Infographic: how to plan a Disney World trip

(Last updated: April 13, 2016)

Planning a Disney World trip is overwhelming at first. Here's an infographic with the steps to help you get started.

Links to more detailed info to help you plan is listed after the graphic.

More info to help you plan:

Ready for a trip quote?

The handpicked team of agents at Prep School Travel can help you out. Fill out the info below to get started.

Leave a Reply

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted

Hi Shannon – awesome work, thanks for sharing. Quick question, I am planning a trip to DW in October this year, but only for 2 days. Which parks do you advise us seeing the best as obviously we won’t get to them all. We are a family of 5, 2 adults and 3 children in the teens, however I’m thinking that 2 days on rides everyone will have had enough. Any suggestions to last the days? Thanks Tania

Angela Cooper

I’m planning a 4 day trip October 9-12 (Columbus Day weekend) and only want to stay on-site for 2 days. Would it be better to stay on-site Fri/Sat or Sun/Mon? Any advice is appreciated!

Andrea Thompson

weekeend rates will be slightly higher than weekday rates. Crowd levels in the park will also be higher on the weekends as well.

Hello. I am looking for some answers & you look like the place to get them! (I pulled this from the FB post I left on your page… I thought maybe it would be less messy to post any answers here.)

I am currently planning our EPIC 2018 family vacation to WDW. It will be our first time going and probably the only time for my husband & I. We are a “Disneyland Family” with 2 adult kids (and the fiance of one of them) that grew up in So Cal and goes every year to DLR, so we are not Disney noobs, but there are some thing that are drastically different at WDW.

The reason I’m planning so early is because there will be more than the 5 of us going and everyone needs to save for the trip. I also know from DLR vacations that at least some planning is required. For example, we go to DLR for 4 days so that we have 2 days per park. And to make the time more efficient, we split the parks in 1/2. So we do the “left side” on day 1 & the “right side” on day 2. And we plan our meals based on the side of the park we’re in that day. This means less stress / urgency to get everything done. Plus, it seriously cuts back on the amount of walking. And it will all run a lot smoother if at day 180 I already know where everyone wants to eat their Table Service meal(s) – I’m taking votes & most votes win! Same with what rides we’ll be booking our FP+ on. And I need to coordinate this all, matching restaurants & FP+ to the correct parks and the correct side of the park! Yes… I have an Excel spread sheet… LOL

So, when we go to WDW, we will be going for 12 nights with 8 days in the parks. That will give us 2 days per park with a “resting day” in between each 2 days to relax in the room, Resort hop & visit “Downtown Disney” (I forgot the name of the new area at WDW).

We plan on purchasing the meal plan, most likely Deluxe for my family at least. This way, we won’t have to carry huge amounts of cash or stockpile a large amount in the bank & risk the bank freezing our account since we’ve never made purchases in FL… plus we (meaning I… lol) wont have to keep a constant eye on the budget.

Here are my questions…

1. Do we have to have already ordered/paid for the vacation package in full to book our meal choices at 180 days before we go? Because we were planning on having that 2017 tax return to cover the remaining balance.

Which leads to questions #2 & #3… How early can we book the hotel rooms? And are we required to put down a certain amount & make monthly payments or can we book it & pay it off in two large chunks? Basically, can we pay 1/2 with our 2016 tax return & the balance with the 2017 return? Because we are planning to give up our 2017 DLR vacation to use the money for WDW in 2018. If we have to make monthly payments, it changes everything. Since we always use our tax return as our “savings” for our DLR vacations.

#4… My husband and I and possibly our youngest daughter will be getting one room. My oldest daughter & her fiance will be getting another BUT they will be paying for it themselves & splitting it with either my sister & youngest daughter OR my sister and her significant other depending on circumstances. My question is… How do they (and by they I mean I again lol) book this where everyone is paying their equal share?

Lastly… Do we have to use any accrued credits via our Disney Credit Card at the time of booking, or can we apply them at the final payment? And if they offer the 10%-30% off a room after we book, for Disney Visa Card holders… Will they honor that or are we SOL?

If you have answers to any of these questions, I’d really appreciate it! Thank you in advance! I’ll continue checking around your site & blog to see if any of these have been answered already.

Amy Cook


1. Nope, you don’t have to have your trip paid for in full yet in order to make your dining or fast pass reservations!

2. There is only a $200 deposit required to book your Disney package. You can pay chunks whenever you want, and then the balance is due I believe around 6 weeks your trip. We are preparing for our second trip! You can only book for the current year, until the following year’s rates are released (usually in the summer) and then you can book for the following year as well. Basically, it’s currently May 7th 2015- you could book for anytime this year but not for 2016 yet. Once they release 2016 rates (they may or may not change, but they are reviewed every year, still) the you are able to book 2016 trips at that point too- usually sometime this summer. Beyond that, no you cannot book a 2017 or 2018 trip this early out.

3. As for splitting the rooms, I don’t know about that- I recommend booking your trip over the phone with a rep when the time comes and maybe looking for adjoining rooms? Or have them give you a “hotel only” total over the phone so that you have that number and divy up the responsibility on your own based on that.

Don’t be afraid of booking your dining early, you’re smart in being ready for that. If you are used to Disneyland and this is your first time at Disney World, be prepared for a huge difference. Disneyland is 2 parks, where DW is 4 (plus Downtown Disney, plus their 2 water parks too) and is ENORMOUS. Literally. DW size-wise, makes DL look like a speck on the map. The resting days are perfect. You’re going to need them 🙂 The deluxe dining plan is awesome- we loved it because it took the stress off of being required to eat so many of each kind of meal- we aren’t big on quick service (fast food) when on vacation so we wanted the option of eating wherever we wanted and the deluxe lets you use your credits at quick OR table service. Plus it gives you more credits and if you want to eat at places like Cinderella’s Table, or other experiences that require 2 credits, then you aren’t using them all up and being left to pay out of pocket before week’s end. And we loved the 3 snacks a day. You think you won’t use them, but even starbucks is a snack! We loved that. A $6 frappe on the dining plan? yes please!! Honestly, the dining plan was amazing for us- we took 4 kids (ages 11 months through 7 years) and it made everything SO much more relaxing and smooth to just have that and not be carrying around a wallet. It’s tied to your Magic Band (something Disneyland doesn’t have) which is a wrist band you wear that gets you into your resort room, lets you charge things to your room (which are paid for by your linked credit card), lets you access your Fast Pass reservations and your dining plan, etc. They’re so awesome! DW definitely pulled out the stops with the Magic Bands 🙂 Make sure you study the crowd calendar and try to go when it’s going to be a good time to visit- our mistake on our first trip was going over Spring Break and it was HORRIBLE. Never, ever, ever again.

If i didn’t answer something it’s because I don’t know the answer. If you want to email me though I’m happy to help you out! I learned SO much from our first trip in all the DO’s and DON’T EVER DO’S lol!! [email protected]

Amy 🙂

Chris Geary

I see on your infographic 2015 calendar that “Jersey Week” falls on the second week of November. But on the “Best times to visit calendar” it is showing the first week. can you please clarify.

Shannon, so does the calendar on the infographic take the place of your previous 2015 crowd calendar?

Susan Walizer

Shanon, I used the tool just to see if my preferences matched your tool guide. It was right on. We always stay at POR and that is the resort that it suggested. Your website is awesome. I also printed off the packing list which was a great help to me last trip. We are going in November and I cannot wait. It will be our 7th time staying at POR. Thank you for all your wonderful tips and suggestions.

Christine N.

Thanks Shannon!!!!
This helps so much in our planning for May trip this year!!! So very excited to be there for the Flower and Garden Expo and the beginning of Star Wars Week, Woohoo!!!!!! Hoping it will be nice weather and light crowds like predicted!!!:)

Randi Guire

Great Job Shannon! Love this quick tool that is easy to the eye and gives a quick but helpful breakdown.


Wow, Shannon! Very nice!!


What’s a dessert party and how do you schedule one?

John Sheets

Now I am worried! We were originally scheduled to go April 19-25, but had to switch to 12-18 due to a scheduling conflict. This will be a first time visit for my kids 5 and 6. I was hoping that since this was a full week after Easter it would be a light crowd week. How bad do you think the crowds will be?

John Sheets

Oops! just looked at the calendar above instead of clicking the link… Looks like we’ll be ok. Sorry!


Is there another way to access the link that you provided for the calendars of extra hours and shows etc? It doesn’t seem to be working for me in that format. Thanks!


This looks awesome! And very helpful!


Can anyone tell me why the last week of August is light crowds but then September moderate??

Anna Senn

Looks AMAZING!! I am so impressed!

Greg Nevius

Very nicely done! A lot of information presented in a quick and easy format to digest.

Animal Kingdom Epcot Hollywood Studios Magic Kingdom Water Parks
Guide to Festival of the Arts at Epcot
Complete guide to Epcot
All about the Frozen Ever After Dessert Party at Epcot
Planning Process Overview Step 1: Pick a Date Step 2: Lodging Step 3: Make a Daily Plan Step 4: Dining Step 5: Park Touring Step 6: Extra Magic
Starbucks at Disney World – here’s everything you need to know
The pros and cons of every Disney World resort
Best Disney World restaurants to share meals
Babies and Toddlers Characters General Reference Group Travel Luxury Saving Money Special Needs Technology Transportation
Best Disney World restaurants to share meals
How to rent DVC points (deluxe hotel for moderate prices!)
Disney Springs restaurants and dining