Best Timeline for Planning a Magical Walt Disney World Vacation

Planning Timeline for a Magical Walt Disney World Vacation

Written by Jill Dalton, Concierge Vacation Planner at Storybook World Travel a Disney Earmarked Agency, May 15, 2020

Planning a magical family vacation to Walt Disney World comes in many steps and each with their own set of dates or booking windows.  While it can be pulled together in a week or two, it is best to start locking in the details as far in advance as possible.  So, what is the ideal timeline?  The magical date for Walt Disney World is at least 194 days in advance.  Let’s go over the timeline!

194 Days: Travel Dates, Budget, and Resorts!

Oh my! Believe it or not, the hardest part of planning a magical family vacation to Walt Disney World is deciding on your travel dates, target budget, and where you would like to stay.  I like to start this process with my families at least 194 days in advance because each of those aspects plays a huge part in your vacation.  Booking your trip with a travel agent that specializes in Disney vacations can help during this process, because they are familiar with crowd levels, resorts, and working with a budget to fit the best vacation to your family’s wishes.  I ask my families lots of questions to ensure we find the best resort fit and type of vacation to make your stay magical.  Did you know that Walt Disney World owns and operates 28 resorts and three different levels of resorts?  There are a lot of options!  Once you have decided on your resort and travel dates you can lock in your magical family vacation package with a $200 deposit (which is fully refundable until 30 days before travel).

180 Days: Dining and Magical Extra Reservations!

Once you have locked in your resort, your travel agent will help you come up with an ideal park rotation based on your tickets and wishes.  Then it is time to start some of the fun parts of planning a Walt Disney World vacation – locking in dining and magical extras.  There are more than 90 full service restaurants at Walt Disney World!  When I remind my families of their upcoming dining window I also share with them some of my favorite hidden gems.  Be sure to ask your travel agent for suggestions and special restaurants that you might enjoy.  Did you know that dining reservations open for booking at 180 days before your travel at 6:00 in the morning (EST)?  When interviewing your travel agent be sure to ask if they will book those reservations for you when they open – that will ensure the best selection or times and restaurant

In addition to dining, there are other magical extras you can reserve at 180 days before travel.  Do you have a Princess in need of a makeover, or a Jedi in need of a droid?  This is a time to lock in those magical enhancements, like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Droid Dept.  Spa services, tours, golf, boat adventures, and fireworks dessert parties can also be booked at this time.

60 Days: Fast Passes and Magic Bands!

There is a long break between the excitement of reserving your restaurants and when you can start making Fast Passes.  During this time you may want to look at Fast Pass options and YouTube ride videos.  I have one thrill riding child and one that will not ride roller coasters, which can be a little tricky in planning your Fast Passes.  Be sure to talk with your travel agent or research attractions before locking them in with Fast Passes.  Booking with a travel agent is beneficial during this step too!  They will help create a map of your day to ensure your Fast Passes and dining reservations meet your needs.

For example, did you know that it is 1.3 miles around the World Showcase in Epcot?  You can really log some miles when in the parks, so creating that Fast Pass/dining map can help cut down on the amount of walking your family will do in a day.  The Fast Pass window opens at 7:00 (EST) in the morning 60 days before you check in for Disney Resort guests.  (Please note that Fast Passes for guests staying off site and not in a Disney partner resort cannot make Fast Pass reservations until 30 days in advance).

Disney offers each Resort guest a Magic Band. 

These bands feel like wearing a watch and make a visit to Walt Disney World easier.  Magic Bands are your room key, Photo Pass holder, park ticket, room charge, and so much more.  Between 30-60 days in advance you can customize your Magic Bands and have them delivered to your house.  Disney offers complimentary Magic Bands in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, and gray.  You can also have your name written on the inside of the band.  It is an exciting day when you these arrive in your  Mickey Mail! 


The Magic is Around the Corner!

Time to start the countdown to magic!  Making magical memories is what a Disney vacation is all about.  I still remember the reaction the first time my daughter saw the castle (she was 2 and it was magical).  Be sure to trust your planning, so you can take time to remember magical moments.

What happens if you only have a couple weeks or a few months to start planning your magical family vacation to Walt Disney World? 

While you may not get all of the exact reservations or times you might want, you can still plan a trip to Walt Disney World on a shorter timeline.  Sometimes it is fun to just pick up and plan a last minute trip to Walt Disney World!

Writer: Jill Dalton, Concierge Vacation Planner at Storybook World Travel a Disney Earmarked Agency


Growing up on the East Coast Jill has enjoyed many adventures to Walt Disney World! She considers the Animal Kingdom Lodge her second home, and loves their Zebra Domes. Jill took her first family cruise on the Disney Wonder out of Galveston, TX in 2013. Her family had so much fun that they have cruised many itineraries around the world with Disney Cruise Line, including the Mediterranean! Jill also loves participating in the runDisney events and ran in the Coast to Coast challenge during 2016. She plans family, adult, homeschool, and multi-generational vacations. Jill looks forward to helping you prepare for your next magical adventure!Links:Business Facebook

Page: World Travel Jill’s bio/booking page:

****Pending approval from government officials, the phased reopening plans we submitted calls for Walt Disney World theme parks and Disney Resort hotels to open beginning July 11 for Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom followed by EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on July 15. More info on


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