1. Park Hours – Start your itinerary planning by checking the posted park hours on Disney’s website. Make sure you select the appropriate date at the top of the page. Typically, park hours are posted just over 6 months in advance. You will notice that Extra Magic Hours (EMH) will be listed as well. Extra Magic Hours are extra park hours for on property guests only. Note: park hours are subject to change. It is a good rule to check the park hours again 2 weeks prior to travel, and then check park hours each evening for the following day, in case of changes.
2. Crowd Calendars – There are many reliable crowd calendars online. My two favorites are maintained by Touring Plans and Undercover Tourist. These crowd calendars will give you a picture of which parks will be the most crowded each day of your trip. Most importantly, you should be aware that there are always going to be crowds when you are at Walt Disney World. However, Disney does a fabulous job of managing crowds and queues, so that it is easier for you.
3. Special Events – Disney offers many special events throughout the year. You can check out some of those events here. If you are planning to attend any of these special events (Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, etc.), then you will want to consider those event dates when planning which park to visit on each day.
4. Basic Outline – Once you have looked at park hours, Extra Magic Hours, crowd calendars, and special events, you will be ready to make a basic outline of which park(s) you will visit each day. You can only visit more than one park on any given day, if you have the park hopper option added to your park tickets. If you have the Water Park Fun & More Option or Bonus Feature as a part of your ticket, you CAN visit either a water park or mini-golf course on the same day or a separate day as the rest of your park days. The number of days on your park tickets, indicate the number of days you can visit Disney’s four main theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, & Animal Kingdom.
5. Dining Reservations – Once you have your Basic Outline, you can come up with a plan for your dining reservations. Dining reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance of check-in for up to a 10 day stay (on property guests), and 180 days in advance of each dining reservation (off property guests). Knowing where you will be each day will help you decide where/when you want to schedule your dining reservations. For more dining reservation information, click here. If you book your trip closer than 180 days from check-in, and you have a specific dining location that you MUST visit, then you may want to see what days/times are available at that location before you decide which park(s) you will visit each day.
6. Fast Pass + Selections – For on property guests, you can make your Fast Pass selections 60 days in advance of check-in. For off property guests, you can make your Fast Pass selections 30 days in advance of each day you plan to be in the parks. At this point, you should already have a basic outline for your trip, and you should have your dining reservations booked. I recommend that you schedule your three daily Fast Pass selections between 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, if possible. This way, you can schedule additional Fast Passes (one at a time) after using your initial three Fast Passes. The first hour or two that the park is open, is a great time to get as much done as possible without Fast Passes, because the crowds/wait times will be lower at that time. Go here for more Fast Pass Tips & Tricks.
7. Rope Drop – Once you have made your Fast Pass selections, you can decide which attraction you are going to go to first, as soon as the park opens. You should select the attraction that typically has the longest wait that you did NOT get a Fast Pass for. This is a great way to get a shorter wait time, for something that you would otherwise have to wait in a long line for.
8. Shows/Parades (day time) – Next you should fill in your itinerary with any shows or parades that you would like to see during the day.
9. Nighttime Shows & Fireworks – Next it’s time to decide if you will be sticking around for the nighttime shows and fireworks.
10. Fill in the Details – Once you have done 1-9, all that’s left to do is fill in the details. Just keep in mind that you will not be able to do everything! Walt Disney World is huge! Choose your top “must-do’s,” and go from there. It’s a really good idea to build in time for bathroom breaks, snack breaks, and nap time (either stroller naps, or back at your resort). And most importantly, have FUN!