Disney World Planning Timeline

Disney World vacations have a longer planning timeline than many other family vacations. When planning your own Disney World vacation, it is important to know when, and how, to do each of these important steps. Our Disney World planning timeline is here to help you plan your Disney World family vacation or know when tasks should be completed by your Disney Vacation Planner.

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If you don’t have months to plan your Disney World trip this article has tips for planning a last minute Disney World vacation.

7 to 13 Months Before A Disney World Trip 

Planning a trip to Disney World? This detailed Disney World planning timeline helps you plan every step of your magical Disney World vacation.

Research Disney World Hotel Options

There are 4 categories of on-site resorts at Disney World: Deluxe Villa, Deluxe, Moderate, or Value and the name usually sums up what to expect. There are also a variety of Disney World hotel room options. Disney World offers standard hotel rooms, value resort suites for larger families, cabins, camping options, plus deluxe villas which are larger and often have a kitchen.

We’ve written a full guide to help you better understand each Disney World resort category. Check here for our Disney World resort guide plus our favorite resorts in each price category.

Pick Dates For Your Disney World Vacation

This is one of the most important steps in planning your Disney World trip. Crowd levels vary greatly throughout the year with summer, spring break, Halloween and Christmastime being especially crowded. It is common for the parks to reach capacity, which means they are so full new guests can’t enter, around Christmas and New Years Eve.

In general, crowds tend to be lower if you visit Disney World when most kids are in school. However, special events like runDisney can increase overall crowd levels. 

Book your Disney World Vacation

It is important to reserve your Disney World vacation several months in advance for the best chance of scoring hard to get dining reservations. You may book either directly with Disney or by using our preferred travel partner Get Away Today.

180 Days Before Your Disney World Trip

Planning a trip to Disney World? This detailed Disney World planning timeline helps you plan every step of your magical Disney World vacation. #disneyworld #disneyvacation

Make Disney World Dining Reservations

I understand making your Disney World dining reservations this early might seem ridiculous.  However, I highly advise you to make dining reservations as early as possible, especially for popular restaurants and character meals.

Find out more about why you should reserve dining and how to make reservations in this article. If you are not sure where to eat I have a list of some of our favorite places at Disney World.

4 to 6 Months Before Your Disney World Trip

Book Your Flights (Unless You Are Driving)

If you are flying to Disney World, booking flights about four to six months ahead of time is usually ideal. Flights won’t necessarily be at their cheapest, but also shouldn’t be at their highest prices either. 

60 Days Before Your Disney World Trip

Planning a trip to Disney World? I have made a detailed Disney World Planning Timeline (with tips and tricks) to help you navigate the steps in this process.

Make FastPass+ Reservations (If You Are Staying On Property)

FastPass+ reservations guarantee that you can skip the line for 3 attractions at one park each day. It always surprises me how many people do not take advantage of this free amenity at Disney World. Check here for a complete explanation of the Disney World FastPass system or here for our best FastPass strategies.

Complete Your Online Check-in (If You Are Staying On Property)

During online check-in you can add special requests for your stay. Completing online check-in speeds up, or allows you to skip, the normal on-site check-in process. If you complete online check-in, and have linked Magic Bands to your reservation, you’ll get a notification on the My Disney Experience App once your room is ready. Check the app for your room number and then use your Magic Band to unlock your room with no check-in desk required.

35 Or More Days Before Your Disney World Trip

Planning a trip to Disney World? This detailed Disney World planning timeline helps you plan every step of your magical Disney World vacation. #disneyworld #disneyvacation

Customize Your Magic Bands

Go to the Disney World website under your plans or My Magic Bands to customize your Magic Band. If you do not complete customization ahead of time, plain Magic Bands are provided to you at the front desk during check-in. Magic Bands are devices that look like a watch and are a big part of your experience at Disney World. Your Magic Band is your room key, park ticket, FastPass+ reservation, how your dining credits are stored (if on the dining plan), and can be used to make purchases.

Arrange Your Disney World Transportation

There are two different ways we get from Orlando International Airport to Disney World. One is via Tiffany Towncar. The other is through Disney’s Magical Express.

Book Tiffany Towncar

Tiffany Towncar is a great option for private transportation to and from Disney World. We’ve used them many times over the last several years for many trips. Tiffany Towncar has always been on time, professional, plus they are a time saver over Magical Express.

Provide Flight Information To Disney’s Magical Express

Disney’s Magical Express is a motorcoach service for Disney World resort guests at no additional charge. If you provide flight information early, it allows your vouchers and luggage tags to be included in the final travel documents mailed to your home. 

If you use Magical Express, and have the special yellow tags that arrive with your travel documents, you don’t have to go to baggage claim at Orlando airport (if arriving from inside the U.S.). Walk straight to Disney’s Magical Express buses while your bags are collected by a Disney World cast member and delivered to your hotel room later. It can take around 3 to 5 hours for bags to arrive at the hotel so I advise you to pack anything you need for the first day in your carry-on luggage.

You can provide your flight information online at www.disneymagicalexpress.com/usa or by calling Disney reservations if you are not using a travel agent.

Make The Final Payment For Your Trip.

Make FastPass+ Reservations (If You Are Staying Off-Site). 

14 Days Before Trip

Planning a trip to Disney World? I have made a detailed Disney World Planning Timeline (with tips and tricks) to help you navigate the steps in this process.

Order Groceries From Garden Grocer

You may ask yourself “Why am I buying groceries on vacation?”. We order a handful of breakfast items, snacks, milk, and bottled water. This way we can eat breakfast in our room and avoid breakfast lines (and expense) at the parks. It is also nice to have a little food on hand in case your group wants a snack at night when you get back to your room. I have all of my tips and tricks for ordering from Garden Grocer in my detailed guide.

The Deluxe Villas and Fort Wilderness Cabins have full size refrigerators. Mini fridge and beverage coolers are available at these other resorts at Disney World.

7 Days Before Your Disney World Trip

Planning a trip to Disney World? This detailed Disney World planning timeline helps you plan every step of your magical Disney World vacation. #disneyworld #disneyvacation

Start Packing

I usually have a staging area in a guest bedroom for packing and I start packing about a week before our trip. Packing a few days ahead means we are less likely to forget something important. To help you pack, here is a complete packing list with printable check list available. I also use my own park bag packing checklist before every Disney World trip.

Day Of Your Trip

Planning a trip to Disney World? This detailed Disney World planning timeline helps you plan every step of your magical Disney World vacation. #disneyworld #disneyvacation

Arrive At Disney World

You’ve done all the planning and packing so now it is time to have fun. Remember to have your park bag packed and ready so you can head straight to the parks if you arrive early in the day.

Final Thoughts On Planning A Disney World Vacation

When first planning your Disney World trip, the process can feel a bit overwhelming. However, I promise that even the most basic amount of planning at home will help your much dreamed about vacation run more smoothly. Having some plans plus a good attitude is the best way to make for a great Disney World vacation experience.

Do you need more help planning your Disney World trip? Check out other Disney World tips and tricks in my Disney World Guides.

Pin it for later:

Planning a trip to Disney World? This detailed Disney World planning timeline helps you plan every step of your magical Disney World vacation. #disneyworld #disneyvacation

Planning a trip to Disney World? I have made a detailed Disney World Planning Timeline (with tips and tricks) to help you navigate the steps in this process. #disney #disneyworld #disneyplanning

 

Plutonium Sox

10 comments

  1. Very helpful list! We’ll be visiting Disney World in May and still sorting out things – I would like to make FastPass reservations but we’re only planning on being at Disney World (Magic Kingdom) for one day so I think I have to wait until we’re there to buy the ticket. Here in the UK it seems I can only purchase a minimum 3 day ticket. The Garden Grocerer is a good tip – we were planning on going to a grocery to stock up on food and essentials once we are there but that is convenient having it all delivered directly to your resort. Thanks for sharing your tips! #FamilyTravelTips

  2. What a detailed practical guide to planning Disney. I like how you break it down so you can easily jot dates down in an calendar. The tip about the garden grocer is so handy for families. We always need to have snacks in for my hungry ones! Thanks for linking up #familytraveltips

  3. Wow, this is an incredible post! Love the fact that you’ve got a timeline on what to do, right down to ordering groceries! I will definitely be checking this for tips when I take my girls there. No plans as yet but it’s very high on our bucket list for when they’re a little older. Thanks so much for linking up to #familytraveltips.
    Nat.x

  4. Great list! I haven’t been to Disney World since I was a child, I think it’s all changed since then. The magical bus sounds great and fantastic that they get your luggage for you too, although I would be paranoid that they might forget it, ha ha! #familytraveltips

  5. This is a super useful post and what a great idea about the gardengrocer: I didn’t know about it but it sounds perfect for family holidays #familytraveltips

  6. Is there a different timeline for making reservations for dinner, etc. if you are traveling during a holiday such as Dec. 27 through Jan.3? And are there special events we should be aware or how to find this information? Thanks.

    1. Hi Gerry,

      The holiday season follows the same dining and FastPass+ reservation timelines, however there will be higher demand for both. This means it is extra important to make these reservations immediately when the reservation windows open. It is also a good idea to think of back-up restaurants or attractions in case you can’t reserve your first choice.

      Christmas at Disney World is celebrated in each park, Disney Springs, and the resort hotels differently. The Candlelight Processional at Epcot and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom are both popular Christmas events. The Candlelight Processional takes place November 29 through December 30 in 2019. The last Very Merry Christmas party of 2019 will be December 22. A couple of fun and free activities are resort hopping to see decorations or walking the Disney Springs Christmas tree trail. Each theme park will have lots of fun decorations during that time, too.

      Here is a link to an overview of some of our favorite Christmas at Disney World activities (https://smartmousetravel.com/2016/12/18/12_days_christmas_disney/)

      I hope this helps!
      Cristin

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