Steps to Planning Your Best Disney World Vacation

in Disney, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

Mickey at Disney World in front of Cinderella Castle

Credit: Disney

Successful Disney World vacation planning and execution requires following a structured series of steps and considerations.

Are you dreaming of a Disney World vacation? It is, after all, one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations—the place everyone longs to experience at least once in a lifetime. But getting the most magic out of your stay at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, doesn’t come without careful coordination and planning every step of the way. Here at Inside the Magic, we’ve compiled this thorough guide detailing all the essential steps you must take for orchestrating your very best Disney World vacation.

Minnie Mouse posing in front of Cinderella Castle
Credit: Dreams Unlimited

Do Your Disney Research

Knowing the lay of the land is essential, especially for first-timers who need to know how extensive and overwhelming Disney World is. Even if you aren’t a first-timer, per se, it doesn’t hurt to stay current on any construction updates or temporarily altered/halted experiences that directly pertain to specific Disney Park rides, Resorts, or other Disney Park attractions.

Once you’ve decided that a tentative Disney World vacation is in order, we recommend brushing up with various updated guidebooks, like Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World Official Vacation Guide, which releases editions annually. You should also review knowledgeable, current websites, including the official Walt Disney World site. Check the FAQs (or even post your own) on the planDisney panel. Even vlogs and videos uploaded to sites like YouTube can be beneficial in providing needed visuals for specific locations. Once familiarized with the Disney World scene, you can better formulate a well-structured plan.

Know Your Budget

Disney World budget planning is also necessary. After all, you’ll want to be sure you have enough money before proceeding with your intended vacation and know how much you still need to save up to do all the things you want. It’s also important to be mindful of all the other added costs you will still need to consider before finalizing your plans, whether this means estimating airfare for flying or gas costs if driving. Never underestimate the importance of a budget.

Having a set budget also indicates those added extras you may be eyeing, like whether or not to purchase Park Hopper or Memory Maker, for example, or decide to invest in a behind-the-scenes tour or even VIP Tour Guide services. It may also impact the Resort you initially end up staying at. We also recommend using this time to look into existing Disney Vacation Packages that may be available through multiple sources.

Family with lanterns
Credit: Disney

Related: A ‘Cheap’ Disney World Vacation Is Possible. Here’s How to Pull It Off

Deciding on the Best Time to Visit Disney World

Effective vacation planning should be done well before your slated time frame. This will give you plenty of time to decide when you want to go, which season works best for you (weather-wise and budget-wise), as well as what fits into your school and/or work life, with considerations as to whether you will need to make arrangements for taking off. Deciding when to go also ties into your budget, as peak times result in higher pricing for accommodations and airfare, while off-season travel often garners cheaper rates.

Create a My Disney Experience Account

While there are ways to do a Disney vacation old school, we recommend creating an online My Disney Experience account through the official Disney website before going further. This will allow you to plan, prepare, purchase, and book all Disney World Park-related experiences, all in one convenient, navigable online source. Click here to learn more.

Homepage for My Disney Experience
Credit: Disney

Purchase Park Tickets

Unless you go with an all-inclusive vacation package or utilize a legitimate, discounted source, you’ll likely purchase your Disney World Park tickets directly from the source. Disney World Park tickets come in multiple options. The most standard one is the One Park per Day Ticket, which allows you to experience one of the four theme parks a day, with the option to come and go to that same Park throughout the day. The second option is Park Hopper, which allows visits to multiple Disney Parks on a given day. There are also two add-on options for both ticket types allowing access to Disney World’s two water parks. Additionally, there are also Annual Passholder tickets and extra ticketed events and engagements throughout the year. The latter includes such events as Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, After Hours Events in Parks on select nights, and H20 Glow After Hours summer events at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon.

Related: Save Your Money: Here’s How to Find Discount Disney Tickets

Make a Park Pass Reservation

At this time, Guests who purchase tickets to any Disney Park must also make a Park Pass Reservation to enter said Park(s). Because the current situation is constantly evolving, with updated rules and policies coming into place soon, you can learn all about the most up-to-date Park Pass Reservation requirements here.

Choose Your Accommodations

You’ll also want to make a final decision about the accommodations you choose for your upcoming trip. Will you be opting to stay onsite at a Disney Resort? This can be the most convenient option, given the complimentary transportation included and all those added perks and privileges for Guests that other area accommodations just can’t boast. Furthermore, there are many options in the Disney Resort collection—including different Resort designations—to fit any budget, ranging from Value Resorts, Moderate Resorts, Deluxe Resorts, and even Deluxe Villas. You’re sure to find just the right option for you.

Multiple images showing Disney Resort recreations
Credit: Inside the Magic

Related: Questions to Ask for Finding Cheap, Quality Hotels Near Disney Parks

Make Advance Dining Reservations

Because Disney World restaurants are such a big deal, you’d do well to make any and all table-service reservations well in advance. Fortunately, you can do so up to 60 days beforehand, long before your actual arrival date, in fact. You may want to take this time to also notify Disney’s Special Dietary Requests team about any food allergies or other food-related accommodations you may require.

Mickey at Chef Mickey's visiting a girl at a table with her mother
Credit: Disney

Create an Itinerary

Now for the fun part—creating a working itinerary based on all those formerly conceptualized game plans that started taking shape before you even booked your trip. Now that you have firm dates and reservations set and have finalized your budget, it’s time to plan out your goals for each Park in tandem with each date you will be in said Park.

Proper Packing

Make sure you’re mindful of the weather. Sure, you’re going to Florida, but are you going during hurricane season? Better pack for rain in that case, including multiple pairs of shoes. How about wintertime? It may surprise you that temperatures can sometimes dip as low as the 40s on some nights! And let’s not forget about the blasting AC in some restaurants, Resort lobbies, and even the shuttle buses! It pays to have a sweater or coat on hand! Also, remember that every Disney Resort features heated swimming pools on location. So, bring a swimsuit!

Weather aside, there are many other personalized essentials you may want to make a special note of packing along. These include anything and everything you may not be guaranteed access to while you are away, including prescription medications and other essentials. Each person’s packing list will vary, but the key is to pack and prepare accordingly.

Two Disney-themed suitcases
Credit: Disney Dining

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Packing For Your Disney Vacation

Airline Arrangements

We previously touched on estimating airfare and other travel expenses into your budget. Unless you’re making the trip from nearby Jacksonville, Florida, or somewhere else that isn’t too far removed, you’ll more than likely be flying into Orlando by airliner. So be sure to purchase your airline tickets as soon as you can for your upcoming trip. You will also want to look into making chauffeuring arrangements from the Orlando International Airport (or whichever airport you come in through) to your Disney Resort (or whichever Resort you essentially choose to stay at). You can learn more about Disney’s recommended airport transportation options here.

Family outside of Mears Connect
Credit: Mears Connect

Related: The Scoop On Cheap Flights To Disneyland and Disney World

The order for doing the steps we highlighted here may differ based on personal preference or unique circumstances, but this is a general outline we feel you will find helpful in adhering to for guidance. Do you have any additional advice you wish to share? Let us know in the comments.

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