Walt Disney World Trip Planning 101

The best Disney trips are the ones where you just wing it… said no one ever. Oh, maybe if you’ve been a zillion times and know the parks like the back of your hand. But if you’ve only been a time or two, or especially if you’ve never been, you need to make a plan.

We decided to just wing it for a trip to Myrtle Beach on our 1st wedding anniversary. It went a little something like this:

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know, what do you want to do?”


It was like that for 4 days. We were there during the off-season. We waited so long to choose a restaurant that the restaurant had already closed by the time we were ready to go. So where did we eat? McDonald’s. Not even kidding.

Times have changed for us. And a Disney vacation is definitely, 1000%, not one you want to go into without having some ideas in your head about what you want to do. And a few advance dining reservations (ADRs in Disney lingo) doesn’t hurt.

When I first start planning our next Walt Disney World vacation, the first thing I do is create a table in Microsoft Word. Some use Excel, but the simplicity of a Word table works for me. I make a column for each day of our trip, with the day, date, and park hours at the top. (I also check it again a little bit before our trip as well, because park hours do change.) This helps me visualize everything and to figure out which park I want to schedule our fast passes and where to make dining reservations, etc.

This is the exact schedule I made for our April trip this year. I list which restaurant we have an ADR for on that day, and what fast passes I’ve made for us.

For example, on Tuesday, April 25th, this is what we did:

Had lunch at Beaches & Cream at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. I reminded myself to ask for our annual pass (AP) discount. We walked to Epcot where we had fast passes for Test Track (TT), Mission Space, and Journey into Imagination with Figment. The times listed are when our fast passes are active, so we would just join the fast pass queue whenever it worked for us within that time period. At 7pm we had to be at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party, or SWDP for short.

I don’t plan out every moment of our trip. I may schedule in “pool/resort” time, but I’m not such a stickler that I’ll put the exact time I want us to hang out there. It’s too hard to keep an exact schedule of every moment of the day, so I consider what I do more of an outline.

On Thursday, the 27th, we ended up nixing our Trail’s End reservation in order to hang out at our resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Village Kidani Village, and have dinner at the Sanaa Lounge. Besides that we followed everything I have on our “outline.”

I keep a copy of this outline on both of our phones. I also print it out and keep it on the TV stand in our resort room so I can glance at it the night before to remember what we’re doing the next day.

Once you have your outline, the most important thing to do to plan for your Walt Disney World trip:

Download the My Disney Experience app for your phone. Everything you need is pretty much there. Book fast passes and ADRs. Pre-order your quick service meal. Check wait times for rides and attractions. Find what time the characters are meeting. Look at a map to find the nearest bathroom.

Book your fast passes 60 days out if you’re staying at a Disney resort, and 30 days out for off-site guests. Book your ADRs starting at 180 days out. Disney resort guests can book ADRs starting at 180 days out + the next 10 days of their trip, if needed. You can still use the website on your computer to do your pre-trip plans, but once you’re in the parks you’ll be using the app.

This is a screenshot of our fast passes from the My Disney Experience app for one day on our upcoming trip.

Make sure you are familiar with the app and how to use it before your trip. You’ll be using it a lot while you’re there.

There is a lot to know when you’re new to planning a Walt Disney World trip. But it’s also a whole lot of fun! (Well, for some of us!)

October 16, 2017

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