Last Updated on August 25, 2023 by Happily Ever Park Hoppers
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Walt Disney World Planning Timeline
Looking to plan a trip to Walt Disney World and not quite sure when you should be booking? Here is a brief overview of the planning process with six simple steps to help you with the Walt Disney World Planning Timeline. Looking for a full breakdown? Check out the Ultimate Planning Guide for Walt Disney World.
6 – 12 Months+ Before
The very first step in planning a Walt Disney World vacation is to check your dates. In order to enter any of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World, you must have a Theme Park Reservation. It’s important to check your dates first because some or all of the four parks will sell out of theme park reservations during certain times of the year (holidays, three day weekends, school vacation weeks etc.). You can check the Theme Park Reservation Availability at any time. Not only will you be able to check the availability, but it will also give you an idea of how busy the parks will be during your visit.
Important: Theme Park Reservations are only required until January 9th, 2024. After that, only guests with non-dated tickets, will still need to make Theme Park Reservations.
Equally important around 6-12 months, is to book your hotel. Availability can fluctuate and depending on the time of year you are looking to go, you should book your hotel as soon as possible. Know that for vacation packages and/or room only reservations, only a $200 deposit is needed to book your stay at a Disney Resort Hotel.
Booking your hotel as far out as possible also gives you time to save and budget for your vacation. Depending on how long you’re planning on staying and what type of hotel you’re staying in, you may want more time to pay down your vacation package.
Pro Tip: You CAN pay down your Disney Resort Hotel and or Disney vacation package with a Disney gift card.
3 – 6 Months Before
If you purchased your theme park tickets as a package with your Disney Resort Hotel, you will be able to make your Theme Park Reservations immediately after paying the deposit and your reservation is linked to your My Disney Experience account.
If you did not purchase your theme park tickets with your hotel, 3 – 6 months prior to your trip you should purchase your tickets. There are several places you can purchase your theme park tickets from but always remember to purchase your from an authorized ticket reseller. Many of these authorized resellers have special promotion that can save you quite a bit of money (especially if you’re traveling with a large group). It doesn’t hurt to shop around from places like Under Cover Tourist and Get Away Today and compare the ticket prices to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
Once you have your theme park tickets, you will want to make your theme park reservations. Again, if you are planning to go during a busier time of year, you will want to purchase your tickets sooner rather than later to make sure you can make your theme park reservations for the days you want.
2 – 4 Months Before
A few months before your trip you should book your travel arraignments. Whether you’re flying, driving, or taking the train, you will want to make those reservations in the months just before your trip. Most travel sites recommend booking airfare in this timeframe for the best prices possible. With travel prices always shifting, it’s hard to precisely say when the “best” time to book or when the best deals will be out.
I like to use the “flexible calendar” that most airlines or travel sites have to see what a cheap price is, and what is more and that generally gives me an idea if the price for my travel dates are more or less. I also like to use the Hopper app that compares the prices for you and tracks your travel dates and tells you when it’s a good time to buy or not. It will also give you predictions on when you can expect the prices to be cheaper or more depending on how close it is to your travel dates.
60 Days Before
At the 60-day mark, you can begin making your advance reservations for all types of experiences. Whether that might be dining reservations, behind-the-scenes tours or magical opportunities.
All advance reservations can be made 60 days out. They can either be made 60 days in advance OR if you are staying at a Disney Resort Hotel it’s 60 days from your check-in date for the length of your stay (up to 10 days).
- Enchanting Extras Collection
- EX: Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Behind the Seeds Tour, Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour, Fireworks Dining Packages, Savi’s Workshop, Droid Depot and many more.
30 Days Before
30 days before your trip, you should make any ground transportation arrangements like shuttle vans, private car service or; if you prefer to drive yourself, a rental car. There are multiple options at the Orlando International Airport like, The Sunshine Flyer, Mears Connect, Tiffany TownCar and many more. Compare and research what is the best option for your travel needs.
Also around the 30 day mark, you should be purchasing any items for your trip to make sure that the arrive on time. If you are buying new shoes you want to make sure that they are broken in so you don’t get any blisters and are uncomfortable walking around within the first day of your weeklong trip.
There are a ton of small business shops on Etsy or Instagram, like PARK+LIFE where you can find unique Disney merchandise that are perfect for a Disney vacation. Again, buying these items with plenty of time to ensure they arrive on time so you can wash and pack.
Don’t forget about the Memory Maker!
One other thing you should consider purchasing at least a couple weeks – a month beforehand, is the Memory Maker. The Memory Maker gives you unlimited Disney PhotoPass Photo downloads. There are dozens of PhotoPass photographers all over the parks and occasionally in the Disney Resort Hotels, ready and waiting to take your family’s photos. This is a great way to capture the memories of your trip and make sure everyone is in the picture.
As long as you purchase the Memory Maker 3 days in advance, you can take advantage of the “Advance Purchase” price and save yourself $30. If you opt not to buy it ahead of time, you can always pay for it once you arrive but you will miss out on that savings. So, if you know you’re going to want at least one picture from each park, it might be worth it to just buy it ahead of time and save yourself a little bit of money. Plus. Once you’re in the parks, anytime you see a PhotoPass photographer, you wont even think twice about having your family’s photo taken.
10 -15 Days Before
In the final week or two before your trip, you will want to order and/or buy your toiletries and any last minute items.
Amazon is one of the best places to order trip items. Especially for last minute items that you need shipped quickly or even have delivered to your hotel if you happen to forget something.
Depending on the season and what the weather is like, don’t forget to order items like neck fans, cooling towels, ponchos, breathable walking shoes and/or shoes that can get wet and dry off quickly.
If you aren’t sure what items you might need or worried you forgot something, check out my Amazon Storefront where I’ve put together several lists.
Another thing to keep in mind just before your trip is to order groceries and have them delivered to your hotel. There are many grocery delivery services like Walmart Grocery Delivery, Instacart, Amazon Prime or Vacation Grocery Delivery, that will deliver all your grocery items to you.
Even if you plan to eat mostly in the parks, you should always order at least one or more case(s) of water and some snacks. Paying for water and snacks in the parks is THE biggest waste of money; and is completely avoidable.
If you have any questions regarding the planning timeline, please drop a comment below and I’ll do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.
Spreading magic one post at a timeKristin