Disney Vacation Planning Timeline A Quick Guide

Disney Vacation Planning Timeline A Quick Guide

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 of everything. This timeline is pretty set in stone by Disney Parks so put on your planning hat and let’s get started.

when is the earliest i can book a disney resort art of animation 499 days room only

Disney World Timeline and Deadlines

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.

  • Room Only Reservations: Up to 16 months in advance of your arrival
  • Vacation Package Reservations: Up to 16 months in advance of your arrival
  • Ticket Only Orders: Up to 16 months in advance of your arrival
  • Dining Reservations: 60 days in advance of your dining date
  • Online Check-In: 60 days in advance of your arrival
  • Book Your Flight or Rental Car: 45 days in advance of your arrival
  • Final Payment for your Disney Vacation Package: Due 30 days in advance of your arrival
  • Order Pre-Arrival MagicBands: At least 14 days in advance of your arrival
  • Book Your Airport Transportation:  At least 7 days in advance of your arrival
  • Lightning Lane Multi Pass Reservations: 7 days in advance of your arrival, for Disney Resort Guests 
    • 3 days in advance for all other guests. 

Note that Disney Cancellation Fees also have a timeline attached, so if for any reason you are unable to make your Disney Vacation be sure to review those deadlines below. 

Caribbean Beach Resort

When is the Earliest I Can Book a Disney Resort?

Approx 16 months Before Your Disney Vacation. The earliest you can book a Disney Resort is about 16 months before your intended visit. This 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 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. Also remember that you are allowed retroactively to ask for deals that pop up after the fact, like any discounts or special offers. 

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. You can also check out all our Disney Resort Reviews to get a good idea of what’s available. 

What if I’m staying off-site? 

If you’re staying off-site at Walt Disney World, 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.

disney planning timeline disney vacation packages are booked the summer before polkadotsandpixiedust.com

What is the Earliest I Can Book a Disney Vacation?

About 16 months ahead of time. Keep in mind that Disney Vacation Packages for the following year are typically released in the summer, and Room Only reservations can be made about 499 days in advance. 

When Does Disney Release New Disney Vacation Packages?

Disney Vacation Packages for any given year are typically released the summer of the year prior. So about 7 months before, but this is volatile. Though we sometimes wonder if Disney just does this to build anxiety. Keep an eye on the Disney Parks Blog, and the Official Disney account on Twitter in mid-July for when the Disney vacation packages come available the summer prior to the year you hope to visit.

disney planning timeline earliest you can book dining reservations

When Can I Make Disney Dining Reservations?

60 Days Before

The earliest you can make your Disney Restaurant Reservations is 60 days before your desired reservation date, (as of 2021). 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 60 days out. If you are staying on-property at a Disney Resort, you can book your entire stay with Disney dining reservations ( called ADRs- Advanced Dining Reservations) 60 days out. This perk can make all the difference if you are trying to score hard to get reservations like the Space 220 Restaurant or Topolino Terrace. Check out our restaurant reviews ahead of time.

Lightyear Lemonade at Space 220 Restaurant Disney World

Why Should You Book Disney Restaurants So Early?

The best restaurants at Walt Disney World 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: Space 220 ( EPCOT),  Be Our Guest ( Magic Kingdom), Cinderella’s Royal Table ( Magic Kingdom), California Grill ( The Contemporary), and ‘Ohana ( The Polynesian).

What Time Can You Make Disney Restaurant Reservations?

If you have your heart set on a certain restaurant be prepared to be up early. Disney Dining Reservations can be made starting at 5:45 AM, 60 days before your vacation date on the website or in the My Disney Experience App. 

disney planning haunted mansion

When Can I Check In for My Disney Resort?

60 Days Before

There is 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 on 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 to be associated with your room.

Avatar Flight of Passage Ride at Animal Kingdom

When Should I Book My Flight for the Best Price?

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. We most like Jet Blue and Spirit, but you can choose any airline that works for you. For awareness the Orlando International Airport can get pretty crazy, so any opportunities you have to make your transportation easier, take them! This includes getting TSA precheck, so your security lines are shorter. Utilizing any automatic flight check-in offered by your airline. Self-tagging your luggage, or bringing only a carry-on. We’d also recommend arriving about 3 hours prior to your flight boarding time at MCO. There have been times when we’ve had to stand in airline lines for about an hour, only to see fellow flyers miss their flight because of the line. Plan accordingly.

What is the Deadline for Payment on My Disney Vacation Package?

30 Days Before

At 30 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. Note this deadline is ONLY for Disney Vacation Packages. If you’ve purchased a Room Only Reservation then your resort payment is due at the time of check-in. 

Disney's MagicMobile and Magicband

What is the Deadline to Get MagicBands?

14 Days Before

Another Disney Must-Do is to Customize Magic Bands for everyone in your travel party. You can do this in your account on the My Disney Experience App. 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 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.

Note that you technically have until 10 days before your arrival at Walt Disney World to customize and order your MagicBand if you want to have the MagicBand shipped to your home. If you order in under 10 days or just pick one up at the gift shop you miss out on the pre-arrival MagicBand+ discount. 

Alternatively, you can also use your MagicMobile Wallet for FREE on your phone if you don’t want to have a MagicBand+. However, we think it’s ultra-convenient to have one. 

Mears Connect

When Can I Book Airport Transportation to Walt Disney World?

At least 7 Days Before

The main Disney World Shuttle service , provided by Mears is able to be scheduled at the airport when you arrive. However, it’s best to reserve your Disney shuttle transportation sooner. If you’re looking for transportation from the Orlando International Airport ( MCO) to Walt Disney World you can also just grab an Uber, last minute. If you’re a planner, we recommend you arrange pre-booked transportation about 7 days in advance to give you a cushion. While this service does not tend to fill up to the point of selling out, it’s best to play it safe, especially if you are traveling during busy times. The services require you to know your flight information when you make your reservation and email you 24 hours ahead of time to let you know your bus arrival time window at the airport.  

Booking Lightning Lane Multi Pass, and Single Pass Ride Selections

7 Days Before your Arrival if you’re staying at a Disney Resort

Available 7 days before your date of arrival, you can choose your ride selections for Lightning Lane Multi Pass. This service is for an additional charge but you can choose up to 3 rides per day ahead of time, and then stack the service with more ride options as you use them one at a time. Being able to plan your rides ahead of time is a great way to really make the most of your Disney Vacation. If you’re not staying at a Disney Resort, then this service is available Up to 3 Days Before your arrival day. 

Disney World Cancellation Policies

What’s the Latest I Can Cancel or Change My Disney Vacation Package Reservation Without Fees?

  • 30 Days Before
    • Last Chance to Cancel Resort or Vacation reservations without a penalty fee.
    • Last Chance to Make Changes to Your Resort or Vacation Reservation without a penalty fee.

Disney sticks pretty closely to the 30-day mark for penalty fees. If you’re going to cancel or adjust ( add a person, change a room, etc.) call 31 days before. They will more than likely try to just reschedule your vacation for another time. Do whatever you gotta do, but check out the full Disney cancellation policy for details.

Changes to ReservationChanges to the reservation, including but not limited to changes in travel dates, length of stay, party size, or hotel accommodations, are subject to availability and the prices applicable at the time the change is requested and the guest is responsible for paying any increase in price resulting from the change. In addition, changes made 30 days or less prior to guest arrival are also subject to a change fee of $50 per package plus any change fees assessed by third-party hotels or other suppliers.

If changes are made to the package including, but not limited to, changes to travel dates, the package is subject to the Terms and Conditions applicable to packages at the time the change to the reservation is made and, in the case of changes to travel dates, pricing applicable to the new travel dates.

When Will I Get Charged Cancellation Fees for a Disney Trip?

  • 30 Days Before: For cancellations made 30 days or more prior to guest arrival, amounts paid, minus cancellation fees assessed by third-party hotels or other suppliers, non-refundable runDisney race registrations, non-refundable travel protection plan costs, and other amounts owed will be refunded
  • 2- 29 Days Before: For cancellations made 2 days to 29 days prior to guest arrival, amounts paid, minus a cancellation fee of $200.00 per package and minus any cancellation fees assessed by third-party hotels or other suppliers, non-refundable runDisney race registrations, non-refundable travel protection plan costs and other amounts owed will be refunded
  • 1 Day Before: For cancellations made 1 day or less prior to guest arrival or for no-shows, the full price of the package is non-refundable.

What’s the Latest I can Cancel or Change my Disney Room Only Reservation?

  • 5 Days Before: For a Room-Only reservation, the Resort cancellation can be made up to 5 days in advance for a full refund. 
  • 0-4 Days Before: From 0-4 days, you lose the cost of a one-night stay (which is the deposit). Please note that policies are always subject to change.  If you need to cancel your Room-Only reservation, you can contact Guest Services to do that for you.  

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.

Hopefully, this post has helped you get a good handle on the Disney Vacation Planning timeline you can follow to make sure you don’t miss a thing. 

Walt disney world deadlines and timelines for disney vacations #disneydeadlines #polkadotpixies polkadotsandpixiedust.com

Co-Founder and Director at Polka Dot Pixie Co LLC | Website

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.

Related Posts