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How To Start Planning A Trip To Disney World


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Kynthia Barden



Welcome to the magical world of Disney! Whether you’re a die-hard Disney fan or simply seeking a fun-filled vacation with your family, planning a trip to Disney World is an exciting adventure. Disney World, located in Orlando, Florida, is a sprawling resort that offers a plethora of entertainment options for visitors of all ages.


However, with so much to see and do, it’s essential to have a solid plan in place to make the most of your trip. From deciding the best time to visit to booking accommodations and purchasing tickets, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential steps to kick-start your Disney World planning process.


Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details, it’s important to note that planning a trip to Disney World requires careful consideration and research. And while it may seem overwhelming at first, fear not! With the right approach and armed with the necessary information, you’ll soon be immersed in the enchanting world of Disney.


So, grab your magic wand and pack your imagination as we embark on this journey to plan the ultimate Disney World adventure!


Step 1: Determine the Ideal Time to Visit Disney World

Choosing the right time to visit Disney World is crucial for a memorable experience. There are a few factors to consider when determining the ideal time for your trip:


1. Crowd Levels: Disney World can be incredibly crowded during peak times, such as holidays and school breaks. If you prefer a more relaxed and less crowded experience, consider visiting during off-peak times, like weekdays in the non-peak seasons.


2. Weather: Florida’s climate can be quite hot and humid, especially during the summer months. If you’re not a fan of the heat, you may want to consider visiting during the milder months of spring or fall. Additionally, keep in mind that hurricane season in Florida runs from June through November, so take that into account when planning your trip.


3. Special Events: Disney World hosts several special events throughout the year, such as Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. If you have a particular event in mind that you’d like to experience, plan your trip accordingly.


4. Ride Closures and Refurbishments: It’s important to check for any scheduled ride closures or refurbishments during your planned visit. Disney World regularly updates its attractions, and certain rides may be temporarily closed for maintenance or enhancements. Keeping an eye on the official Disney World website will help you stay informed.


Once you’ve considered these factors, you can use crowd calendars and historical attendance data to get a sense of the expected crowd levels during your preferred time of visit. Keep in mind that while there may be no “perfect” time to visit with no crowds at all, thoughtful planning can significantly minimize wait times and maximize your enjoyment.


By taking the time to research and select the ideal time to visit Disney World, you’ll ensure a more pleasant experience and make the most of your adventure in the happiest place on Earth!


Step 2: Set a Budget for Your Disney World Trip

Before diving into the magical world of Disney, it’s crucial to establish a budget for your trip. Setting a budget will help you determine how much you can comfortably spend on accommodations, tickets, food, transportation, and souvenirs. Here are some key factors to consider when creating your Disney World budget:


1. Accommodations: Decide whether you want to stay at a Disney resort or opt for a nearby off-site hotel. Disney resorts offer convenient perks like complimentary transportation to the parks, but they can be pricier. Off-site hotels may be more budget-friendly but require additional planning for transportation.


2. Tickets: Disney World offers various ticket options, including single-day, multi-day, and park hopper passes. Consider the number of days you plan to spend in the parks and determine which ticket option aligns with your budget.


3. Dining: Disney World boasts a wide range of dining options, from quick-service meals to character dining experiences. Plan your dining choices based on your budget, and consider bringing snacks and water bottles to save some cash.


4. Transportation: Determine the cost of transportation to and from Disney World. If you’re driving, factor in gas, tolls, and parking fees. If you’re flying, research flight prices and consider whether renting a car or using Disney’s Magical Express transportation is more cost-effective.


5. Souvenirs and Extras: Disney World is infamous for its irresistible souvenirs and extra experiences. Set aside a budget for purchasing souvenirs or participating in special activities like character meet-and-greets or behind-the-scenes tours.


Once you’ve established a budget, it’s helpful to track your expenses throughout the planning process. Keep in mind that Disney often offers discounts and promotions at various times throughout the year, so stay vigilant and take advantage of any deals that may align with your budget.


Remember, setting a budget for your Disney World trip is essential to ensure that you have a magical time without breaking the bank. With careful planning and financial consideration, you’ll embark on your Disney adventure with peace of mind and the ability to enjoy all that Disney World has to offer!


Step 3: Choose the Duration of Your Disney World Trip

Deciding how long to stay at Disney World is an important step in your trip planning process. The duration of your stay will depend on various factors, including your budget, availability of time, and personal preferences. Here are some tips to help you choose the ideal duration for your Disney World trip:


1. Park Exploration: Disney World is massive, with four major theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Each park offers a unique array of attractions, shows, and experiences. If you want to fully explore and enjoy all the parks have to offer, consider allocating at least one day for each park.


2. Relaxation and Downtime: While it’s tempting to try and cram in as much as possible, it’s also important to factor in some downtime during your trip. Disney World can be overwhelming, and taking breaks to rest, relax, or explore the resort’s hotels and amenities can help you rejuvenate and fully savor the magic.


3. Special Events and Seasonal Offerings: Disney World hosts special events throughout the year, such as holiday-themed parties and festivals. If there’s a particular event you’d like to experience, make sure your trip duration allows you to attend and enjoy these special offerings.


4. Budget: The length of your stay will impact your overall trip expenses. Additional days mean extra costs for accommodations, park tickets, food, and transportation. Consider the financial implications and ensure your chosen duration aligns with your budget.


Keep in mind that it’s not just about the number of days you spend at Disney World but also how you allocate your time within the parks. Creating a well-balanced itinerary with a mix of attractions, dining experiences, and leisurely exploration is essential to make the most of your trip.


Ultimately, the ideal duration for your Disney World trip depends on your personal preferences and circumstances. Some visitors find that a week-long vacation provides ample time to explore the parks and relax, while others may opt for a shorter visit. Consider your priorities, schedule, and budget to determine the perfect duration that will allow you to create lifelong memories in the enchanting world of Disney.


Step 4: Research and Book Accommodations

Choosing the right accommodations is pivotal to ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable stay during your Disney World trip. With a variety of options available, it’s important to research and book accommodations that best suit your needs and preferences. Here are some steps to help you in the process:


1. Determine Your Budget: Begin by setting a budget for your accommodations. Consider how much you’re willing to spend per night and factor in any additional costs, such as resort fees or parking fees.


2. Decide on Location: Disney World offers both on-site and off-site accommodations. On-site resorts provide convenient perks such as complimentary transportation to the parks and the ability to book FastPass+ and dining reservations in advance. Off-site hotels may be more budget-friendly but may require additional planning for transportation.


3. Research Disney Resort Options: If you decide to stay on-site, explore the various Disney resorts available. Each resort has its unique theme and amenities, ranging from value to deluxe accommodations. Consider factors such as proximity to the parks, dining options, pools, and overall ambiance to make an informed decision.


4. Consider Off-Site Options: If you prefer off-site accommodations, research hotels in the area surrounding Disney World. Look for hotels that offer shuttle services to the parks or are conveniently located near transportation options. Check reviews and ratings to ensure a comfortable stay.


5. Check Availability and Book Early: Disney World is a popular destination, and accommodations can fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. Once you have a shortlist of options, check availability on specific dates, and book as early as possible to secure your preferred choice.


6. Consider Vacation Home Rentals: Another option to consider is renting a vacation home or villa near Disney World. These rentals offer more space, a kitchen for preparing meals, and the added privacy of your own home away from home. Research reputable rental agencies and book well in advance.


When booking accommodations, it’s essential to read reviews, compare prices, and consider the amenities and perks each option offers. Keep in mind that staying on-site can provide a more immersive Disney experience, but off-site accommodations may offer greater flexibility and cost savings.


By conducting thorough research and making informed choices, you’ll secure comfortable accommodations that suit your budget and enhance your overall Disney World experience.


Step 5: Purchase Disney World Tickets

One of the most important steps in planning your Disney World trip is purchasing the right tickets. Disney World offers a variety of ticket options to accommodate different preferences and budgets. Here’s what you need to know:


1. Types of Tickets: Disney World offers single-day tickets, multi-day tickets, and park hopper passes. Single-day tickets grant you admission to one park for a single day. Multi-day tickets allow you to visit one park per day for multiple days, while park hopper passes allow you to visit multiple parks in one day.


2. Park Hopper Plus Option: In addition to the standard park hopper option, you can also consider the Park Hopper Plus option. This option provides access to water parks, miniature golf courses, or ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in addition to the four main theme parks.


3. Determine the Number of Days: Consider how many days you want to spend in the parks. To fully experience the attractions and shows in each park, it’s generally recommended to allocate at least one day per park. However, if you’re short on time or prefer a more relaxed pace, you can adjust the number of days accordingly.


4. Annual Passes and Special Tickets: If you plan to visit Disney World multiple times in a year or want to take advantage of discounts and exclusive perks, consider purchasing an Annual Pass. Additionally, keep an eye out for special tickets like Florida Resident tickets or discounted tickets for members of the military.


5. Ticket Discounts and Deals: Disney occasionally offers promotions or discounts on tickets. Research and stay updated on any current offers to maximize savings. Also, consider purchasing tickets directly from Disney’s official website or authorized ticket resellers to ensure validity and avoid scams.


6. Link Tickets to My Disney Experience: Once you have purchased your tickets, link them to your My Disney Experience account. This will allow you to make FastPass+ reservations and manage your itinerary efficiently.


It’s important to note that ticket prices vary based on the time of year, day of the week, and demand. Peak seasons and weekends tend to have higher prices compared to off-peak times. Be sure to check the official Disney World website for current pricing and availability.


By purchasing the right tickets, you’ll have access to the enchanting world of Disney and be well on your way to creating incredible memories that will last a lifetime!


Step 6: Plan Your Park Itinerary

Planning your park itinerary is an essential step in ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience at Disney World. With so much to see and do, having a well-thought-out plan will help you make the most of your time in the parks. Here’s how to create an effective park itinerary:


1. Prioritize Must-Do Attractions: Begin by identifying the must-do attractions and experiences in each park. Research the popular rides, shows, and character meet-and-greets, and make a list of the ones you don’t want to miss.


2. Utilize FastPass+: Disney World’s FastPass+ system allows you to skip the regular queue lines and reserve a time slot for select attractions, entertainment, and character greetings. Take advantage of this by booking FastPass+ reservations for your top-priority attractions to minimize wait times.


3. Consider Park Hours and Extra Magic Hours: Check the park hours for each day of your visit. Extra Magic Hours, exclusive to Disney resort guests, offer additional hours in the parks either before they open or after they close. Take advantage of these extended hours to enjoy popular attractions with shorter wait times.


4. Plan for Rest and Dining Breaks: It’s crucial to include breaks in your itinerary to rest, have meals, and stay hydrated. Plan your dining reservations strategically, ensuring they align with your desired park locations and attractions. Don’t forget to account for travel time between attractions as well.


5. Be Mindful of Park Crowds: Consider the expected crowd levels for each park on the days of your visit. Use crowd calendars and wait-time apps to gauge which parks may be busier and plan your itinerary accordingly. Arriving early or staying late in a park with lower crowd levels can help you maximize your experience.


6. Be Flexible and Open to Change: While having a plan is important, be open to making adjustments as needed. Unexpected attractions closures or changes in weather conditions may require you to modify your itinerary. Stay flexible and make the most of your time in the parks.


Remember, the goal of your park itinerary is to strike a balance between experiencing your must-do attractions and allowing for spontaneity and exploration. Embrace the magic of Disney and enjoy the journey as you navigate through the parks.


With a well-planned itinerary in hand, you’ll be ready to embark on a seamless and unforgettable adventure in the enchanting world of Disney.


Step 7: Make Dining Reservations

Dining at Disney World goes beyond just satisfying your hunger; it’s an experience in itself. From character dining to themed restaurants, there are countless culinary adventures to embark on. To ensure you don’t miss out on the dining experiences you desire, follow these steps to make dining reservations:


1. Determine Your Dining Preferences: Consider the type of dining experiences you’re interested in. Do you want to meet characters while enjoying a meal? Are you looking for fine dining or quick-service options? Have an idea of the restaurants and cuisines you want to try.


2. Research and Prioritize: Explore the dining options available across the various parks and resorts. Familiarize yourself with the menus, themes, and guest reviews. Based on your preferences, prioritize the restaurants you would like to dine at.


3. Make Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR): Disney World dining reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance. Utilize the My Disney Experience app or the official Disney website to make ADRs. Be mindful that popular dining locations may fill up quickly, so it’s best to make reservations as early as possible.


4. Be Flexible with Timing: Consider being flexible with your dining times if your first-choice restaurant doesn’t have availability during your preferred time slot. By adjusting your dining times, you may still be able to secure a reservation at a desired restaurant.


5. Character Dining and Signature Restaurants: If meeting characters or indulging in fine dining experiences is high on your list, make reservations for character dining and signature restaurants well in advance. These dining experiences tend to be in high demand and can book up quickly.


6. Keep Track of Reservation Dates: Stay organized by keeping track of your dining reservation dates. Set reminders or create a calendar to ensure you don’t miss any important reservation deadlines.


7. Be Prepared for Cancellations or Walk-Ins: If you’re unable to secure a reservation for a specific restaurant, keep checking for last-minute cancellations or try walking in. While not guaranteed, you may still be able to dine at your desired location.


Remember, dining reservations can enhance your Disney World experience by allowing you to try unique cuisines and enjoy themed dining environments. By planning ahead and making reservations, you’ll ensure that your taste buds are just as delighted as your imagination during your Disney World adventure.


Step 8: Prepare for Transportation to Disney World

Getting to Disney World requires some preparation, whether you’re traveling by air, car, or other means. Ensuring smooth transportation will contribute to a stress-free and enjoyable trip. Follow these steps to prepare for transportation to Disney World:


1. Determine Your Mode of Transportation: Decide how you’ll be traveling to Disney World. If you’re flying, research flights to Orlando International Airport (MCO) or Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB). If you’re driving, plan your route and estimate travel time.


2. Airport Transportation: If you’re flying, consider your options for airport transportation. Disney’s Magical Express is a complimentary shuttle service exclusively available to Disney resort guests. Other options include car rentals, taxis, or rideshare services like Uber or Lyft.


3. Driving Directions and Parking: If you’re driving to Disney World, make sure to have accurate driving directions and GPS navigation. Familiarize yourself with the parking procedures at the parks, including parking fees and preferred parking options.


4. Disney Transportation System: Once you’re at Disney World, take advantage of the various transportation options available. Disney provides complimentary transportation between resorts, parks, and Disney Springs using buses, monorails, and boats. Familiarize yourself with the transportation system to plan your mobility within the Disney property.


5. Research Off-Site Transportation: If you’re staying off-site, research transportation options to and from Disney World. Many off-site hotels offer shuttle services to the parks, while others may require you to arrange your own transportation. Evaluate costs and schedules to determine the most convenient option for your stay.


6. Plan for Traffic and Delays: Be prepared for potential traffic, especially during peak times. Allow for extra travel time, especially when driving to the parks or leaving at the end of the day. Stay informed about any construction or road closures that may impact your route.


7. Pack Essentials for Travel: If you’re traveling by air, be sure to pack essential items in your carry-on, including travel documents, medications, and any necessary electronics or entertainment for the journey. If you’re driving, pack a road trip essentials kit with snacks, water, and travel games to keep everyone comfortable and entertained.


By taking the time to plan and prepare for transportation to Disney World, you’ll minimize stress and maximize your time to enjoy the magic that awaits you. Whether you’re flying, driving, or utilizing Disney’s transportation system, a well-executed transportation plan will keep you on track for an unforgettable Disney adventure.


Step 9: Pack Accordingly for Your Disney World Trip

Packing for your Disney World trip is an essential part of ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable experience. By packing smart and considering your needs in the parks, you’ll be well-prepared for all the magic that awaits. Here’s a guide to packing for your Disney World adventure:


1. Clothing: Check the weather forecast for your Disney World trip and pack clothing accordingly. Be prepared for the hot and humid Florida climate by selecting lightweight and breathable fabrics. Don’t forget essentials like comfortable walking shoes, swimwear, hats, and sunscreen to protect against the sun.


2. Park Essentials: Pack a small backpack or bag with essentials for your park days. Some must-haves include a refillable water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and a portable phone charger. It’s also a good idea to have a poncho or lightweight rain jacket in case of unexpected rain showers.


3. Theme Park Supplies: To make your park experience more enjoyable, pack some Disney essentials such as autograph books and pens for character meet-and-greets, glow sticks or light-up toys for nighttime parades, and Mickey or Minnie ears to get into the spirit of Disney.


4. Electronic Needs: Don’t forget your camera or smartphone to capture all the magical moments. Bring extra memory cards or ensure you have enough storage space on your devices. Also, consider bringing portable chargers or extra batteries to keep your electronics powered throughout the day.


5. Snacks and Water: Disney allows guests to bring their own snacks, so pack some granola bars, trail mix, or other non-perishable snacks to keep you fueled between meals. Additionally, bringing a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated will help you save money on purchasing drinks in the park.


6. Comfort Items: If you have young children, consider packing comfort items like strollers, baby carriers, or blankets to ensure their comfort throughout the day. Don’t forget any medications or special items you or your family members may need during your trip.


7. Disney Gear: Show your Disney spirit by packing some Disney-themed attire or accessories. This could include Disney-themed shirts, hats, or even matching outfits for your family. You can even pack a Disney-themed backpack or tote to carry your essentials.


Remember to pack efficiently and only bring what you truly need to avoid excessive baggage. Consider the size and weight restrictions imposed by airlines if you’re flying to Disney World.


By packing accordingly, you’ll be fully prepared to make the most of your time in the parks and create magical memories during your Disney World adventure!


Step 10: Familiarize Yourself with Disney World’s Rules and Regulations

Prior to embarking on your Disney World trip, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations in place to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all guests. Here are some key guidelines and information to be aware of:


1. Park Policies: Familiarize yourself with Disney World’s park policies to ensure you comply with the rules and guidelines. This includes guidelines on appropriate attire, prohibited items, and behavior expectations within the park premises.


2. Security Measures: Be prepared for security checks at the park entrances. Disney World has implemented bag checks and metal detector screenings to enhance guest safety. Plan for these measures and allow extra time in your daily park schedule to accommodate the security process.


3. Height and Age Restrictions: Keep in mind that certain attractions at Disney World have height restrictions for safety reasons. Ensure that everyone in your group meets the requirements to participate in specific rides and attractions. Also, note any age restrictions for certain experiences.


4. FastPass+ System: Familiarize yourself with Disney’s FastPass+ system, which allows you to reserve access to select attractions, shows, and character encounters in advance. Understand how the FastPass+ system works, including the booking window, tier selections (at certain parks), and the number of FastPasses you can reserve per day.


5. Dining Reservations: If you haven’t already made dining reservations during Step 7, be aware of Disney’s cancellation policy for dining reservations. Understand that there may be cancellation fees or charges for no-shows, so be sure to modify or cancel reservations as needed to avoid any penalties.


6. Health and Safety Measures: Keep updated on Disney World’s health and safety measures, particularly in light of any current events or circumstances. Pay attention to any guidelines related to face coverings, physical distancing, and enhanced sanitation procedures implemented by Disney.


7. Accessibility Services: If anyone in your party requires special accommodations or accessibility services, familiarize yourself with Disney’s offerings in advance. Learn about services such as Disability Access Service (DAS), wheelchair rentals, and accessibility options at attractions and shows.


8. Photography Policies: Understand Disney World’s policies regarding photography and videography. While personal photography is usually allowed, there may be restrictions on the use of tripods or certain commercial uses of photos or videos taken within the parks.


It’s essential to review and comply with these rules and regulations to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience during your Disney World trip. By familiarizing yourself with these guidelines, you are better prepared to enjoy the magic of Disney within the parameters set by Disney World for the safety and enjoyment of all guests.



Congratulations! You’ve reached the conclusion of our guide on how to start planning a trip to Disney World. By following the steps outlined in this comprehensive article, you’re well on your way to creating an unforgettable vacation in the magical world of Disney.


From determining the ideal time to visit and setting a budget to booking accommodations, purchasing tickets, and planning your park itinerary, you’ve learned the essential elements of trip planning. Additionally, you’re ready to navigate the transportation logistics and pack accordingly for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Lastly, by familiarizing yourself with Disney World’s rules and regulations, you’ll ensure a smooth trip reflecting respect for the park and its guidelines.


Now, it’s time to embark on your Disney World adventure! Whether you’re exploring the iconic Magic Kingdom, immersing yourself in the future at Epcot, experiencing the thrills of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or discovering the wonders of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, get ready to be enchanted by the magic that awaits you.


Remember to embrace the excitement and wonder, take in the enchanting sights and sounds, and create lifelong memories with your loved ones. Be prepared for a journey filled with laughter, joy, and moments that will truly make you feel like a kid again.


So, grab your Mickey ears, prepare for the fireworks, and allow your imagination to soar as you dive into the enchanting world of Disney. Remember that planning a trip to Disney World requires careful consideration and research, but with the right approach and armed with the knowledge from this guide, you’re equipped to plan the ultimate Disney adventure.


Now, go forth and make memories that will last a lifetime!