How to Plan a Disney Vacation

Three Parts:Selecting a Date for your Disney VacationMaking Travel Arrangements and Hotel ReservationsCreating an Itinerary

Disneyland and Disney World are the ideal vacation spots for families with young children, those who enjoy resort parks and amusements, and those looking for a trip to a warm, sunny spot for relaxation. Start planning your vacation at least 6 months in advance. Once you select a vacation date, purchase flights, book hotels, make meal reservations, and develop a detailed itinerary. In return for your efforts, you will plan a trip everyone in the family will remember for years to come.

Part 1
Selecting a Date for your Disney Vacation

  1. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 1
    Consult your calendar. When planning a family vacation, the first step is selecting a date for your magical experience. Consult your calendar to select dates that work with everyone’s schedule.
    • For families with children, this often means scheduling the vacation to coordinate with school vacations and activities.
    • For couples or adults, this often requires finding a time that everyone in attendance can take off of work or school.[1]
  2. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 2
    Consider your budget. Disney vacations are magical and expensive. During holidays and school vacations, park tickets, flights, and hotel prices spike.[2] Save money by scheduling your Disney World or Disneyland vacation during the offseason. The Disney offseason is between:
    • Mid-January to mid-March, excluding Presidents Day Weekend
    • Mid-April to mid-May, excluding Spring Break
    • Mid-September to mid-November, excluding Halloween weekend
    • The parks are also less busy Tuesday through Thursday.[3]
    • Consult a Disney Crowd Level Chart for information on how different special events and holidays impact crowd levels. While there is not an official Disney Crowd Level Chart, a quick internet search will provide you with several alternative sources.[4]
  3. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 3
    Consider park hours and events. Disney events and hours vary from season to season and day to day. Planning your trip around special events and extended hours is an excellent way to enhance your magical experience.
    • Before booking your vacation, devote time to studying the Disney World or Disneyland calendar.[5] Check the calendar for special events, like parades and firework shows. Make note of any events that are “must sees and dos” for you and your crew. Highlight any days that a park will close early for special events.[6]
    • If you are staying at a Disney Resort, take advantage of Extra Magic Hours (EMH). Every day a different Disney park offers EMH for guest of their resorts. A park will either opens 1 hour early or stays open 2 hours later than normal. Visiting a park on an EMH day ensures that you will have additional time to explore and enjoy the magic of Disney.[7]

Part 2
Making Travel Arrangements and Hotel Reservations

  1. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 4
    Consider staying at a Disney Resort. Do you want to experience the magic of Disney 24/7? When you stay at a Disney resort, you are ensured valuable perks and an unforgettable experience. Disney resorts packages are available at multiple price points. You may stay at the campground or book a deluxe villa. There are options for at every price point. Staying at a Disney Resort also grants you several privileges:
    • Disney resorts guests receive free transportation to and from the airport.
    • If you drive in, you will have the luxury of parking for free.
    • You will also have the ability to enter the park early and stay after regular hours.[8]
  2. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 5
    Consider off-site lodgings. If you prefer to get away from the park in the evenings, there are several off-site lodging options available.
    • Off-site hotels are inexpensive alternatives to the Disney resorts. They are ideal for couples and families vacationing on a budget.
    • If you are vacationing at Disney with a large group, consider booking a local timeshare or vacation home. The rental cost of a timeshare or vacation home is easily split between multiple parities.[9]
  3. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 6
    Consider driving. For budget-conscious Disney vacationers, driving is the most cost-effective option. In addition to saving money, road-tripping to Disney is an excellent way to see America.
    • Instead of buying multiple plane tickets, you will only need to cover the cost of gas.
    • You will not incur the additional expense of renting a vehicle.
    • You can easily pack essentials, like food and toiletries.[10]
  4. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 7
    Consider flying. In order to snag an excellent deal on airfare, you must search for flights early and remain persistent. Begin your search for flights 6 months in advance. If you intend to visit Disney over a school vacation or holiday, it is especially important that you book your flights early.
    • Search for flights every day.
    • Use online tools to find deals on flights.
    • Consider flying in or out on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or a Saturday.[11]
  5. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 8
    Rent a car. Anaheim and Orlando are not walking-friendly cities, nor do they have spectacular public transit systems. If you are staying at a Disney resort, you will not need to rent a vehicle unless you plan to leave the park for excursions. If you are flying and not staying at a Disney resort, you will need to rent a vehicle.[12]
    • You could also call a cab for day trips into the city.
  6. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 9
    Consider Disney vacation packages. Travel groups and the Disney company offer packages that include park tickets, hotel accommodations, and airfare. Purchasing a vacation package can ease the stress of planning a vacation. Compare the costs and perks of a variety of packages in your price range.[13]
    • Disney employs travel agents that are available to assist you. The phone number for this service is 407-939-5277.[14]
  7. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 10
    Search for discounts. Many organizations and foundations offer Disney discounts to their members.
    • If you are a member of AAA, you may have access to discounted Disney Resort accommodations. Check with your local AAA branch for additional information.[15]
    • United States Military members are eligible for discounts through the Shades of Green Foundation.[16]
    • Disney also offers group rates.[17]

Part 3
Creating an Itinerary

  1. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 11
    Research the Disney parks. Before you set an agenda for your Disney vacation, inform yourself about the different parks and features. Disney World has six parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, and Blizzard Beach.[18] Disneyland has two parks: Disneyland Park and Disneyland California Adventure Park.[19] As you research, keep a prioritized list of must-see Disney attractions. Note the shows and exhibits you want to see while you are in each park.
  2. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 12
    Buy park tickets. Disney provides its guests with the ability to customize their ticket package. Once you have decided which parks to visit, create your custom ticket package.[20]
    • Guests may chose to buy a one day or multi-day ticket—the cost of tickets becomes considerably cheaper the more days you plan to visit.
    • For an additional fee, you may add a “Park Hopper Option” to each ticket. This allows you to visit multiple Disney theme parks in one day.
    • Fans of water parks can select the “Water Park Fun & More Option.”
    • Save money by combining the “Park Hopper Option” and the “Water Park Fun & More Option.”<ref.</ref>
  3. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 13
    Make meal reservations 7 months in advance. Experiencing the magic of Disney in its themed dining rooms and restaurants requires planning. Restaurants, even quick-service restaurants, take reservations 180 days in advance. To secure your table at Disney’s hottest restaurants, you must book early.[21]
  4. Image titled Plan a Disney Vacation Step 14
    Create an agenda. Once you have made all of your travel arrangements, purchased your park tickets, and made your restaurant reservations, create a detailed Disney vacation agenda. Make note of any shows or special events you plan to attend too. Use your itinerary to structure your trip or just as a casual reminder of what you have planned for any particular day.[22]
    • Create your itinerary with the My Disney Experience Planner, which is available on the Disney website.[23]


  • Pack comfortable shoes for your days of walking the parks in Disneyland or Disney World. You should also bring sunscreen to protect your skin from the harsh sun. If traveling during the winter months, you should pack sweaters and jackets for cool days and nights.
  • If you have children, have them meet Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, along with all the other Disney characters!
  • Plan at least 1 day to relax and rest on your Disney vacation. Exploring the Disney parks is exhausting and you will need a day to relax by the pool and soak up some sunshine.
  • Make sure to check if your family approves your plans before booking.
  • Take a night out for the Disney World Fireworks at Epcot or in The Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom has an amazing Light-show, but make sure after the Light-show you wait for a few minutes because then they set off the fireworks in an amazing display!
  • If you would like additional information on planning a Disney vacation, request a free planning DVD from Disney.[24]

Sources and Citations

Show more... (21)

Article Info

Categories: Disneyland and Disney World