are happening nightly at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.

With the MDE app, you can now order meals from several quick service restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. It’s a great way to skip the lines, especially during popular meal times.

I imagine many of you will take the bus from the conference resort and head over to Disney Springs. Formerly known as Downtown Disney, this area has been completing reimagined. There’s a ton of restaurants (make those reservations now!) and a variety of shops to explore. For the first time, Disney is celebrating Christmas in July. Want a picture with Santa in summer clothes? Here’s more information about this special event. In addition, Disney recently announced a gift card promotion where you spend $100 on a shopping gift card, and they’ll throw in a bonus $25. Check it out!

Beating the Heat

Yes, it’s going to be hot as you know where. I’ve heard some conference attendees say they plan to avoid the heat by remaining in the conference resort. That’s fine and all, but you will miss out on additional fun if you don’t go outside even if for just a bit! Here are some tips on how to be cool. (As in overheating. I can’t help you with the other kind of cool.)

  • Visit the Parks in the opening hours. Take a break during the hottest part of the day by planning a nice sit-down meal, taking in a show, or visiting your hotel for pool/nap/cocktails time.
  • Return to the Parks later in the day and enjoy nighttime activities.
  • Drink up me hearties, yo ho. Drink water like it’s going outta style.
  • Get yourself these items: Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad Neck/Headband, USB-powered fan, misting fan, and cooling wipes.
  • Wear light-weight, moisture wicking clothing.
  • Make FastPass reservations for attractions with the longest queues to avoid waiting outside. Fortunately, many Disney queues are covered and air conditioned.
  • Cover up! Wear a UV Protective sun hat, sunglasses, and slather on the sunscreen.
  • Embrace the random rainstorm. It cools things off and makes people flee the Parks. Wear a poncho and enjoy the shorter ride queues.
  • Escape the heat and visit a Disney water park (Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach).
  • Cool off with several Mickey ice cream bars, Dole Whips, and Citrus Swirls. Yum.
  • Step into a First Aid Station located within each Disney Park. It’s a great place to get some iced water and rest.
  • Keep a moderate to slow pace. Like the Annual Conference, you CANNOT see all of Disney in one trip.
  • Have Elsa make you a personal snow flurry like she did for Olaf.

Get Packing

If this guide has told you anything about me, you can guess I’m a plotter rather than a pantser. That means you can assume I’ve already started packing (or at least completed my packing list) by now.

And let me tell you, planning to pack this time around is NO joke! It’s hard enough packing for my family for a typical vacation. Add Walt Disney World and RWA, and I’m already overwhelmed. I’m so glad I can throw everything in a car (Florida girl!), rather than worry about airline bag limits. Phew. I feel for you guys.

Here are some suggestions to consider packing:

RWA: Notepads, highlighters/sharpie, pins for your badge, copy of your pitch, sweater (A/C in hotel), USB wall charger, blister protection/gel inserts, nice yet comfortable walking shoes, external phone battery charger, business cards, swag, snacks, headache/hangover medication, melatonin (sometimes all that excitement makes it hard to get to sleep!), umbrella, a bright ribbon or something that will help make your RWA bag different from the rest, safety pins, earplugs (snoring roomie?), nose strips (if you’re the snoring roomie), swimsuit, sun protection, sunglasses, bug repellant, Shout wipes, tip money, dressy outfits/shoes/jewelry/purse for award ceremony, Starbucks Via

Walt Disney World: Disney gift cards, Park tickets (link them to your MDE), MagicBands (if you have them), sun block, sun hat, sunglasses, light clothing, bug repellent, compact external phone battery charger, ponchos (prepare for rain), umbrella, sandals that are great in rain (i.e. Teva and Keen), pack good walking shoes (and swap each day to lessen foot fatigue), stroller rain cover, blister protection/moleskin, hand sanitizer, headache meds, Disney lanyard and pins for trading, ziplock bags (for snacks, wet stuff, and to protect phone while on water rides), Mickey Ear Hat (or buy one there!), autograph book and sharpie for character meets, cross-body bag or small backpack, Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad, Water Bottle with filter (drinking fountain water doesn’t taste good), water shoes (especially for water parks)

See? Told you packing won’t be easy this year! Invest in an extra packing cube.

Now It’s Time to Say Goodbye…

This post wraps up my guide. Thanks so much for reading and dropping sweet comments here and on Twitter. They’ve made me smile. I truly love helping people plan stays at the most magical place on earth, so it’s been a joy to assist my pals in the romance world.

If you have any last minute questions, feel free to comment below. For an even quicker response (especially right before and during the conference), shoot me an email or tweet me. If you want to say “hi” or have touring questions, spot the Disney geek in this hat.



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 people to make the most out of #RWA17. By planning ahead, you can experience all that the conference and Disney have to offer.

Photo Credits:

All photos taken by me. 

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Wow. I’ve been reading this whole time and it’s now the end. We are less than two week away. I haven’t commented on your blog, but it’s time for me to do so.

    Thanks for this guide. I went to Disney World years ago when I was ten. Two of the parks didn’t even exist at that time! I was clueless on the level of planning and you got me reading other sites, too, that stress why planning is so important when going to DW. Elle, you really know your stuff and you’ve helped me make both my RWA conference stay and “vacation” stay so much better than had I just shown up. I have my dining set, fast passes reserved, and you’d be proud of me— a touring plan! MDE is on my iPhone, too. I’m so ready.

    I wish you, writers like you, or RWA would do these kind of travel blogs every year. Your guide was a Grade A asset.

    THANK YOU!!!!!!! xoxo -Jenn

  2. Elle! Thank you. All of your Disney Wisdom has been invaluable and, as much as I think I’ve researched, each of your guides has given me something new I didn’t know about! Can’t wait to see you!

  3. Jennifer, thanks so much. Glad you seem all set for a terrific trip ahead. Walt Disney World has definitely expanded since you were there, so you will be surprised. Love that so much will be new to you! Safe travels and thanks for reading along these past months.

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