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7 Steps To Help You Plan A Successful Itinerary For Your Walt Disney World Vacation

Planning a Disney vacation is exciting. However, it can also be stressful. There are many stages to planning a Disney trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. Investing time in planning your itinerary will help you to have the best Disney experience. But how do you make the best plans when visiting Disney World? We’ve put together seven steps to help you plan a successful Walt Disney World vacation itinerary. They are the steps that we follow when planning a Disney trip.

1. Do Your Research

There is much to see and do in the Walt Disney World Resort. Investing time to research all that there is to enjoy and experience will only benefit you. Booking a Disney vacation requires research and a fair amount of decision-making. Choosing when to visit, the Disney resort hotel you wish to stay in, how you will travel to Lake Buena Vista – by car or by flying into Orlando International Airport – and the length of your stay are the initial planning. Once all those things are sorted, you can begin planning your Walt Disney World itinerary. But what should you research before putting together your itinerary?

The key things that we recommend you research before organizing your itinerary are:

  • Restaurants – consider the many different restaurants on Disney property, especially if you will be using the Disney Dining Plan. Look at the menus and locations for both full-service and quick-service restaurants. Make sure you learn more about the Disney resort hotels and Disney Springs restaurants and those in the Disney theme parks. It may come as a surprise, but some of the best restaurants in the Walt Disney World Resort are located outside of a Disney park. 
  • Best days to visit each Disney Park – planning your days in the Disney parks on the best days to visit will maximize your Disney experience. Crowds can vary throughout the week and during different times of the year. Knowing the days to expect low and high crowds can aid your planning and allow for a thoroughly enjoyable Disney vacation.
Expedition Everest, Disney's Animal Kingdom
Credit: V Mills
  • Special events – knowing about special events that are taking place in the Walt Disney World Resort during your vacation is helpful. You may wish to participate in them, so can budget for them and book your tickets if they are needed. Alternatively, you can plan to avoid them. Special events include the EPCOT International Festivals, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in Magic Kingdom, Disney After Hours, and Disney Jollywood Nights in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If you are a Disney Vacation Club Member, you will also want to check the dates of Moonlight Magic events.
  • Weather – finding out what the weather is generally like in Lake Buena Vista during your Disney vacation can help you to plan for it in your itinerary and when it comes to packing.

2. Make A List

When researching, make a list. You are less likely to forget things if you write them down as you explore them. In particular, list:

  • Restaurants that you wish to visit and their location
  • Experiences you wish to have, e.g., tours, special events, etc.
  • Activities outside of the Walt Disney World Resort you wish to enjoy, e.g., Universal Orlando, Orlando Premium Outlets, Celebration, etc.
  • Times you hope to spend in each Disney Park, e.g., we always plan one morning/daytime visit and one evening visit in each Disney theme park during a Disney trip
  • pool and relaxation time
Calypso Pool, Disney's All-Star Music Resort
Credit: V Mills

3. Create Pairs or Groups

Once you know which restaurants you wish to eat at and the experiences outside the Disney parks you want to have, pair them with a Disney park. In particular, plan for them to coincide with the Disney theme park nearest them. At this time, consider how you will travel to them. Making pairs or groups will make it easier to assemble your itinerary.

For example, if you wish to have lunch at Kona Cafe in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, you should pair it with a morning visit to Magic Kingdom Park. You can use the Disney Monorail or the Disney watercraft across Seven Seas Lagoon to get there.

Slinky Dog Dash, Disney's Hollywood Studios
Credit: V Mills

4. Create Your Template

Whether you prefer to use pen and paper, or a spreadsheet, creating a template for your itinerary will aid the planning of it. Make sure you include the date and day of the week for each day. Doing so will help you keep track of the time during your Disney vacation and make it easy when it comes to making Advanced Dining Reservations. We recommend splitting each day into three parts – morning, afternoon, and evening. By doing so, you can maximize the time you are in the Walt Disney World Resort.

5. Complete Your Itinerary

Now it’s time to put together your itinerary. Check things off your list as you place them into your plan. Having considered pairs or groups earlier in the planning process should make it easy for you to include everything. Now is an excellent time to consider the length of time you will spend in each Disney Park and the time of day you will visit, particularly if your Disney Park ticket will be a Disney Park Hopper Pass. Also, note the dining times you wish to secure when you can make your advance dining reservations. It’s worth noting down the days you want to use Disney Genie+, too, if you plan to do so. Remember to include pool and relaxation time. It’s a vacation, after all, so your body deserves some time to rest.

Happily Ever After from Main Street, Magic Kingdom
Credit: V Mills

6. Make Your Advanced Dining Reservations

Sixty days before your Disney vacation begins is an exciting time. You can finally make your advance dining reservations. Use your itinerary to guide you on where to book and when. As your reservations are confirmed, add them to your itinerary. Once you have made every advanced dining reservation you wish to make, review your plan to check for any alterations that need to be made.

It’s worth noting that if your Disney vacation is to take place before January 9, 2024, you must make a Disney Park Pass Reservation for the first Walt Disney World park visit of the day. You should make these as early as you can, to avoid disappointment, especially if you are visiting during a peak period.

Teppan Edo Dining Experience, EPCOT
Credit: V Mills

7. Check Disney Park Hours

Sixty days before your Disney vacation begins, you can also see park hours for the days you will be in Lake Buena Vista. Park hours can be viewed on the My Disney Experience App or the Walt Disney World website. As you check the hours for each day, review your plans. You may find that a Disney park is due to be open later than you expected. If you aren’t set to visit the theme park that day, switch your plans around to allow you to enjoy more time there.

My Disney Experience
Credit: My Disney Experience

Victoria Mills

Victoria is a Disney-loving, tea-drinking, Math teacher from Liverpool, England. Her motto is 'work hard, Disney harder'! Having taken part in the Disney College Program back in 2010, Victoria's love and appreciation for Walt Disney World only grew, and it's the place where she feels most herself - it's home!

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