Wondering how to begin planning your Disney trip? Whether you are planning your first or your fiftieth trip to Walt Disney World, there are certain things you must do to prepare.
Taking a little time before you travel will improve the quality of your trip substantially. Are you ready to plan your Disney vacation? Here are my top 5 things to do before your Disney Trip.
1. Decide Upon a Budget
I know it’s not exciting to think about how much you want to spend on your trip, but Disney can be EXPENSIVE. Once you are on vacation, it’s also really easy to let things slide and justify purchases you’d never make at home “because after all, we are on vacation.” Sound familiar?
So, take even half an hour and think about what your spending limit is for areas like park tickets, food, lodging, extra activities, and souvenirs. Even if it’s a rough estimate, it gets you to start thinking critically about your expenditures which will help you think twice before making foolish purchases.
2. Sign up for My Disney Experience when planning your vacation
This website/app is a must for planning and executing your Disney vacation. It’s free, and you can start by signing up at My Disney Experience, but make sure to also download the app for your phone.
Once you are in the parks, you can use the app on the go to check wait times, book additional Genie+times, and reserve dining among other things. It’s so useful! So go ahead and create an account now and then spend some time in the next few weeks familiarizing yourself with the app – it’ll make the actual trip so much easier.
3. Book Dining Before Your Next Disney Trip
If there are specific restaurants you know you want to eat at, go ahead and book dining using the My Disney Experience website or app. Some of the restaurants can be very hard to get into, and if you don’t book them, odds are you’ll have to either wait several hours to get in, or you won’t get to experience them at all.
Although you can also book dining while you are at the park using the My Disney Experience app, if you don’t visit Disney often, it’s probably worth it to go ahead and make those important reservations ahead of time. These days we rarely make dining reservations in advance, but when the kids were little we always booked a character breakfast or two months ahead of our trip so we knew we’d get to enjoy them.
Currently, you can book dining up to 180 days before your trip – and some places (like Cindarella’s Castle, Be Our Guest, and Oga’s Cantina) definitely require that kind of advanced planning.
If you don’t get the reservation you want, don’t fret as you can always check back frequently to see if there has been a cancellation (another reason why the app is so useful). Several times now I’ve been able to book Oga’s Cantina a few weeks out thanks to someone else canceling their reservations.
👉 My all-time favorite way to get those hard-to-find reservations is by using MouseDining.com‘s restaurant finder. You simply create a search and wait for them to notify you of availability. There is a free and paid version, so check it out HERE.
Insider Tip: One other caveat, the more expensive places do require a credit card and if you don’t cancel within the cancellation period, you will be charged a fee, so make sure you understand the policy and can adhere to it.
4. Book Fastpasses early when Planning Your Disney Trip
👉 2022 UPDATE: The days of fastpasses are over – now it’s all about Genie+. If you’re interested in Genie+, check out this post to help you decide if you need it or not!
One of my favorite reasons to stay onsite is that I can book fastpasses 60 days from our vacation (versus the typical 30 days). What’s really nice is that you can start booking them on the first day of your reservation. So if you are staying at a Disney hotel starting May 1 for 5 nights, you can book your fastpasses for the whole trip 60 days before May 1st.
This is the best (and often only) way to ensure you’ll ride the latest and greatest rides without waiting in line for hours. Well worth spending a bit of time upfront plotting out your days.
5. Book Disney Park Reservations before your trip
One of the things that came out of COVID was the need for park reservations. As soon as you have park tickets and/or an onsite room reservation (or an annual pass), you can book park reservations.
You do this through the Disney website or the My Disney Experience app. And this is a critical step as the parks can sell out during busy seasons. The last thing you want to happen is to arrive at Disney and discover you can’t enter the parks because there aren’t any available park reservations!
Bonus: Start Saving Money
Closely tied to the first tip, now is the time to start saving money for that Disney Vacation. That way when you return home, you aren’t worried about the big bills that are to come.
Something that has worked well for several of my friends is to purchase Disney gift cards for their trips. They buy them at Target or Kroger when they have a gift card deal and save a little money.
You can also save up points with Swagbucks or My Points for merchants such as Starbucks or Landry’s restaurants and cash them in for gift cards for coffee and meals. I love both programs and can easily save up enough for a delicious dinner at Yak & Yeti as well as covering our morning coffee.
Insider Tip: Gift cards are also a great way to limit your spending. If each kid has one Disney gift card for souvenirs it makes it easy to stay within the budget.
Conclusion: Things to do before your Disney Trip
Hopefully these five (plus the bonus) tips will help you be fully prepared for your visit to the magical world of Disney!
If you’d like help in planning your Disney vacation (and booking dining, fastpasses, etc.) I’d love to help you out – contact me via my Magical Vacation Planner website and I’ll help you create the perfect Disney vacation!
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