So you’ve finally decided that yes I am going to take my family on a Walt Disney World Vacation! First let me say congratulations! You have completed your first step into creating a vacation that will give you and your family life long memories of an amazing family vacation that you will want to go on again and again! Now onto the next step, researching! What is it that you want in your vacation to make it that unforgettable experience?
You should ideally begin doing your research 7-12 months before your travel date. I bet the questions what, why, and how do I get started come to mind! Don’t worry! I will be doing my best to either catch you up or get ya ready to start planning! During your research phase I’d suggest ordering a planning DVD from Disney’s web site or searching some YouTube videos online. I would start with Disney Parks’ YouTube channel, where you can watch exclusive videos from Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort, Adventures by Disney, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani Resort & Spa, Disney Vacation Club and more! There are also plenty of how to’s, top ten’s and other videos on everything Disney to help you along the way.
The next step is going to be to create your budget. I would suggest creating multiple budgets underneath your full budget. Some of your multiple budget could be for your travel (airfare or gas), hotel and park tickets, food (dining plan), souvenirs, and any extra spending money. During down travel times (off season), a decent budget for a family of 4 (2 adults, 1 junior & 1 child) would be about $2500 for hotel and park tickets. It can obviously be a little less or a little more but that all depends on your preferences. During peak travel times (in season, Holidays, Spring Break & Summer) the price for a family of 4 ( 2 adults, 1 junior, 1 child) would be about $3000 for hotel and park tickets. Like I’ve mentioned before the budget will obviously be a little less or a little more depending on your personal preferences.
Once you have your budget figured out the next step would be to start looking into the Resort Hotels on property. Each hotel has their own pros and cons and with over 25 options, it can become very overwhelming! Check out my post about How to Choose the Right Disney World Resort Hotel or here’s a list of some easy questions to ask yourself to help choose which Resort is right for you and your family:
- What are my options within my budget?
- Are we a family of 5 of more?
- Is location on Disney property important?
- What park do you plan on visiting the most?
- Do you have a little one who will need a nap in the middle of the day?
- Do you want Disney characters in your room or around your resort?
- Is bed size important to you?
Now, you’ve decided that you’re taking your family on a Disney World Vacation, you’ve decided on a budget and you’ve hopefully narrowed it down to one Disney Resort Hotel. Your next step is going to be booking your reservation! Remember! If you are going to be booking your vacation 6 months out from your vacation dates, the cost you see online will more than likely not be your end cost. How is that you might ask? Disney typically releases special offers/discounts between 2-4 months prior to your arrival date. But don’t worry! Once these offers become available we can always update your reservations to include the new price!
So I bet you’re thinking, “Nicole, why do we need to book so far in advance if the offers for my travels dates don’t come out until 2-4 months prior?” My answer is DINING & RESERVATIONS! If getting some of the best dining reservations are important to you and your family, you need to have your vacation booked more than 180 days from your arrival date. This will allow you to get first pick of dining locations like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table. Be Our Guest is consistently 100% booked 180 days from arrival and getting a reservation for dinner is extremely difficult after that point.
They next step is relaxing! Between 180 days and 60 days there’s not a ton of important things to do except get excited and think about the various attractions you’d like to see/do as well as any characters you’d like to meet. Check online Disney’s website for some information or order customized maps for your vacation. This will give you a list of all the available attractions in each park. Now is also the time to be the lookout for the offers/promotions that I was talking about! Disney does not automatically apply any discounts to your account without your request. Once they are made available I will either contact you or if you haven’t heard from me give me a shout! We can easily update your account to accommodate the offers and promotions available, which could include things like an updated room or one of your park tickets free!
At 60 days out we are back to booking! Now it’s time to book your FASTPASS+ reservations! When you do this, it’s very important that you know a few things:
- Do you have park hopper tickets?
- Which parks offer early morning magic hours.
- Best and worst parks each day
- The best attractions to use your FASTPASS+ on.
- Do you have smaller kids that would be scared of dark rides or have height restrictions?
Around this time is usually the perfect time to get the lowest cost on flight reservations (if you haven’t already done so). After your flight, you’ll need to call Disney to add your flight information to your Magical Express reservation. 60 days prior to arrival also makes online check-in available. This will allow you to provide Disney with your arrival time to your resort as well as provide a credit card on file during your stay. It’s another way to skip the line. If you’re planning on arriving later in the afternoon, this option isn’t necessary. If you are driving to Walt Disney World or renting a car you will not need the Disney’s Magical Express services.
This is also a quick reminder that in 15 short days, your final payment is due for any package. If you have a room only reservation, you’ll pay the remaining balance on arrival. Between 45 days and arrival day, there’s not much more to do in the planning phase. If you were unable to get any dining locations you were hoping for, you can continue to check back online for cancellations. Or, if you’re like me, you can change and update your FASTPASS+ and dining reservations until you make yourself crazy!
**If your’re completely confused or feel really behind and overwhelmed, then it’s all the more reason to use a Disney Travel Agent! By using a travel agent all you have to do is tell me what your preferences are and I do the rest. How easy is that? If you’re ready to get the magic started or want to request a free quote just fill out my FREE QUOTE SHEET so we can get started! If you still think that you can manage all this yourself that’s great too! Or if you have more questions as why use a Disney Travel Agent click on this link Why Use a Disney Travel Agent?, to read up on my reasons as to why use a Disney Travel Agent!**