Planning Your Trip- A Step by Step Guide!

If there is one piece of advice I can give someone traveling to Walt Disney World it is to have a plan. I can certainly appreciate the sentiment that this is a vacation and totally agree that there needs to be room for spontaneity and relaxation, but as I always say to my family, we will be sure t0 schedule that in! I promise you I am not a drill sergeant and we do have fun on vacations. In fact, I think because I have planned we have a trip packed with more fun and less stress than if we had flown by the seat of our pants so to speak.

So how does a plan come to fruition? I take a step by step approach and begin to mold my trip about 8 months in advance if possible. That being said, I am lucky to have an annual pass and do make several short trips a year in addition to one big family trip. No matter when you are traveling, how long you have to plan, or how long your stay will be,  you can follow these steps to create a stress free vacation packed to the gills with fun. Once you have secured a date, picked a resort, and sent in your deposit, the real planning can begin!

Step 1- Have a meeting. This meeting can be as formal as a hosted dinner for all members of the travel party or as simple as a phone call. The idea is to get a bit of input from each person. With this meeting I find out what people desire for dining and what rides they cannot miss. For example, I know my sister absolutely wanted to eat at The 50’s Prime Time Cafe on our upcoming trip in December and my husband insisted on riding Test Track since it will have just reopened. I record all of these wants in a notebook and begin to plug them into our plan!

Step 2- Determine park hours and Special Events. This step will really help you plan out your days. Park hours are usually released about six and a half months in front of any given date. This is really great thinking on the part of Disney since you can make dining reservations six months in advance. This gives you a few weeks to decide where you are going to be throughout your trip! When looking at park hours you can begin to plan your days. I do this on a spread sheet. Once you know the hours you can choose where you would like to be on each day of your trip. If a certain park is open later or offers extra magic hours I may choose that park for the evening and spend the morning by the pool. If a park offers early magic hours I may select this park to do before arranging a time for breakfast! Some folks, myself included, really like to check out a crowd calendar for each day of their trip. These can be found on many sites, but my personal favorite is This is a p parks to avoid! Using a crowd calendar and the listed park hours together really helps me choose where to go each day!aid service, but one that I have never regretted shelling money out for. They analyze each day of the year and rank it from 1-10 in terms of how busy they expect the park to be. They even make suggestions on which parks will be the best to attend on any given day and which

It is also good to note any special events that are going on. For example during the Holidays you can buy tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or see the Lights at Hollywood Studios. In the spring the Flower and Garden Festival comes to Epcot. In the summer you can look for concerts, fourth of July celebrations, and longer park hours. During the fall its time for The Food and Wine Festival at Epcot and Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party at The Magic Kingdom.

Step 3- Pin Down Dining. Dining reservations can be made six months in advance of your stay. If you are staying on property you can make reservations for up to ten days of your stay at the 180 day mark, this is known as 180 plus ten! Since you have already determined which parks you are going to be on which days, it is very easy to plug in where you will dine! Select 2-3 choices for each meal you need a reservation for and what times you would like them. Make sure the restaurants fit into the plan for the day. For example if you are at the Magic Kingdom, don’t make a reservation for Tusker House. Choose places that will allow your day to flow easily and cause little stress with travel. There are some restaurants that are way off the beaten path but are well worth exploring. One of these is Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Unless you are staying at AKL this restaurant is hard to get to. If it is in your plans I suggest scheduling a breakfast where you can take a taxi to the lodge and then use the bus system to head out to the parks for the day or schedule a dinner for the night after touring Animal Kingdom. You will likely spend some time getting back to your resort, but it is worth it!


Step 4- Map it all out.  After all my reservations are made and park hours are determined,  I put my plans for each day on paper! You can do this using a spreadsheet. I plug in the hours of the parks I will be visiting, the dining reservation times and locations, and what attractions we need to visit.

Step 5- Enjoy! Set your plan into action as you begin to enjoy the fruits of your labor during your trip. Keep in mind that you may encounter bumps in the road, but by having a general idea of what each day will consist of will make everything run smoothly. Do however, leave room for spontaneity. If it is a really hot day and you have plans to tour Epcot from sun up til sun down, perhaps let go of this notion and realize that Mother Nature has her own plans and those include the pool! Use your plan as an outline, a way to organize, not a bible that must be followed exactly. The fact that you planned is more like studying for an exam. You are 100 percent prepared for any question that may arise!


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