Did you know there was a Disney Vacation Planning Timeline? Yeah, neither did we. That is until we realized that IF you have this secret ninja information, you can pretty much get the best resorts for the best price, the best dining reservations, and the best fast passes for the best rides. This timeline is pretty set in stone by Disney Parks so put on your planning hat and lets get started.
What is the Disney Vacation Planning Timeline?
Ok. So, if you’ve never planned a Disney vacation before know that there are timelines and deadlines for everything. Every. Thing. Knowing the Disney deadlines ahead of time will help you figure out what needs to be done and when. It’s O.K. if you’re in the midst of these deadlines or too far gone to make any more plans ahead of time. Get a handle on the timeline and go from there.
What is the Earliest I Can Book a Disney Resort?
499 Days Before Your Disney Vacation
The earliest you can book a Disney Resort is 499 days before your stay. 499 days is waaaaaay ahead of time, but keep in mind this is for Room Only and only if you’re staying at a Disney Resort. Why would you want to book a room so early? Well, for one thing, you only need the 200 dollar reservation fee to hold the room. This could be your best chance at making sure you have a room during the extremely busy times ahead- like the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Opening, and the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World in 2021. Also remember that you are allowed to retroactively ask for deals that pop up after the fact, like Free Dining.
How do I get the Best Disney Resort Room?
We’re not going to recreate the wheel on this one. WDW prep school has broken this down for you based on each resort. Pop on over to their website to hone in on your preferred resort and the room requests that would best serve your travel needs.
What if I’m staying off-site?
If you’re staying off-site, you don’t need to worry about this Disney Resort reservation window. Be sure to read up on our Pros and Cons of Staying Off Site post, and check out hotels.com for the best deals.
What is the Earliest I Can Book a Disney Vacation?
The Summer Before
In Mid-July Disney releases the vacation packages for the following year. This is standard. Though we sometimes wonder if Disney just does this to build anxiety. We don’t even know what’s gonna happen when the 2019 Disney Vacation Packages become available… everyone wants to be at the opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. We’re just gonna say it. Get ready for the website to crash, the app to time out and the phone lines to be busy. 2019 Disney Vacation Packages are going to go like hotcakes. The summer of 2020 will also be the same sort of crazy in anticipation of the 2021 50th Anniversary. Keep an eye on the Disney Parks Blog, and the Official Disney account on Twitter mid-July for when the Disney vacation packages come available the summer prior to the year you hope to visit.
How can I make sure I get the Disney Vacation Package I want?
Reach out to an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. While we are major DIY vacationers we totally understand if your once-in-a-lifetime Disney trip needs to be perfect. If this is the case reach out to Christina at As You Wish Vacations. Giving her the heads up ahead of time that you’re hoping to travel and when will give you someone on your team that’s watching out for those special deals and dates. P.S. Disney Travel agents offer their services for free, so it’s a worth a look if you’re fearful of trying it all on your own or just want the added expertise!
When Can I Make Disney Dining Reservations?
180 Days Before
The earliest you can make your Disney Restaurant Reservations is 180 days before your desired reservation date. There are two things to keep in mind with this one. If you are staying off-property the earliest you can book is one day at a time, always 180 days out. If you are staying on-property at a Disney Resort, you can book your entire stay of Disney dining reservations ( called ADR’s- Advanced Dining Reservations) at 180 days out. Check out our restaurant reviews ahead of time.
Why Should you Book Disney Restaurants so Early?
The best restaurants are table service restaurants, and they require reservations. Keep in mind that you’re also potentially up against local Florida residents and Disney Annual Passholders who already know this system. A few key restaurants always fill up and are harder to get reservations for. Disney Restaurants with hard-to-get reservations: Be Our Guest ( Magic Kingdom), Cinderellas Table ( Magic Kingdom), California Grill ( The Contemporary), and Ohana ( The Polynesian). If you have your heart set on a certain restaurant be prepared to be up at 6am Eastern Standard time to get online or call and book.
When Can I Choose My Fast Passes?
60 Days Before
If you are staying at a Disney Resort you can make your Fast Pass selections 60 days before the first day of your stay and you can reserve 3 Fast Passes a day for each day throughout your vacation. If you are staying off-property you will be able to book your Fast Passes 30 days prior.
The best Fast Pass strategy is to book your fast passes earlier in the day. You are allowed to book 3 fast passes each day ahead of time, but after you use your last fast pass you can check the My Disney Experience App and see if any others are available for the rest of the day. After you’ve used your original 3, you can only choose 1 additional fast pass. Then you’ll have to use that fast pass before you can try to grab another. We find that after about 3pm all fast passes for the entire day are usually gone.
Which Fast Passes are the Best to Choose? Which Fast Passes are the Hardest to Get?
We’ve written about this extensively in our bucket list posts where we literally just list which fast passes are the best in each park. If you need something at a glance check out our Best Stuff at Each Park . Fast Passes you’ll be wanting to book asap as soon as your fast pass selection day arrives are the following:
Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom ( Typical 2 hour wait)
Peter Pan’s Flight in Magic Kingdom ( Typical 1-2 hour wait)
Snow White’s Mine Ride in Magic Kingdom ( Typical 1-2 hour wait)
Soarin in Epcot ( Typical 1 hour wait) Fast Passes are usually completely “sold out” for this ride by 3 pm each day.
Frozen Ever After in Epcot ( Typical 1-2 hour wait)
Na’vi River Ride in Animal Kingdom ( Typical 1 hour wait) Note: This is a 4-1/2 minute boat ride.
Star Tours in Hollywood Studios (Typcial 1 hour wait)
Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers in Hollywood Studios can expect 1-2 hour waits for these Toy Story Land rides. Again these are rides to be booked asap on the day your fast pass window opens.
What To Do Before Your Disney Vacation?
60 Days Before
There are a slew of mundane things that you should do before your Disney vacation. At the 60 day mark you need to Complete Online Check-In. You can do this on the Disney website through the “My Reservations” tab. Completing the check in online will allow you to skip the line at the resort and just use your magic band to scan into your room. Your room number will appear on the My Disney Experience app the day of your arrival. Of course if you get in early, you can always call or check in at the resort to be proactive. Doing the online check in will also confirm the credit card you want associated with your room.
Another Disney Must-Do is to Customize Magic Bands for everyone in your travel party. This is actually one of our favorite things to do because we can match them to a special outfit, a Halloween costume or pick the color that would be fun to decorate. No matter which color you choose your name will be on the back of it when it arrives prior to your vacation and it will stay active on your account, until you deactivate it. If you order these late, or not at all your resort will have gray ones on standby for you. If staying off-site you will receive a regular card ticket for your entry into the park. You could also grab a fancy magic band ahead of time and link it to your account, shop for them at shopDisney.
45 Days Before
It’s a well known fact that at the 45 day mark flights are at their best price. We highly recommend you Book your Flight or Rental Car 45 days out to get the best price. You can pick any airline but we love Southwest Airlines for -cheaper, no seat or baggage fees and you still get a snack- flights to Orlando. It’s true we could probably write a love letter to this airline but for now we’ll make it about the facts. Success flying on Southwest really comes down to your ability to check in for your flight exactly 24 hours before your flight. Exactly. Like watch your phone for the clock to hit the exact time of your flight the following day and have the app open and the check in screen filled out. Or you can just spend the 15 bucks on the early bird service where you’re checked in automatically. If you book the Wanna Get Away ticket ( which are hundreds cheaper) you’re just smarter than everyone who didn’t. Why? Because with the Wanna Get Away ticket you 1) get a seat on the plane 2) are in a boarding class based on your ability to check in exactly at 24 hours prior 3) will board into all the regular seats just like everyone else. There’s no first class or assigned seats on Southwest. Everyone is allowed 2 checked bags and 1 personal item to carry on. And at Orlando International Airport… the Southwest gates are right next to Starbucks.
Be sure to update your flight Information on the Disney Website and Book the Magical Express ( if not using a rental car). Read our quick guide to the Magical Express for info on how the service works.
At 45 days your Final Payment on your Disney Vacation and Resort is Due. As a good budget strategy we suggest you buy Disney gift cards and slowly pay down the balance. If you’ve booked only a room the remaining payment is due upon arrival.
What if I Need To Cancel My Disney Reservation or Resort?
45 Days Before
- Last Chance to Cancel Resort or Vacation reservations without penalty fee.
- Last Chance to Make Changes to your Resort or Vacation reservation without penalty fee.
Disney sticks pretty closely to the 45 day mark for penalty fees. If you’re going to cancel or adjust ( add a person, change a room, etc.) call 46 days before. They will more than likely try to just re-schedule your vacation for another time. Do whatever you gotta do, but check out the full Disney cancellation policy for details.
3 Days Before
A cancellation at this point results in the loss of the entire vacation amount without refund.
What if It’s a Last Minute Disney Vacation?
If you’re tackling Disney last minute, never fear! We recently just had a last minute Disney vacation over a long weekend with some success. For reservations consider an off-site hotel or the Swan and Dolphin which is our top pick. The hotels at Disney Springs will get you close to the action as well and can often be budget friendly in the off-season. Again, check hotels.com for deals. For dining reservations, be sure to check the My Disney Experience App. While it is not impossible to book amazing restaurants for dinner last minute, know that some restaurants just won’t be available, so be flexible. You’ll find the same limited availability in Fast Passes. That doesn’t mean you can’t just plan to wait two hours for that must-ride ride… but be sure to check the app and choose fast passes as soon as you book the trip so you can at least get a few that you want ahead of time.