Step 3: Planning the Best Day Ever

Last Updated on October 30, 2021 by Happily Ever Park Hoppers

So you’ve chosen your hotel and bought your park tickets. Then what?

Time to make some reservations!

When helping friends and family plan out their WDW vacation, I always ask:

What is your top priority for this trip?

        Rides? Characters? Food? Pool Days?


I like to ask this because I believe that depending on what your priority is, it will have a big impact on what your daily itinerary will look like. If you are looking to make dining reservations for every day of your vacation,  that will predetermine what park you will be in and what park you will need to make a park reservation for. If hitting all the rides is a must-do, you might not care to make table service reservations and have more flexibility in your schedule.


Disney Theme Park Reservation 

In order to visit any one of the 4 Disney theme parks, you must have a park reservation (after purchasing park tickets) for the day you plan on visiting. By checking the availability calendar you will be able to see what parks are available for the day and the ticket option you purchased. Because park capacity is limited, making your park reservations as early as possible is the only way to guarantee entrance in to a park. Weekends, holidays and school vacations are the busiest times in the parks and these will be first to reach reservation limits.

Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR)

Advanced Dining Reservations can be made 60 in advance. Disney resort guests will be able to make ADR 60 days from check-in, for the length of their trip (or up to 10 days). All other guests will have to go on each day (at 60 days out) to make restaurant reservations. Prior to your ADR window, you should make a decision on what/if any table service restaurants you want to dine at.

Coming up with a plan

You’ve figured out what is your top priority. You know what table service restaurants you want to make reservations for and you know what are your top rides. How do you put all this information together?    

  •  I like to start by checking the Park Hours calendar for my travel dates. Checking to see each park’s operating hours and what parks are open the earliest or latest.
  • Make your park reservations
    • Once you know what park you want to visit each day, you’ll want to go on and reserve the parks for your travel dates.
      • **park reservations CAN be changed as long as the park you are wishing to go to has availability.
  • Make your dining reservations
    • Know your reservation window date! Some reservations go extremely quickly
    • If you are attempting to book a popular restaurant (and are staying on property) try booking a day further in to your trip rather than your very first day in the parks. This should increase the number of reservation times available.
    • Be flexible when looking for reservation times. Again, some restaurants book up extremely quickly. If there is a place you MUST dine at, consider eating at off times when most people would likely skip over a 2pm lunch reservation.
  • Familiarize yourself with each park
    • Have a general idea of where you want to head first and what route you should take
    • Popular rides can have extremely long lines. Knowing which rides are at the top of your priority list and getting there early can be difference of 5 minutes to hours.
    • Know the height requirements. If you are traveling with smaller children, know which rides your children are tall enough for and how to use the rider switch.
  • Plan on the crowds…It should be no shock, Disney World is going to be busy
    • Park opening is going to be least busiest time of the day. Sometimes a park will stay open late and the crowds will decrease as the night goes on when families with little ones head back for the night.
  • Know your limits
    • Don’t try to feel like you can do it all in one day. It’s ok to take breaks!
      • Especially when traveling with small children, sometimes you just need to head back to the resort. It’s hot, it’s crowded and someone needs a nap.

But this is my vacation…

Many feel that they much rather enjoy a leisurely trip and don’t want to plan out every aspect of their trip. That they don’t want to rush to the parks for rope drop (being in the parks right at park opening) and sleep in a little. If you’re someone who isn’t in a rush to get to the parks, take your time eating breakfast at the resort or hang by the pool before heading to the parks, that works too! All the things above still apply. You’re still going to want to have some idea and make those park reservations. Consider making your dining reservations for lunch or late evenings so you can be one of the last guests in the parks. And keep in mind that there is always the possibility to make dining reservations day-of by refreshing the dining availability on the Disney World app.

Your Itinerary

Once you made those park reservations and any dining reservations, your vacation itinerary will come together.

On the My Disney Experience plans webpage, you will see your itinerary details broken down by each day. Your resort check-in day, followed by your park reservation and then any dining reservations you have made.

Remember you can always modify your plans if something changes. If you weren’t able to get a certain park reservation on the day you wanted, keep checking the calendar to see if any more park passes were added or maybe a cancellation. And the same goes for dining reservations. If you weren’t able to get a reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table, keep checking because someone else may have cancelled theirs.

And that’s it! You have now come up with a plan for your Disney vacation.

Now all that’s left is to arrive and have the most magical vacation ever!

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