We know all too well that planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be a daunting task. When do you start? How do you do it? Well today, we’re going to help take the fear out of planning your next trip!
We say it over and over again – in order to have a magical time at Walt Disney World you must do an extensive amount of planning. Disney can be ruined for you if you spend hours standing in line and if you spend obscene amounts of money on food all because you decided to fly by the seat of your pants. Don’t do that. Put in the work to plan. Trust us, your future self will thank you.
Planning your trip to Walt Disney World doesn’t have to be a terrible experience if you start early and space it out. Starting early and following this plan will make your preparation go smoothly and keep your blood pressure in check.
So roll up your sleeves and get ready to dive in.
Planning a Trip to Disney World – A timeline for planning your Disney vacation
First things first. We are assuming that you have already made the decision to go to Walt Disney World. Before you do anything else, find a time to go. Use our handy tools to figure out low crowd sizes and budget considerations.
Next, download the free app, My Disney Experience, and familiarize yourself with it.
Now that you have your dates figured out and the app downloaded…now let’s get going!
How to plan a Walt Disney World Vacation: Step By Step Guide
499 days out. 499 days out, you are kidding, right? Accommodations at a Disney resort can be made starting 499 days before you arrive. Too early you say? Yeah, we agree, but if you are absolutely sure you are going on a particular date, you can book it at that time.
Book Your Hotel
7 – 9 months out (Part 1)
If you didn’t book your hotel 499 days out you need to do it during this time. We strongly suggest finding a good Disney travel agent to help you with your booking. If you are staying in Orlando, off site, book your hotel at this time.
Picking your hotel is the first task that is super difficult! So many hotels to choose from and so many things to consider…price, location, amenities, themes, food and comfort. If you are trying to decide if you should stay at a Walt Disney World Resort or at an off site hotel be sure to read this. If you are trying to decide which Disney Hotel to stay at, this will be helpful to read. After you pick your hotel, take a second to celebrate the wonderful job you did!
7 – 9 months out (Part 2).
Immediately after you are done celebrating finding a hotel and locking it down, get your transportation figured out.
This is the time to figure out your airline tickets and more than likely purchase them. If you are driving, figure out that plan as well. This will be your next hurdle to nail down. Once you do this, you have our permission to celebrate again! Tell your crew who are going with you what you’ve done! They will start to feel that this is going to be a reality…You are going to Disney World!
Plan Out Your Itinerary
7 months out (Part 1)
We are going to work on a calendar now. This step takes some work, time, and patience so grab an espresso and your laptop. Next, take out some paper and a pencil and figure out your itinerary. You need to know which park you will be visiting on each day of your Disney Vacation. Some questions you will need to ask:
- Which park will you visit the first full day?
- Will you be spending a Day at Disney Springs? If so, which day?
- If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort will you be taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours? Which parks have extra magic hours during your stay? (You can find out here)
- Will you be using a Park Hopper pass and going to different parks each day?
At the end of this process you should have an itinerary of your vacation days at Disney. For example, Monday, June 3rd – Magic Kingdom – leaving park 4:00 back to hotel -supper at hotel restaurant. Tuesday, June 4 – Epcot all day, dinner at a restaurant in Epcot.
If you do this, you will be setting yourself up for great success! Why is this so important 7 months out? Your food and fast passes will all be based off of what park you are in. If each day’s itinerary is in place, then you can insert the food and fast passes as those dates come up.
In our opinion you cannot move forward with the following steps until you have taken time to figure out your basic itinerary. You must have this part completely done before the next step.
7 months out. (Part 2)
Now we start looking at restaurants. After your calendar is made, start researching restaurants. By the way, are you interested in what the Disney Dining Plan is all about? Get the scoop here. Moving on with our example. If on Monday you will be in the Magic Kingdom and you want to do a counter-service lunch…which one will you eat at?
You also have decided to be back at your hotel for the evening for a nice sit down dinner. Research that restaurant to make sure it’s what you want. Maybe you decide you don’t like it or worse yet, your hotel doesn’t have a sit down restaurant. Now is the time to tweak your itinerary a bit. No big deal. You have time to do this because you are 7 months out from your trip! You are in control and your planning will pay dividends when you get to Disney!
180 days out.
Make your dining reservations for your trip. You are eligible exactly 180 days before you go. Because you did the work of making your basic itinerary a few weeks earlier this part is a piece of cake. You know where you will be each day of your vacation, so now food reservations will be easy! You know what restaurant you want, the size of your party and the location of your restaurant choice so book it!
If you have never been to Disney World before you might think this sounds ridiculous to book your reservations this early. Take our word for it, some reservations will go very fast and you will need to start this far out! This is especially true for any character dining experience – any meal where you will meet Mickey, Minnie, or the Disney princesses. This step is also something your amazing travel agent will be able to help you with, so be sure to keep her in the loop of all your decisions!
Oooo, time for another celebration…that was a big step! Your dining is done. Congratulations!
80 days out.
Order your Walt Disney World park tickets so they arrive before your FastPass+ reservations can be made.
60 – 80 days out.
Familiarize yourself with how the Fastpass+ system and how the reservations work. We can help you here and here. You need to be ready to make your FastPass+ selections at 60 days out. You will once again use the calendar you made earlier to help you. Try to figure out the best use of the Fastpas+ before you reserve them.
60 days out.
If you are a Disney World Resort guest you can book your FastPass+ selections starting at 7:00am EST. Off-site guests can make their reservations 30 days in advance for each day at the park.
At this point all the heavy lifting is done! Give yourself one last celebration! From here on out it is just little things. Way to go!
45 days out.
If you are staying on the Walt Disney World premises you will be given free magic bands. You have until 30 days ahead of time to customize your bands.
You will also want to begin figuring out what bag you will be bringing into the park each day. Be sure to purchase the essential items you need for your trip before you go in order to save money and time!
10 days out.
Print maps, reservation details, itinerary plans, and any quick information you may need to get your hands on.
Purchase Disney World’s Memory Maker photo service and get a discount for ordering early.
Start your packing. Make sure you review what you need to bring for the parks so you don’t need to buy anything there. (Check out some of our favorite Disney graphic tees here!)
Give your flight information online to the Magical Express folks so you will be able to take the free bus straight to your hotel.
You did it! Now the big celebration is at hand…Walt Disney World with those you love! Because of the hard work you put in, rest assured all the people in your party will have a simply magical time because your trip will be smooth sailing!