So you’re thinking about taking a vacation to the Place Where Dreams Come True – Walt Disney World? Well – you must be a smart person because that is some good thinking on your part! If you’re considering a trip to Disney, but aren’t sure where to start or what you might need to do, then check out this list of important dates in the “Disney Planning Timeline”:
When To Vacation At Walt Disney World: This is a tough one to answer – as there used to be times where it was less crowded at the Parks, but nowadays that isn’t really the case – but if you want to try to go when it’s less packed, then you might want to invest in the amazing Touring Plans App. Disney also hosts a lot of special events – Halloween and Christmas parties, a food & wine expo, annual flower and garden festival, Star Wars themed weekends, and more – so if one of those interests you, you may want to plan your trip around those specific event dates. If you decide you absolutely can’t miss Disney at Christmastime or can only travel there during the summer or spring break, then you’ll want to check out my tips for dealing with the crowds. Personally – I would pick a late September/early October date – most kids are back in school, and the temperature has dropped a bit from the summer months
When To Book Your Trip: Generally the dates open up for booking through the next year on the Disney World website sometime in June, so even if you aren’t planning on heading to Disney until the fall/holiday season, you can actually book the trip over a full year in advance. Which may seem REALLY far out, but I love taking advantage of this ability to book so far out – gives me time to save up enough money for the trip (not having to worry about money makes a vacation all that much sweeter, doesn’t it?). I recommend you book your trip in June or July, so that you can start getting excited and ramping up for your trip ASAP!
When Payment Is Due: Speaking of paying for your trip…a $200 deposit is due when you book your vacation package through Disney, and then the remainder of the balance is due 45 days prior to your trip. You can go online or call Disney to make payments as often as you like in between booking and the due date (for example, I like to call monthly and pay a few hundred each time). Should you need to cancel your trip (and I hope you will NOT need this info!) – you can do so without penalty up to 45 days before the trip, after that a $200 penalty is taken (and if you cancel 1 day before your trip or simply don’t show, there is no refund at all).
ADR DAY: This is a really important day (at least it is in my house!) – that magical time when it is finally 180 days before your trip, and you can go online (or call Disney!) to make your Advance Dining Reservations, or ADR’s. Not sure what an ADR is? Simply put, it’s not a reservation, but it’s more like “call ahead seating” for a restaurant. You book a time to dine, and when you arrive at the restaurant at that designated time (or a little early if you’re like me….), then you’re put on the list for the next table available for your party. It doesn’t mean you will be instantly seated upon arrival, but it DOES mean you won’t be waiting 2 hours for the *chance* that a table will open up. If you think making these reservations 180 days in advance is unnecessary, and maybe you plan on just winging it and trying to walk up to a character meal while you’re at the Parks….all I can say is good luck. I HIGHLY recommend you do some dining research in the weeks leading up to the 180 day mark – and that you make those ADR’s on that day – you’d be surprised how fast the spots fill up!
Getting Mail From Mickey: When you book your trip on the Disney website, you will then have the ability to customize your Magic Bands, which are bracelets that will act as your key to your WDW Resort, your Park ticket, and your charge account (read more about those here). Typically the Magic Bands will ship about 30 days before your trip and will be mailed to the address on file with Disney (you can check the status of them on the Disney website). For me, when I receive that box in the mail and open the lid to see those Magic Bands tucked in there – that’s when it becomes real and I want to scream “I’M GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!” If you don’t get your Magic Bands and you’re only a few days from your trip, you can call Disney – and they will have them waiting for you at your Resort when you arrive
Pack Early: Once I get those Magic Bands, I start making a list of what else I need to pack for Disney. I like to do this a few weeks before my trip, so that I have time to pick up last-minute items like sunscreen, snacks, warm weather-wear, etc. Once I buy that stuff, I stash it all in one place so that I can grab it all once I start packing (which I like to do about a week before my trip, so that I have time to go through the list slowly and carefully so I don’t forget anything!)
I am a HUGE planner in all aspects of my life – and the ability to organize and plan ahead really helps me out when I am planning my trips to Walt Disney World. For those of you who aren’t as organized, or who are planning your first Disney Trip, I hope this list helps you stay on track and make sure you have everything you need to enjoy your amazing Disney vacation!
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