Disney Vacation Plan
Your Step-by-Step Guide


To create your own customized Disney Vacation Plan, use the following 13 steps.

They outline the planning process to make it easy and fun!

Along the way you will acquire all the tools, tips, and knowledge you need.

You will explore the Disney Parks, Resorts, Transportation, Dining, and ticket options. You might even discover some hints, tips or secrets!

These are the steps I follow each and every time I do any Disney vacation planning. Just scroll down and go through each step, or you can go directly to a particular step by clicking on it.

When you’re all done with the steps, you will have an organized Disney Vacation Plan in hand!

Steps to Plan a Disney World Vacation
Just click on one of the steps to learn more.


Step 1: Decide WHEN to go.

When deciding on the best time to visit Disney World, you have many factors to consider. Most people need to determine the importance of the following:

  • Weather
  • Park hours
  • Cost
  • School / Work Schedules
  • Disney World Special Events
  • Crowd Levels
  • Everyone is different. You need to think about your traveling group and choose the time of year that will work the best for you.

    TIP: If at all possible, try to start your Disney vacation planning at LEAST 6 months in advance. That way, you will have plenty of time to explore your options and hopefully won’t have any trouble making room and dining reservations.

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    Step 2: Decide WHERE to stay.

    Will you stay on or off property in one of the many Orlando Hotels? Each option has pros and cons but this is a big decision to be made and it affects how you proceed with the planning of your vacation.

    Staying at one of the Disney Resorts has always been my favorite way to spend a Disney vacation. There are so many to choose from – each with its own unique theme and amenities. I am absolutely positive you will find one that appeals to your family or traveling party.

    When deciding on a Disney Resort, here are some things to keep in mind:

    • The maximum number of guests that Disney allows at each resort

    • Room size comparison

    • Price (Disney has three levels of Resorts accommodations: Deluxe, Moderate, and Value)

    • Transportation options available at the resorts

    • Other services you may require or desire (spa facilities, 5-star dining, etc)

    • Ease of getting around resort itself (size does matter!)

    This is also the time to consider a Disney World Vacation Package. But don’t get too hung up on the ticket and dining options available – you’ll get to these in Steps 4 and 7.

    If you visit Disney at least once a year and you've fallen in love with a specific resort, another option is to become a member of the Disney Vacation Club, Disney's timeshare program. When you purchase a timeshare property at Disney, you get to enjoy discounts on future vacations, incomparable quality and service, as well as a ton of other great perks available only to DVC members. To find reduced priced DVC listings click the link above to visit SellMyTimeshareNow.com, a website which specializes in timeshares by owner with an awesome page pertaining to the Disney Vacation Club.

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    Step 3: Decide HOW to get there.

    Will you be driving or flying? Maybe taking the auto-train? Again, this depends on a few factors:

    • Budget – be sure to explore all options. You may be able to grab a great airfare that allows you to extend your vacation by saving the driving time!

    • Number of people in party (it is cheaper to drive if you have 6 people!!)

    • Will everyone be able to sit in a car that long? Will you need ideas to entertain them?

    • Will everyone be okay on a plane?

    • Do you need a rental car or taxi service? (If you are staying at a Disney Resort you can use the Magical Express service thus eliminating the need to rent a car)

    Be sure to budget for gas and tolls if you drive. Also, consider overnight accommadations if you need more than one day to make the trip. Your method of transportation greatly influences your budget and your Disney vacation plan.

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    Step 4: Decide what kind of DISNEY PARK TICKETS you need.

    Disney World tickets are called Magic Your Way tickets. They have that name because you get choose which options you want and how many days you wish to use the tickets.

    NOTE: Even if you choose a Disney World Vacation Package, you are still given the option customize your tickets.

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    Step 5: BOOK it!

    Once you have completed Steps 1 through 4 of the Disney vacation planning process, you should now book everything. Again, you have some options here and need to decide on the way that best suits you.

    Before you book - decide if you will be choosing a Disney World Vacation Package. There are many perks to choosing this option so please be sure to check it out.

    NOTE: You can always turn a room-only reservation into a Package as long as you do so more than 10 days before your arrival date. You can use a travel agent to reserve your airline/train and hotel or Disney Package. He or she will do all the work and make all the phone calls – you just hand over your credit card and sit back and relax. Some travel agents will even make your Disney Dining arrangements for you!

    If you are looking for a travel agent that specializes in Disney Vacations, request a quote from Magical Journeys.

    An unconventional Travel Agency for the unconventional client, dedicated to finding the best pricing for your next magical journey.

    They work hard to save you money, and still give you the quality service you deserve!

    Request a Quote for a Magical Vacation!

    Request a Quote!

    You can also book your transportation and accommodations on your own. The internet makes it very easy to search, compare, and book your travel and lodging arrangements. All of the major airlines and hotel chains provide very easy to use searching tools to find the best flight times at the best prices.

    Whenever I book my Disney Package or Room-only reservation without the assistance of a travel agent, I prefer to do so over the phone – not on the internet. I do use the official Disney World website to get price quotes, but I do the actually booking with a human on the phone line. There have been numerous complaints and issues with using the website, so I just avoid it. The Disney reservation phone number is 1-407-W-DISNEY.

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    Step 6: Use the PLANNING TOOLS.

    Okay – now I get to share some of my tricks with you! My beloved Planning Tools. This is the point where your Disney vacation plan all comes together in an array of organized worksheets. When you are finished with this step you will have an outline of your Disney vacation.

    Some of the planning tools you will find:

  • Disney Vacation Plan spreadsheet – this will be your lifeline while you are actually in Disney World. Spend the time now to get all the important information onto this sheet. This little paper has been a tremendous help to me on my own Disney vacations and many friends have used it also. Download the spreadsheet for your own use. Please note that this spreadsheet evolves over the course of your planning. You will frequently update it and adjust it throughout this Step-by-Step process.

  • ADR organizer (ADR stands for Advanced Dining Reservation – see Step 7)

  • Budget worksheet. If you’re on a budget then it is imperative that you know what you’re spending. For instance, some families may use some or all of their tax refund to make a vacation possible. Others may pinch pennies. Regardless of the situation, you can find all kinds of tax calculators and estimators online that can help. After all, a budget is one of the most important aspects of vacation planning.

  • Gas Mileage Calculator
  • There are also some other things in the Planning Tools that you don’t need just yet – but please come back when you are ready!

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    Step 7: Explore and Book your Disney DINING Experiences

    Dining is a big part of any vacation. Well, dining at Disney is no exception! In fact, some people build their whole Disney vacation plan around their dining choices.

    Disney World offers:

  • Dining Plans (basic and deluxe options)
  • Character Dining
  • Dinner Shows
  • Once you understand the reservation process, and have booked all of your ADRs, update your Disney Vacation Plan spreadsheet and your budget sheet if needed. You may also want to check out the tipping chart to help you plan for tips and gratuities at the table service facilities.

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    Step 8: Learn about the PARKS.

    The Disney World Resort has four major theme parks and two water parks:

  • Magic Kingdom
  • Epcot
  • Disney Hollywood Studios
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Typhoon Lagoon
  • Blizzard Beach
  • Take the time to explore what each park offers. Make notes on must-see attractions or shows and be sure to add these your master Disney Vacation Plan spreadsheet.

    You may also want to get the "lay of the land". I like to use Google Earth to look at aerial images of the Disney Parks and resorts. Click here to



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    Step 9: Let the COUNTDOWN Begin!

    Okay, you’ve made it this far...your Disney Vacation Plan is almost complete. You’ve done all the research and have learned all you need to know about the Disney World Resort!! Yippee!

    Now comes the hardest part – waiting for the trip to arrive! To help you and your family cope with the waiting period, I put together some fun ways to endure the countdown to your departure.

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    Step 10: PACK.

    I hate packing for a vacation. I do it well and I am very thorough, but I really hate packing. Unfortunately, the authorities at Disney World do consider clothing a non-negotiable requirement. So alas, we all must pack.... Luckily, there are many fun ways and smart tips to get you through the dreaded packing process.

    As a side note, it is always nice to have a new piece of luggage or a cute little cosmetic or camera bag. I have a few pieces from Vera Bradley that always add a little bit of fun to my trips. As an added bonus - there are always sales on retiring products at their online store!

    TIP: Don't forget to pack your Disney Vacation Plan spreadsheet!

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    Step 11: IT’S GO TIME! ENJOY YOUR TRIP!

    You are on your way! You’ve planned, packed, and have thought of every little detail to make this the perfect and stress free Disney World Vacation. Now – just go and have a blast! But please remember to take lots of pictures. Also, be sure to grab any and all free brochures, maps, menus, etc. These not only make good souvenirs, but they help you document your trip.

    Don't forget to carry your Disney Vacation Plan with you at all times!

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    Step 12: DOCUMENT your trip.

    Photo album, web album, slideshow, scrapbook, vacation journal or blog…….pick one and JUST DO IT! And might I suggest that you do it sooner rather than later. I know you’re busy but try to find the time to document your Disney World vacation while it is still fresh in your mind. Trust me, you (and your family) will thank you. My kids and husband love to look at the many, many photos and scrapbooks from our trips and relive the memories.

    TIP: While on vacation, jot down some quick notes right on your Disney Vacation Plan spreadsheet before you go to sleep each night.

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    Step 13: Start Planning your NEXT trip!

    Each time I return home from a Disney World trip I have an empty feeling inside. So much time and mental energy was spent planning the trip, the trip itself was wonderful as always, and then you come home - and that's it! It's all over and there is nothing to look forward too.

    Well, the best way to get rid of that empty, hollow feeling is to fill yourself up with the prospect of another Disney trip!

    So, do what I do. Immediately empty all the change from your pockets into your Disney Fund piggy bank and begin once again at Step 1 to create your next Disney vacation plan!

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