No matter when you’re planning your next trip to Walt Disney World, there are a few things you will need to figure out ahead of your vacation. From where to stay to when to go, and how much you’re willing to spend. Here are the 8 things you must do BEFORE you head to Walt Disney World. Consider this your checklist to make sure you’re ready.
Before Your Disney Vacation
While a Walt Disney World vacation can get very complex, especially if this is your first Disney Vacation, there are 8 main things you will need to figure out ahead of time! From choosing when to go to your Disney budget to any of the fun things you’re hoping to do during your vacation. Here is our lineup of must-do things to do before Your Disney Vacation.
Pick a Date For your Vacation
Picking a date for your Walt Disney World vacation is your best first step. Even if you’re not entirely sure of the exact week, nail it down to a month you’d like to visit. A couple of things to know ahead of time is that Walt Disney World is affected by a few things that can make or break your Disney vacation. The weather, the festivals at Epcot, the holiday crowds, the tourists! So many things. Be sure to know what you’re up against before you pick your dates. We cover all the things happening each month, annually in our Best time to visit Walt Disney World post.
Set a Disney Vacation Budget
For a Disney Vacation, you will need a very good and thorough Disney budget. You can check out our Disney on a Budget post for everything you should plan ahead of time. But here are the main areas to consider.
- Travel Budget– Are you flying or driving?
- Lodging Budget– Do you want to stay at a value, moderate, or deluxe resort. Check out Disney Resort Levels and Pricing to get a good idea of what’s within your preferred price range.
- Tickets Budget- Are you buying tickets separately or as part of a package with your resort? While we usually find deeper discounts with a package deal, if you’re looking to buy tickets separately, check out Get Away Today for the best prices.
- Entertainment Budget– Are you planning to attend an After Hours event or party? Maybe experiencing the Wild Africa Trek is on your Disney bucket list. Whatever you’re hoping for, add it to your list, so you get in everything you want to on this trip.
- Food and Snacks Budget– Knowing what your Disney food and snacks budget is before your Disney vacation will be a lifesaver. Especially since it can usually cost 70-100 dollars per day, per person for food. And that’s on the low end. Check out our Disney Dining Budget estimates so you can get an honest handle on the numbers.
Book Your Vacation
If you are purchasing directly through Disney you can buy a Magic Your Way Package. This combines your Disney Resort lodging and your Disney theme park tickets for all parks together into a bundle. You can also add a Dining Plan to this package to make things easy, when offered. If you choose not to book directly through Disney then you have a few options.
- Book your Hotel: Our best advice is to always stay on Disney property when you can. Plus you can often even find cheaper Disney Resort prices by booking Disney through a third-party service. And then of course you can also always stay off-site, but often lose out on the Disney perks by doing so.
- Purchase your Tickets: Our preference is to purchase tickets as part of a Disney Vacation Package, but sometimes it just makes more sense to purchase them separately, especially if you are trying to do both Universal Studios and Walt Disney World and may want an out of the way hotel not included in a package.
Plan Flights, Rental Cars, and Transportation
While we sometimes think it’s better to drive to Disney, especially if you’re traveling with many people there are times when flying makes sense. Especially if you’re traveling from a far distance. Whatever you choose here, know that there are options. Check out all the ways to get to Walt Disney World from the Orlando International Airport. Walt Disney World is about a 45-60 minute drive from the airport, so an uber, rental car, or the Mears Connect Driven By Sunshine Disney shuttle service all work.
Create a Touring Plan or Day By Day Itinerary
Building out your day-to-day itinerary needs to be done BEFORE your Disney Vacation for the primary fact that Disney Park Pass Reservations are required for park entry. This is in addition to the required park ticket, so knowing what days you are going to be in each park is important. Write them down ahead of time and assign each park to each day of your vacation. This will help immensely when you need to reserve dining for both in-park and out-of-park restaurants, as well as Genie+ attractions for when you’re in the parks. Check out our Disney Printable Planners to help you get organized.
Make Dining Reservations
While not every Walt Disney World vacation needs Dining Reservations, having a nice table-service meal at Walt Disney World often requires one. From African dining at Sanaa in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to breakfast at the Topolino Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort, being able to sit down, relax and enjoy a nice meal should be part of any hectic Disney Vacation. Typically dining reservations can be made 180 days in advance ( 60 days in advance presently due to the pandemic restrictions). As part of your Disney Vacation Planning, choosing restaurants before your Disney Vacation is a must. As reservations may not be available last minute for many of the best restaurants like Space 220 in EPCOT Park.
Choose a Ride Strategy
Do you Need Disney Genie Plus or Lightning Lane on this Trip? Take the time before your Disney Vacation to talk through your Disney must-do lists. Maybe Pirates of the Caribbean is something you’re all looking forward to? Avatar’s Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom usually requires you to be at the park gates earlier than the opening of the park, because when those gates open you’ll need to race to the ride to get a decent spot in line. This ride usually sees 2-3 hour wait times. Deciding your Must-Do list ahead of time will allow you the opportunity to decide which day you need to wake up early, or stay late in each park. Check out our Disney checklists for the rides in each park, so you can make a plan. And through some Disney Ride Strategies so you can make your best plan.
Write Your Packing List
Obviously, you will need to figure out what to bring ahead of time, but visiting Florida isn’t as easy as you think. From bug spray to sunscreen to extremely good walking shoes and sometimes a hoodie, you may need more travel gear than originally planned. Check out our stuff to buy for Disney before you go post. This will give you the rundown of essentials and get you ready. Also, consider packing light and aiming for comfortable clothes. Walt Disney World is often hot, crowded, and very sunny. Be prepared for it!
Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.