Planning a Disneyland vacation can be an exciting but sometimes daunting task, especially with the continual changes and updates to the process and two parks over the years.
However, with my newly updated Disneyland planning checklist and timeline, you can simplify the planning process and ensure a memorable and seamless Disney vacation experience in 2023, 2024, 2025, and beyond.
In addition to this checklist and timeline, I’ll provide you with in-depth details and recommendations to help plan the best trip possible that you’ll cherish forever!
Disneyland Planning Timeline and Checklist
Here is an ideal timeline for planning a trip to Disneyland Resort:
8 Months Before Your Trip
Now is an ideal moment to establish your budget, select your trip dates and park days, and pinpoint any particular events or attractions you wish to visit.
Set Your Budget
Disneyland can be costly, which is why it’s crucial to establish a budget to avoid overspending during your visit because painfully, that can happen more easily than you might expect. Even if you have a significant amount of money to spend on this trip, it’s still a good idea to have a rough idea of your budget.
If you require additional information, I provided a breakdown of the expenses for a Disneyland vacation here.
Furthermore, this is the perfect time to research all of the Disneyland properties to determine which ones are suitable for your needs, location preferences, and budget.
Choose Your Dates
This is also the time when you must select the dates for your visit to Disneyland.
I can’t advise you on when you should book your trip as every person’s circumstances are unique. However, I suggest that you plan your visit around events or attractions that pique your interest.
Or better, if your schedule allows, visit during the slower months.
Research Special Events
This is the best time to identify if you want to attend any special paid events and parties like:
- Disneyland After Dark: Throwback Nite
- Princess Nite
- Pride Nite
- Sweethearts’ Nite
- Ooogie Boogie Bash
Tickets to these events go insanely fast so if you plan a trip around these times with the intention of going to one of these special events, be sure to always be on the lookout of when tickets go on sale.
Check Park Reservation Availability
Whether if you plan on purchasing park tickets or have a Magic Key, please be sure to check the park reservation availability as well as any blockout dates for your specific Magic Key annual pass.
6 Months Before Your Trip
This is the perfect time to set up your Disneyland app or account and book your hotels. If you want to book hotels and park tickets together, this is when you should too, although you won’t be able to make theme park reservations yet.
Set up You Disneyland Account on the App
This is one of the most important parts of planning Disneyland Vacation because this app allows you to use Genie (or Genie+), book dining reservations, check attraction wait times, place mobile food and drink orders, and so much more.
Book Your Hotel
Now that you already have the dates picket out a couple of months prior, this is when you should book your hotel room(s).
There is definitely nothing wrong with staying off-property (we stay at the Hyatt Centric or Westin all the time), but there are a few benefits for staying for being a Disney hotel guest.
Your three Disneyland hotel options are:
- Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa
- Disneyland Hotel
- Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel
The Grand Californian has direct access to California Adventure which is awesome, but it’s insanely expensive with nightly rates average $700+. That’s why I always recommend the Paradise Pier because it gives you access to California Adventure through a special entrance but you will be paying significantly less per night. But of course, this is just my opinion.
Purchase Theme Park Tickets with Hotel
Technically, you can’t purchase Disney park tickets this far in advance. However, by booking a hotel and ticket package together, you’ll be able to do so.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to make a park reservation this far in advance. You’ll still have to wait about 2 months.
120 Days Before Your Trip
This is the most crucial part of your trip planning – making park reservations. Plus, this is when you should book your flights if you’re flying.
Make Theme Park Reservations
By this time, the first date that you plan on visiting a Disneyland park should be available to book.
If you have multiple days that you plan on going to the park for, you’ll need to book your park reservation the next day, and so on and so forth.
Park reservations can fill up quick so you must be sure to secure these as soon as possible.
You’ll typically be in luck if you have a Park Hopper ticket because very rarely do both parks sell out on the same day unless it’s a holiday. But still, don’t take my word for it. The sooner you make park reservations, the better.
Purchase Theme Park Tickets
If you didn’t purchase a package that included park tickets, this is when you’ll need to purchase your tickets.
You can see pricing and availability up to 120 days in advance so it’s important that you start to make your reservations one by one until your entire stay is covered.
Book Your Flights
Typically, booking your flights four months in advance is best.
That said, if you’re traveling during a major holiday or Orange County, CA spring break, it’s best to book these flights as soon as possible.
Me personally, I book flights when I book my hotel.
90 Days Before Your Trip
This part only applies to Magic Key pass holders.
Make Your Magic Key Park Reservations
If you have a Magic Key, this is when you’ll need to book your park reservations since you can only book them up to 90 days in advance.
60 Days Before Your Trip
60 days out is when you must secure your advanced Disney dining reservations.
Book Restaurant Reservations
For the best chance to snag a dining reservation at some of the more popular or highly coveted restaurants, be sure to start booking them exactly 60 days out at 3:00 am PST and then at 6:00 am PST.
Dining reservations typically release at 6:00 am PST but you can sometimes find them as early as 3:00 am PST. On the flip side, some reservations won’t be released until later on in the day.
So regardless, if restaurant reservations is very important to you, I recommend that you start your search at 3:00 am and continue to check throughout the day until you book everything you need.
30 Days Before Your Trip
If you haven’t already done so, your final payment for your Disneyland vacation is due.
Make Final Vacation Payment
The final payment of your Disneyland Vacation is due 30 days prior to your scheduled arrival date.
1 Week Before Your Trip
Now is time to start packing for the trip.
It’s time to pack for your vacation and get everything situated.
Day of Your Trip
The magical day has finally arrived!
Make Sure You Have Everything
Keys, wattles, IDs, passport (if international), sunglasses, sunscreen, sweaters, hoodies, etc.
Arrive at Disneyland and Start Your Vacation
It’s time to start your Disneyland vacation!
It’s Time to Count Down the Days
Well, that’s a wrap on booking your dream Disneyland vacation! With all the tips and tricks I’ve shared, you’ll be able to breeze through the booking process with ease without missing any crucial steps.
Now that you’ve got your trip booking timeline situated, it’s time to start counting down the days.
Remember to pack your Mickey ears, sunscreen, comfy shoes, and plenty of excitement for a magical adventure that’s sure to have you grinning from ear to ear.