Getting Started

Planning a Walt Disney World vacation can be overwhelming. So, here's a list of "To-Do" items to get you started and keep you organized and on track to plan a magical Disney vacation using the tips on this blog and our recommended resources. For starters, follow these key steps to get your planning off to the right start:
  1. Determine the dates of your vacation.
  2. Make your hotel reservation. This may be more or less important depending on whether you choose to stay on-property versus off-property and depending on what time of year you plan to visit. See the "Lodging" tab for more information on this subject.
  3. Check out Touring Plans to see what the crowd levels will be like at each of the parks you plan to visit while at Disney, so you can decide on which days to visit each park. You can also make decisions based on what shows/parades are happening on those days, and which parks have Extra Magic Hours (EMH) if you are planning to stay "on-property." If you have flexibility on when you can travel to Disney, you may want to check out Touring Plans first (that is as Step #1) to determine the best overall time to visit depending on your schedule. Not everyone has the luxury of visiting when the crowds are the lowest, but if you can take advantage of that, you might want to do so.
  4. Go ahead and make your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs). If you are not yet sure what days you will be in what parks, at least get a few reservations locked-in and you can adjust accordingly as need be - while you can always find somewhere to eat by walking up to the restaurant the day of, or making last minute reservations, it always is nice to have something booked in advance, especially if there are particular places you want to dine. Consider purchasing the DFB Disney World Dining Guide to assist you in your meal planning - this is an incredible resource. A must have in our opinion.
  5. Order your *Free* Disney Vacation Planning DVD and Customized Park Maps. Order these as soon you can (it only takes a couple of minutes to fill out the DVD form), as it can take several weeks form them to arrive. You may want to spend more time on truly customizing your map - get your whole family involved deciding what attractions to mark on the map.
  6. Purchase your park passes. You can purchase these online (check around on some of the websites posted on the "Resources" tab to see if you can find any deals), or you can wait to purchase them when you arrive at Disney - we did that on our last visit, as we could not decide how many days we we'd be able to visit the parks, etc. You'll also have to decide whether you want a one park a day ticket, or a park hopper pass. And, if you're going for a long enough period of time, or think you may go back within the next 365 days, you may consider purchasing an annual pass. Check out this page for a good summary of how to determine if the annual pass is right for you. Good news for those with infants and toddlers - children under 2 are free. Ticket information can be found here.
  7. Begin the fun of planning out your personal Touring Plan for each park you plan to visit!
While there are certainly other steps involved in the planning process, taking care of these steps will get the essentials out of the way and should relieve any stress! Then you can focus on fine-tuning the parks you wish to visit, the days to visit each of those parks, the restaurants where you wish to dine (including any character dining experiences), and what attractions you wish to see at each park. Touring Plans and the DFB Guide to Disney Dining are excellent resources to assist you in these tasks.

Touring Plans has a great series, "Trip Planning 101" which can help you get started. Find out more here. Touring Plans also features a handy budget worksheet and a packing list.