You're going to Disney World! Now what??

Planning a Walt Disney World vacation can be extremely overwhelming, especially if you haven’t visited in a long time. Gone are the days of simply showing up and hoping for the best. These days, the savvy Disney-goer has booked dining reservations six months in advance and chosen specific days and times to FastPass favorite rides well before arriving on Disney property.

There’s no doubt that lack of planning certainly puts the casual vacationer at a disadvantage, so it’s in your family’s best interest to do a little research. A lot of people use Disney travel agents to help with all the details, but we enjoy doing it ourselves. For us, it is a fun way to pass the time and build excitement leading up to our vacation. As long as you have a plan of action and prioritize, you can totally do it yourself with minimal stress. And when you arrive at the park with dining reservations at your favorite restaurant and FastPasses for your favorite rides, you’ll be so glad you planned ahead.

Here is a look at the steps we take after booking our Disney vacation.

Make a list of the restaurants you’d like to visit. (Finalize before you hit the 6-month mark, if possible!)

This might not be a big part of your Disney planning, but for us it is essential. We really enjoy eating at Disney. Each person in our family has his or her favorite restaurants and traditions, so booking dining reservations is an absolute must for us. Some restaurants have become very popular, so a reservation is necessary unless you don’t mind an extremely long wait. Be Our Guest Restaurant, for example, is always extremely popular. Getting a table here for dinner can be tough, even when planning ahead!

Chef Mickey's and Be Our Guest are both extremely popular restaurants

You can start making dining reservations – regardless of whether or not you’re staying on Disney property – 180 days in advance. However, if you have made a reservation at a Disney resort, you’ll be able to book restaurants for the entire length of your stay at the 180-day mark. This is a huge advantage.

Make a designated planning calendar.

I like to print off a blank calendar that spans the length of our stay. I need room in each day to fill in our dining and FastPass reservations, as well as noting Extra Magic Hours and special events we hope to attend. It helps me to visualize what our days will look like, and whether certain plans are feasible when including travel time and locations.

Noting details like Extra Magic Hours (which only apply to you if you’re staying in a Disney resort) can influence your planning. For example, if you plan to arrive for early Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom one day, then you might want to book breakfast at a restaurant inside that park that day as well.

Decide what kind of tickets you will need and secure them before FastPass booking day.

There are a variety of ticket options available, from single-park tickets to Park-Hopper passes that allow you to visit multiple parks in a day. Once you decide what makes the most sense for your trip, be sure to purchase the tickets before your FastPass booking window opens. I recommend not doing this at the last-minute, just in case you experience technical difficulties or anything else that could go wrong. Believe me, you want to be ready to book those FastPasses as soon as your window opens!

Download My Disney Experience app onto your smart phone.

Disney planning has gotten much easier with the introduction of My Disney Experience. Once downloaded onto your phone and linked to your Disney account, you’ll be able to keep track of every resort, dining, and FastPass reservation. Not only that, but you can also modify your reservations right from your phone, which is extremely convenient. Other perks of the app include mobile ordering at certain restaurants and easily obtaining information like ride wait-times, park hours, and character appearances.

Make a list of your top FastPast choices.

Find out what attractions your family most wants to visit and make a list so you know what to FastPass. It’s also a good idea to research which of those rides are the most difficult FastPasses to get so you can try to book those attractions first. Click here more helpful tips and tricks for booking FastPasses.

Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom is a very popular FastPass option

Determine your FastPass booking window and mark this date in your calendar.

You can start booking FastPass reservations at 7am EST the day your window opens. If you’re staying in a Disney resort, this is 60 days before your arrival. Otherwise it’s 30 days prior to your visit. For the best chances of booking those hard-to-get FastPasses, we recommend getting online to make your reservations as soon as your window opens that morning.

Choose your Magic Bands (if staying on property).

Complimentary solid color Magic Bands come with your Disney resort reservation, or you can upgrade to a premium design for $10 per band. Either way, you’ll want to choose your Magic Bands and personalize them early enough to have them shipped to your home or resort. If you do not personalize your Magic Bands ahead of time, you will receive grey bands at your resort check-in.

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