Walt Disney World is a complex entertainment environment. For many Disney World fans, planning is a multiple-month process that is nearly as enjoyable as the trip, itself. While the Touring Plans team admires the efforts of those who create color-coded spreadsheets that break down the details of their vacations (including restroom stops) into 15-minute intervals, that style of planning is not for everyone, and fortunately it is not required.
Still, there are some things you should do well before you head to the World:
Choose Your Dates
If you have the flexibility to travel on different dates, look at our Crowd Calendar and choose the dates have lighter crowds. Consider crowd levels, park hours, weather, special events and performances, and anything else that is important to you.
Keep an Eye on your Travel Dates
Disney changes its park hours and scheduled events fairly frequently, and that affects our wait time predictions. Use our Crowd Tracker to get notified about changes in predicted crowd levels during your stay.
Make Your Table Service Reservations
If you want to dine at Disney's table service restaurants, you can make reservations 180 days in advance. Make reservations as early as you can, especially if you are traveling when a "free dining" promotion is in effect. If any of this is confusing, note that most Disney specialist travel agents will make dining reservations for their clients--just ask!
- If you have a room booked at a Disney Resort, you can make dining reservations for your entire stay (of up to 10 nights) 180 days from the day you check-in. This can effectively extend your reservation window to 190 days!
- See this blog post for ideas on how early you need to book different Disney restaurants.
Listen to Podcasts
Myriad podcasts are available that describe current happenings at Disney Parks and offer trip planning advice.
The team's favorite podcasts (which, not surprisingly, are sponsored by TouringPlans.com) include:
Book Your Travel
Consider booking a room as soon as possible. If you make a "room only" reservation at a Disney Resort, this will cost you only a one-night deposit that is fully refundable up to 5 days before your check-in date. Good travel agents that specialize in Disney vacations will watch for discounts, proactively apply them, and let you know about special promotions during your travel dates. See our detailed information on Travel Packages, Onsite or Offsite, and Resort Benefits.
If you want a rental car, you may as well book one early since most companies do not require a credit card to hold your reservation and have no cancelation fees. You should, however, check prices periodically to see if something cheaper arises. Note that Orlando International Airport is an extremely competitive market for car rentals, so you should be able to get a good deal outside of the busiest times of the year.
Airfare can vary wildly from day to day. Try to determine an acceptable price for your trip and then use a tool like Kayak to monitor prices and see when they fall within your range. Once you are comfortable with an advertised price, book quickly and be done with it. Note that some airlines (like Southwest) will, upon request, give you a credit if a price drops after you have purchased your tickets.