Disney World Planning Timeline

February 14, 2020

The Disney World Planning Timeline. We’re talking dates for: booking your trip; dining reservations; fast passes; the lot! We’re created this simplified guide because there’s so much to remember when planning a Walt Disney World holiday. Above all, booking and planning a magical holiday should be fun. So, we hope that this Disney World Planning Timeline will make it a little more stress free too. 

However, we absolutely cannot stress enough that the sky will not come crashing down if you deviate from the below. If you’ve booked a last minute deal, or forgotten to book that dining reservation, do NOT panic! The below are ideal timings that should give you the most choice. But last minute FastPasses and reservations do crop up.

If you find yourself without that much wanted reservation before leaving for your trip, keep checking on the My Disney Experience App for last minute cancellations. If you’re on your holiday, do the same, but also have a chat with a cast member and see if they have any availability. In any event, you’re going to The Happiest Place on Earth! You’ll have a magical time. (Don’t forget the ESTA though, that’s the one thing that could scupper your trip entirely…)

©Matt Bunting – Novel Focus Photography

Walt Disney Planning Timeline

As far in advance as possible 

  • Decide on your holiday dates!
  • Begin researching your preferred Resort. 

April-June before your holiday

  • Keep an eye out for Disney package deals – in particular the free dining offer.
  • If/when released, check how long the offer is valid for, and the arrival dates that it applies to. Consider whether to book your holiday before the release of flights if the offer is expiring imminently. 

11 months before your holiday

  • Flights should now be released. 
  • Check prices on the WDW travel company website.
  • Once you’ve found your perfect deal, book your trip!

Top tip: request your flight reference number when you confirm your booking. This will be different to your Disney booking reference number, and you’ll need to to manage your flights and reserve seats.

Once booked 

  • Download the My Disney Experience App and link your booking.
  • Familiarise yourself with the App.
  • Take a look at our Disney World Planning page.
  • Begin planning a basic itinerary in readiness for dining reservations becoming available.

180 days before your trip

  • Check out our WDW Dining Reservation Tips.
  • Table Service Dining Reservations and bookings for experiences are released at 6am EST (11am GMT, 12pm BST) on the My Disney Experience App, and 7am EST (12pm GMT, 1pm BST) via the telephone line or online. Disney Resort guests only can make reservations for the first ten days of their holiday.
  • Reservations extending beyond that initial ten day period are released daily. This means that you’ll need to check back each day to make reservations for the remainder of your trip.
  • If you’re not staying in a Disney Resort, then you’ll need to check back daily to make each reservation at 180 days out.

Top tip: the most popular restaurants and experiences book up quickly. It’s a good idea to have a list of your ‘must do’s’ and try and book these first, so that you can rearrange your itinerary to fit in with booking availability if needs be.

The popular places tend to be:

  • The Chef’s table at Victoria and Albert’s;
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table;
  • Be Our Guest (This is a Quick Service location for breakfast and lunch but reservations can be made for all times, and booking is recommended);
  • Chef Mickey’s Buffet;
  • California Grill (particularly during Magic Kingdom Firework times);
  • Oga’s Cantina (again, a Quick Service location that takes reservations. Note, however, that this is predominantly a drunks venue);
  • The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiques;
  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue;
  • Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall;
  • ‘Ohana;
  • Le Cellier; and
  • Special events/cruises for nighttime shows and fireworks.

Remember that, plans change and, last minute reservations do appear. If you can’t find the reservation that you were hoping for, continue to check the App for last minute openings.

70 days before your trip 

  • If you’ve paid a deposit, the balance will be due around now.
  • Tweak your itinerary to reflect any dining reservations that you’ve made.

60 days before your trip

  • Check out our Disney World Fastpass+ Tips.
  • Make your FastPass+ selections.
  • Check that your passport is in date!
  • Choose your Magic Bands (choices can be made up to 10 days before your check in date for collections only).

Top tip: Don’t forget that, firstly, if you’re staying in a WDW Resort, you’ll benefit from Extra Magic Hours – use them! Secondly, the most popular attractions see FastPasses booking up quickest so try to select these first.

Popular attractions include:

  • The three mountains in the Magic Kingdom: Big Thunder, Splash and Space;
  • Seven Dwarfs’ Runaway Minetrain;
  • Peter Pan’s Flight;
  • Expedition Everest;
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris;
  • Avatar Flights of Passage;
  • Navi River Journey;
  • Tower of Terror;
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster;
  • Millennium Falcon Smuggler’s Run;
  • Slinky Dog Dash;
  • Toy Story Mania;
  • Test Track;
  • Mission: SPACE;
  • Soarin’; and
  • Frozen Ever After.

30 days before your trip

  • Consider applying for your ESTA.
  • Finalise your holiday itinerary.

One week before

  • Make sure that your have a valid ESTA.
  • Print your dining reservation confirmations. 
  • Pack your bags!

We hope you have a magical holiday at Walt Disney World. Don’t forget that you can download a free printable copy of our Disney World Planning timeline here for you to tick off as you go!

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