Disney World Planning Timeline

I get a lot of questions from people about the Disney World planning process. Disney World tends to have a longer planning timeline than many other vacations. If you are doing your own Disney World vacation planning it is important that you know when (and how) to do each of these important steps. Here is our Disney World planning timeline to help you plan your own family vacation or know when tasks should be completed by your Disney Vacation Planner. Subscribe to my email list to receive a printable version of this Disney World planning timeline.

Check here for tips on planning a last minute Disney World trip.

7 – 13 months before planned trip 

Research Hotel Options

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

Check here for a complete guide to Disney World Resorts and our favorite resorts in each price category.

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.

Pick Your Dates

This is one of the most important steps in planning your Disney World trip. Crowd levels can vary greatly throughout the year with summer, spring break, Halloween and Christmastime being especially crowded.

6 months (or more) before trip

Book your Disney World Vacation

You may book either directly with Disney or by using our preferred travel partner Get Away Today.

180 days before trip

Make Dining Reservations For Your Trip

I understand making your Disney World dining reservations this early might seem ridiculous.  However, I highly advise you make Disney World 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.

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.

4-6 months before trip

Book Your Flights (Unless You Are Driving)

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.

60 days before trip

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.

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.

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 the on-site check-in process. Or if you have linked Magic Bands to your reservation then you can get a room number notification via the My Disney Experience App. Once you have your room number use your Magic Band to unlock your room with no check-in desk required.

35 days or more before trip

Customize Your Magic Bands

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, the way you enter rides with your FastPass+ reservation, how your dining credits are stored (if on the dining plan), and can be used to make purchases.

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.
Bows are optional!

Provide Flight Information To Disney’s Magical Express

Providing this information early allows your vouchers and luggage tags to be included in the final travel documents mailed to your home. What is Disney’s Magical Express? This service is an air-conditioned coach bus (with TVs that play Disney World information and cartoons) that brings you from Orlando International Airport to your on site Disney World hotel. When you stay on property Magical Express is provided at no additional charge.

The other truly magical thing about Magical Express is if you 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.). You 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.

If you prefer to have a private car service take you to Disney World we always use Tiffany Towncar. They are a reliable Disney World limo service and have provided us great customer service over the years.

35 days or more before trip

Make The Final Payment For Your Trip.

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

14 days before trip

Order Groceries From Garden Grocer

You may ask yourself “Why am I buying groceries on vacation?”. I’ll tell you why. 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.

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.

 

7 days before trip

Start Packing

I usually have a staging area in a guest bedroom for packing. I have a complete packing list with printable check list available here. Make sure you also plan what you will need to bring in your park bag and carry-on.

Day of trip

Arrive At Disney World

You’ve done all the planning and packing so now it is time to have fun!

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.

 

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? 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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