Planning Your First WDW Trip: Where to Begin?
Planning your first Walt Disney World vacation can definitely be overwhelming – there is so much to do and so much information out there that it’s easy to get buried beneath it all. Luckily, help in planning the trip of your dreams is out there, you just have to know where to look!
Use this timeline as a guide in planning, and while its not all-encompassing, it will give you a place to start and some things you’ll definitely want to do along the way
1 year before your trip: Yes, that’s right, planning a WDW trip can take a year or more (but believe me, its 100% worth it!)! At this time, you should:
-Start doing some research as to where you might want to stay, and think about if you want to stay on property (personally, I always am an advocate for staying on property, the perks like transportation, extra magic hours, Magical Express, and being right in the middle of it all are too good to pass up!), and if so, where you want to stay. For help with that, check out This Article on how to pick your WDW resort
-Make your Budget – Maybe not the most exciting thing to do, but it is definitely an important part to planning a WDW vacation. The reason I like to do this so far in advance of the trip is so I can save up as much as possible, as a trip to WDW isn’t cheap, but its worth all the planning and saving! Some things to include in your budget: hotel, park tickets, car rental/parking, Plane tickets/other transportation, food, tips (this one is important if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, as gratuities at table service restaurants are not included with the plan and will need to be paid out of pocket), souviners, and incidentals/miscellaneous.
*If you make your budget and find that you need to cut somethings out, Check out my tips for Saving money on your WDW vacation
7-8 months before your trip:
-Book it! You’ve budgeted your trip and you know where you want to stay, so it’s time to make your travel plans! As for HOW to go about booking it, you could do it all online yourself, or use a travel agent (not sure if you need one? Check out this article for Travel Agent Tips)
-Research Your Dining Options: This one may seem crazy, like how are you supposed to know what you might want to eat 8 months from now? But trust me, its very important to plan your Advanced Dining Reservations, or ADR’s, as the more popular places full up fast. Chip’s Guide to Disney World Dining and www.disneyworld.com/dining are both good resources for figuring out your ADR’s. Once you pick some places you might like, think about which day and meal you would like to eat there, and make a list of that information so you can have it handy when it’s time to make the reservations
6 months before your trip (180 days to be exact)
-Time to book those ADR’s – so here is a brief rundown on how this works. You have researched what restaurants you want to eat at and have your list handy. 180 days before your trip is when you can make your ADR’s, beginning online at 6am ET and via phone at 7am ET (1/407-WDW-DINE). What is an ADR, exactly, you might be wondering? Well, its basically like call ahead seating, where you arrive at the restaurant at your appointed time and are given a pager, and you’re paged when the next table becomes available
-Book your airline tickets – I have personally found this to be a good time to book a flight, the prices tend to be a little lower, and overall it works out well. This would also be a good time to research how you will actually get to the park, whether it be renting a car or taking a shuttle
From 6 months to 2 months before your trip:
-Research all there is to do – this is a really fun one, it’s time to actually think about all the fun things you will do while you are at Walt Disney World! Research the parks and the rides and the shows and everything else they have to offer. There are TONS of ways to do this, some of my faves are books – Specifically the Passporter Walt Disney World Guide, and also Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World, both of which are full of information in an easy to understand layout, and also the internet can be a great tool. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of Disney World information online, so here are some sites I prefer to do my research on:
Guide to Career Education has a lot of great information available for WDW junkies and others interested in getting into the travel and tourism profession.
-Plan to take some time for yourselves : Whether you are traveling with other adults or with children and the whole family, everyone deserves a little time to themselves on vacation, so take a look at these adult friendly WDW activites and think about incorporating some of them into your trip
1 month before your trip: You’re officially in the home stretch, Mickey is just a hop skip and a jump away! Don’t forget to:
-Make your list of things you need to pack....if you’re having trouble figuring out what you will need, start Here
-Go Shopping! Stock up on the things you know you’ll need, like extra batteries, sunscreen, make sure you have enough of any prescriptions you take, etc (It’s good to plan ahead on these things, especially the ‘essentials’ that cost next to nothing at home cost an arm and a leg at a WDW souvenir shop!)
1 week before your trip:
-Start packing: Utilize that list you made and make extra sure you have everything you need, doing this ahead of time can save you time, money, and headaches down the road!
-Check in online : If you’re staying at one of Walt Disney World’s Resort Hotels, this can be done up to 10 days in advance of your trip, and once you arrive at the Resort there’s a separate (shorter) check in line, and the process is a lot faster than traditional hotel check in
-Confirm ADR’s and transportation: You can check your ADR information online through Disney’s Dining website, and as for transportation, you will want to call your car rental company to make sure they have the correct information and vehicle ready for your arrival (because there’s nothing worse then getting a rental car that’s half the size of the one you were promised…trust me on this one!
-Check out these Last Minute Tips to make sure you’re fully prepared for your WDW vacation
The Day of your trip: Don’t forget to Have Fun, because above all else, you are going to the Happiest Place on Earth, and even if you forget something or forget to plan something, you will have an amazing time!
- Disney World Planning: Traveling with a Large Group. (chipandco.com)
- Spring Break At WDW – How to Deal With the Crowds (chipandco.com)