If you think Walt Disney World can be visited on a whim, you’re underestimating the power of planning. Visitors often start planning for the trip months in advance.
Last-minute trips can be fun, but planning lets you make the best of your visit and save money where possible.
So if you’re wondering what the Disney World planning timeline looks like, this article is for you!
The ideal Disney World planning timeline expands over six months. Here’s what it looks like:
- Six months before the research and budgeting phase
- Five months before travel dates, flights, visas, etc.
- Four months before park admissions and reservation, hotel reservation
- Three months before dining reservations, booking other services
- Two months before transport arrangement
- One month before the packing list
Ideally, booking and arrangements should be finalized two weeks before your travel date!
This article draws out a timeline for planning your Disney World trip starting six months before the intended travel date. You can start planning even more in advance than that.
Disney World Planning Timeline: Detailed Instructions
The timeline below gives you ample time to book everything for your itinerary and make necessary and optional travel arrangements.
This isn’t set in stone; you can plan things before six months or perhaps as late as three months. But the six months timeline is best as it also gives you a chance to snag the best prices for park tickets, hotels, and flights.
Six Months Before the Trip
Here’s what you should cover six months before the month of your visit to Disney World:
1. Research the Parks
The first step is to do your homework on the parks, especially if this is your first-ever trip to Disney World.
The huge resort has four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot), two water parks, and many resorts and golf courses.
Find out about the parks and the attractions they offer. In addition, also search for any special events taking place around the time you’re visiting.
Most special events are ticketed, and prices can vary. For instance, if you plan to visit in December around Christmas, you can attend several special events in Magic Kingdom.
Similarly, Epcot hosts international festivals frequently, so those could be interesting.
Look into park ticket prices to know what to expect for the dates you plan to visit. More importantly, check park reservation availability for the dates.
2. Research Lodging Options
After researching the Disney World parks, explore your lodging options inside and outside Disney World. Staying at a Disney World resort has several benefits, like early access and free parking at parks.
However, Disney resorts can be expensive, especially during holidays or summers.
That said, Disney value resorts are affordable and should present a viable option for staying within the resort if your budget is tight.
Also, search for hotels outside the resort and check if they offer transportation to the parks.
3. Decide Your Budget
Now that you’ve researched and know how much the trip may cost, decide on a budget. This will help you avoid unnecessary expenses and keep the spending in check before and during the visit.
Five Months Before the Trip
Your research phase is done, and you’re ready to start preparing.
1. Finalize Traveling Dates and Parks
Once you’ve researched the parks, you should decide which parks you want to visit. This will depend mostly on the number of days you want to visit, which may depend on your budget.
As you decide the parks you want to visit and the number of days for your trip, finalize the dates you’ll spend in Disney World. This is all the more important if you’re visiting outside of any holidays, as you may need to get days off from work.
Leave some wiggle room in the dates because you never know if you need to move the plan ahead or delay it by a few days.
You may also want to change dates slightly if tickets or flights are cheaper for some other dates.
Disney World can be very busy at certain times of the year, so ensure you know when it’s busy and when you may find it least crowded, especially if you don’t like crowds and want to avoid long queues.
2. Prepare Travel Documents
If you’re not a US citizen or resident traveling to Disney World from overseas, look into what travel documents you need to visit.
Do you require a visa or electronic authorization (ESTA)? If you’re from a country that requires a US visa, apply now so you have secured it before you make final plans and book things.
You can contact a US embassy or consulate in your country or visit their website to learn about travel requirements.
3. Book Flights
Five months before your intended travel date is good enough to start looking for flights if you’re flying into Orlando.
While Orlando Airport is the nearest, Tampa Airport can also be used to get to Disney World.
So do your research and find the best flights for your trip. This step can be delayed if you prefer to book flights after you have booked park tickets and made reservations.
Four Months Before the Trip
Finally, it’s time to buy admission tickets and book accommodation:
1. Buy Park Tickets and Make Park Reservations
You can buy Disney World park admission tickets 120 days in advance. Book the tickets for your trip dates from a reliable source.
Don’t buy tickets from marketplaces like eBay, as tickets are typically non-transferrable.
You need to make park reservations after you’ve booked admission tickets. Guests must have valid admission and reservation for the specific date and park.
2. Book Accommodation
Now that your trip dates are confirmed and park tickets booked, you can book your hotel. You probably know what type of hotel you want to stay at, so book one that meets your budget.
You can find hotels on Agoda, Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Priceline. Use Skyscanner or Kayak to compare prices on different sellers.
Three Months Before the Trip
With major bookings done, it’s time to book other things:
1. Buy Dining Plan/Reserve Dining
This is the perfect time to plan and reserve any dining experiences. Disney World resorts and parks have great restaurants that offer themed dining experiences.
You can explore dining options at Disney World. If you plan to dine at any table-service restaurant, you can make reservations for them during your visit.
Character dining is very popular in Disney World parks, so make sure to reserve that now or else you may not find openings nearer to your travel dates.
Table-service restaurants can be expensive, so pay attention to the menu prices and see if they fit your budget.
2. Purchase Any Add-Ons
If there are any other services you want to avail of during your time at Disney World, you can buy them now.
For instance, you can purchase Disney Genie+ service to enjoy Lightning Lane passes and other perks.
Similarly, you can book other important things like a stroller rental (if you’re not bringing your own) or a wheelchair for any disabled guests.
This is also the best time to book any special event ticket.
Two Months Before the Trip
You’re almost there; now it’s time to finalize things further:
1. Make Final Payments
If you put in a deposit for a Disney resort or other hotel, you’ll need to pay the balance to finalize your booking. Similarly, if you haven’t yet paid for other bookings, it’s best to confirm now.
2. Arrange Transport
Two months in advance is a good time to arrange transport to and from the parks. If you’re flying into Orlando, you should shop for airport transfers.
Unfortunately, Disney no longer offers its airport transfer service. You can make arrangements if you’re driving to the parks in a rental.
One Month Before the Trip
One month before your Disney World trip is just for packing and buying anything you’re missing.
1. Create a Packing List
Create a list of what you will take with you to the park. Check what you can and cannot bring into Disney World parks and resorts.
Also, consider the weather during your trip and pack clothing and accessories accordingly.
Once you create a packing list, you’ll know what you need to buy to take with you. Order online or shop in-store as early as possible so you don’t forget anything from your list.
2. Make Arrangements for Home/Pets/Members Not Traveling
You should consider making arrangements for house sitting or pet sitting. Similarly, make care arrangements for any members of the household that require assistance and are not traveling with you.
The timeline described in this article is appropriate for planning a well-thought trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth.
It would be best if you considered starting planning for six months and finishing all the bookings three to two months in advance.
This timeline allows you to plan things in your free time, like the weekends or evenings after work, without spending too many hours.
Avoid leaving any bookings/reservations for the last minute because you never know about availability and prices.
And concerning prices, planning well ahead will most likely allow you to get the best prices for everything. Don’t wait too long for prices to go down, either.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Days Should I Spend in Disney World?
If you’re planning a trip to Disney World, the number of days you spend there depends on how many parks you want to visit and your budget.
One day at one park is good enough, so if you want to visit all four parks, you should spend at least four days.
If you’re short on budget or pressed for time, you can spend two days and visit two theme parks of your choice.
Is It Cheaper To Book Disney World in Advance?
Disney park and hotel prices vary based on demand and are typically more expensive nearer to the dates and for busy months like June, July, November, and December.
Booking Disney World tickets four to three months in advance can help you find discounts if you’re lucky.
How Much Does a Full Day at Disney World Cost?
The day cost at Disney World varies depending on a few factors, like where you’re staying, what you spend on dining, and whether you use additional services such as Lightning Lane passes.
Excluding the cost of getting to Disney World Orlando, a day in one theme park can cost anywhere from $250 to $500 per person.
This includes park admission, snacks, meals, and a night’s stay at a budget to medium hotel.