Are you thinking a Disney family vacation sounds like fun? But does the thought of planning a Disney vacation overwhelm you? Don’t worry. With a little research and planning, you can have a magical Disney vacation.
Get started planning a Disney World vacation with these 5 easy steps.
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Planning a Disney World Vacation in 5 Easy Steps
Pick Your Dates
When you plan a Disney vacation, it’s best to start planning your vacation 4-6 months in advance especially if you are traveling from out of state.
To choose your travel dates, check a Disney crowd calendar to help you know dates when the parks are expected to be crowded and maybe less crowded. Disney crowd calendars are not an exact science, but they can help estimate better travel times to Disney. I will note that having visited the parks at different times of the year, I don’t think there is a “slow” time, but there are days when the parks are more crowded and less crowded.
During Covid, Disney is restricting park visitors each day. If you want to be sure you will have access to the parks, verify you can make park reservations before booking your vacation.
Book Your Hotel Rooms and Make Travel Arrangements
After you have chosen your travel dates, it’s time to book hotel rooms and make travel arrangements including purchase airline tickets and reserve rental cars.
When choosing your hotel rooms you can choose to stay at the Walt Disney World Resort or off the property. For my last few overnight visits, we have stayed on property. We find it’s just easier to park our car at the hotel, visit the park and use Disney transportation throughout the resorts.
Do you need a rental car while at Disney?
We live in Florida, so we drive to Disney. But once we get to Disney, I park the car and don’t drive it again until we leave. If you aren’t planning to leave the property or only leave once or twice, it might be less expensive to use Uber.
We always use Disney transportation when we stay at the resort. While wait times can be unpredictable and long at the end of the day when you are trying to leave the parks, it seems easier than driving your own car. If you have a car, you can always use your own car (parking fees, currently $25 per day, will apply unless you are an annual pass holder), but in my experience getting to your car and then a hotel would probably take about the same amount of time as Disney transportation and personally, I like parking my car and letting other people drive me around.
How to choose a Disney Hotel?
The hotel you choose at Disney can be decided by a number of factors. Disney has very value hotels (more affordably priced, but the rooms are not large). Or you can choose a moderate resort or deluxe resort. Each resort offers guests different features and benefits.
Since we spend most of our time in the parks when we stay at Disney, I prefer to stay at the value resorts. I don’t feel it’s necessary to spend extra for the hotel rooms. I have also noticed, I can usually get 2 rooms (with an adjoining door) at a value resort for less than a larger room (i.e. a room or 6 or 8). If price is a factor, I would consider all your options.
Special note on refurbishments: Disney hotels and parks frequently have refurbishments. Be sure to check the refurbishment schedule before booking your rooms. You wouldn’t want to be planning pool days and be at one of the hotels that had the pool closed during your stay. Disney will note the refurbishment schedule on their hotel websites and park websites. I recommend checking the hotel website even if you are using a travel agent before finalizing your plans.
If you book Disney hotels and tickets online through Disney, you should be able to add all your plans directly to your My Disney Experience account (your special Disney account to manage your reservations, tickets, Fastpasses and more, more details below).
If you use a travel agent to book your travel, you will need to add your ticket information and hotel information to your account. I suggest speaking with your travel agent to help you set-up this account for the first time.
Order Your Magic Bands and Disney Family Vacation T-Shirts
With your travel plans set, you will want to order your Magic Bands.
Magic bands are definitely part of the Disney magic. If you have booked a reservation at a Disney World Resort, MagicBands are included with your stay.
Magic bands are bracelets issued by Disney that:
- Allow you access to theme parks (when you have a valid ticket)
- Allow you to easily access your guest room
- Allow you to check-in for Fastpass access in the parks
- If set-up, magic bands can be used to make purchases in the parks and resorts by charging your room when you are are a guest at the resort
- Send pictures to your Disney app taken by Disney photographers
- Send you special surprises and more…
Travel tip: if you are traveling by air and using Disney transportation to/from the airport, keep your MagicBands available. You will need them to access transportation to your hotel.
You will also want to order matching family Disney vacation t-shirts. Family vacation t-shirts aren’t required, but they definitely make your vacation fun. You will see families at Disney all wearing their vacation t-shirts.
Choose your favorite Disney family vacation t-shirt and custom order for everyone in your family.
Download the My Disney Experience App and Set-up FastPass
About 3 months before your Disney trip, if you haven’t already done so set-up your My Disney Experience account. In this account, be sure all the tickets for everyone in your family have been linked (so you can get FastPasses), check hotel reservations if you are staying on property, make restaurant reservations and more.
The My Disney Experience App can also be added to your phone. It’s very helpful at the parks because it has park maps, allows you to request FastPasses, check ride wait times, order food, see your photos and so much more. I recommend spending a little time before your trip understanding the My Disney Experience App.
What is a Disney FastPass?
A Disney Fastpass allows you to reserve access at select attractions, events, and more. Each ticket and annual pass you purchase receives 3 FastPasses per day (can only be in one park). After you use the first 3 FastPasses, you may request one additional FastPass per ticket until the park closes or FastPasses are no longer available.
How to request Disney FastPasses
At 60 days before your trip, if you are staying on Disney property, you can start requesting FastPasses. You can request FastPasses from within the My Disney Experience app or from the My Disney Experience website (when you are logged into your account). If you are not staying on property, you can only request FastPasses within 30 days of your visit.
In the My Disney Experience App, select FastPass, then select who in your group you want to get a FastPass for (if you have family and friends going, you can invite them and connect your accounts, but be careful it’s easy to mix up tickets within the app. If your tickets get mixed up, you will need Disney assistance to fix it).
Fastpasses for favorite rides go quickly. So, request your Fastpasses as soon as you are eligible.
If you didn’t get the FastPasses you want, keep checking back, sometimes you’ll find good ones even when it seems everything is gone. Once I got Peter Pan FastPasses on the morning we were going to Disney.
Pack your bags/Arrive at Disney
About a month before your trip, get a Travel Planner & Journal. With a Travel Planner & Journal, you can write down all your airline, hotel, and rental car information. You can also make a plan for each day on your trip (which parks will you visit, what places will you go, Character Breakfasts or Lunch and more…).
This Travel Planner & Journal includes:
- Weekly travel planning pages
- Daily trip planners
- Things to do
- Planning before your trip
- Itinerary pages
- Packing checklists
- Journaling pages
- So much more…
I also love this Travel Planner & Journal because it includes journal pages so each day on your trip you can and write down all your favorite (and not so favorite) memories.
Get your Travel Planner & Journal here.
About one week before your trip, complete the packing checklist and start gathering clean clothes, personal items (toothbrushes, toothpaste, make-up, etc…) for everyone in your family. Make a list of anything you need to pick-up at the store this week.
The day before you leave, recheck your bags and packing list, be sure you have everything. Get to bed early and to be rested for your vacation.
Now, it’s time to relax and enjoy the Disney magic. You have planned a magical Disney vacation. Remember, you might not be able to plan every minute, maybe you didn’t get all the FastPasses you wanted, just take time and enjoy your family and make great memories.
Disney vacations are magical. Last year, we started with a short 5-day trip to Disney and on the last day, we converted our tickets into annual passes. We have been able to visit Disney often this year. No matter how many times we go, we always find something new to do, have a new experience and make a great new memory.
Planning a Disney vacation isn’t hard if you take time and plan. Follow these steps and enjoy your Disney vacation.
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