Planning Your Disney Trip in 10 Steps

Thinking about taking a trip to Walt Disney World? Well many people who are inexperienced with all the in's and out's of the "Steps To Magic" way of doing things!

Step 1: Budget (Plan about 12-14 months out)

Sunrise over Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom park

The details of your experience start and end with your budget. Remember to take into account where you're travelling from and how long you're planning on staying at WDW. Play on the WaltDisneyWorld.com website, as this gives you a good idea about what your preliminary budget could look like. Start with your possible dates of travel, resort choices, ticket types and a dining plan. The website automatically calculates a total for your vacation, with a ton of extra features along the way.

Step 2: Decide on Dates of Travel (12 months out)

A brightly lit sign reads: ‘Mickey’s Boo To You! Halloween Parade’

We've evolved from the "Slow" and "Busy" seasons into a "Steady" season and "Just Don't Do it" season. Do you have vacation time that doesn't ever change (teachers, etc) or are you able to choose your time? Do you have something that you'd like to do that is a seasonal offering, such as the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, Food and Wine Festival or Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party? Basically, our favorite time to visit WDW is in January-early March and the last 3 weeks of September...with a few sprinklings of dates in April/May and November.

Step 3: Reserve your Accommodations/Resorts (9-12 months out)

The Uzima Pool area at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, lit up at night

Your goal is to find the resort that will work with your plan. Are you thinking about spending all your time in the parks? Then a 'Value Resort' may work for you. If you have a family and want to take naps mid-day, you may want to consider a resort within walking distance of a park, like the Yacht and Beach Resorts. Most of the options are based around your price range, but you should definitely think about things like resort amenities, transportation options, and dining options.

Step 4: Park Tickets (9-12 months out)

Three waterslides at Humunga Kowabunga with Mount Mayday and Miss Tilly in the background

There are a few options, but our suggestions depend on how long you'll be "on-property" and the time of the year.

  • Basic Ticket - which gets you into one park per day.
  • Park Hopper - allows you to go between the four theme parks on each day of your visit.
  • Water Parks Fun & More -  which allows guests to visit the two Disney Water Parks, Mini Golf, ESPN and DisneyQuest.

Step 5: Reserve your Travel

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Waiting til the last minute for deals is always a possibility, but not recommended as tickets can actually become more expensive as time gets closer.

Step 6: Preliminary Plan (7 months out)

A shiny green antique steam locomotive

So, you have your travel dates and resort sorted out. Now let's talk about how you win! You'll want to plan out which Table Service restaurants you'll want to make Advanced Dining Reservations at, which FastPass+ attractions you'll want to secure and which parks you'll be at on which days. Yes it seems like a lot, but you'll be thankful that you spent an hour or so on this plan before you're 180 days out (ADR's) and 60 days out (FastPass+).

Step 7: Secure Dining Reservations (180 Out...just put it on your calendar)

A variety of displayed desserts and pastries

ADRs (or Advanced Dining Reservations) are available 180 days out from your reservation date. When you're planning, it's important to have a plan about your dining, because some restaurants are just too popular to walk up to. We've put a list of the Top ADR's to get ASAP which will help with this important date in your trip planning.

Step 8: Reserve your FastPass+ Attractions (60 Days Out...calendar item!)

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Log onto your MyDisneyExperience account and choose your travel dates, then you start to play! 

Step 9: Pack and Re-Pack (Week Out)

Panoramic view of Camera Center façade in Future World at Epcot

Make a list, check it twice...and then think about what you need to have delivered by Amazon or Walmart. Remember to put the following on your list:

  • Chargers (you can never have too many)
  • Sunglasses (you will lose them, usually on an attraction like Expedition Everest)
  • Bandages for ankle blisters (you'll walk around 20,000 steps a day...expect sore feet)
  • Sunscreen (you're in Florida....)
  • Water bottle (There are water refilling stations all over the place, in addition to quick service locations that will provide you with tap water)
  • Poncho (Dollar store...because the official ones are a little pricey)

Step 10: Have fun! Disney Magic is created by those who plan properly and aren't overly stressed.

Ariel, the Little Mermaid, hugging a young girl

Being flexible is important, and since you've done all the work beforehand, you'll be good to go. If it rains, it rains. If an attraction goes down, you'll be taken care of by the cast members.