Planning 101 Vacation Planner Walt Disney World

How Do I Plan My Itinerary?

May 9, 2020

To be honest, my plans are more “go with the flow.” After all, some of my favorite vacation moments weren’t planned. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t have an itinerary.

Because FastPasses and Advanced Dining Reservations are made so far in advance, even the most flexible itineraries will require you to know which Parks will you be visiting and what days you’ll be visiting them.

Whether I’m traveling with a “must fill every minute” planner or with someone who prefers leave the itinerary wide open for surprises, there are things that I always take into consideration.

How I Plan My Itinerary - Everything I consider when planning my trips

What I Look For Before Starting To Make My Itinerary

Before I do anything, the very first thing I do is open up Walt Disney World’s Calendar.

Walt Disney World Calendar
Walt Disney World Calendar

Like many Guests, we like to prioritize the attractions. This means avoiding Parks that could bring in larger crowds and make the queues longer.

Of course, this isn’t as simple as it seems. Between Park Hoppers, Annual Passholders, and the fact that Park Tickets aren’t tied to any one Park, it’s impossible to know where each Guest will be on any given day.

But, thanks to experience, we can take an educated guess.

The Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom on a day with Extra Magic Hours
Animal Kingdom during Extra Magic Hours

Extra Magic Hours

Extra Magic Hours are wonderful for many reasons. I especially love the morning hours. It’s amazing going to the Parks bright and early in the morning before the Parks open to the general public.

But, I don’t plan my itinerary around attending all of them. In fact, if we don’t have Park Hoppers, we avoid that Park.

Why?

Guests want to spend as much time in the Parks as possible. For many, a Disney vacation is a once in a lifetime experience. So, more park time equals more magic time, right?

I’m not going to argue with that. But, longer Park hours also means it’s attracting more people. And that’s why I say that staying at a Park that hosts that day’s Extra Magic Hours may be one of the ways you’ll accidentally ruin your vacation.

If we have Park Hoppers, we may take advantage of the limited time with fewer people before traveling to another Park. But, when we have Base Tickets, we spend our entire day elsewhere.

Parties and Special Events

Assuming that you don’t have a ticket for that night’s event, if there’s a special event happening in the Park that night, we may plan our day elsewhere.

The start time of these Hard Ticked Events do vary. Again, that’s why I check Disney’s calendar.

A party that doesn’t start til 10 pm wouldn’t necessarily keep us away. But, there are parties, like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, that start at 7 pm.

This means that if you’re not going to the party, your day ends at 6 PM. Cast Members won’t immediately rush you to the exit. But, they’ll be stationed at the ride entrances, so you won’t be able to get on the attractions.

There is a benefit of going to a Park on a day with shortened hours. Guests want to maximize their hours in the Parks, so it’s probably going to be less crowded during the day.

But, unless you have a Park Hopper, if you don’t want your day to end at 6 pm, I’d recommend visiting a different Park.

Epcot International Food and Wine Festival sign in front of Spaceship Earth

Epcot Festivals

If I’m going to be traveling during one of Epcot’s Festivals, I typically don’t visit Epcot during the weekends.

Like us, locals love the Festivals. But, due to work schedules, they can typically only visit after work and during the weekends.

So, when I’m planning my itinerary, I make sure to remind myself to get to Epcot early, when the crowds are more manageable.

But, the good news is that locals are usually there for the Festival booths and not the attractions. World Showcase will be packed with people. But, the queues for the attractions should be relatively untouched.

Thinking Ahead

By this point, I have been able to eliminate at least a few Parks per day.

But, because my family likes to prioritize the attractions, thinking of the types of FastPasses and Advanced Dining Reservations I want to get helps me fine tune my itinerary even further.

Na'vi bust inside Windtraders Shop at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Place Parks With “ABSOLUTELY MUST DO” Attractions At The End of Your Trip

Would you believe that I’ve still never seen the regular queue for Flight of Passage? I’ve ridden the attraction plenty of times. And I’ve heard all about the impressive animatronic inside of the regular queue. But, I always avoid the 2+ hour line.

Do I just get lucky? Maybe.

But, since Flight of Passage is our top “must do” attraction, I give myself a greater chance of getting that FastPass by pushing Animal Kingdom as far back as I can.

Remember, Guests are able to book their Fastpasses for their entire trip, based on their check-in date. So, the further you can push that date back, the less competition you should have for the same Fastpass.

This doesn’t guarantee you will get everything you want. In some cases, it may take several more times checking the app for an availability.

But, in all the times I’ve been able to get the top attractions, I’ve gotten them the same day my FastPass window opened.

Meeting Mickey at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Think of Where Restaurants Are Located Before Booking

Advanced Dining Reservations are booked 180 days in advance. FastPasses are booked 60 days, for Resort Guests, and 30 days in advance for off-site Guests.

Because has so many wonderful restaurants located outside of the Parks, many think that it doesn’t matter what Park you ultimately end up at that day.

But, I tend to disagree.

Your time at Walt Disney World is limited. So, the last thing you want to do is spend more time traveling than is required.

Even if you only make reservations outside of the Parks, plan out those Park days ahead of time. Nothing spoils you day faster than being late for your reservation because you chose the furthest restaurant from the Park you were in.

Riding 7 Dwarfs Mine Train At Night

How do you plan your Itinerary? I’d love to hear about it!

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