YOUR SIMPLE PLANNING GUIDE TO DISNEY WORLD
*Please note that as of Dec, 2021, Fast Pass was replaced by Disney Genie, a service that is charged per day. This post has not been updated based on the new changes.*
With so many options, planning a trip to Disney World can be overwhelming.
If you follow this, you will be set for your Disney adventure with as little hassle and stress as possible! I have included links to take you to more information on the relevant pieces, so click them to find out more!
The first thing to do when booking your trip is to pick some dates. I would recommend booking your trip about 6 months or more in advance if you're dead set on getting everything organized prior to, as well as to keep an eye on the cheapest flights.
I won't tell you to check out crowd calendars (calendars that determine the busiest days in each park for any given day) because I always expect Disney World to be packed and if everyone picks the least busy days to visit, well, I figure it would end up busy anyway.
...that being said, peaking at the least busy times won't hurt.
6+ MONTHS IN ADVANCE
Once you have your dates, grab your Disney World tickets. We would recommend not purchasing a Park Hopper Pass (the flexible pass allowing you to hop between multiple parks in a single day) as each park is worth a full day, and switching between them only eats up precious Disney hours.
Plus, it costs more $$$.
We also recommend looking into Disney World resort accommodation as your first choice. It is pricier than alternative accommodation, but we really can't say enough about the PERKS.
Magic Bands are the wrist band that will serve as your tickets, your Fast Passes, your credit card, and so much more.
*If you want a color other than grey, customize them in the Disney app/website at least 30 days before your trip. There is no option to switch your basic colored Magic Band to a special designed band, only to choose your color.
2. Free airport pick up and drop off on the Magical Express
Arrange 30 days prior to your trip if possible. We did it two weeks out and although we didn't receive our tickets in the mail in time, there was no issue getting us on board the bus.
3. Free transport to and from the parks, with no parking hassle or cost
4. Eligible to use Extra Magic Hours
Extra Magic Hours are when a park has an additional hour or two open to resort guests either in the morning or evening. These vary, and generally make the park that has them a bit busier on the given day, but are worth it if you would like to enjoy additional time in the parks.
5. Ability to book Fast Passes an additional 30 days prior to guests not staying on the resorts
Fast Passes are basically your Get-Out-Of-Line-Free Card. You get three Fast Passes in one park per day, and once you have used up all three that day you are able to book additional ones if available.
6. Ability to send any purchases directly back to your resort from the shops in the parks
If you plan on buying any souvenirs, rather than carry them around all day you can have them sent directly back to your resort and pick them up later.
Now that you know you want to stay on the resort, how to choose your accommodation?
If you are like us, hotels are a luxury and not a necessity. So, if you don't mind roughing it in a tent or if you are able to drive and bring a trailer, the cheapest and best spot for you will be the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds.
I'll admit we were the only ones in a two man tent, but we didn't care-- we were at Disney!
Plus, the resort itself is as incredible as one would expect for a Disney resort, with multiple swimming pool locations and places to eat.
So, after checking out your options, now is the time to book your Disney resort accommodation. Don't forget your flights if you haven't already booked them.
Lastly, you'll need to do your homework and start to decide if you want any dining reservations. Without going too much into it, certain restaurants are sit down dining (known as Table Service), rather than what is known as Quick Service meals. These should be booked ASAP (up to a maximum of 180 days out) if you are interested in any, as certain bookings go quickly and won't be available closer to your trip. Check out the Disney website list of Table Service restaurants.
A good example of this is Be Our Guest, the much sought after dining reservation at Beast's Castle in Magic Kingdom.
Some Table Service dining have character meet and greets that may take place during certain services as well, making them a popular choice for a meal.
6-2 MONTHS IN ADVANCE
For many, their dining reservations determine which park they will go to on any given day, though we didn't follow our own advice and based our days largely off of Extra Magic Hours.
If you are trying to decide what order to do the parks, our tried and true method was to put the park we were most hyped on toward the back, and the one we were "least" excited about (there really wasn't one) at the beginning. While doing this, look at when Extra Magic Hours are and try to align your park schedule with these extra hours to get the most out of your day!
I would recommend a full day per park, with one extra day for Magic Kingdom or your park of choice.
Once you have a flexible idea of which park you will be in on each day, it is time to start digging into which Fast Passes you are most excited for and compile a list of your top choices for each park/day.
If you are wanting some Disney gear to rep in the Parks, purchase online and get prior to your time in the parks!
2 MONTHS IN ADVANCE
Set some alarms on your phone, because if you are staying on the resort, now is the time to book your Fast Passes!
*Fast Passes for non resort guests can be booked 30 days in advance of their tickets, whereas resort guests are able to book Fast Passes 60 days prior to their first day in the park. This gives guests staying longer a small advantage: if you book 6 nights in the resort, you really get to book your first days Fast Passes 60 days in advance, and Fast Passes for the last day about 66 days in advance. This is why we recommend placing the parks you are most excited about towards the end of your stay.
The other note about Fast Passes is that, once you have used the three you book in advance, you are able to add more Fast Passes to your schedule in the Disney World app. This means that generally you would be benefited by making your Fast Passes slightly earlier in the day. We tried to get Fast Passes for late morning-early afternoon to ensure we had the opportunity to book more if available, as well as miss some of the midday line ups in the heat.
These will be the final nail in your schedule to confirm which park you will be in on which day. With this sorted, you can start crafting your days to ensure you don't miss a single thing on your Disney bucket list!
*I will update this post with my itinerary when I share it.
1 MONTHS IN ADVANCE
Disney World is getting so close! Close enough to book your Magical Express transport from the airport to your Disney resort.
Don't forget to make sure you have customized your Magic Band with the color of your choice!
Now is also the time to ensure you have a fully fleshed out packing list so that you aren't stressed when the time comes to head on your Disney vacay.
If you plan on meeting any characters, I recommend making sure you have an autograph book and sharpie on your packing list and ready to go to grab their signatures! Or try something unique like a photo insert for a frame!
1 WEEK IN ADVANCE
Make sure you have an itinerary saved on your device, and a physical copy if you are a paper person.
Now is the time to get your bags packed! These were some of the basics we needed on our trip (depending on the time of year, we would stress the need for adequate rain gear):
Sleeping gear (floor mats, pillows, and sleeping bags)
Accessories (Disney accessories, watches, jewellery)
Cash and credit cards
Refillable water bottles
Autograph book & sharpie
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Shampoo & conditioner
If you follow this checklist to plan your Disney adventure, we hope your Disney trip will be as effortless as it is enjoyable! As always, let us know your tips and advice in the comments, as well as any thoughts on our guide! Have a magical time!