How to plan a trip to Disney World

How to plan a trip to Disney World - Planning your vacation from booking to finally experiencing the magic


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In November 2018 I went to Walt Disney World Orlando and it was the best two weeks of my entire life, the magic is unreal and every little moment was full of wonder and intrigue. One of the most important things that improved our experience was the planning that went into the trip beforehand so I thought I'd put a guide together on how to plan a trip to Disney World.

How to plan a trip to Disney World

I pored over the Walt Disney World planning guides online, felt like I knew the Disney parks inside out before I arrived, and had a good idea of what we were doing each day. I did that and while I've read some guides that are genuinely like military precision down to the minute I found a more relaxed approach made it more enjoyable so here's my guide on how to plan a trip to Disney World that you will really enjoy

How to plan a trip to Disney World - Planning Timeline

Post Booking your Disney Trip

Congratulations! You're going to Walt Disney World, whether you've picked WDW Orlando or Disneyland California or Even Disneyland Paris, all the Disney tips and tricks to plan your Disney holiday will be relevant. One of the first things I would do is get a dedicated planning notebook, any notebook will do but I used the Magical Holiday Planner from Stationery Geek*. It helped me plan and make sure I was on track at the right points. It even has sections to compare holiday prices so it would be worth buying before you book. Whether you're going to be planning every minute or just want to have a good overview it helps you keep all your documents in the right place and is small enough to put in your Disney hand luggage

Advanced Dining Packages - 180 days before  

We didn't book any advanced dining packages during our stay at WDW but I know it's an important part for many in their Disney world planning. We didn't do this as it was our first experience here and as I mentioned before I didn't want a military operation so we chose to visit many of the quick-service restaurants. 

It allowed us to keep prices down and also change plans as and when we needed (your plans WILL change you need to roll with it and not get stressed). But, I know for some people they love the table service options, especially the ones offering character dining. 

These can be booked 180 days before you arrive and they will sell out quickly so if you have your heart set on a character breakfast make sure you're on the ball 180 days before your Disney Vacation

When we go back to Disney we'll venture more into the Dining Plan side and make a few reservations, especially at Oga's Cantina which looks next-level incredible

Park Tickets & Magic Bands - 100 days before

Depending on what kind of a holiday you're doing your dining and tickets may already be included in a total package price. If so then you need to look into your magic bands and get these customised and ordered. There are plenty of colour options to choose from as well as getting your name written on there which is perfect for making sure you don't get your bands mixed up. You can also upgrade your bands to super special branded ones for a small price too

You'll get your magic bands on arrival at the Disney Hotel, if you're staying off-site you will need to buy magic bands on your first day there, you can always use fast passes without them but it 1000% makes the process easier. I planned the package myself, I booked the Hotel, Car and Flights via Tui and Park Tickets via Attraction Tickets*. Make sure you do this in advance it will give you the satisfaction once they're in your hand and make it a little more real. Once you have the park tickets I found my planning went into overdrive at each park and making sure I knew what I wanted to do

Fastpass Tickets - 60/30 days before

If you're staying in a Disney hotel, you can book your FastPass tickets 60 days in advance whereas if you're staying offsite it's 30 days. You need to do this ASAP. You get 3 FastPass choices a day and this will help you in your planning because you'll be dictated by what you can book what park you need to be in each day.
Everyone's Disney experience is different and everyone's perfect trip to Disney world is too. The rides you want to go on will differ but some fast passes you really need to look out for (as the queues can be crazy long). First things first you'll need the My Disney Experience app to book your rides here are the ones I recommend you to book
  • Hollywood studios - Slinky Dog Dash, Tower of Terror, Rock N Roller Coaster
  • Epcot - Test Track, Mission: Space, Character Spot
  • Animal Kingdom - Flight of Passage, Kilimanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest
  • Magic Kingdom - Peter Pan's Flight, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain
Personally if you can, book your FastPass tickets between 10am - 3pm. This gives you enough time to get there for rope drop and run to a ride you couldn't get a Fastpass for before your first slot. It also gives you enough time after 3pm to book more slots and make sure you're in a queue towards the end of the day (I joined the queue for Flight of Passage, 30mins before park close.)

Star Wars have their own fast pass process where you need to make sure you're in Hollywood Studios well before opening time to join a boarding group

Daily Itinerary - 30 days before

Once you've got your fast passes booked its much easier to plan a trip to Disney World and get a daily itinerary together. As I mentioned I didn't want a planned by the minute itinerary as I wanted to stumble across things and truly explore, it worked for me and here's the format we followed:

Day: 
Park:
Fastpass Times:
Must not miss:
Eating Options:
Parade / Fireworks: 

By using our Fastpass slots to help plan, we could make a clear list of what else we didn't want to miss so we knew where to head first, we knew when the fireworks would start and we allowed our food to be dictated by where our next Fastpass was. Is it the best way to explore? Probably not, we probably missed a whole heap of stuff but the freedom allowed us to have fun and there was no stressing over where we were supposed to be. It's also a good idea to have ideas of cheaper things to do in Orlando for if you fancy a day away from the parks (it can be intense)

Almost There - 10 days to go 

Really simple tips for your last 10 days
  • Plan your packing, make sure you have everything you'll need. Have it done well in advance so you can keep adding things that you remember
  • Print everything from hotel reservations to park tickets to itinerary guides that you're going to need. Get a binder chuck it all in and have this in your hand luggage
  • Prepare for a long haul flight using my tips to make the journey enjoyable
  • Make sure your app is all set up, fast passes are booked and you have a general idea of what you're doing in each park
Most importantly - HAVE FUN!!!
You can get so into how to plan a trip to Disney world, organising and making sure you have the most perfect holiday but if you're too busy planning over enjoying it will definitely show. Relax and take in the magic

How to plan a trip to Disney World


Have you been to Walt Disney World? 
What's your top Disney Tip?