This post is long overdue in my Disney Planning series! This was a requested post that I really wanted to do, but I also wanted to make sure it was comprehensive and helpful to any Disney first-timers. This list is going to assume you are traveling to Disney from out of state and booking everything through them! So here it is- all the steps I take to books a Disney trip!
I do all of my planning/booking direct through Disney so my first advice to is make a My Disney Experience account to mange your vacation. (It’s free and you need it to make reservations/payments/fast passes/check in etc)
Pick time of year/month/days you can and want to go! If you’re flexible, I suggest shopping around for the cheaper times of year if you can. January and September are gonna be your best deals. And staying during the week as opposed to weekends will save you as well.
Next, you’ll need to pick the hotel you want to stay at! There are so many options, play around a little on the Disney website and check out prices to see what’s in your budget. I also highly reccomend looking at location/pictures of the resort, how many people you need to accommodate and checking out reviews on specific resorts from Disney Bloggers.
You will need to decide if you want to buy your tickets along with your hotel reservation or wait. I prefer to add them to my hotel to make a package. When you do a package, you can make incremental payments towards your balance before it’s due (one month before your trip). If you wait to buy your tickets, you pay the full amount at the time of purchase. You will also need to decide if you want a park hopper or one park per day ticket.
Then, book your vacation! Not necessary, but I recommend booking anywhere from 1 year to 6 months out to take advantage of all hotel options. Vacation packages require a $200 down payment. You can make payments (I usually make them monthly) or in one lump sum.
You will also get to choose your Magic Band color you want for each person in your party. Don’t forget to do this so you can all have the color you want!
Although the official park hours do not come out until 180 days in advance, I recommend you pick which days you are going to be at each park before you make dining reservations (180 days out). I like to go into my reservations having a plan on which day I will be in which park. While you won’t know the exact times of park opening/closing, Disney sticks the pretty much the same schedule in terms of Extra Magic Hours, so just look at weeks prior to figure out which days will most likely have Extra Magic hours. You’ll want to maximize your time in the parks and extra magic hours help. (For those that don’t know, Extra Magic hours means that a park opens early or starts open late and only people staying on Disney property can take advantage of them. Not every park has extra magic hours every day).
Somewhere in here you will want to make sure you book your flights! I always start watching prices as soon as I make my Disney reservation (or before!)
You will also need to make your Magical Express reservations as well. Once you know your flight number and days you will need picked up and you have a hotel reservation, you can make your magical express reservation. The bus will take you to and from the airport and your hotel (and it’s all included in your hotel price!)
Then, at 180 days out (I recommend putting this day in your calendar) you can make dining reservations! You can make reservations online starting at 5am CST on this day. It is highly recommended to know where you want reservations and on what days/what time before this though so you aren’t frantic and disorganized! Do your research of menus and go into reservation day with a confident plan (and make a back up plan too!) You can make reservations for every day of your stay on the day you hit 180 days from your first day.
Then at your 60 day out mark (again, put this in your calendar) you can make Fast Pass reservations! Again, plan out which Fast Passes you want on each day, a general time you want them, and make back up plans in case they are already full. I like to plan out my days on a piece of paper with park open times/reservations and figure out a plan of rides so I can choose which rides I want a fast pass for and what time of day. Again do your research on which rides are more important to you!
You will also want to plan your Disney outfits! I order a lot of Disney shirts on Etsy but they do take time to come in so plan ahead if you want custom Disney shirts!
And lastly, you will need to plan your park bag! Are you going to take a purse? A backpack? A Fanny pack? Diaper bag? Stroller? Just nothing but what can fit in your pockets? I always try to pack light when I’m in the park (phone, sunglasses, wallet) but yo may have other needs. So be prepared and think about what you’ll need and what kind of bag with suit you best.
Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your Disney Vacation! It truly is the most magical place on earth. I’m happy to answer any and all Disney questions and give advice.
Thanks for catching up!