Ultimate Disney Vacation Timeline

The Ultimate Disney Vacation Planning Timeline w/ Download

Planning a Disney vacation isn’t something you do in a flash on a quiet Sunday afternoon. It takes time and preparation to have the most *MAGICAL* time possible. Having that *MAGICAL* time includes not sweating the small stuff like worrying about your house, your money situation, travel hassles, or any myriad of other issues that can arise without proper planning. This list not only includes all the tasks you will need to complete to make the Disney part of your trip practically perfect, it also includes all the minute tasks to make the trip as easy and hassle-free as possible.

We have divided the list into different areas of focus. They include to-dos related to Disney, financial needs, your house, miscellaneous tasks, packing and transportation.

520 Days

Disney

Financial

  • Create a skeleton budget – This will help you when booking a resort in a few short days. Make sure to include the following so that you can see the whole pictures:
    • Flights
    • Resorts
    • Tickets
    • Food

499 Days

Disney

  • Book your resort reservation. This can be just a placeholder. If a special offer comes up later you can rebook but at least for now you have something on the books.

365 Days

Disney

  • Create a My Disney Experience Account. Start by going to MyDisneyExperience.com. From there you will follow their instructions to Create an Account.

 
Transportation

  • If you haven’t already, sign up for the frequent flyer programs of all the airline options you have. These frequent flyer programs are free and you never know when special deals might be offered.

210 Days

Transportation

  • Book airline, if flying. Typically, the cheapest flights can be found when they are first announced, at approx. 54 days and at end if there are still seats available.
  • Make sure all adults have a government issued ID and the ID does not expire before or during your vacation.

Disney

  • Modify hotel reservation to match flights, if necessary.
  • Research the restaurants you might want to eat at. Also look at menus.
  • Purchase tickets if they weren’t part of a package. Disney is known for increasing their ticket costs in the spring every year (the last few years have been in March). Make sure you purchase the tickets before spring.
  • Link your theme park tickets to your My Disney Experience account

Disney Cruise Line

  • If arriving the night before cruise, book hotel at airport or port.
  • If you are travelling internationally get a passport. This is even the case if you are taking a ‘closed loop’ Disney Cruise – meaning you are starting and ending in the United States. While they will accept a government issued ID and a birth certificate, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

190 Days

Disney

  • Make a plan for the restaurants you will need to make Advanced Dining Reservations for. Look at your skeleton park plan to find the restaurant that are near where you will be.
  • Check park hours
  • Check for special events
  • Check Extra Magic Hours
  • Create a skeleton plan for each day – This can be as simple as which park you are going to which day. Here are some things to consider when making your park plan:
    • If a park is having EMH avoid it. Or at least only go during the EMH time then hop to a different park (if you have park hopper tickets).
    • If a park is having a special event avoid it unless you have tickets to that event.
    • Magic Kingdom Park and Epcot get a lot of local guests during the weekend. This is especially true

180 Days

Disney

  • Make Advanced Dining Reservations
  • If on property you can make reservations for 180 + the following 10 days, if not you will have to make your reservations every morning on the 180th day prior to the reservation.
  • Book your Magical Express for resort or port transfers

Financial

  • Start buying Disney Gift Cards to offset any out-of-pocket expenses. If you start now and buy a $50 gift card with every bi-weekly paycheck you will have approximately $600. Check out this easy way to save 10% extra.

160 Days

Disney

  • Take a detailed look at the menus for all the restaurants you will be eating at to see the options as well as to get a good hold on the budget you will need

House

  • Make reservations for any pets that need to be kenneled

150 Days

Disney Cruise Line

  • Start researching port adventures.
  • Final payment due for cruises longer than 10 nights and cruises shorter than 10 nights embarking from a non-US Port.

120 Days

Disney Cruise Line

  • Platinum Castaway Club members can check-in online, select port arrival time, booking dining and reserve port adventures.
  • Consider trip insurance especially if you are traveling during hurricane season.

105 Days

Disney Cruise Line

  • Gold Castaway Club members can check in online, select port arrival time, booking dining and reserve port adventures.
  • Final payment for cruises 6-9 nights which embarks or disembarks is US Port during the holiday season.

90 Days

Disney

  • Make stroller reservation
  • Make riding cart reservations
  • Research attractions to start filling in your skeleton daily plan with a little more detail.
    • Which are available for FastPass+ selections
    • Ride height limits
    • Ride intensity
    • Review attraction POV videos on Youtube with kiddos to gauge their interest

Disney Cruise Line

  • Sign up for a Fish Extender group for your cruise. To find the sign up for a group for your cruise, go to the DisBoards and find the thread for your ship and date.
  • Silver Castaway Club members can check in online, select port arrival time, booking dining and reserve port adventures.
  • Final payment due for cruises 1-5 days embarking and disembarking from a US Port during the holiday season or suite and concierge level staterooms
  • Final payment due for cruises 6-9 nights embarking and disembarking from a US Port.
  • Final payment due for cruises 6-9 nights embarking and disembarking from a US Port during the holiday sailings for suites and concierge staterooms.
  • If traveling internationally check to see if there are any vaccinations required.

Transportation

  • Car rental, if renting – DO NOT PREPAY at this point

75 Days

Disney Cruise Line

  • First time cruisers can check-in online, select port arrival time, booking dining and reserve port adventures
  • Final payment due for cruises 1-5 nights embarking and disembarking from a US Port.
  • Research different fish extender ideas

60 Days

Disney

  • FastPass+ selections if staying on site
  • Start walking – you could be walking up to 20,000 steps per day at Disney. That is out of the ordinary for even the most fit individuals.
  • Start watching Disney movies to ramp up the excitement for Disney.

Disney Cruise Line

Miscellaneous

  • Make appointments for any necessary haircuts, doctors etc. prior to trip (Hint: Ladies, DO NOT get your hair cut the day before your trip. You might have the most amazing stylist in the world but now you have to remember how to style your shorter hair again.)

45 Days

Disney

  • Final payment is due on packages
  • Customize your MagicBands on your My Disney Experience account

Transportation

  • Reserve airport parking – It is usually much cheaper to park off-airport than on airport property). If your flight is leaving early in the morning consider staying at a hotel close to the airport which offers Park, Sleep, Fly packages.

30 Days

Disney

  • Make FastPass+ selections if staying off property. Unlike staying on property where you can make your selections for entire trip, those staying off-property will have to make their FastPass+ selections every day.
  • Check the shoes you will be wearing to Disney. Your favorite comfy pair of sandals might be great for around home but they could be blister city after 20,000 steps. If you need to buy new shoes/sneakers do it now so that you can break them in. And I mean REALLY break them in.
  • Order any groceries for your resort room. Sometimes the delivery slots can be filled up so do this sooner rather than later.
  • Begin pre-order for Be Our Guest, if you have a reservation.

Disney Cruise Line

  • Purchase fish extender materials and begin construction

House

  • If you have any pets who will stay in your house while gone such as cats or fish. Contact a neighbor or family member who can check in on them.

Packing

  • Start assembling a packing list
  • As you are doing your normal shopping be on the lookout for trial sized products of the brands you use such as toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, lotion, etc.

Transportation

  • If driving, get AAA membership (it’s always better to be safe than sorry.)
  • If you will need a ride to/from the airport, contact a friend or family member to take you.

14 days

Disney

  • If you will be celebrating anything special while you are at Disney call to add it to your reservation.
  • Make sure to add any dietary needs so the chefs can be aware prior to your reservation.

Disney Cruise Line

  • Prepay tips
  • Add money to onboard account
  • If you will be travelling internationally contact, you cell phone service provider to see what the details are for international calling and data usage.

House

  • Request that your mail be held. You can see if that service is available for your zip code and make your request click here. Mail can be held for anywhere from 3 – 30 days.
  • Request that your newspaper be held.
  • If you have an alarm company call then to tell them, you will be on vacation.

Miscellaneous

  • If taking a camera (not using a Smartphone camera), purchase an SD to hold your Disney pics

Packing

  • Start assembling items to pack in one location which won’t be used before trips such as rain ponchos
  • Refill prescriptions
  • Check your airline’s luggage restrictions

Transportation

  • Check to see if car rental price went down – rebook and cancel the original car if cheaper.

7 Days

Packing

  • Gather and launder all the clothes you will be taking on your trip.
  • Get luggage out of storage location

Transportation

  • If flying Southwest, check flight cost. If it went down, you can get a credit. (Do this daily until you see the price start jumping dramatically – typically 3 days before.)
  • If driving, get car ready
    • Oil change
    • Clean car
    • Check tires
    • Make sure you have your insurance and registration in the glove box.

4-6 Days

Disney

  • Send any resort requests
  • Order Memory Maker (must be done more than three days in advance of use to get the discount)
  • Create MouseKeeping envelopes for tips
  • If traveling during the heat of the summer, or high temperatures are forecasted, start hydrating

Disney Cruise Line

House

  • Clean house – there is nothing better than returning to a clean house
  • Pay any bills which will be due while you are gone
  • Remind neighbor/family member who is watching your house
  • Return any rented items such as movies and books

Packing

  • Reorganize your wallet/purse – take out any store credit cards, rewards cards, etc. you will not need at Disney. Also make sure there aren’t any prohibited items such as liquids over 3 oz. or sharp objects.
  • Check the weather to see if different clothes are needed.

Transportation

  • Remind friend or family member who will be taking you to the airport. Also print out the flight itinerary to give to them so they know your return info.
  • If driving:
    • print out fun games to play to keep kids occupied like our Road Trip Bingo
    • If you will be using GPS device other than a smartphone, update the system to the latest maps.

2-3 Days

Financial

  • Call your bank and/or credit card company to tell them you will be traveling. They will need to know your dates of travel, general location of travel and a good contact number. This is a surprisingly important step. You would hate to be at Disney and have your credit or debit card turned off due to suspicious activity.
  • This is also a great time to refresh your memory of daily withdrawal limits. You can also temporarily increase your limits if you think they aren’t high enough for what you have planned.
  • Download your bank’s consumer online banking app. This will be a great way to keep track of spending while on vacation.
  • Get cash or cashier’s checks from the bank
  • Acquire foreign currency, if necessary

House

  • Clean out refrigerator of non-perishable food.
  • Mow lawn

Packing

  • Make copies of all your important docs (ie. IDs, credit/debit cards, insurance cards, travel docs) and keep it in a different location from your actual documents. Also take pictures of all the documents and email them to yourself. This will give you two back-ups.

Transportation

  • Ready any reading material (ie. books, magazine) or electronic time wasters (ie. Netflix offers downloading so movies can be watched offline.)
  • Purchase any snacks you want to take on the plane or in the car if you are driving.

Day Before Departure

House

  • Take out all trash from the house and take trash can to curb.
  • Put lights on timers
  • Give neighbor/family member who is watching your house the key. Also give them your vacation contact info.
  • Do the dishes
  • Take animals to kennel.

Miscellaneous

  • Place Out-of-Office message for your work email

Packing

  • Layout outfit you will be wearing for travel. Remember, if you are traveling from a cold location to a warm destination, even if it’s the middle of January, you might want a cooler change of clothes available in your carry-on since your luggage might take 3-4 hours to get to your room. It’s not uncommon to leave a northern location where the departure temperature is below freezing to arrive where the temperature is 85° with high humidity.
  • Pack your carry-on bag making sure to include IDs, boarding passes, flight info and/or cruise documents. Typically, each family member is allowed one carry-on so don’t make Mom carry everything. Split the load.
  • Put Magic Bands in carry-on
  • Finish up packing
  • If you are using Disney’s Magic Express place luggage tags on luggage for delivery direct to your resort room. Weigh luggage to make sure it is under the airline’s limit.
  • Put any liquids in a zip locking bag

Transportation

  • Check-in for flight 24 hours prior to departure
  • Print boarding passes. Some airlines, such as Spirit, charge for printing boarding passes and checking in at the airport.
  • If you are renting a car and using a debit card, make sure you have proof of return flight. Most rental car companies will not rent the car to you, even if you have a reservation, if you do not have a return flight.
  • If driving or driving to an airport, get gas.
  • If traveling to the airport by taxi, contact them to set a pick up time that allows you to be at the airport 1 ½ hours before flights within the US or 3 hours before international flights.

Night Before Departure

  • Get a good night’s sleep

Morning of Departure

House

  • Adjust your thermostat
  • Lock all windows and doors
  • Put a few lights on timers
  • Turn all the lights off except those plugged into timers
  • Unplug unnecessary appliances and electronics. Even when some appliances and electronics are off they are still pulling electricity. By unplugging them you are not only reducing your electric bill you could also be saving it from a power surge. If there are any electronic which must stay plugged in make sure they are plugged into surge protectors.
  • Put water heater on vacation setting
  • Lock doors
  • If you have room in your garage bring in any cars you typically park outside.
  • Close garage door

Packing

  • Pack daily toiletries and medicines
  • Pack your cellphone chargers
  • Double check you have all your necessary documentation (ie. IDs, cruise documentation, etc.)

Transportation

  • Leave at least 30-45 minutes before you “need” to leave in case there is traffic or other unexpected delays.

Arrival

Have a *MAGICAL* vacation

Want to make your planning even easier? Download this Excel spreadsheet which will auto-populate the exact dates you will need to complete each task. Simply, change your vacation date and, BIBBIDI BOBBIDI BO, your planning schedule is done.

Disney Vacation Planning Timeline

Sue Nowicki is an alumna of the 2014/15 Disney Parks Moms Panel. She splits her time between planning her next Walt Disney World vacation and being team mom to ten high-energy volleyball players where she fills the roles of secretary, navigator, head cheerleader, treasurer, athletic trainer and team psychologist. You can follow her on Twitter @MQPodcast.

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Ultimate Disney Vacation Timeline

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