I get a lot of questions from friends and family about the Disney World planning process. Disney World tends to have a longer planning timeline than many other vacations. And if you are doing your own planning it is important that you know when (and how) to do each step. Here I will provide a basic timeline to help you plan your Disney World trip! Or if you are using a Disney Vacation Planner when you should expect tasks to be completed. Subscribe to my email list to receive a printable version of this Disney World planning timeline.
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.
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 an authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
180 days before trip
Make Dining Reservations For Your Trip
I understand it is hard to believe that you need to make dining reservations for your Disney World trip this far in advance, but I highly advise doing so. 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.
4-6 months before trip
Book Your Flights (Unless You Are Driving)
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.
Complete Your Online Check-in (If You Are Staying On Property)
During online check-in you can add any special requests you have 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 room number notification via the My Disney Experience App and go straight to your room. 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 will be provided to you at the front desk of your resort at 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.
30 days or more before trip
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. These bags will be delivered to your hotel room later. Your bags can take around 3 to 5 hours 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
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.
7 days before trip
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!
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: