Are you considering a trip to Disney, but are concerned about the Disney World Planning? There are a lot of steps including paying for tickets, resserving your park pass, plus getting a dining reservation. But with our simple step-by-step process, it can be very simple and EASY to plan for Disney World. We’ve even included a free printable Disney World Planning Sheet.
Are you overwhelmed with the thought of planning a trip to Disney World? There are a lot of choices and even more information out there telling you what to do and what not to do. It can be overwhelming! And ever since C0v1d there are extra steps and more crowds too. But planning a trip to Disney World can be simple. I promise! Just use my convenient Disney World Planning Form and follow these 6 straight forward step and you will easily plan a stress free and magical Disney vacation for your family. (And in case you were wondering: How Much Does it Cot to go to Disney World)
Disney World Planning in 6 Simple Steps
1. Pick a Date and Reserve Resort
If at all possible, you want to start planning your Disney vacation 8-12 months before you’d like to go. This allows you to not only get your first pick of resorts which are filling up quicker and quicker, but allows you to ask for time off of work too. If Disney decides to throw out a special offer of up to 25% off hotel stays as has been their only offer since the p@ndemic, you can get those applied to your reservation by your travel agent!
What Hotel will you Stay at?
- 8 Reasons to Stay at a Disney World Hotel
- Is a Moderate Hotel Worth it?
- Disney World Hotels for Families of 5+ (including Art of Animation Family Suites)
- Art of Animation – Disney Hotel Review
- Length: How Long to Stay at Disney World
- Best Time to Visit Disney World
- When to Take Kids to Disney World to help you plan the perfect time for your Disney family vacation. Plus don’t miss how to keep costs down!
- What the weather will be
- What rides are closed for refurbishment.
2. Make a Plan and Make Park Pass Reservations (Required!)
At least 6 months out you need a game plan – what park are you visiting on which day, which dining reservations are you going to want to grab when it gets closer, etc. Why plan so far in advance? Ever since the parks reopened they use a park pass system to ensure they have a better handle on capacity. The good part is you wont be turned away at the gate on Thanskgiving day because they filled up 30 minutes after opening. Theoretically it means you can see what parks are going to be crowded (because they are sold out) and you can adjust your schedule to not be at that crowded park. In reality, it lets Disney see the demand and adjust their cost (each day can have a different cost for tickets based on demand) and staffing according. According to Disney this is not going away so make sure to make a park pass reservation as soon as possible, but at least 6 months out. No pass, you don’t get in even if you have a ticket! You can see park pass availability for planning purposes!
Planning 6 months out also allows you to order matching family t-shirts if you are into that kind of family fun =) THere are tons of styles on etsy with all sorts of sizes and colors.
NOTE: As of now, you cannot use your park hopper to move to a second park until 2pm. So plan your days accordingly if you choose to pay for the upgrade.
3. Reserve Disney Dining 60 days in Advance
Ever since the closures, they only allow dining reservation 60 days in advance. In some ways I like it better, you can plan a “last minute” trip and still have a shot at getting into your favorite restaurant, but the reservations are harder to get than ever. You need to set your calendar to remind you at EXACTLY 60 days before you arrive, 6am EST to book those meals. If you have a package you will be able to book all dates beginning with 60 days from your first night. That means you will get a headstart of 60 days + how many days you are there. So… some more coveted restaurants may be sold out before your 60 days even open. Try to grab those fro the end of your stay. The best Disney World Restaurants will book up far, far in advance; even more than 60 days out because of the 60 + 10 day trip means people have been reserving them for up to 70 days in advance. So whether you plan on eating a lot of meals at Disney World parks or just picking a couple special restaurants to visit during your tip, you need to pick them and reserve them 60 days in advance.
Not sure which reservations are “the good” ones; here are some suggestions and review to help you decide:
- Top 5 Disney World Character Dining
- Best Quick Service Restaurants at Disney World
- 12 Restaurants Worth Visiting at Disney World
- Disney’s Be Our Guest Restaurant is a Don’t Miss!
- Disney World Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
- Disney’s Polynesian Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
- 8 Best Snack Credits for Disney Dining – Magic Kingdom
4. Make a Day-by-Day Plan
You will want to have a plan in hand before you go to Disney World or you won’t know what park to visit which day, what rides to start with, or even the hours the park is open. If not you could spend all day debating about what ride to do next, just assume you will ride most all rides! But you need to have a plan of attack, which rides to do first, which ones to prioritze, do you want to add in shows, etc. Use my free printable Disney Planning Form at the bottom of this page and make your plan. (Make plans 2 months in advance once you have your dining secured and park hours have been announced)
- Print off a Park-by-Park Touring Plan and get familiar with with park:
- Magic Kingdom (with free printable 1 day Touring Plan or 2-3 Day Touring Plan)
- Epcot (with free printable 1/2 day Touring Plan OR 1 day Touring Plan)
- Disney Hollywood Studios (with free printable 1/2 day Touring Plan OR 1 day Touring Plan)
- Animal Kingdom (with free printable 1/2 day Touring Plan OR 1 day Touring Plan)
- Disney World Planning Tips: (here are my best planning tipos)
5. Genie+ and Lightening Lane Planning on each Day
Sadly, the days of the FREE Disney World Fastpass+ system are gone. They have been replaced with a paid version that costs $15 per day or more per guest. The 2 premium (most popular) attractions in each park are not included in the Genie+. To experience these rides without waiting in line you will need to purchase a timed Lightening Lane for every guest – the cost fluctuates based on the day you visit and demand. You can pay up to $22 per person for a timed entry to Star Wars Rise of the Resistance!
Genie+ works a lot like the old Fastpass+ system including using your Magic Band (or ticket), Genie+ special que to access the attraction, and reserve availability on the mobil ap. Like the Fastpass+ system you may only experience 2-3 attractions on busy days or depending on what attractions you choose. But you cannot reserve them ahead like the old system. In addition, you should know that you can only experience a Genie+ for each ride ONCE. You cannot repeat a ride. But you can hop to another park and continue to use your Genie+ on those rides too.
- 7am Make first selection – hotel guests can make their first selection before the parks open! I suggest grabbing Slinky Dog at Hollywood Studios or an equally popular attraction like Peter Pan at Magic Kingdom.
- After you use your first Genie+ selection (or 2 hours after the park opens) you can use your phone to select your next ride. Select another major ride! If you choose Buzz Lightyear it will be available quicker, but Splash Mountain could be gone for the day.
- Use your 2nd Genie + selection and while still in line (after scanning) start booking your next experience. At this point you will take what you can get. If you are lucky you will be able to do the round again, but somedays you may only get 3.
- HINT: You can make selections for other parks, but the 2 hour wait time between selections if you haven’t alreayd ridden applies
So is it worth it?
- For a family of 4 you are talking $60 extra cost to your day for Genie+, $140 if you do Genie+ with one popular Lightening Lane EEK! It can add up quickly.
- WIthout it, you will spend precious time waiting in line. So for popular rides it does make the day more enjoyable and allow you to experience more in a day. But like I shared, it is expensive!
- If you are going for limited time and have the $ it may be worth it for you…. but for those of us who remember the good old days when it was included are having a hard time swallowing this added expense in addition to the fact you can’t plan them ahead and there is no guarantee how many you will get to experience. I’ve heard horror stories of guests only getting to use ONE! But then again, I’ve used it and successfully ridden 5-6 things in a park before hopping to the next park and enjoyin 3 more.
- There are some additional perks like special photo lenses that are fun to play with and stories (I’ve never used those)
Note: You do NOT need to puchase Genie+ AND Lightening Lane if you only want to experience Space Mountain.
6. Pack for Disney World
Packing for Disney is fun because it means it’s almost time to go on vacation! I suggest taking a peak at this Printable Disney Packing List 2-3 weeks before you are going to make sure you have everything. It seems like someone is always running low on socks, has holes in all their shorts, or something. I like wearing matching colors on park days no only for pretty pictures, but more importantly it is easier to see my family if we are all wearing yellow =)
HINT: Because of how much you will use your phone for pictures, checking time, using the Genie system (ride wait times, dining reservations, possibly Genie+ rides or Lightening Lane) you will drain your phone battery quickly. I HIGHLY suggest bringing a portable phone charger.
Once you know you have everything you can pack 3-7 days early to make sure everything fits in the suitcase, is within your airline weight limits, and is accounted for.
- 5 Things you’ll Want to Bring on a Disney Vacation
- FREE Disney World Stroller Labels
- Traveling with Children: 24 Tips for Flying with Kids
Have a GREAT Disney World Vacation!
Editable Disney World Planning Guide
Get organized and don’t miss a step as you plan for your next family vacation in Disney world with this convenient free printable Disney World planning sheet.