Our Disney World Vacation Planning Timeline

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Magic Bands

There is a LOT that goes into planning a Walt Disney World vacation, and trying to keep track of it all can be confusing! But fear not – as we’re here to help!

Check out my Disney World vacation planning timeline to help ensure you don’t forget anything when it comes to your trip:

When Should I Book My WDW Trip?

First and foremost, you have to book your vacation! You might not be sure how far in advance to book your trip, and I personally go by the “as early as possible” rule – I try to book my trip online about a year beforehand – gives me plenty of time to get ready (and to save up some souvenir money, too!). Disney has generally released package dates for the following year around late June – so for example – package rates (to include room/tickets/dining) for 2017 were released in late June of 2016 – and that has been the trend for the past several years. I do recommend you stay at a WDW owned Resort – it makes things a lot easier logistics wise (for more on that and why staying at a WDW Resort Hotel is the best, check this out). I also recommend you create your WDW online account at the time of booking, so that you can have that all set early on (if you book online, you will have already done this – but if you go through a travel agent or do it via phone you will want to do this as an additional step!)

Advanced Dining Reservation Day

When you talk to people about Disney vacation planning, you might hear terms like “ADR” and “180 days” thrown around – and that is referring to the fact that Disney allows you to book your sit down meals 180 days in advance with the Advance Dining Reservation system. While you may be thinking “How can I book meals 6 months in advance?” – and I agree it can sound a bit weird to think about, trust me when I say – its necessary! Spots for popular restaurants and character meals fill up FAST – so I highly recommend you take advantage of the ability to book in advance. Read more about ADR’s here.


Around 6 months out from the trip is also when I like to plan out my transportation – it’s a good time to decide how you want to get there – will you drive, or fly? Taking into consideration the size of your party and how much gear you might need to bring are good ways to help you nail down the answer to that question – and once you have, you can start looking at driving routes, or checking out plane ticket prices. I usually will look once a week or so and see what the prices are like for plane tickets (as we live in upstate NY – so driving isn’t usually our first choice!), and I normally end up booking them about 3-4 months in advance. Once I have that confirmation information from the airline, I can also get my Magical Express reservations setup too (Magical Express is Disney’s Free airport shuttle service for guests staying at one of their WDW owned resorts – just another perk of staying on WDW property!)

Fastpass+ Reservations

Disney has been using Fastpasses for years – and recently it has gone the way of everything else these days – with online access! You can book up to 3 rides per day with the fastpass+ system before your trip (60 days before if you’re staying on WDW property, 30 days if you have purchased theme park tickets only through Disney), and that information will all be stored on your Magic Band as well as within the Disney World smartphone app (so you can pull it up if you forget the times you chose!). For those not familiar – Fastpass is a way to basically “cut the line” on popular attractions, by booking a “spot” on the ride within a certain hour-long window. As long as you arrive at the ride within that hour, you are able to enter through the Fastpass line – which is MUCH shorter than the standby line, and it allows you to enjoy your favorite rides with little to no wait. To know what rides you will want to do on which days, you might want to think about making an Itinerary around this time as well – read more about how to do that here

Magic Band Customization/Shipping

A Magic Band is a bracelet you wear while in WDW that contains your room key, park tickets, fastpass and ADR information, and they can also be set up to charge purchases to a credit card, too. Additionally, you can customize your magic bands so each person’s has their name and a different color, and best of all – they will be sent right to your house about a month before your trip so you have them ready to go before you even arrive. I recommend you customize them all at the same time you do your Fastpass+ reservations – so that it will all be good to go well in advance

When to pack

I am big on lists – so I like to make a list for packing about a month in advance of my Disney trip – that way I have time to get things I might need like sunscreen, a new swimsuit, batteries for the camera, etc – it’s a LOT easier than running around last minute, trust me on that! Speaking of packing – here’s some more items you will want to make sure you bring along with you.

Hopefully this guide will help you nail down some of the major planning pieces of your WDW trip. I like to do as much planning and preparation in advance as I can – I find that it really allows me to spend more time having FUN once I arrive at Disney World – and isn’t that really the point? So this timeline = less stress, more fun!


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Catie Hiltz is an avid Walt Disney World lover who has been vacationing there since she was tall enough to ride Space Mountain. She believes there is something for everyone at WDW-and especially writing about the benefits of vacationing there as an adult
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