Disney World Planning Timeline And Checklist: Updated For 2024 & 2025

Even if you previously planned a Disney World vacation, the process has evolved over the last few years. Use our updated, free printable Disney World planning timeline to make planning your 2024 or 2025 Disney World vacation easy.

Subscribe to my email list to receive a printable checklist version of this Disney World planning timeline plus my park bag packing list.

6 to 8 Months Before A Disney World Trip 

Research Disney World Resort Options

The often overwhelming first step in the Disney World planning timeline is researching on- and off-site Disney World resort options. I generally recommend staying on-site at Disney World, but sometimes staying off-site is still a good choice when planning your Disney World vacation.

There are over 30 resorts on-site at Disney World 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 generally have a full 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 Disney World’s Park Reservation System For Availability

Disney World currently requires guests to have a valid theme park ticket PLUS a theme park reservation to enter the parks. Starting January 9, 2024, guests who buy standard Disney World date-based tickets no longer need park reservations.

Until January 9, 2024, 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

Cinderella Castle bathed in blue and pink lights at night

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 a 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.

4 to 6 Months Before Your Disney World Trip

Disney World 50th Southwest plane taxiing at Chicago's Midway airport

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.

We often book our flights with Southwest early. Southwest’s policy provides refunds or credit, depending on fare type, if the fares decrease before our trip which provides peace of mind when booking early.

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.

Reserve Special Disney World Activities

A Droid Depot C-series droid lounges at Oga's Cantina in Galaxy's Edge

Book special experiences like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Savi’s Workshop, and Droid Depot online 60 days before your Disney World vacation.

Arrange Your Disney World Transportation

Disney World no longer offers complimentary transportation to and from Orlando International Airport. The most common transportation options are now rental cars, private car service, Mears Connect, or ride shares.

People often think a rental car is the least expensive option, but add gas and rental fees to your reservation and it’s a lot more expensive than it seems. Mears Connect costs over $100 for a coach bus similar to Magical Express or $250 for express service for a family of four.

Ride shares are a reasonable option, but finding one with car seats is often difficult and expensive. After evaluating several Disney World transportation options we’ve found Tiffany Towncar is the best balance of comfort and price for most families.

5 to 14 Days Before Your Disney World Trip

Order Groceries

Disney World mini fridge stocked with milk, yogurt, fruit, and waters

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. 

Eating breakfast in our room avoids 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.

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.

Over the years we’ve used Garden Grocer, Amazon, and Instacart for Disney World groceries. Evaluate the pros and cons of each service with our full review of these three competitors.

Start Packing

Two sky blue suitcases sit in front of a airport departure board

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

The iconic Tower of Terror looms over Hollywood Studios in the bright sunshine

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. 

Or if staying at a Disney World hotel January 1, 2025 through December 31, 2025 pack your swimsuits and suntan lotion for arrival day. A new on-site perk lets registered Disney World resort guests go to Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon for free on check-in 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.

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