Disney World Planning Timeline
Our Disney World Planning Timeline will teach you when each step of the Disney planning process should be completed to maximize your vacation. Now, more than ever, it’s essential that things like Advanced Dining Reservation booking are done ASAP. This planning timeline will show you when to take each step in the planning process.
Planning a Disney World vacation can be a daunting task, especially for first-time guests. The properties of Walt Disney World cover 43 square miles – almost two times the size of Manhattan! There are so many exciting attractions, engaging activities, magical details, and wonderful resorts and restaurants that it’s nearly impossible to experience everything at Disney World over the course of several trips, let alone in a single visit. So how do you even begin to prepare for your trip? We’ll take you through it, step by step.
Start Planning Now
After reviewing the Disney World Planning Timeline, you should begin your research, book your trip, and create an itinerary for each day at your selected park. We know what you’re thinking – “A daily itinerary? Where’s the fun and spontaneity in that?” Without a daily itinerary and at least some knowledge of the parks, Disney World can be confusing, and the options can get overwhelming. Informed and organized vacationers are less stressed, see more of what they want to see, save more money, and have more fun.
With that said, when is the best time to start planning your Disney World trip? We believe that the sooner you start the process, the better. As we suggest in our Disney World Planning Timeline, at least 6 months prior to going is ideal, but the bottom line is, as soon as you decide to visit Walt Disney World, start the initial stages of planning. That also gives you more time to save up the money needed for a Disney vacation.
Do you want help with your planning? Regardless of how much time you have to plan, a Disney travel agent can greatly reduce your effort in the process and help make your Disney vacation dreams a reality. Plus, their services are completely free of charge. You can’t get any better than that! We recommend booking your vacation through good Disney Travel Planners like The Vacationeer.
Visiting Walt Disney World During the Covid-19 Pandemic
Before we start, please be aware that certain parks, hotels, restaurants, and experiences may be modified, limited, or unavailable at this time.
Note that FastPass+ has been replaced with Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane passes, and Disney’s Dining Plans have been suspended until further notice.
Advance Dining Reservations can be made up to 60 days before your arrival, and Extra Magic Hours has been discontinued and will soon be replaced with Early Theme Park Entry later this year. Contact your Disney travel agent for the latest information.
Disney has implemented a series of health and safety measures during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including:
Disney Park Pass System
In order to promote physical distancing and manage attendance, Disney requires that all theme park reservations are made via the Disney Park Pass system. All Guests ages three and older must have a park reservation – and a valid admission for the same park on the same date as the reservation – in order to enter. Limit one park per day.
Update January 2023: Face coverings are optional for Guests in both outdoor and indoor locations, as well as on Disney transportation. Face coverings are not permitted while using water slides or while in the water.
General Information for your Disney World Planning Timeline
Before we review the details of our Disney World planning timeline, let’s start by highlighting some of the important Disney terms you will encounter as you plan your Walt Disney World vacation.
Anyone coming to Walt Disney World has to choose whether to stay at a Disney-owned resort or a non-Disney resort. This is often referred to as the choice between staying “on property” or “off property.” There are many factors to consider when making this choice, and it has an impact on your planning, as you will see below.
My Disney Experience
The myDisneyExperience.com website, as well as the My Disney Experience app, plays a big role in the planning of your trip. You’ll use My Disney Experience to, among other things, provide details about your travel party, view and make reservations and itineraries, and see your Disney PhotoPass pictures. It will also serve as a resource while you’re at the parks, as My Disney Experience includes park maps, restaurant menus, current wait times for attractions and experiences, and much more.
MagicBands are colorful wristbands that act as an all-in-one device to effortlessly connect you to the vacation choices you made with My Disney Experience. They are used to enter the parks, activate your Genie+/Lightning Lane reservations, unlock your Disney Resort hotel room, buy food and merchandise, and more.
Early Theme Park Entry
One of the perks to staying at an aforementioned “on property” Walt Disney World hotel is utilizing Early Theme Park Entry. This benefit allows registered guests of Walt Disney World Resort hotels to enter the park 30 minutes before normal operating hours. This perk is offered every day of the week and Gusts may choose any park they wish (valid theme park tickets are required). Early Theme Park Entry is the replacement for the now-discontinued Extra Magic Hours.
Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane Passes
The Disney Genie+ add-on has replaced the FastPass+ system and the former FastPass entrances are now called “Lightning Lane” entrances.
Like FastPass, guests can reserve a ride time using the app (Disney Genie app), but only one reservation can be made at a time.
Your first reservation can be booked starting at 7 a.m. on the day of your visit to a Walt Disney World theme park. Once you have utilized your first reservation, you’ll be able to make your next one. Park hoppers can use Genie+ at any parks they go to on the same day.
For a cost of around $15-$30 (varies based on date and demand) per person per day, the service allows quick boarding access to more than 40 attractions at Walt Disney World Resort.
Please note that several of Disney’s most popular are not part of the Disney Genie+ program. For these rides, you must purchase individual Lightning Lane passes on a per-ride basis. Guest are allowed no more than 2 passes per day and no rides can be repeated on the same day.
Advanced Dining Reservations
180 days in advance is now 60 days during COVID
Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) secure your table at some of Disney’s most popular restaurants. On-site resort guests can make ADRs at the 180-day mark of their check-in date, starting at 6 AM EST online and 7 AM over the phone and can book them for up to 10 days past their check-in date. Off-site guests must make their ADRs no more than 180 days out. (In other words, every day a new date 180 days out will be available to book an ADR.)
Try our Disney Reservation Calculator and plug in your dates.
Disney World Planning Timeline for Disney Vacations
A Few More Considerations – Disney World Planning Timeline
For those of you who are early birds, Walt Disney World room-only reservations may be booked up to 499 days in advance. Booking this far in advance is not generally necessary for most reservations, but it may ensure that you get a particular room that is in high demand.
One caveat is that you won’t know the exact pricing on park tickets and dining plan packages this far in advance. In addition, you can only book room-only reservations this far in advance by calling Disney reservations or a Disney travel agent. Recent history suggests that room/dining plan/ticket packages will be available around late June for the following year, but this is always subject to change.
High Priority Reservations
There are certain dining reservations and activities that get filled up quickly. Therefore, if you would like to make a reservation for popular attractions, be sure to set them as a high priority at the 180-day mark, if at all possible. Here are some of the most popular experiences to book in advance:
✓ Beaches and Cream
✓ Be Our Guest Restaurant
✓ Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
✓ California Grill
✓ Chef Mickey’s
✓ Chef’s Table at Victoria and Albert’s
✓ Cinderella’s Royal Table
✓ Cirque du Soleil
✓ Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
✓ Le Cellier
✓ Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
✓ Other experiences periodically offered by Disney
High Priority Genie+/Lightning Lane Passes
These are currently some of the most difficult Genie+/Lightning Lane reservations to make:
✓ Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (Hollywood Studios)
✓ Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (Hollywood Studios)
✓ Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (Hollywood Studios)
✓ Peter Pan’s Flight (Magic Kingdom)
✓ Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom)
✓ Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom)
✓ Frozen Ever After (Epcot)
✓ Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (Epcot)
✓ Soarin’ (Epcot)
✓ Flight of Passage (Animal Kingdom)
✓ Navi River Journey (Animal Kingdom)
✓ Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (Hollywood Studios)
✓ Toy Story Midway Mania (Hollywood Studios)
There are currently over 40 attractions for paid Disney Genie+ and 4 attractions for the highest-priority, pay-per-ride Individual Lightning Lane Passes. See the chart below for more information.
|Attraction||Disney Theme Park||Included in Disney Genie+||Purchase Individual Lightning Lane Entry|
|Big Thunder Mountain Railroad||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Dumbo the Flying Elephant||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Haunted Mansion||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|“it’s a small world”||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Jungle Cruise||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Mad Tea Party||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Meet Ariel at Her Grotto||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Meet Cinderella and a Visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale Hall||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Meet Princess Tiana and a Visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale Hall||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Mickey’s PhilharMagic||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Peter Pan’s Flight||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Pirates of the Caribbean||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Seven Dwarfs Mine Train||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Space Mountain||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|The Barnstormer||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|The Magic Carpets of Aladdin||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Tomorrowland Speedway||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|TRON: Lightcycle / Run||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid||Magic Kingdom||✓|
|Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival||EPCOT||✓|
|Frozen Ever After||EPCOT||✓|
|Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind||EPCOT||✓|
|Journey into Imagination with Figment||EPCOT||✓|
|Living with the Land||EPCOT||✓|
|Mission: SPACE – Green||EPCOT||✓|
|Mission: SPACE – Orange||EPCOT||✓|
|Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure||EPCOT||✓|
|Soarin' Around the World||EPCOT||✓|
|The Seas with Nemo & Friends||EPCOT||✓|
|Turtle Talk with Crush||EPCOT||✓|
|Alien Swirling Saucers||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Disney Junior Play & Dance!||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Meet Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Muppet*Vision 3D||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Slinky Dog Dash||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Star Tours - The Adventures Continue||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Toy Story Mania!||Disney's Hollywood Studios||✓|
|Avatar Flight of Passage||Disney's Animal Kingdom Park||✓|
|Festival of the Lion King||Disney's Animal Kingdom Park||✓|
|DINOSAUR||Disney's Animal Kingdom Park||✓|
|Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain||Disney's Animal Kingdom Park||✓|
|Feathered Friends in Flight!||Disney's Animal Kingdom Park||✓|
|Finding Nemo: The Big Blue...and Beyond!||Disney's Animal Kingdom Park||✓|
|It’s Tough to Be a Bug!||Disney's Animal Kingdom Park||✓|
|Kali River Rapids||Disney's Animal Kingdom Park||✓|
|Kilimanjaro Safaris||Disney's Animal Kingdom Park||✓|
|Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost||Disney's Animal Kingdom Park||✓|
|Naʻvi River Journey||Disney's Animal Kingdom Park||✓|
|The Animation Experience at Conservation Station||Disney's Animal Kingdom Park||✓|
Well, there you have it – our Disney World Planning Timeline. These are just a few guidelines for getting you started in planning your trip to Walt Disney World. Remember to sign up for our free e-guide entitled “The 9 Steps to Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation,” which provides more in-depth information on this subject. Also, browse through Magic Guides pages for more WDW information, including our helpful Disney Dining Plan Calculator, Disney Transportation Map, and Disney World Crowd Calendar tools.
If you need help planning and booking your magical Walt Disney World vacation, then contact our friends at The Vacationeer. Their services are always helpful and totally free of charge! Click HERE for a free, no-obligation price quote.
Thank you for reading our page, and we hope you have a magical Walt Disney World vacation!