Thinking about going to Walt Disney World? There are a number of items you’ll need to be aware of as you plan your trip. If this is your first time planning a Walt Disney World vacation or you haven’t been in a number of years, you may be surprised by everything you need to do in advance of your trip. But trust me, you’ll be happy you put the time in when you get to the parks and are able to truly enjoy your vacation! Below is a step-by-step guide to plan a Walt Disney World vacation.
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Free Printable Walt Disney World Planning Guide
There are a number of key dates that you’ll need to be aware of as you start planning your Walt Disney World vacation. To help make sure you don’t miss any of these dates, be sure to download the FREE Printable Walt Disney World Planning Guide. As a Travel Agent who specializes in Disney, I eat, sleep, and breathe these Disney vacation planning schedules! As a reminder, my assistance is complimentary to families who book their room and/or tickets (3+ days) through me. Working with a Travel Agent cuts down on a TON of stress and allows you to focus on enjoying time on vacation.
6-12 Months Out
- Plan your budget: When you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, you want to be sure you’re going in with realistic expectations about what you can afford and not overspend. It’s so easy to be taken by the incredible resorts, experiences, and enhancements at Walt Disney World, but you don’t want to go overboard! To set your budget, I recommend doing a little research on the Walt Disney World website. Explore the resorts, take a look at the ticket options, and figure out how many days you’d like to spend at the parks.
- Book your Vacation Package: Once you’ve set your budget, it’s time to book your room and tickets. I recommend booking your room and tickets together because the cancellation policy is extremely flexible and you’ll only be required to pay $200 at time of booking. Your remaining balance will be due 30 days prior to check-in, allowing you to make payments over time.
- Download the My Disney Experience app: The My Disney Experience app is a must-have if you’re traveling to Walt Disney World. To log into the app, you’ll need to either create an account or use a Disney account you already have. If you are a Disney+ subscriber, you’ll be able to use the same login credentials for the My Disney Experience app as your Disney+ account. The app is going to be super important throughout your planning. You can also access the same information on waltdisneyworld.com, but you’ll need the app when you get to the park, so always best to download it early and get used to it.
- Order your MagicBands: If you booked a Disney Vacation Package, you’ll have the opportunity to order MagicBands. Check out the full MagicBand Guide and what you’ll use them for.
3-5 Months Out
- Book your flight: I’m a big fan of using tools like Google Flights and Hopper to monitor flights and see when the best time to fly is.
- Book your ground transportation: Once you’ve booked your flights, it’s time to book your ground transportation/rental car. For ground transportation, I recommend using Mears Connect, Sunshine Flyer, or Away We Go Transportation.
- Start researching attractions, dining, and enhancements: One of my favorite ways to research everything going on at Walt Disney World is by searching Instagram. I’m a visual person, so I love seeing videos and pictures of the parks and everything going on there! As an Orlando local, I visit the parks a lot and share all our experiences on @kellysmagicalvacations.
120 Days Out
- Make Your “must-do” list for each park: I always recommend families pick 3-5 “must-do” attractions/experiences at each park to prioritize. Depending on crowd levels, you’ll likely do more than this, but your “must-do” list will help you make a plan.
- Make your park reservations: Park reservations are required to enter a park along with a valid park ticket. You’ll need to make park reservations through the My Disney Experience app and can do so by following these directions:
- Log onto your My Disney Experience App
- Click the “+” on the bottom of the screen
- Select “Make or Modify a Park Reservation”
- Click “Make or Modify Park Reservations”
- Sign in through the pop up screen
- Click “Book Park Reservation”
- Select all individuals from your Friends & Family list who you would like to make a park reservation for and click “Continue”
- Select the date you would like to make a park reservation and then select the park you would like to make a reservation for and click “Continue”
- Scroll down, click the Terms and Conditions check box, and then click “Confirm Selections”
- Solidify your dining wish list: You’ll be able to make dining reservations 60 days prior to check-in (if you’re staying on Disney property). Dining reservations can be very difficult to get, so take the time prior to your 60-day mark to research the dining options you’d like to book.
- Shop for park essentials: Check out these 15 must-have items for your next Disney trip.
- Rent stroller/ECV: If you’ll need a stroller or ECV while at Walt Disney World, I recommend renting through Kingdom Strollers. You’ll save a ton by renting for your length of stay and they offer free drop off and pick up.
60 Days Out
- Book dining reservations: Dining reservations open up 60 days prior to check-in for guests staying on Walt Disney World property. All non-resort guests can make reservations 60 days prior to the reservation date. Booking opens up at 5:45/6:00 AM EST, so be sure. to set your alarm and be ready to go! To make a reservation, follow the instructions below:
- Log onto your My Disney Experience App
- Click the “+” in the bottom middle of the screen
- Select “Check Dining Availability”
- Add the total number of guests dining
- Select the date you would like to reserve dining for
- Select the time you would like to look for
- Select the restaurant and time you would like to reserve by clicking the time
- Follow the prompts to reserve your dining
- Book enhancements: Enhancements include experiences such as tours, fireworks cruises, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge experiences, and more. Most enhancements open up on the same schedule as dining reservations. To book, search for the enhancement and follow the instructions noted.
- Plan daily itinerary: Take some time to figure out your park day game plan. Do you plan on buying Genie+ each day? Are you a resort guest staying on the property that can take advantage of early entry? Take all of this, as well as your “must-do” list, into account as you figure out your plan! Check out my daily guides for each park below:
30 Days Out
- Pay final balance: If you booked a Vacation Package, your final payment is due 30-days prior to check-in.
- Print packing list: Grab a Walt Disney World packing list here!
- Check on parade, fireworks, and show times: Be sure to take a look at the schedule for all fireworks, parades, and shows and work them into your daily itinerary.
- Verify MagicBands have arrived/on the way: If you purchased MagicBands, be sure they have arrived and are linked to your Disney account.
- Add on Memory Maker if you did not already: Memory Maker gives you unlimited PhotoPass downloads. If you haven’t purchased it already, be sure to do. The price prior to travel is $169 (be sure to get it at least 3 days prior to check-in) and will increase to $199 if you purchase it while in Walt Disney World or after.
5-10 Days Out
- Pack: It’s time to pack your bags and get ready for your trip!
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