Planning a Disney World vacation can be an exciting but daunting task, especially with the continual changes and updates to the process and parks over the years.
However, with our newly updated Disney World planning checklist and timeline, you can simplify the planning process and ensure a memorable and seamless vacation experience in 2023, 2024, and beyond.
In addition to this checklist, I’ll provide you with in-depth details to help you plan the best vacation possible that you’ll cherish forever!
- Disney World Planning Timeline and Checklist
- 8 Months Before Your Trip
- 6 Months Before Your Trip
- 4 Months Before Your Trip
- 60 Days Before Your Trip
- Reserve Special Experience Activities
- 1 Month Before Your Trip
- 1 Week Before Your Trip
- Day of Your Trip
- It’s Time To Count Down the Days
- Get a Printable Version of this Checklist
Disney World Planning Timeline and Checklist
Here is an ideal timeline for planning a trip to Walt Disney World:
8 Months Before Your Trip
This is the perfect time to first set your budget and then lock in your trip dates and park days. You can also use this time to identify any special events or attractions that you want to see.
Set Your Budget
Disney World is expensive. That’s why it’s important to set a budget so that you don’t end up overspending on your trip, which can happen easier than you think. Even if money is no object, it’s always great to get a ballpark idea of how much your’e willing to spend.
I break down the costs of a Disney World vacation if you need some more information.
This is also the time to research all of the Disney World properties to see which ones fit your needs, location preference, and budget.
Choose Your Dates
This is when you’ll need to choose the dates that you want to visit Disney World.
I’m not here to tell you what months or time of year you should book your trip because everyone’s situation is different, but I always tell people to plan around things that may interest you.
For example, if your goal is to visit during an EPCOT festival, then you should plan around this festival calendar.
Make Sure There’s Park Pass Availability
It’s important to make sure that the dates that you end up choosing has theme park reservation availability.
You can view the current availability here.
Determine Which Parks You’re Visiting
This is a great time to also determine which parks you’re visiting on which days. If the goal is to limit crowds, these are the best days of the week to visit for each park.
Research Special Events or Attraction Openings
This is the best time to identify if you want to attend any special paid events such as:
- Mickeys’ Not So Scary Halloween Party
- Mickeys’ Very Merry Christmas Party
- Backstage Tours
- Drawn to Life by Cirque du Soleil
You can also use this time to plan your trip around any new attraction openings.
6 Months Before Your Trip
This is the time to set up your My Disney Experience account, book your lodging, and purchase your park tickets.
Set up My Disney Experience
This is one of the most important parts of planning your Disney World vacation. This app allows you to use Genie (or Genie+), book dining reservations, research park info and attraction times, place mobile food orders, and so much more.
Book Your Hotel
Now that you already have the dates picked out a couple months prior, this is the time that you should book your hotel.
There is nothing wrong with staying off-property, but there are a few benefits for staying at a Disney World resort, especially if you’re at a participating Disney Deluxe, Deluxe Villa, or other select hotels.
You can check out our guide on Disney World hotel room rates if you need help figuring out which resort fits your budget.
Purchase Your Theme Park Tickets
If you are staying at a Disney resort, you can do this process at the same time that you’re booking your hotel.
If not, you can still purchase your park tickets separately at this time to ensure that there will still be park reservation availability.
Please note that at this moment, you will need to select which park you’re visiting and on what day.
Disney Dining Plan
If you plan on staying at a Disney World resort, you’ll also have the option to add the Disney Dining Plan. I won’t go into detail here, but you can decide if it’s worth it or not after reading this comprehensive DDP guide.
4 Months Before Your Trip
If you’re flying, this is when you should book your flights.
Book Your Flights
Generally, booking your flights four months in advance is best.
That said, if you’re traveling during a major holiday, it’s best to book these flights as soon as possible (like when you book your hotels and park tickets).
Book Your Rental Car
If you plan on visiting any nearby attractions in Orlando like Universal Studios, SeaWorld, or even the outlets, then renting a car is a decent option.
Four months prior is when you should book your rental car.
60 Days Before Your Trip
This is when you must secure your advanced Disney dining reservations, as well as make any special experience reservations.
Book Restaurant Reservations
If you’re have a valid Disney World hotel reservation, you can make dining reservations for your entire length of stay (up to 10 nights) up to 60 days in advance of your arrival date.
If you are not staying at a valid Disney World resort, you can only make reservations up to 60 days in advance. This means that you’ll have to book a new restaurant every day until your entire trip is covered.
Reservations generally open up starting at 5:45 am every day.
Reserve Special Experience Activities
Book special experiences like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Droid Depot and Savi’s Workshop online 60 days prior to your Disney World vacation.
This is also the best time to book any fireworks dessert parties too.
1 Month Before Your Trip
If you didn’t pay for your entire trip by this time, your final vacation balance will be due 30 days prior to your scheduled arrival.
Make Final Vacation Payment
The final payment for your Disney World vacation is due 30 days prior to your scheduled arrival date.
One month before your vacation is also a good time to arrange your transportation, if you plan on using Mears Connect. If you plan on renting a car or using Uber or Lyft, then you won’t have to worry about this.
If you plan on using Mears Connect, which is the paid version of the now defunct Magic Express bus service, then this is when you should book your roundtrip tickets.
1 Week Before Your Trip
Now it’s time to start packing.
It’s time to pack for your trip and get everything situated.
If you need some packing recommendations, I got you covered!
Day of Your Trip
The day has finally arrived!
Make Sure You Have Everything
Keys, wallet, license, IDs, passport (if international), sunblock, rain jackets, etc.
Arrive at Disney World and Start Your Vacation
It’s time to start your vacation!
It’s Time To Count Down the Days
When it comes to planning a Disney World vacation, a little bit of preparation and a whole lot of fun can go a long way!
With the help of some updated planning tools, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate the ins and outs of the parks and make the most out of your adventure.
So, pack your Mickey ears, grab your sunscreen, and get ready for an unforgettable trip to the most magical place on Earth.
Get a Printable Version of this Checklist
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