Planning in Advance for Disney: Why It Matters!

Many questions I hear about Disney center around planning time.

For example:
  • How far in advance to I need to plan for a Disney vacation?
  • Why plan in advance?
  • If I wait, can I get a better deal?
Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom

Read more to find out the answers to these questions, as well as other planning advice.

How far in advance do I need to plan for a Disney vacation?

The answer to this question depends on 2 things:
  1. How particular are you about getting what you want when you want it?
  2. Which Disney destination are you visiting?
If you are very particular about your plans for your trip, you should plan as far ahead as possible. By planning ahead, you will have your choice of accommodations, as well as dining reservations and activities. If you have your heart set on popular dining locations and activities, it is imperative that you plan well in advance so that you will have the opportunity to participate in those experiences.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

If, on the other hand, you are willing to take what you can get, you can plan the day before if you like. By planning last minute, you will only have the options available based on what is left after other have booked. This can be a fun and adventurous way to travel, if you are open to trying new things. However, you do need to understand that there are certain reservations that are unlikely to be available the later you plan (more on this later in the post).

Coronado Springs Resort

Different Disney destinations require different levels of planning time:
  • Disney World: If you are going to Disney World, my advice is always to book your trip at least 7 months in advance. This gives you a month to decide which reservations you would like to make before those dates become available to reserve experiences.
  • Disneyland: Disneyland is a bit more flexible than Disney World, as reservations for dining and other experiences at Disneyland are available up to 60 days in advance.
  • Disney Cruise Line: Reservations for shore excursions and signature dining experiences can be made up to 75 days in advance for first-time guests on the Disney Cruise Line. Because these reservations open up to 120 days in advance for repeat guests, it is very important to book your Disney cruise at least 3 months in advance, so that you will have time to decide which experiences you would like to reserve.
  • Aulani: Aulani does not have the same restrictions on reservations as other Disney destinations. You can book a year in advance or wait until the last minute. Because Aulani is relatively new, it remains to be seen what the most popular experiences will be, and how far in advance they will need to be booked.
  • Adventures by Disney: Adventures by Disney only offers certain trips on certain dates, with limited availability, so it is very important to book as far in advance as possible.
Stones of the Brave in Scotland (Adventures by Disney)
 Why plan in advance?

A main advantage to planning in advance is getting your preferences rather than taking the leftovers. However, there are other advantages as well:
  • Payment plan: All Disney destinations have a deadline for final payment. The further in advance you plan, the more you can spread out the cost so the pain in the pocketbook isn't as obvious. If you book after the final payment deadline, full payment is due at the time of booking. You might be surprised at how little it costs to reserve a Disney vacation!
  • Availability: Especially if you are travelling during times when almost the entire USA is on school break, options can decrease very quickly. These times include: the week between Christmas and New Year's, the month of July, Easter week, and Thanksgiving week. Presidents' week in February and the months of June and August are also busy, but since some schools are in session, the crowds are a bit lighter.
  • Special experiences: Certain experiences book very quickly. If you want to eat at Cinderella's Royal Table (in the castle) at Disney World, or get a princess makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, these reservations fill up extremely quickly, especially during peak travel times. Also popular are the dinner shows like Hoop-de-Doo Revue and Spirit of Aloha. The Disney Cruise Line has signature dining restaurants and shore excursions that have limited availability as well.
  • Magical Express: Disney World's free transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport must be reserved at least 2 weeks in advance.
Disney Wonder in Alaska
 If I wait, can I get a better deal?

Actually, you can get the same deals whether you wait or not!

One special perk of doing a Disney vacation is that Disney will adjust the price of your vacation to reflect new discounts! They will not do this automatically; someone needs to call and ask for the adjustment to a specific reservation.

An excellent reason to use a Disney Vacation Planner is that we keep track of the discounts for you, make the calculations, and ask for the adjustments that will get you a better deal.

Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland Park

Why wait?

I hope that this post has helped to answer some questions about planning for Disney vacations.

I think the best question from me is: What are you waiting for?

Grand Floridian Resort