(Note that a good travel agent, such as Kelly at Destinations in Florida at 980-429-4499 or at Kelly@DestinationsInFlorida.com can do almost all of this for you, for free. If you use Destinations in Florida as your travel agent and tell them you came from this site, then they share a bit of the pixie dust they get from Disney with me.)
A. MORE THAN 180 DAYS BEFORE YOUR PLANNED ARRIVAL DATE
2. Make your plane reservations, if flying. Make any other needed transportation arrangements.
3. Create your My Disney Experience account here and add your family members to it
4. Set up your hotel and tickets. Call 407-939-7675 (preferred, because this allows you to tell the reservationist which building at your resort you wish to be in), or click here to use Disney’s online system. (Note: if your dates are later than what the online system permits, see this.)
- If you are following my itinerary, you want the hotel you’ve picked for 8 nights, nine day no hopper tickets, the Dining Plan, and Disney’s Magical Express if you are flying
- Itineraries other than mine will have different requirements here
B. 181 DAYS BEFORE YOUR ARRIVAL DATE
Decide whether on your first night you’ll be dining at Akershus or the San Angel Inn. Akershus is a princess meal–you’ll have another princess meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table on Thursday. If you really like princesses, do Akershus; otherwise, San Angel Inn is the better choice.
Login to your MyDisneyExperience.com account, click the “Things to Do” tab at top right, under Dining hit “Make Reservations,” and practice trying to reserve restaurants (hint: use the search box at the upper right).
This may well drive you crazy, but the site works better than it used to…and is likely the only way you can get your Cindy reservations done! (as the site opens up a new reservable day at 6a, whereas the phone reservation line opens at 7a).
Collect your restaurant reservations together. You will want to do them online in order of hardest to reserve first. This is how they are listed below.
C. EXACTLY 6am EST, EXACTLY 180 DAYS BEFORE YOUR ARRIVAL DATE
(For an 180 day calendar, see this).
Be on the restaurant website by at least 5:50am EST, and have your Cindy reservation all set up on the page. Keep refreshing, as you will be let in as soon as Disney’s system decides it is 6a.
Make as many of the following as you have patience for (try to get through at least Tusker House), in the exact order listed–but note that sometimes the Rivers of Light Dining Package is not available until 90-120 days before:
- Cinderella’s Royal Table Lunch (dining plan, two credits): Thursday at 11a or later if you can; earlier than 11 only if your sole option…
- Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue (dining plan, two credits): Tuesday 6.15p show. The later time will keep you up later than you need to be, OK if all you can get. Avoid the earlier time–it’ll cut into your park time too much
- Chef Mickey’s (dining plan, one credit) Tuesday 11a. Later is OK, but not a whole lot earlier–no earlier than 10.30a
- Tusker House as Rivers of Light Dining Package (dining plan, one credit). First Sunday 5.30p. You can schedule for as late as Disney will allow you to do so, but not earlier.
- Crystal Palace (dining plan, one credit): Second Saturday 6p if you can; earlier OK, but not later
- Akershus Banquet or San Angel Inn (dining plan, one credit): First Saturday 6p. No later than 6.30p, but earlier is OK if your travel plans allow for an ealrier arrival at Epcot.
For those you don’t make online, make them by calling call (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463)
D. 60 DAYS BEFORE YOUR ARRIVAL DATE
Note that you are booking your FastPass+ in two steps: first you are focusing on nailing the ones that are hardest to get, then you are going back to the beginning of your visit and adding the rest. This is because some FastPass+ are hard to get even at 60 days (because people whose 60 days opened a few days ago booked their FastPass+ for the next nine days after that date, overlapping with your dates.)
1. Go to your MyDisneyExperience account at 7am and set up the following hard-to-get FastPass+, booking them in the order noted
- Second Sunday at the Animal Kingdom: Avatar: Flight of Passage for 9.30 to 10.30a
- Wednesday at Hollywood Studios: Slinky Dog Dash for 10-11a
- Thursday at the Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for 1-2p
- First Saturday afternoon and evening at Epcot: Tier One: Frozen Ever After. Set the time for when your travel plans permit you to be in the park.
2. Second, continue with the rest (I’ve kept the ones above in this list so you can see the various times):
- First Saturday afternoon and evening at Epcot: Tier One: Frozen Ever After. Tier Two: Spaceship Earth. The Tier One FastPass+ is your priority. Set the Tier Two times for when your travel plans permit you to be in the park. If you can book just one because of your travel schedule, choose Frozen Ever After
- First Sunday at the Animal Kingdom: Na’vi River Journey, Finding Nemo: The Musical, and Kali River Rapids. Set Na’vi for 10-11a, Nemo 11.30 to 11.45 for the noon show, and Kali River Rapids at 12:40p
- Monday at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Tier One: Toy Story Midway Mania. Tier Two: Star Tours and Frozen Sing-Along. Set Toy Story Midway Mania for 9a-10a, Star Tours for 11a-noon 3.30p, and the Frozen Sing Along for the 10.30a show.
- Tuesday at the Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Jungle Cruise. Set Space Mountain for 9-10a, the Speedway for 10-11a, and Jungle Cruise for 3-4p.
- Wednesday at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Tier One: Slinky Dog Dash. Tier Two: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Fantasmic. Set Rock ‘n’ Roller for 9-10a, Slinky Dog Dash to 10-11a, and if more than one Fantasmic show is available, pick the earlier one–likely for 8p
- Thursday at the Magic Kingdom: For arrivals before 8/18/2018 or after 12/21/18: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and the Haunted Mansion. Target Seven Dwarfs for 12.30-1.30p, Belle for 1.30-2.30p, and the Haunted Mansion for 3.30-4.30p. For arrivals between 8/18 and 12/21/18: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and the Haunted Mansion. Target Seven Dwarfs for 1-2p, Belle for 2.30-3.30p, and the Haunted Mansion for 3.30-4.30p. (At park open, head to Peter Pan.)
- Friday at Epcot: Tier One: Test Track. Tier Two: Mission: SPACE and Turtle Talk with Crush. Set Mission: SPACE for 9a-10a, Test Track for 10a-11a, and Turtle Talk with Crush for 12.30p to 1.30p.
- Second Saturday at the Magic Kingdom: Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, and a third ride. Set Big Thunder for 9-10a, and Pirates for 10-11a
- Second Sunday at the Animal Kingdom: Avatar: Flight of Passage and Festival of the Lion King. Set Flight of Passage for 9.30 to 10.30a, and Festival of the Lion King for 10.30-10.45a for the 11a show.
3. Do online check in, requesting as you do special location points
E. NOTES ON PACKING ETC. BEFORE YOU LEAVE
1. Bring your MagicBands in your carry-ons
2. If you use Disney’s Magical Express, you do not need to collect your bags at the Orlando airport unless you arrive late in the evening/at night or are an international traveler. Disney will get them for you and, eventually, deliver them directly to your room. Your bags may arrive hours after you do; so, depending on the weather forecasts, have a carry-on with an appropriate change of clothes for Orlando weather on Saturday, as you will almost certainly go to Epcot on Saturday before your checked bags arrive.
3. Follow the instructions in the Magical Express packet you will receive in the mail regarding both tagging your bags pre-departure, and where to go at the Orlando airport to find your transport to your resort.
4. Bring a copy of your room reservation, confirmation numbers and any tickets for special events you may have received in the mail.
5. Pack breakfast utensils, as they are not always available in the gift shop: bowls, spoons, napkins
6. When you arrive at the hotel, look for the special “On-line Check-in” line, and get into it.