Did you know that you should start planning a Disney Vacation at least 6 months before you’ll be there? Planning a Disney Vacation is quite the endeavor, but getting that jump start on it is really an important part of making sure you have a magical time!
This fall a major part of my side of the family was able to go to Disney together. We had a total of 8 adults and 1 baby. It was my man and, of course, my baby’s first time there, and for the first time ever my mother handed the planning reins over to me. I learned a lot of lessons and I want to share some of our best Disney Vacation planning tips, along with some fun free printables!
You might be thinking “Oh plenty of people go to Disney, and everyone writes a post about it. Why will yours be any different?” I’ll tell you why. Disney runs through my family’s blood. We go every 4 years, my cousins have worked there, my family eats, sleeps and breathes Disney.
As I said to my family one day as we literally ran out of the park to beat the fireworks crowd:
“We have issues, but I’m not entirely sure they’re bad ones!”
There are plenty of blog articles out there about weighing the pros and cons of staying on or off grounds and whether or not to get the dining plan. I won’t get too far into those, but after doing our research we realized it was best for us to stay on grounds and skip the dining plan. A few reasons? Well, we got a military discount on our hotel, so it was as cheap as a budget hotel off grounds, but with it we got to:
- Book fastpass+ and dining early
- Avoid paying for parking
- Free transport to the hotel from the airport
- Free and relatively quick and easy transport to and from the parks
- Oh and magicbands! These were fun and handy.
For the dining plan it was simple. We were trying to do a budget trip and we’d have to get the most expensive thing on the menu each time to make it worth our while!
After you have those decisions planned out, here is a general timeline for when you want to have things done:
Before 90 days
Book your hotel and make a basic game plan in preparation for reservations: What days do you want to eat at what parks? Which restaurants are the most important? Talk with everyone in your party and come up with a list so you’re ready to go when the time comes, because those reservations go fast! Pay attention to park hours, special events and any ride closings when you’re picking your park days, these factors can almost half your time in the park if you don’t pay attention.
One of my favorite Disney vacation planning tips is to plan for a day off in between park days.
We did 4 days at Disney World and really wish we’d taken a day off in the middle to relax and get ready for the next 2 days. They can be pretty strenuous days with all of the walking, heat, crowds and mixed up nap schedules if you have a little one. The fewer days you try to fit it all into, the harder it is, so plan some space!
I also suggest planning for a break in the middle of the day, especially if the park is open late. The middle of the day is the hottest and most crowded time, and so it’s a great time to head back to your hotel, eat a snack, take a nap, swim in the pool and get ready to head back!
Also, set up an account at Disney’s website. You can use that for pretty much everything, getting and linking dining reservations, fastpass+, your tickets, and researching any details you need to. Also, take a look at touring plans. It does cost money but I found it worth it. Their crowd calendars really helped us decide which parks to go to on which days. Usually they’re pretty good at guessing, though on our trip the crowds were a lot higher than expected. Just remember, it is only a guess, no guarantees.
They have other tools as well, including a least expensive ticket calculator and touring plan suggestions, as well as information about the parks, restaurants and attractions.
90 days out
Now you can book your dining! My advice? Book extra dining while you can. Get the most important ones in but then book back ups and book multiple days for the important restaurants. This way, if things change you can change parks without sacrificing your favorites. Then just cancel the extras before your trip with no penalties!
Also, get up early if you want Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Table. I tried for Be Our Guest the first day it opened and they were already booked solid. We decided to go for lunch instead, but then they changed lunch from quick service to table service. Boo!
Touring Plans has a great dining tool where you can sign up for an email notification if a reservation for your day/time/group size opens up. It’s really handy as other people will be canceling their extras as they get closer too!
If you haven’t already, you can also start thinking about what you want for your fastpass+ selections now. The basic rules are that you can book 3 per day ahead of time, but they all have to be in the same park. Once those are used up you can book one additional one at a time. So you use 3, book another, use that one, book another, etc. Any fastpasses after the first 3 can be at any park you want.
A good suggestion here is to book your fastpasses for earlier in the day so you can move on to more in the afternoon. We did that and we didn’t spend too much time in lines as well as hit all our favorite rides! I think it was the most efficient trip yet.
So get your list ready and set an alarm for 60 days out (if you’re staying on grounds) or 30 days out!
60 (or 30) days out
Time to book your fastpass+ reservations! Get up early for this too if you want to get the Mine Train or Frozen Ever After. If you miss those though, don’t worry! Just plan on hitting those up either as soon as you get into the park, or trying late at night when the crowds have mostly gone home.
Another tip: keep checking back to see if anything opens up. You can even check when you get to the park the day of. When we got to Epcot they had Frozen Ever After fastpasses available from someone who had just cancelled that morning.
With that you should be ready, just have to pack and get down to Florida! If you’re interested in our schedule, I have a few printables prepared that I made for each member of our group. I made a few changes so they can be more flexible, but I hope you find it handy! There’s a cover page for the booklet, a page for two parks, a page for the other two parks, and then a final blank page. You can add anything you’d like such as emergency information, flight details, restaurant information, etc. The pages are designed to be folded in half into a booklet and then stapled or tied with string.
There will be more posts about Disney in the future, so please subscribe if you’re interested in related topics such as whether or not the Memory Maker is right for your trip, Tips for doing Disney with babies, heading to the beach after Disney and more!
If you’ve enjoyed this, take a look at some of our other posts about Disney:
[fts_pinterest type=boards_list pinterest_name=WanderingAcres boards_count=4]