Disney World Planning Timeline And Checklist: Completely Updated For 2021

Like almost everything else in 2020, the Disney World planning timeline has dramatically changed. Planning your Disney World vacation looks different right now and I’m here to help you navigate the new procedures. These are the updated steps for planning your 2020 or 2021 Disney World vacation plus a free printable Disney World planning timeline.

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6 to 8 Months Before A Disney World Trip 

Research Disney World Resort Options

There are over 30 resorts on-site at Disney World. Disney resorts are broken into 4 categories: Deluxe Villa, Deluxe, Moderate, and Value. Each Disney World resort has a variety of amenities, locations, transportation options, and overall aesthetics that speak to every style and budget. Disney World offers standard hotel rooms, value resort suites for larger families, cabins, camping options, plus deluxe villas which are larger and most often have a kitchen.

We’ve stayed in every Disney World resort category and most room types over the last few years. To help you find the best fit for your family I’ve written a complete Disney World resort guide. This guide provides an overview of each Disney World resort category plus our favorite resorts in each price grouping.

Check The Disney World Park Reservation System For Availability

Disney World now requires guests have a valid theme park ticket plus a theme park reservation to enter the parks. Before booking your Disney World vacation check theme park reservation availability. 

There are three pools of Disney World park reservations: on-site guests, annual passholders, and theme park ticket guests staying off-site. Choose the right option when viewing the calendar to ensure your preferred park has reservations for your desired date. Here’s more information on the Disney World park reservation system. 

Pick Dates For Your Disney World Vacation

Now that you’ve checked park reservation availability it is time to finalize your Disney World vacation dates. Crowd levels vary greatly throughout the year with summer, spring break, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmastime being especially crowded. 

Before reopening, the parks often reached capacity around Christmas and New Years Eve, which meant they were so full new guests couldn’t enter. One good thing about the new Disney World park reservation system is that guests can secure a park reservation in advance and know they can get into the desired park on popular days. Book your park reservations early for these popular times of year and holiday weekends.

Book your Disney World Vacation

Now that you’ve found the right hotel and verified park reservation availability it is time to book your Disney World vacation to secure the reservations.

Some guests like the flexibility of booking a vacation themselves. However, in times of uncertainty it is a great option to use a trained Disney travel planner. Our preferred travel partner Get Away Today can help you book your vacation and make Disney World dining reservations. Get Away Today travel agents also monitor your trip and get you a lower price if one becomes available.

4 Months Before Your Disney World Trip

Book Flights (Unless You Are Driving)

If you are flying to Disney World, booking flights about four 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

Make Disney World Dining Reservations

Guests used to make Disney World dining reservations 180 days ahead of a trip. However, this all changed after Disney World reopened. Now plan your Disney World dining reservations 60 days before your vacation. Booking ahead is especially important for popular restaurants and limited character meal options.

On-site hotel guests can make dining reservations 60 days in advance of arrival for the entirety of their vacation, if the trip is less than 10 days. Guests need a valid theme park ticket plus park reservation before making dining reservations.

If you are not sure where to eat I have a list of some of our favorite places at Disney World.

35 Or More Days Before Your Disney World Trip

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 trips to Disney World, Universal Orlando, and Port Canaveral. 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

For the remainder of 2021 Disney’s Magical Express is a free motorcoach service for Disney World resort guests. Provide flight information early and your Magical Express letter is included in final travel documents mailed to your home. 

Guests need to retrieve their luggage from baggage claim then walk to Disney’s Magical Express. Your confirmation letter, Magic Band, or a government issued ID must be shown before boarding Magical Express to your resort.

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.

Complete Your Disney World Resort Online Check-in

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. Online check-in is especially important after Disney World’s COVID reopening to minimize person to person interactions.

Link your reservation to My Disney Experience and complete online check-in. After arriving at Disney World, guests get a notification on the My Disney Experience App when the room is ready. Check the app for your room number and then use your Magic Band or smart phone to unlock your room with no check-in desk required.

14 Days Before Your Disney World Trip

Order Groceries From Garden Grocer

You may ask yourself “Why am I buying groceries on vacation?”, but I promise it is worth it. We order a handful of breakfast items, snacks, milk, and bottled water when staying in a regular room. If staying in a Disney World deluxe villa with a kitchen we also order food to cook some meals in our room. 

We eat breakfast in our room to avoid breakfast lines and added expense at the parks. It is also nice to have some 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. Disney World deluxe villa 1-bedroom and larger villas have full kitchens.

7 Days Before Your Disney World Trip

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 a printable check list. 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, using our updated Disney World planning timeline and checklist 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:

The Disney World planning timeline has changed a lot since the parks reopened. Use this new checklist for planning your Disney World vacation.

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