There are a lot of decisions required when booking a Disney World vacation. When do I want to go? Where do I want to stay? Are Park Hoppers worth the extra money? Do I need a Dining Plan? Do I REALLY need vacation insurance? There are thousands of blogs, books and other resources that can keep you informed, or completely overwhelm you.

Planning a Disney trip and don't know where to start? Follow these 7 tips on how to book a Disney World vacation and you'll be on your way to magic!

Meeting Princess Anna in Epcot. Photo Credit: Katherine May.

7 Useful Tips on How to Book a Disney World Vacation

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, planning a Disney vacation can be overwhelming. In an effort to simplify things, I’ve put together 7 tips to help make the process a little easier. Yes, I realize everyone does not stay in on-site Disney Resort hotels. However, these tips cover important information for those guests planning to stay on-site with Magic Your Way vacation packages.

1 – Select your Travel Dates

The first step to booking any kind of vacation is knowing when you want to go. When it comes to a Walt Disney World vacation you should really try to book at least 7 to 12 months in advance. Why? Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) open 180 days from your arrival date. If you are looking for character dining reservations this should be at the top of your Disney To-Do list! Some of us will be online at 6:00 a.m. the morning the reservations go live. Yes, its kind of a big deal.

If you aren’t sure when you want to visit, look at a crowd calendar to see what is recommended. If you can, avoid the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve at all costs. This is when crowds are at an all-time high.

Planning a Disney trip and don't know where to start? Follow these 7 tips on how to book a Disney World vacation and you'll be on your way to magic!

Meeting Cinderella at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Photo Credit: Katherine May

 2 – Contact a Travel Agent

Did you know most Travel Agents specializing in Disney vacations will help you plan your vacation free of charge? Seriously. Not only will they help you score that extra special breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table, but they can help you take the stress out of the entire planning process.

3 – Select your Disney Resort Hotel

The Walt Disney World Resort Hotels have four categories to choose from: Value,  Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villas. Each category has something unique to offer for every budget.

The first question I am asked when someone is unfamiliar with Disney’s resorts is “Where should I stay?” This is a very personal decision that only you can make. Here are some facts that may help you narrow down your choices. Each room can accommodate a set number of guests, plus 1 child under age 3 in a crib.

Value Resorts  

  • Affordable, comfortable & convenient for budget minded families
  • Standard rooms sleep up to 4 guests
  • Family suites sleep up to 6 guests
  • Quick-Service dining
  • Bus service transportation to the parks

Moderate Resorts

  • Lush themes, affordable & relaxing
  • Standard rooms sleep 4-5 guests
  • Fort Wilderness Cabins sleep up to 6 guests
  • Table-Service Restaurants / Quick-Service dining
  • Themed pools & waterslides
  • Bus service, & water launch (at some) transportation to the parks

Deluxe Resorts

  • Highly themed, fine dining, luxurious amenities
  • Standard rooms sleep 4-5 quests
  • Signature Dining restaurants / Table-Service restaurants
  • Themed pools & waterslides
  • Bus service, water launch service or monorail service transportation to the parks

Deluxe Villa Resorts

  • Spacious, multi-room, condo-style resort offering the comforts & convenience of home
  • One, Two and Three bedroom villas offer full kitchens & in-room washer & dryers
  • Shared benefits of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts
Planning a Disney trip and don't know where to start? Follow these 7 tips on how to book a Disney World vacation and you'll be on your way to magic!

Meeting Minnie Mouse for the very first time on Main Street U.S.A. Photo Credit: Katherine May

 4 – Select Your Tickets

How many days do you want to visit the theme parks? There are four theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and two water parks – Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach. Each of these parks requires a ticket for entry. The only location in Walt Disney World that does not require a ticket is Disney Springs.

Once you know how many days you will need to decide if you want Base tickets or Park Hopper tickets. What’s the difference? Base tickets allow you entry into only one park per day. You can leave the park as many times as you would like throughout the day. However, you may only visit that one park. Park Hopper tickets allow you to visit as many of the four theme parks as you would like in one day.

TravelingMom Tip: Walt Disney World is a giant place. There really is no way to see and do it all in one visit. A 4-day Park Hopper ticket is a great option if you are trying to see and do as much as possible. Planning to visit one of the water parks? Consider adding the Water Park Fun & More Option. It is more economical to add this to your package than to pay for individual daily admission to one of the water parks.

How to Book a Disney World vacation

Meeting Stitch at ‘Ohana Best Friends Breakfast. Photo Credit: Katherine May

5- Select a Disney Dining Plan

To dine or not to dine, that is the question. Personally I am a huge fan of the Disney Dining Plan. I have traveled to Disney World with and without it and I will admit there are pros and cons. I myself think the pros outweigh the cons.  Currently Disney has three different dining plans to choose from:

Quick-Service Dining Plan

If your family likes to eat on the go and doesn’t like to schedule sit-down meals, this is a great option for you. Each person can enjoy the following per package night:

  • Two (2) Quick-Service meals
  • Two (2) Snacks
  • Refillable drink mug (to be refilled at self-service beverage islands at quick-service locations at any Disney Resort hotel)
Planning a Disney trip and don't know where to start? Follow these 7 tips on how to book a Disney World vacation and you'll be on your way to magic!

Mickey signing autograph book at ‘Ohana. Photo Credit: Murtagh Photography

Disney Dining Plan

If you are planning to book character dining meals this is a great plan to consider. Each person can enjoy the following per package night:

  • One (1) Table-Service meal
  • One (1) Quick-Service meal
  • Two (2) Snacks
  • Refillable drink mug (to be refilled at self-service beverage islands at quick-service locations at any Disney Resort hotel)

Deluxe Dining Plan

Those families who are wanting to experience Signature dining restaurants and dinner shows (each take 2 dining credits per meal), this is a great option for you. Each person will enjoy the following per package night:

  • Three (3) Meals (*credits can be used as Table-Service or Quick-Service)
  • Two (2) Snacks
  • Refillable drink mug (to be refilled at self-service beverage islands at quick-service locations at any Disney Resort hotel)

Guests under the age of 3 do not pay for the Dining Plan and are required to eat off the plate of an adult. You can however purchase them a meal from the children’s menu.

6 – Vacation Insurance

Vacation insurance can be added to your package at the rate of $77.50 per adult. Coverage includes trip cancellation/interruption at 100% of the insured trip cost due to covered reasons. A complete list of covered reasons can be provided by Travelex or your Disney Travel Agent.

Personally, I will not travel without vacation insurance. This is a small price to pay to in comparison to what you could lose should your vacation have to be canceled and you not be able to recoup the funds. Sadly, I have seen it happen. Time and time again.

TravelingMom Tip: Vacation insurance can be added to your Disney vacation package at any time prior to final payment being made. Coverage will not go into effect until added to the package.

7 – $200 Down Payment

Once you have narrowed down all of your package components you are ready to book your vacation. All you need in order to secure your Walt Disney World reservation is a $200.00 deposit. If you decide to add vacation insurance at the time of booking it will need to be paid up front with the deposit. Once your deposit has been paid the next step is to create a My Disney Experience account and begin the planning process. Final payments are due thirty days before the arrival date of your Walt Disney World vacation.