Planning a Disney World Vacation

disney-world-vacation-39-days-to-goAs many of you know, April and I are in the middle of planning a Disney World Vacation. We are super excited about it and we are a measly 39 days, 21 hours, 10 minutes and 5 seconds from being on vacation! Excited much?

Now, I say that we are in the middle of planning it, but it is mostly planned. And when I say we, I mean April. She certainly take the brunt of the planning of all of our vacations. But she enjoys doing it and I enjoy letting her.

What is there to plan? Aren’t you just going to go to the parks?

Well, yeah, we are definitely going to “just” be going to the parks. But if you don’t have a plan you might find yourself among throngs of crowds, waiting in hour long lines and not being able to get into the good restaurants.

When should you go?

I think a better question is when can you go? As for me, I will go whenever I can. With that said, there are times when the crowds are lighter.

I find that many people are hindered by their kid’s school schedule. We have been fortunate in that our kids have always done well enough in school that we can justify pulling them out for a week to go whenever we want.

That is why we are going the second week in December this year. The crowds will be on the light side. We will also get to see the Osborne Spectacle of Lights one last time.

I’ve done some research and writing on when to go. Check out my article on when to go for some tips. Check back often. It’s an evolutionary writing.

Dining Reservations

I have said it before and I’ll say it again here. Make dining reservations as far in advance as possible. Don’t say I did not warn you.

With Stitch at Ohana’s Best Friends Breakfast

We have found that even making reservations exactly 180 days from the date of our stay, we often find it difficult to get into the more popular restaurants. Fortunately for us, the most popular restaurants are not our favorites, but if you’re looking for character dining it is best to book as soon as you can.

One of the restaurants that I’m really looking forward to this December is Coral Reef in Epcot. It is a really cool place to eat where the rolls sort of get reversed between fish and people. There is an enormous aquarium and the restaurant has stadium seating. It sort of feels like you are sitting in a fish bowl and the fish are viewing you. There are even sharks in the aquarium. SHARKS!

Coral Reef Restaurant by Richo.Fan is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Coral Reef Restaurant by Richo.Fan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There are gobs of great restaurants to eat at. Pick the ones you want to eat at and jump on getting some reservations. Without them you may not get in. Again, I cannot say this enough.

Which Park, Which Day

This is a tricky one to figure out. If you are making in park dining reservations and do not have a park hopper, you may get pigeon holed into going to certain parks on certain days. Don’t be discouraged. You can work around this. The only park this really happens to with us is Epcot, usually, because we frequently eat at resort restaurants.

If you have some flexibility a great resource is the Undercover Tourist iPhone app. It’s free and easy to use. It not only gives you wait times for the attractions, but lists the parade times and even tells you what the estimated park crowds are heaviest and lightest for that day.

I love going to Magic Kingdom on the very first day we are there. To me it’s nostalgic and the crowds will not keep me away. But everyone is different.

Whatever parks you decide to visit on whichever day, you will certainly want to take advantage of FastPass+.


Learn how to skip the lines from the pros at Undercover Tourist. I cannot explain it any better than them, so I’ll just leave you with this link.

In short, though, FastPass+ allows you to skip the line queue by setting up an approximate time you want to ride a specific ride. You are allowed a few of these per day. I recommend using them for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom, Toy Story Mania and The Rockin’ Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios, Soarin’ and Test Track in Epcot and Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom.

Break Days

What is a break day? Stay at the resort and go to the pool. They are all awesome and you get a relaxing day without having to rush to or from a park. April has found that these are her favorite days on vacation.

Planning a Disney World Vacation

Whatever your plan is, try to be flexible as well. You may end up having to change your plans due to weather or park crowds. But it’s OK. Relax. You’re on vacation at the most magical place on earth. And I’m sure you’ll be able to reschedule your plans.

If you have any questions or comments, as always, reach out to us below.

12 Replies to “Planning a Disney World Vacation”

  1. Hi, What an excellent site. My daughter is mad keen on the idea of a Disney visit. I’m not 100% sure that I fancy the flight across the Atlantic (I’ve got a bit of a phobia unfortunately) so she may have to make do with DL Paris. That said, it’s a daunting task planning such a trip. Spending the day queuing doesn’t appeal to me, so knowing there are ways to minimise that is a great bonus and your site seems like an excellent bit of inside knowledge. I’ll bookmark it for future reference. Best wishes,

    1. Hi Alexandra, sorry to hear about your phobia. Disney World really is quite unique to the Disney brand due to its vast size, but I can’t say that I blame you. We’ve never made it to Disneyland Paris but we are planning on going within the next few years. If you wind up going, please come back and drop us a note as to how you and your daughter enjoyed it. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures!

      Cheers from your cousin from across the pond!

  2. Great article. I’m a annual visitor to Disneyland. I like that you answered several of my problems (the how, who, when, etc.) very quickly. I also love that you listed apps and links to other sites that may be useful. It makes me feel like you did your homework (ie. credibility). I’ll keep checking back to read more when planning next years’ trip. Have fun!

    1. Hi Carmen, thanks for stopping by and thanks for the compliments. We have some tips and tricks coming for Disnyland. April actually grew up in Southern California and went there every year as a child. Please do check back and also note that Undercover Tourist has a lot of discounts in southern California. Just go to my link and select San Diego or Los Angeles under the “Shop Discount Tickets” drop down. Sadly, they currently do not have Disneyland discounts but they may in the future.

  3. Wow, that is such a detailed and informative guide to planning a Disney World vacation! It seems like you’ve been there well over a few times, reading this I actually felt like I was planning one in 39 days, you’re so lucky! I love the aquarium restaurant, I’ve been to a similar one in Dubai and the experience was amazing, it felt like I was eating underwater being watched by fish – definitely worth it! You should write a guide on where to stay and review the places you’ve been at, it would be great help to newbies to find out the best places to lodge whilst on a Disney vacation. May I say I agree with April, the pool days do sound like my kind of days too, the parks sound magical but there’s nothing like some lazy lounging by the pool with an umbrella cocktail 🙂


  4. When my kids were younger, we all went together as a family to DisneyWorld in Orlando, FL and it was a lot of fun. Your website gives some great advice on how to navigate through DisneyWorld. You touched on the dining reservations a little bit and I did want to emphasize the importance of making those advanced reservations as soon as they open up for your specified day and time. You can reserve for a specific day and time at a specific restaurant upto 60 days in advance unless they have changed it. The other option you may want to consider if your kids are young is the Character Dining where you can dine with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Winne the Pooh & Friends, etc. When my daughter was young, we had to reserve Cinderella’s Castle for breakfast exactly 60 days in advanced and if we were late, we lost out. At this particular dining experience, you get to dine with Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Jasmine, etc. — all the Disney princesses.

    Anyways, I am sure you will have a great stay and fun times ahead.


    1. Hi Steph, they actually have changed it a little bit. You actually can now book dining reservations up to 180 days prior to the date you want to dine OR 180 days prior to your check-in date if you are staying at a Disney property. That means that folks staying at a Disney World resort do get a slight edge on making reservations.

      We’ve found that the Cinderella’s Royal Table is one of the easier ones to get into right now. Be Our Guest (the newer restaurant in the Fantasy Land expansion) is a bit tougher to get into and they don’t have characters there.

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the comment.

  5. Great info. My son is 6 and each year I’m waiting for the perfect year lol This is helpful. The links are great. Will definitely use as resource for possible trip next summer. Thanks!

  6. Hey Christian,
    Great site with a bountiful of information on Disney World. Being thousands of miles away from it, it’s been one of my dream destinations and I would love to be there with my kids one day. It’s definitely this site that I’m going to refer to when that day comes. Appreciate the great work and thorough research you’ve done here.

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