This Disney World Planning Timeline contains affiliate links.
A Disney World Vacation is a big trip with lots of fun decisions. It is easy to get overwhelmed by all of the planning, especially when you are planning dining reservations and rides months before you ever step on Disney property. The best way to plan a frugal Disney trip is one step at a time. I have organized your Disney World planning into an easy to follow timeline to help you enjoy all of the magic of Disney.
Disney World Planning Timeline
I will never forget planning for our first family Disney vacation. I had visited Disney three times before planning a family Disney trip, but when I went fast passes didn’t exist and we just roamed the parks deciding what we wanted to do. Roaming around the park doesn’t work well at Disney anymore unless you love standing in ridiculously long lines! I was just so shocked and overwhelmed by the 6-month planning timeline. Plus Disney changes all of the time! The first time we went as a family, you still had to go to each ride to receive your Fast Pass. Now you plan your Fast Pass + rides two months before you ever step on Disney property. And if you want to eat at a sit-down restaurant, you are looking at planning that 6-months in advance. I made this list for you to help you plan each step of your trip without feeling confused or overwhelmed. Planning a Disney trip is so much fun that I always feel a little sad when our trip is over, and I am always ready to start planning our next trip (even if it is a few years in the future).
Disney World Planning Before 6 Months Of Trip
Determine dates, estimate budget, and save money for your Disney trip. Not sure how to estimate your budget and save for your trip? I have got you covered, simply work through this Saving for Disney guide to determine how much you want to spend and how long it will take you to save that amount of money.
Consider if your budget is going to include Character Meals or other table service meals. You will need reservations for all sit-down meals at Disney. Some meals are very popular and fill up quickly.
If you plan on making food reservations (and are staying at a Disney World Resort) you need to make your vacation reservations now (through Disney directly or through a Disney Travel Agent). Heads up you will need to make a $200 deposit on your vacation when reserving. The balance for your vacation will be due 45 days before your check-in date.
Start shopping airline tickets if you are flying. (Still trying to decide if you want to fly or drive? Here are tips for getting the best price on airline tickets and you can also estimate the cost of driving.)
Make reservations for off-site location and purchase WDW tickets. You can purchase tickets either through an authorized dealer or through Disney.
Determine what days of your vacation will be spent at what park. Crowd level guides can help you choose the best days. This will help you determine what dining reservations you might want.
Disney World Planning 180 Days From Arrival
It is time to make reservations for dining and extra experiences! Why do you need to make reservations 6 months in advance? Seems, totally crazy to know where you will be eating 6 months from now right?! Even during LOW CROWDS, Disney is busy. And popular dining locations and events fill up quickly. If you do not make reservations early, you may find that all of the reservations are gone or only weird time slots are left. If you cannot find the time or day you need for a reservation, you can continue to check back to see if someone has canceled a time you like. I would continue to check all the way up to the day before. You can call or use the My Disney Experience App.
Walt Disney Planning: Food Reservations
You can make reservations online at my Disney experience (make sure the day before that your room/ticket reservations show up in your my Disney experience account). Reservations open up 180 days before your check-in date at 6:00 am Eastern and phone reservations (407-WDW-DINE) open at 7 am Eastern. You can make reservations for your entire trip at this time.
Difficult Character Reservations
Character meal reservations can be difficult to get at times. Make sure you know which Character meals you are interested in, think about a couple of different times and days you might enjoy dining, and reserve the most important character meal you want first. You DO NOT have to book them in order of day of your vacation, so book them in order of priority!
Other Disney Phone Reservations
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Reservations by calling 407-WDW-STYLE.
Pirate League Reservations Reservations by calling 407-WDW-CREW.
Between 179 Days And 61 Days Of Arrival
Talk about rides that your family may be interested in. I purchase this book each time for our kids to look through to see what rides and shows they might be interested in. The guide book is for kids by kids which is fun and gives an interesting perspective on ride scariness, darkness, and level of fun. We also watch YouTube videos of rides.
YouTube Disney Channels For Disney World Planning
Got Little Ones?
Check out the height requirements for rides before you go. One of the great things about Disney as an amusement park is the huge number of no height requirement rides. This is awesome if you have littles or if you have big kids who are petite.
If you are going with little ones but want to experience rides with a higher height requirement your family can take advantage of the rider swap program.
DIY Ideas To Start A Disney Vacation Countdown
Thinking about ordering groceries for your Disney trip? It is best to order early so you can make sure that your groceries can be delivered on the correct date. One of the best places to order groceries is Garden Grocer. Garden Grocer delivers to Disney World Resorts.
Disney World Planning 60 Days From Arrival
Complete Online Resort Check-In if staying at a Walt Disney World Resort.
If you are staying at a Disney World Resort, you can make your FastPass+ reservations online in your My Disney Experience account (you can also download My Disney Experience app), but it is easiest to make reservations on the computer. Your opportunity to book FastPass+ will open up at 7 am Eastern 60 days from your arrival. If you are unsure how to determine which rides need FastPass+, this quick guide will help you determine the best FP+ strategy for your family.
Book FP+ in the order of priority. You want to get FP+ for the most popular rides first (even if they are in different parks) then work your way down the list.
Customize Magic Bands
You can choose different colors for your Magic Bands which really helps you not confuse the bands after you take them off. You customize your Magic Bands in My Disney Experience. Magic Bands are not interchangeable. Your Magic Band is connected to you by your name and thumbprint so make sure each person knows which band is assigned to them.
Get Your Disney Feet
You are going to walk a crazy amount at Disney World. For the average person, you are going to walk much more than you are used too on a daily basis. Younger kids (no longer in a stroller) can struggle with walking so far. It is best to prepare early!
- Take two different pairs of shoes to rotate.
- Bring bandaids or blister gel guard in case of blisters.
- We use this Band-Aid Friction Block Stick on our feet. You can find this at WalMart or Walgreens.
- Start a walking regimen. Start by parking further at grocery stores and other shops. Then start walking more around the neighborhood or park. We worked our kids up to walking 1 ½ to 2 miles without stopping.
Your final payment for your Disney World trip is due 45 days before arrival.
30 Days From Arrival
Start getting super excited! You are only 30 days away from your magical Disney vacation!
If you are staying off-site, you can now make your FastPass+ reservations.
If you are flying into Orlando and are looking for a free ride to your Disney World Resort, the Magical Express is for you. Disney has a bus system throughout the property to take you to different resorts, parks and Disney Springs. The bus system takes longer than having your own car, but it is free!
I love Memory Maker, but it is an extra expense. Memory Maker gives you access to ride pictures and pictures taken by Disney photographers. I loved not having to have my phone out the entire time to take pictures (or lugging a camera), and we were very pleased with the quality and quantity of pictures we received through Memory Maker.
Make a Packing List
Here are two good packing list options.
Purchase Any Last Minute Items
One of my families Disney must haves is a Frog Toggs Chilly Pad Cooling Towel. It works so well on hot days that we purchased a second one for our last trip. If you are going to Disney during the hot months (which is almost year around), the Frog Togg is a life saver.
I also make sure to take a Mophie. Your phone can easily drain while in the park. Especially if you are taking pictures and videos of your phones.
You can have food delivered to on property Disney World Resorts. If you are looking to have a few food items for your trips to save money but don’t have room to bring in your luggage, Amazon Pantry is an easy way to have pantry-style food delivered.
Make boarding reservations/plans for pets left at home.
Disney World Planning 7 Days Before Trip
Print Plans/Reservation Information you want to take with you.
Add Fast Pass Schedule and reservations into Notes App on your phone. This is just in case the My Disney Experience App is not working (which does happen!) or you lose/forget your paper version of your plans.
Download Disney Tunes to prepare for the magic.
If driving check tires, oil change and clean out your car.
Whew! There is a lot to planning a Walt Disney World trip and it is easy to get overwhelmed. But this step by step planner will help you accomplish everything without wanting to pull your hair out! If you are usually a nonplanner make sure to leave time each day of your trip to be free to experience Disney without a tight schedule.
Are you a pencil and paper planner? Me, too! Print out this Disney Vacation Planning Timeline post to help you stay organized during your planning.
Other Disney World Planning Tips You Will Enjoy
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