Planning a Disney vacation is easier than you think – just follow these steps!
These steps work in any order.
If Step 3 is the most important for you, then move Step 4 to the top.
If Step 3 is more important than Step 2, swap them.
This is a plug and play step-by-step guide.
So, here we go!
Step 1: Choose Your Travel Buddies
Disney Park Nerds love going on a Disney vacation and traveling to Disney parks with (and sometimes without) the Nerdlings.
On occasion, grand-parents and other family/friends may be invited.
Generally, though, we choose the “core” group first and invite people once the other steps have been completed.
Once you’ve figured out which folks are worth planning around, it’s time to…
Step 2: Select Dates
Date selection, perhaps more than anything else, will have the biggest impact on your Disney vacation.
The Disney Park Nerds will go to great lengths to avoid crowds; this is the top priority for us when planning a trip to a Disney park.
An added bonus is that this typically comes with lower prices.
Of course, gather the availability of those with whom you plan to travel.
From there, we always start off by considering local holidays.
That’s right – we are more focused on the holidays for locals who will visit the park than our own holidays!
With a firm grasp of local holidays, we consult Touring Plans and their handy-dandy crowd calendar.
Purchasing access to their site is a wise investment in your vacation and their prices are both reasonable and have a money-back guarantee.
For some, a Disney vacation is incomplete if the park is not decorated for Halloween or Christmas.
Perhaps there is a festival or other special event.
It’s also a good idea to reference rides that are scheduled to be close for refurbishment to ensure you and your travel party do not miss a “must see”.
Some resorts, like the Tokyo Disney Resort often post their refurbishment schedule as much as 6 months in advance.
Other places like the Walt Disney World Resort provide this list in conjunction with their calendar – generally 2 or 3 months in advance.
In either case, be sure to keep monitoring this list up until your vacation so your expectations are properly set upon arrival.
Crowds are one element of date selection as they impact your enjoyment of the parks and the price you will pay for flights, lodging, tickets, etc.
Another crucial element of when to travel is weather.
We Nerds prefer it cool (maybe not quite “cold”) for theme park touring and we have experienced very mild, very cold (highs in the 30s and 40s) and very hot (highs in the upper 90s) on a Disney vacation.
We know you know, but mild is where it’s at!
Like any vacation, grab your favorite weather app or web page and take a look at expected weather for the dates you are considering.
Using this information, we generally piece together a date range of options.
Sometimes, the dates fit snuggly and the dates are the dates.
Other times, there is a range and we let the price or availability of transportation and/or the hotels break the tie.
So, now we are on to…
Step 3: Lock Down Transportation
If you are driving, this is pretty easy.
If you are renting a car or flying be sure to take a look at all of your options.
Aggregators like Kayak are often great ways to gain quick insight into your options.
Kayak is also great for comparing and pricing out rental cars.
We can rarely, if ever, beat the prices at one of these two sites and any savings, without sacrificing quality, is welcomed news on a Disney vacation.
Step 4: Select Your Hotel
Choosing the right hotel will have an impact on your Disney vacation.
Things to consider will include cost including parking and resort fees, distance from the parks and travel time, size, bed configuration.
Then, there is the whole “on property” vs “off property” discussion – generally surrounding each item mentioned above.
As a general rule, we are fans of staying on Disney property whenever feasible because we think it is a more seamless Disney vacation.
And we don’t shy away from recommending what we think is the best value at Disney World in our recent article.
The Disney Resorts range from two on-site hotels at the Shanghai Disney Resort to more than 30 at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Once you have honed in on your hotel selection, don’t book it just yet. Next, let’s…
Step 5: Select Your Tickets
Before actually purchasing tickets, we need to figure out our travel plan. Here are a few critical questions:
- How many days do you want to visit parks?
- Is park hopping important to you?
- Are there any other Disney venues you plan to visit (e.g. water parks, miniature golf courses, etc)
The Disney Park Nerds believe it is prudent to once again consult Touring Plans and, using their touring plans, sketch out an idea of what you might accomplish in a day at each park. This will help guide you as to how many days are needed at each. Questions to consider:
- Are you an “opening to close” theme park group?
- Do you want to take naps and/or pool breaks?
- Is sit-down dining important to you?
Answers to questions like these will help influence your decision on how much time you want to dedicate to each park.
Once you have decided this, compare prices from Disney, your hotel (if off property) and official ticket brokers.
READ MORE: 7 Best Disney World Resorts for Adults
Step 6 (optional): Quick Price Comparisons
Armed with your travel companions, dates, transportation plans, hotel, tickets/days in each park schedule, we’d recommend a quick price check (Blue Light Special on Aisle 5?).
Sketch out the costs of booking a la carte vs. a package.
We discuss how packages can sometimes be quite a bit more expensive without much benefit in our Easy Disney World Vacation Tip #1 – Packages vs a la Carte article.
Reference sites that focus on discounts like MouseSavers.com where you can find links to deals for your Disney vacation.
Step 7: Make Your Purchases and Prepare for Fun!
Hopefully, you have enough information to get the details mapped out for your Disney vacation.
It’s time to click “check-out” on your cart and let the moment sink in….you’re going on a DISNEY VACATION!!
Use the Disney Memory Maker to capture your Disney vacations best moments.