Planning your Disney World vacation is a big task, but working out an itinerary ahead of time can make your trip much simpler.
I’ve used a couple of tools that have made Disney planning easy to manage both in advance of my trips and while I was on vacation.
In this article, I’ll cover what you need to consider before planning your time in the parks, two great scheduling tools and my #1 Disney planning tip.
These tips can be applied whether you’re a Type A personality or like to to have more wiggle room with your time.
Whether you’re going for a short visit or a week-long vacation, Disney trips are tons of fun. However, you’ll need to manage expectations of what you can accomplish during your vacation.
If you’re only spending two days in the parks on a busy weekend, for example, you probably won’t make it to all four parks and get to ride everything you want.
Later I’ll explain planning strategies that will help you balance your time so that you and your travel companions get to do what you want during the time you have.
Another part of managing Disney vacation expectations is planning out which parks are your top priorities. Reading up on Disney attractions to determine where you want to spend your time will help a lot.
If you’re going for four or fewer days, you can visit each park, but you’ll likely be rushing around. Based on my experience, you don’t need to go to every park to have a fun and fulfilling Disney World vacation.
You may even decide that you want to spend all of your time in one or two parks to maximize your experience there. Prioritizing each park based on your interests is one of the keys to having a more relaxing trip.
If you have a tight budget for your trip, the one-park-per-day ticket may be the best choice. If you’d prefer more flexibility, a Park Hopper ticket may be the right move for you.
Once you choose your ticket, you can start to plan things like whether you're going to two parks in a day or where to make dining reservations.
When you stay at a Disney World Resort hotel you get extra perks that can extend the amount of time you can spend in the parks. Benefits like Extra Magic Hours and advance FastPass+ reservations give you an edge when you’re planning out your time.
To learn more about the pros and cons of staying on-property, read my article about Walt Disney World Resort hotels.
This aspect of your trip varies mostly based on whether you're driving or flying to Disney World and whether you're staying on or off the Disney property.
For instance, if you’re staying off-property and plan to take a hotel shuttle to and from the parks, you’re bound by that schedule. You can always use a rideshare app like Lyft or Uber, but that’s an extra expense.
One big tip: Build in an extra 30 minutes to an hour to get where you’re going, just in case. Allowing enough transportation time is a big part of a Disney trip that not many people think about.
There is no Disney transportation that takes you off the property except Disney's Magical Express.
Once you have those five things sorted out, it’s time to jump into the planning!
Putting in the time to develop an itinerary before you go to Disney can save you a lot of time when you’re there. You don’t have to plan down to the minute, but even a loose itinerary will take some stress off of you later.
My Disney Experience app
In the My Disney Experience app (or MDE), you’ll find a TON of helpful information.
If you click the hamburger icon on the bottom right of the app, you’ll see tiles related to your profile information. Click the “My Plans” tile to see the plans you’ve made or that a member of your travel group has made for you.
At the top, you’ll see buttons where you can get FastPasses, reserve Disney dining, link a Disney dining plan, link an existing Disney hotel reservation or call to book a Disney hotel room.
When you make plans connected to your Disney profile, they appear here in order by day. You can also add entertainment to your plans here.
To do this, go to the map section of the app. Select “Entertainment” from the dropdown menu in the top middle. Then click an entertainment icon on the map and tap the bubble that pops up.
This will take you to an information page with a button that says “Add to My Plans.”
Choose a date and an available time. Then, complete the process by tapping the green “Add to My Plans” button at the bottom.
When you're at Walt Disney World, the MDE app works best when you pair it with a MagicBand.
The Touring Plans Walt Disney World program offers an easy-to-use itinerary builder. The site has a free basic version and a premium version that costs $15.95 for a year of access.
A basic Touring Plans account includes personalized itineraries, the dining reservation finder, ticket calculator, FastPass+ availability information and more.
The premium Touring Plans package gives you access to all the basics plus their crowd calendar (so you have an idea of how busy the parks will be), help buying the right tickets and choosing the right hotel, their text service for booking dining reservations when there’s an opening and more.
My mom has purchased the premium version for our trips before and loves the service. However, you don't absolutely need it to plan a great vacation. The free content that Touring Plans publishes about Disney gives you updated information about the parks that can help you plan, as well.
The Touring Plans itinerary builder is already pretty impressive, but their app Lines can help you a ton as well. It gives you crowd estimates, reported wait times, event information, FastPass+ availability and more.
Touring Plans claims that their tool can save you four hours per day of time that you might otherwise have wasted in line.
Having a planning tool doesn’t help much if you don’t fill in your itinerary with fun things to do!
Have everyone going on the trip tell you their top three can’t-miss things from the parks you’ll be going to. These action items should be specific, like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin ride or the Affection Section petting zoo.
Even if you can’t get to everyone’s three things, plan to do at least one or two things for each person.
Writing out your priorities and those of your travel companions ahead of time will prevent a ton of headaches when you’re there. Plus, each person gets to share their Disney favorites with the whole group.
When you’re planning, it’s all about getting your priorities straight and setting realistic expectations. These tools will help you manage your time when you’re in the parks and keep you organized as you navigate “The Most Magical Place On Earth.”
The purpose of planning ahead of time is to make your vacation easier when you’re there. Keeping track of your plans in a program like the ones above or on a spreadsheet of your own can help you visualize your schedule and give you a clear idea of your time constraints.
You also don't need to go into the parks every day of your vacation to get some Disney magic. Read my article about fun Disney adventures you can have without a park ticket to learn more.
Do you have any Disney tips? Share them in the comments below!