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Disney Planning Like a Pro

Are you ready to do some Disney planning like a pro? Then read on!

Are you booking your first Walt Disney World vacation with your kids, but not sure where to start? This is totally normal. There is something SO magical about visiting Walt Disney World. What’s not so magical is the planning process.

There is so much detail that goes into planning a Disney trip, that it can get overwhelming quickly. When it comes to planning a trip to Disney World with kids, there are even more things to consider.

So let’s get to Disney planning like a pro!

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What Walt Disney World Resort is best for kids? What rides can my child go on? Is Genie+ worth it and how does it work? Can you rent strollers? The list of questions goes on. The good news? I’ve got you covered. Ready to start planning? Let’s jump into Disney planning like a pro!

DISNEY PLANNING LIKE A PRO

Now that we are ready to plan your Disney World vacation, let’s get planning!

SET A BUDGET

You’ll want to first set your budget. There are a lot of categories to factor in. Some areas to think about are:

  • Travel (flights + transportation while on vacation)
  • Resort pricing
  • Souvenirs
  • Food and drink
  • Park tickets
  • Genie+

One thing to keep in mind when setting a budget is timing. If you go to Disney during a busy time, prices across the board are more than likely going to be much higher than at a “slower” time.

SAVINGS TIP:

If you have a Target Red Card or a Costco card. I highly recommend purchasing gift cards through them (and then immediately paying off your card balance, of course).

You will get 5% off. So, if you buy $1,000 of Disney gift cards, you will save $50. You can use Disney gift cards to pay for food and drink, tickets, resort stays, souvenirs, etc. Basically, anything in the parks you can use it on.

You can consolidate up to $1000 per park on the Mydisneygiftcard.com website.

This also goes for travel. Both Target and Costco have Southwest Airlines gift cards. So, if you are looking to save and are flying Southwest, this is another place to shave some money off.

If you would like a complete Google Sheets Disney planner with a full budget planner, I provide a FREE planner to all of my newsletter subscribers! You can subscribe below!

LOCK IN VACATION DATES

Time to grab a calendar! Let’s select the dates that you want to go.

A couple of things to keep in mind are time frames and busy times. Although not mandatory, I suggest booking your trip a minimum of 120 days in advance. This will give you the best chances of getting park reservations and the resort options you would like.

You will also want to keep in mind that certain dates are much busier than others. Any holiday week/weekend, spring break, and runDisney events seem to be the busiest times to visit Disney World. Weekends are consistently busy at all parks, especially Epcot.

If you plan to visit Disney World during a busy time, don’t worry, you’ll still have a great time, and I’ll provide tools to make it more manageable.

A full list of 2023 events happening at Disney is included in my FULL PLANNER GOOGLE SHEETS GUIDE. Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter for a free guide!

PURCHASE PARK TICKETS

Once you have dates locked in, you’ll want to buy your park tickets. To book your tickets, you will want to go to My Disney Experience and create an account. You will want to also download the app on your phone for later use 😉

What are the ticket options?

  • A standard ticket will get you into one park per day
  • A park hopper ticket will get you into 1 or more parks per day
  • A park hopper plus will get you into 1 or more parks + the water parks per day

I highly recommend the park hopper tickets. Having the freedom to switch it up and go to another park in the afternoon is fantastic.

Let’s look at pricing:

  • A standard park ticket starts at around $109
  • A park hopper ticket starts at around $179
  • A park hopper plus (includes water parks) starts at around $199
  • Children under 3 get free admission

The more days you select, the cheaper the ticket. So the price can get lower than the prices you see above. For instance, 1 park ticket might be $109. If you get 5 days of park tickets, the ticket will be lowered to say $99 per day (ballpark).

Alrighty, go ahead and book those tickets, and let’s move on to the next step.

BOOK YOUR TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION

Okay, great! Now that we have dates and park tickets booked, let’s talk about travel! If you are flying, this is the time to book your flights. If you have kids, I highly recommend a non-stop flight.

The best airport to fly into is Orlando International Airport (MCO). To get to the parks from the airport, there are several options.

I personally love Sunshine Flyer (now merging with MEARS Connect) to the resorts and an Uber back to the airport. When headed back to the airport when your vacation comes to an end, they will pick you up 4 hours in advance. If you have TSA, this will typically leave you with hours to kill at the airport…. Which isn’t the most fun when you have kids in tow. That is why I suggest Uber TO the airport.

  • Sunshine Flyer
  • Mears Connect
  • Uber, Lyft, or a taxi
  • Tiffany Towncar
  • Rental car

You need to book all but the Uber/Lyft/taxi options in advance.

Here are my tips for traveling with a toddler and what to pack.

Alright! Now we have dates blocked off, park tickets purchased, and flights booked, are you ready to move on?

SECURE PARK RESERVATIONS

This one is changing, especially come 2024, but for now, some people still need park reservations. I would still secure park reservations just to be on the safe side. This is the part where you will want to plan out what park you want to go to each day. I like my first day to be at Magic Kingdom. It’s the park that has the most to do, and of course has the castle!

You will need to log into your My Disney Experience app to make reservations.

If you are on your phone, you will click on the + sign at the bottom of the app and select “Make or Modify Theme Park Reservations”. This will take you to a page to view current availability and make or modify your theme park reservations.

Disney planning like a pro - park reservations 1

If you are on your computer, you will want to go to the MyDisneyExperience drop-down menu to the right, and select “Theme Park Reservations”.

I would keep in mind that weekends are much busier at the parks, especially Epcot.

If you have a park hopper ticket, you can hop to the next park at 2 pm. No park reservation is needed for the 2nd park.

Disney planning like a pro - park reservations 2

BOOK DINING RESERVATIONS

The dining experience at Disney can be so magical. From character dining and themed restaurants, to live entertainment while you eat, Disney makes dining so much fun! Beware though! It is becoming near impossible to just walk up and eat at a full-service restaurant.

If you are planning to try some of Disney’s table-service restaurants and/or dinner shows while you are vacationing at Walt Disney World, you will need to make those reservations.

You can book dining reservations 60 days out, and you’ll want to do it right on that 60-day mark. I’ll explain more about how to book in a minute, but 1st let’s go over some important tips to note.

  1. Park admission is required for in-park dining. For instance, if you make a reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table, you’ll need to have a park reservation for that date, OR if you’re park hopping, the dining reservation will need to be after 2 pm.
  2. It’s also important to note that while almost all Disney restaurants have now reopened, some experiences may be modified or temporarily unavailable.
  3. Popular dining reservations can go FAST, so being prepared exactly at 6 am EST to make your dining reservations is important. I’ll give you a tip in a minute about how to score a reservation if you didn’t get what you wanted 😉
  4. I suggest making 1 table service reservation each day. If you end up wanting to cancel, you can do so, even up to 2 hours before your reservation without penalty.
  5. Make a list of the restaurants you want to score reservations for and which day you want it so that when your 60-day window opens up, you are prepared. Start with the reservation you want the MOST, and work down from there.

Here is a list of the restaurants that book up quickest:

  • Artist Point
  • Art Smith’s Homecomin’
  • Be Our Guest
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table
  • Chef Mickey’s
  • Fireworks dining packages and dessert parties
  • Le Cellier
  • ‘Ohana
  • Oga’s Cantina
  • Space 220
  • Storybook Dining at Artist Point
  • Victoria & Albert’s Chef’s Table
  • Trattoria al Forno

If you don’t get what you want, there are options for you. You can download the apps Mouse Watcher or Stakeout. It does cost a small amount of money, but both apps will alert you when a reservation for your designated restaurants pops up.

I’ve been able to score plenty of reservations this way! Once you have your dining reservations complete, it is pretty smooth sailing from here on out.

GET ACQUAINTED WITH GENIE+

Genie+ is a complimentary planning service that builds a personalized itinerary for you based on your preferences. Think of the old fast pass system, but sadly far more complicated.

Genie+ can be purchased in the MyDisneyExperience app on the day of your visit (starting at midnight). The prices currently range anywhere from $15 to $29 per person/per day. Purchases can only be made one day at a time and for same-day visits.

To book, you’ll 1st, make sure your park tickets & park reservations are booked. Then select “My Disney Genie Day” under the main menu in MyDisneyExperience. Under the “My Day” tab, select “Get Disney Genie+ for Today.”

disney planning like a pro - genie +

A Genie+ purchase includes most but not all rides and attractions in each park for that day (you only need to purchase Genie+ once if you plan on park hopping).

Grab my Genie+ cheat sheet and more here when you subscribe to my monthly newsletter 🙂

START PACKING!

I recommend preparing a packing checklist at least one month ahead of your Disney vacation, so that way you can get everything you need. This especially helps when you’ve got a toddler to pack for, too! A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • It rains a lot in Florida! Ponchos and a rain guard for your stroller are recommended
  • Packing cubes are super useful when sorting out outfits for each day. Also, Ziplok baggies work to put outfits in, too
  • Bubble wands (+ solution) and Disney apparel are much cheaper outside the parks. Try Amazon or Target for good deals! I created a list of things I personally recommend and use. CHECK OUT MY AMAZON DISNEY LIST HERE
  • Bright clothes for kids help locate them quicker in case separated. Air tags added to your child’s clothes or your luggage are a great way to track

In my Walt Disney World Google Sheets planner, I put together a complete checklist + more tips on what to pack.

CREATE A PARK WISH LIST

What is it that you want to accomplish in each park? What are your MUST DO activities, rides, foods to try, etc.? Creating a park wish list will help you build out your itinerary so you know what rides, attractions, restaurants, etc. you want to hit while in the parks. Creating this list will ultimately help you be able to design your days more efficiently, and make your park days run smoother.

MAKE A DAILY ITINERARY

I think it’s important to not plan out every single aspect of your day, but having a set itinerary to loosely follow + have all of your reservations in one place, is very useful during your stay.

PLAN FOR DOWNTIME

One other thing I think is important to mention is to plan for downtime while on vacation. Hitting the parks all day can get exhausting, so setting aside time outside of the parks or scheduling a non-park day, can help recharge batteries.

Here are some ideas for non-park days or downtime:

  • Explore the resort
  • Make it a pool day
  • Visit other resorts!
  • Check out Disney Springs
  • Head to one of the water parks, Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach
  • Nap!

CONSIDER GROCERY DELIVERY

One last cost-saving tip for you to get Disney planning like a pro! The cost of snacks and water can add up quickly. A good way to save money is to use a grocery delivery on the day of your arrival. Services like InstaCart, Doordash, and Shipt are all good options.

Water, fruits, and snacks are always on my list of items to get. Also, adding diapers and items like that is a good way to save space in your suitcase!

If you made it this far, you are READY for your Walt Disney World vacation. Let’s just recap quick

  • Set a budget
  • Lock in vacation dates
  • Purchase park tickets
  • Book your travel and transportation
  • Secure park reservations
  • Book dining reservations
  • Get acquainted with Genie+
  • Create a park wish list
  • Make a park wish list
  • Consider ordering groceries
  • Pack!

That’s it! These are my top tips for Disney planning like a pro! I know it’s a lot to digest and seems overwhelming, but just make your way down the list, one by one. You’ve got this!

Have the most MAGICAL time Disney planning like a pro!

 

 

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About Morgan Wender

I’m a boy mom, dog mom, bee mom, lover of all things Disney, and lover of making the best out of this chaotic life of mine. I created this platform to share my life, and help normalize “big topic” motherhood issues. I hope you enjoy my mix of life, love, levity, and everything in between.Now that you know a little about me, I would love to know more about you! Find me over on Instagram, and shoot me a DM if you would like to chat!the journey

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Hi, I’m Morgan! I created this platform to be able to share my life, help normalize big topic motherhood issues, and help simplify all the things I learned the complicated way. I hope you enjoy my mix of life, love, levity, and everything in between

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