Are you a Disneyland fan heading to Walt Disney World for the first time? Check out this guide to Disney World in Orlando, designed specifically for Disneylanders. Tips for handling the details of the differences between the two resorts, from distances to hotels to park touring strategies. #disney #disneyworld #disneyland #disneysmmc #disneydeciphered

Episode 47 – Walt Disney World Planning Timeline


It’s a new year, which means it’s time to start planning Walt Disney World vacations for 2019! Wondering what a Disney World planning timeline looks like? Disney Deciphered has you covered. Everything you need to know about planning your Disney vacations and important dates you need to keep in mind. Let us help you with your planning guide map!

If you like what you hear/read, please share the podcast and the site with others you think might enjoy it. Also, we’d appreciate if you subscribed on iTunesStitcherSpotifyTuneInPlayerFM, iHeartRadio, or Google Play, liked our Facebook page, or followed us on Twitter or Pinterest!

Planning a Disney World vacation? Never miss important deadlines again - Fastpass+ booking dates, dining reservation windows - with this handy planning guide and timeline. #disneyworld #disney #disneydeciphered

Our Overall Disney World Planning Timeline

One way to look at your Disney World planning timeline is like a checklist. There are certain things that you have to do while planning your vacation and a lot of things that might make your trip easier. Here’s our list of benchmarks to hit in semi-chronological order.

  • Decide when you want to visit Walt Disney World
  • Book flights and lodging
  • Book dining reservations
  • Buy tickets
  • Book Fastpass+ reservations and roughly plan your park days
  • Decide between Disney transportation or renting a car
  • Have a magical time!

While this list isn’t exhaustive (there is plenty of minutiae to get into), if you cover these steps you’ll be well prepared for your trip. Let’s take a look at each of these steps in detail.

Pandora World of Avatar - Floating Islands
(Photo Credit | Leslie Harvey)

Deciding when to visit Walt Disney World

The first thing you need to do is plan when to visit Walt Disney World. Due to the amount of planning involved in the cost, it’s never too soon to decide when to go! In general, you’ll avoid crowds if you go when kids aren’t in school, for obvious reasons.

You should also check to see if Disney World is having any special events during the time you’re thinking of going, which may or may not make you want to change your dates. We personally like to go during off times but realize sometimes that’s impossible. For more tips, check out our episode on when to visit Walt Disney World.

Booking Flights and Hotels

Outside of your park tickets, your largest cost likely will be flights and hotels. If you live within driving distance, you’ll only have to worry about parking fees (either at the parks or on site hotels), but if you have to fly, it’s important to start looking for good prices early.

One thing we recommend doing is using Kayak or Google Flights to monitor flight prices. Both websites can send you daily or weekly prices for the flights you want. Generally, we set a price point in our head that we’d be happy with and book the flights when they hit that point. Note 1-2 months out is usually the cheapest domestic airfare gets, though if you’re traveling during the holidays the window likely is earlier than that.

For hotels you need to decide between on or off site hotels. However, most hotels offer fully refundable rates, including Disney hotels. We recommend booking a hotel you’d be happy with but monitoring prices as your trip approaches and changing if you find something better or cheaper (or both!).

(Photo Credit | Joseph Cheung)

Booking Dining Reservations

Disney opens up dining reservations 180 days in advance. So if you have your heart set on eating anywhere, make sure you book your reservations as far in advance as possible. Don’t worry, you can cancel them without penalty up until 24 hours before your reservation – just don’t forget to cancel if you change your mind!

Related: Snagging hard to get dining reservations and our favorite character meals

Interactive Dining - Trader Sams
(Photo Credit | Leslie Harvey)

Buying Tickets at a Discount

After grabbing dining reservations six months out, it’s time to start looking for tickets at a discount. First, you need to decide how many park tickets you might need. You should definitely consider a day away from the parks, so bear that in mind.

Once we’re ready to buy tickets, we like to use sites like Undercover Tourist to save some money. Touring Plans also has a great ticket finder that will help you find the cheapest tickets available for your dates and parameters.

Booking Fastpass+ Reservations and Coming up with a Plan

After you’ve purchased tickets, you’ll want to book your Fastpass+ reservations at 60 days (if staying on site) or 30 days out. We generally recommend planning your park days and order depending on what Fastpass+ reservations you can get. We also recommend you try to get reservations for early in the day so you can use your “rolling” fourth Fastpass+ reservation as soon as possible.

Learn how to master Disney World's Fastpass+ system in this beginner's guide to Fastpass. #disneyworld #disney #disneysmmc #fastpass

Choosing Transportation Methods

Finally, as your trip approaches, you need to decide whether to take Disney transportation or rent a car or something else. With car rentals, make sure to keep checking prices, either on your own or with Autoslash. As long as you don’t book a non-refundable car, you can keep looking for a cheaper price.

If you’re taking Disney transportation, be sure to call and make your Magical Express reservation. You can also do this online.

After that, you just have to pack and go have a magical trip!

Did we miss anything that you like to do when you plan a Disney vacation? Let us know in the comments or on social media!

Disney World Transportation - Magical Express

Episode Description

It’s January which means many of us are starting to plan our Walt Disney World vacations. In today’s episode, Leslie and Joe map out their Disney World planning timelines and discuss all the key dates you need to remember when you’re planning your Disney vacation. While planning isn’t one size fits all, the episode should help you figure out what you need to do before your trip.

If you like what you hear, please share the podcast with others you think might enjoy it. Also, we’d appreciate if you subscribed on iTunesStitcherSpotify, TuneIn, PlayerFMiHeartRadio, or Google Play (please leave a positive review if you’re enjoying the show), liked our Facebook page, or followed us on Twitter!

You can also e-mail us at disneydeciphered AT gmail DOT com. Connect with Leslie @TripswithTykes on social media and Joe @asthejoeflies.

Episode Notes

Touring Plans Planning Timeline

2:03 – Flights and hotels

6:39 – Disney Vacation Club rental deadlines

7:47 – Dining reservations

11:31 – Tickets and Fastpass+ window

13:00 – Deciding your park visit order

16:55 –  Magic bands and Magical Express

18:04 – Finalizing your flight/hotel

19:58 – Car rentals

20:52 – Disney dos and don’ts

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