Your Perfect Disney World Vacation Planning Timeline

in Disney, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

With some planning, your Walt Disney World vacation can exceed your expectations of the Most Magical Place On Earth. This article is about breaking down the step-by-step planning milestones as you prepare for your vacation.

One Year Out – Select Your Travel Dates & Download the My Disney Experience App

Homepage for My Disney Experience
Credit: Disney

When making a plan for your Disney vacation, earlier is better. Researching Disney Park pricing, crowd patterns, and accommodation options a year (or more) before your desired vacation time means you will have time to save money and plan the perfect trip. Searching crowd patterns for booking is pivotal if a budget Disney trip is essential. Crowd pattern research will tip you when theme Park tickets and Resort prices increase.

The My Disney Experience App is an excellent one-stop place to see prices, restaurant menus, ride descriptions, and more. Download the My Disney Experience App as soon as you start planning a Disney vacation so you’ll have the magic at your fingertips.

One Year Out – Draft a Savings Strategy

With cash-back websites, credit card rewards, and gift card options today, you can rack up cash toward your Disney vacation. Explore cash-back credit card options to ensure you receive money back on your Disney theme Park tickets, Resort rooms, and flights/travel costs to Orlando.

orlando international airport planes on tarmac at sunset
Credit: Orlando International Airport (MCO)

When you’ve found the perfect card for your family, submit the credit card application with plenty of time to spare. Applying need not be a lengthy process. There are online approved credit cards to choose from. Better yet, choose a card that can use tap to pay or Apple Pay so you don’t even have to carry your card; you can use your phone as a credit card on vacation.

Disney Visa Credit Card
Credit: Disney Visa

Deciding on payment options a year out means you have plenty of time to accrue credit card cash-back points throughout the year on regular expenses.

Ten Months Out – Review the Disney Website and Blogs for Park Information

Grumpy at Storybook Dining at Artist Point
Credit: Disney

Researching Walt Disney World attractions, dining, and fun extras is a great way to prepare for your vacation by increasing your Park knowledge while you get excited for the fantastic trip. The Walt Disney World website has excellent information on each attraction, restaurant, and Resort on the property. If you want insider tips from Disney fans, check out Inside the Magic for your vacation’s need-to-know details.

Eight Months Out – Book a Resort, Hotel, or Rental

caribbean beach pool
Credit: planDisney

If you have a specific Disney Resort in mind, booking it farther than eight months out is a great idea. But booking a Resort eight months out will provide plenty of time if you are a newbie looking for lodging options. Chat with a Cast Member on the Disney website or via phone to ask any questions about Disney Resort Hotels. Helpful Cast Members can steer you toward the best Resort for your budget and one with Resort theming that your family will love.

Cars at Art of Animation
Credit: Disney

While Disney Resort hotels are fun for a family vacation, they are not mandatory. There are plenty of budget-friendly hotels near Disney World. Check out these articles about good neighbor hotels and other spots near the Disney Property that might be the best lodging option for your group on vacation. Hacking your lodging costs is a great way to do Disney on a budget.

Approximately Six Months Out – Make Your Disney Dining Plan

Walt Disney World Dining is so yummy you’ll want to plan meals. Options like character meals with Mickey, signature dining at a beautiful Resort, or unforgettable themed dining experiences are all popular choices. Scour blogs and the Disney website to review menus and plan which restaurants you want to visit on vacation.

Breakfast offerings at Akershus Royal Banquet hall
Credit: Disney

Advanced dining reservations can be secured 60 days before your vacation. Prior research done before the booking window opens enables you to snag reservations at your must-do restaurants at your preferred dining time as soon as possible.

Approximately Four Months Out – Buy Tickets and Secure Disney Genie+

Again, you can purchase tickets further out in your vacation planning timeline, but if you are saving to offset costs, booking within a few months is still possible. Purchase your tickets through the Disney World website or a certified Disney travel planner. Remember, discount Disney tickets are a myth, so don’t fall for the scams.

Guests use a phone at the Magic Kingdom next to the Genie
Credit: Disney

Disney Genie+ is your key to a shorter wait time in the Park, so it may be worth considering. Guests must purchase a Park ticket and secure a Park reservation to add this feature. Disney Genie+ is an additional cost and varies in price based on the day you use it. Prices vary by day, based on demand but start at around $25 per person daily. Do your research to decide if adding Disney Genie + is worth the cost for your family.

Approximately One Month Out – Check Out Extra Magic Hour Dates

Extra Magic Hours are times at the start and end of the Park day when certain Walt Disney World theme Parks are open just for Walt Disney World Resort Guests to enjoy. This means shorter attraction lines and cooler temperatures to enjoy the Park. Extra Magic Hours are announced in the weeks or days leading up to your vacation.

Extra Magic Hours Posted WDW ReopeningOne month before your vacation, take the time to check the My Disney Experience App to see if Extra Magic Hours have been announced for your chosen vacation dates. Extra Magic Hour locations and times may not be announced until the week of your vacation. Still, it never hurts to check in advance and work those details into your Park plan if possible.

One Month Out – Plan Outfits and Pack


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♬ Disney-style fanfare-style BGM – harryfaoki

Skip the stress of packing by beginning to pack early during your vacation. This allows plenty of time for you to check and recheck suitcases to ensure you do not forget any needed clothing, toiletries, or medications.

One Week Out –Free Up Cell Phone Storage Space, Final Bag Check and Organize Vacation Documents

Disney Springs shuttle
Credit: Disney

You’ve followed the checklist, so your vacation departure will be a snap. Clear storage space on camera cards and cell phone camera rolls ensures you have plenty of room to document those fantastic vacation memories. Organize any vacation documents like flight confirmations or hotel bookings with a paper copy if you choose to travel. Zip up your suitcases and prepare for the vacation of a lifetime!

family hugging in front of disney world castle holding a pink mickey balloon
Credit: Disney Parks

If you’d like to leave the Disney Vacation planning leg work to another person, why not work with a certified Disney vacation planner? From where to stay at Disney World on a budget to understanding Disney vacation payment plans, a Disney travel planner is a helpful friend when planning the vacation of a lifetime. Remember to browse Inside the Magic for all the vacation tips that will make your trip even more special!

in Disney, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

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