I am frequently asked for Disney World planning advice, because traveling to Walt Disney World can be intimidating. It can often be a real milestone trip for families, and it can be challenging to figure out where to even start with planning. With so many Walt Disney World fan websites and guidebooks, it’s easy to get lost in the details and acronyms.
But a Disney trip can be an expensive trip, so proper planning is essential. If you are just starting to do some Disney World planning, here’s what you should do first – before worrying about MagicBands, FastPasses, or dining plans.
Disclosure: In the past, I was a member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel, and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us.
Disney World Planning: What to Do First
Figure out if you are ready to go on your Disney World vacation
Are you ready to go to Walt Disney World? Make sure that you are ready to go before doing any additional research. Although we traveled there when our kids were little (2 and under 1) many choose to wait until their kids are a bit older. Check out this post to see what the best age for a Walt Disney World vacation is (hint: it depends).
Even if you think you won’t be ready for about a year, you may still want to start planning. Because dining reservations can be made 180 days in advance, you may want to start planning about a year in advance.
Determine when you want to go on your Disney vacation
It’s pretty impossible to find a bad time to go to Walt Disney World, but there are definitely lots of options for when you can go. If your kids aren’t yet in school, you have even more choices, since you won’t have to plan around school vacations. Think about when you want to go.
When my kids were younger, we always liked to go in early May. It wasn’t too busy, because school was in session, and the weather was typically hot, but not too hot to enjoy ourselves. Fall can also be a nice time to go.
If you have kids in school, your options will probably be more limited. There are plenty of ways to navigate through the parks during the busy times, however, so don’t let that scare you.
Keep in mind that you do need to make advance reservations for on-site dining (available 180 days in advance) and FastPasses (60 days if staying on property), so it’s best not to plan a last-minute trip, especially for your first trip. If you go at the last minute, you may be disappointed when you aren’t able to do everything you want to do.
Establish a budget
If you are planning to go on a Walt Disney World vacation, you’ll need to establish a budget. There are lots of different options for resorts and tickets, but you’ll want to know exactly how much money you have to spend before committing. Remember to include transportation, meals, tickets, hotel, spending money, and tips in your budget. Also factor in items like parking at the airport and pet care, if applicable.
Decide if you want to stay on or off property at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World boasts a variety of resorts in several different prices ranges, so staying on property is definitely an option, regardless of your budget. Check out this post about the benefits of staying on property before making your decision.
Choose a resort
Once you know whether you plan to stay on or off property, it’s time to choose a resort. There are so many different options, so gather recommendations from friends and family. We’ve also compiled a list of some of our favorite on and off property resorts, although there are lots of other great choices.
Book through an agent or directly
Now it’s time to book. If it’s your first Walt Disney World vacation, you may consider booking through an agent, who can help guide you every step along the way. But, if you want to book directly, you can also use the Walt Disney World website or call them directly. Get Away Today offers discounted tickets as well.
Once your trip is booked, head on over to this post to see what to do next.