Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Timeline

disney planning photo

If there is one question we are asked on a daily basis, it is “When should I start planning my family’s Walt Disney World vacation?” or “How far in advance should I begin planning my family’s Walt Disney World vacation?

While there is no straightforward answer to this question, there are some tips we can offer to help you decipher when to begin planning your family’s Walt Disney World vacation:

  • Disney releases their calendar 500 days out at a time. For example, as of today, you are able to book as far out as 500 days from today. (Not sure how to figure out this day? “Alexa, when is 500 days from today?” or simply Google “When is 500 days from today?“)
  • You can begin making dining reservations exactly 180 days before your arrival so if character dining and Disney dining is a priority to your family, you will want to be sure to secure your reservation at least 6+ months in advance.
  • Based on this information, our best advice is to book as early as you know for sure you would like to go (given it is within 500 days). Why is this? The earlier you book, the more resort availability you have to choose from. Our clients that book 12-16 months out have the pick of the litter when it comes to choosing which resort of the 35+ (and counting…) to stay at. Not only this, but you also lock in theme park ticket prices. It is not uncommon for Disney to increase ticket prices. When you book your reservation far in advance, you lock in the current ticket price versus possibly experiencing a ticket price increase in the future. And finally, the earlier you book your vacation, the more time you have to plan out all of the fine details without feeling rushed AND the more time you have to pay it off. (Yes-we offer payment plans!)
  • If you cannot book 6+ months in advance, don’t fret! This is where we can jump in and help you make your vacation  just as magical if you booked in a year ahead of time.

So you’ve decided you want to take your family to Disney World, but now what?

Here’s what you need to do next:

Step 1: Contact your Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. ;) #shamelessplug

Step 2: At least seven to eight months before yourWalt Disney World vacation:

  • Choose your travel dates. This is the absolute FIRST step to planning your Disney vacation. As your Disney Vacation Planner, while we would love to be able to read your mind, it is very hard to know your family’s school, sports, social and activities calendar. Why is this so important? Because resort rates and availability change constantly. In order to provide you with an accurate quote, deciding your travel dates is a very important first step.
  • Decide which resort you would like to stay at. With more than 35+ Disney resorts to choose from, deciding on a resort can be the most difficult part to planning your vacation. This is where we come in. We have stayed at nearly every single Disney World resort specifically so that we are able to make the absolute best recommendations for your family. From moderate and deluxe resorts, standard rooms to suites, villas to treehouses…we are constantly in the know about the Disney World resorts, including construction and renovations, so that we can provide you with the best and most up-to-date information on each.
  • Decide how many days you would like to spend in the parks. With 4 massive (did we say…massive?) theme parks, we recommend no less than 4 full park days in order to experience as much as possible. Five or more days in the Disney theme parks is recommended in order to allow you to absorb the full Walt Disney World experience to it’s fullest.
  • Decide on your park ticket type. There are three types of theme park tickets: Base Ticket (1 park per day), Park Hopper Ticket (unlimited access to all 4 Disney World theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot) and finally the Park Hopper Plus Option (unlimited access to all 4 Disney World theme parks PLUS both Disney waterparks).
  • Decide if a dining plan is a good fit for your family’s vacation. This can sometimes be difficult to digest and hard to know if a dining plan would benefit your family and potentially save you money. We will walk you through each dining plan and provide you with the most information so that you can make an educated decision for your family.
  • Begin looking into airfare. Your flights do not need to be booked at this point, but this is a good time to start flight shopping so that you know what to expect when it comes to airfare. We do have access to airfare as well, so if you would like airfare included in your vacation package all you have to do is let us know!

Step 3: Six months before your Walt Disney World vacation:

  • Figure out which parks to visit on which day of your vacation. This is very important as this will layout the next step of your vacation. Based on crowd predictions, park hours, special events, Extra Magic Hours and so much more, this is our favorite part of planning your vacation as this is when your vacation really begins to take shape.

Step 4: 180 days before yourWalt Disney World vacation:

  • Make your advanced dining reservations and any other specialty reservations (Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, special events, etc…)
  • Making your character dining reservations has become a sport. Fortunately, this is something we are highly experienced in and do on a daily basis so we are always happy to make the best recommendations and even make them for you! We also take dining reservations very seriously and understand just how important it is to have those intimate interactions with each and every character!

Step 5: 60 days before your Walt Disney World vacation:

  • If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World resort, make all FastPass+ selections.
  • Customize your family’s MagicBands.
  • Book your airfare.
  • Set up your ground transportation via Disney’s Magical Express.

Step 6: One month before your Walt Disney World vacation:

  • Make your final payment.
  • Arrange for rental equipment (strollers, medical equipment, etc…)
  • Check for any open dining reservations you are still looking for.
  • If you’re not staying at a Walt Disney World resort, make all FastPass+ selections.

Step 7: Two weeks before your Walt Disney World vacation:

  • Ensure you have received your Magical Express luggage tags, as well as your Magic Bands.
  • Continue checking for any open dining reservations you are still looking for.

Step 8: One Week before your Walt Disney World vacation:

  • Ship any/all necessities to your resort. (Please advise: Disney charges $5 per box that is shipped to your resort.)
  • Continue checking for any open dining reservations you are still looking for.
  • Order/purchase all vacation necessities: strollers, stroller fans, autograph books, etc…
  • Begin packing.
  • Gather all required documents and confirmation details for your vacation.

Step 9: Two Days before your Walt Disney World vacation:

  • Check for any open dining reservations you are still looking for.
  • Review all dining reservations and cancel any reservations you will not be attending.
  • Review all FastPass+ selections.
  • Make a list for grocery delivery.

Step 10: One Day before your Walt Disney World vacation:

  • Finish packing.
  • Check into your flight.
  • Get plenty of rest!
  • Prepare to have the most magical vacation ever!

…or if all of this makes you feel like you’re drinking out of a fire hydrant, you can allow me to help plan your entire vacation so you don’t have to worry about anything but packing!

No really…all of this is included when you book your vacation with Traveling Ears Vacations and it’s all free to you!

Are you ready to plan your family’s Disney World Vacation? I would love to help you get started! Click here to request your complimentary quote today!



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