By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

f. When Your Plans Need to be Firm

By Dave Shute

When Your Disney World Plans Need to be Firm from yourfirstvsit.netYour plans should be firm–that is, you should be able to commit to all required Walt Disney World reservations–more than 180 days in advance of your arrival date.

If it’s already fewer than 180 days from your arrival date, see this.


The specific driver of this timing is the need to make what Walt Disney World calls “Advance Dining Reservations.”

Dining reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance of your arrival date.

Many of the recommended dining events and shows are signature Disney events, and have their capacity filled very quickly.

Other reservations need narrow time windows during your visit to properly fit them around scheduled events in the parks (such as parades and fireworks), and these windows are popular with others for the same reason.

To guarantee the right meals at the right times, you have to have your plans set in stone more than 180 days before your trip, so that you can be on Disney’s online dining reservation system exactly at 6am EST 180 days before your arrival date. All required steps are on the To-Do List.

Scan down to your dates, or click the image to open it.
If you click it, when open, click it again to enlarge it!


When Your Plans Need to Be Firm

Already Too Late?

180 Day Calendar


Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!


1 Terri { 07.10.12 at 8:36 pm }

Dave -your site is beyond amazing!! (I’ve become slightly addicted to it…)

2 Amy { 10.01.12 at 10:22 pm }

Ok date picked 4/20-4/27 2013, wilderness lodge and the dining plan you suggest. Here’s my question-I want to book dinner reservation 180 days out like you suggest and I’m using one of your itineraries as a guide, but to do this I want to know when the parks have early/late park openkngd

3 Amy { 10.01.12 at 10:24 pm }

The schedule is not out yet for early/late openings plus parade scedule. Looks like they come out 6 months prior. Can I wait for the scedule before booking dinner reservations?

4 Dave { 10.02.12 at 6:32 am }

Hi Amy, the schedules will be out any day now!

Amy the schedules are out now!

5 Rossana { 12.28.12 at 1:15 pm }

Hi Dave. I have found your website to be incredibly helpful. I have visited Disney a lot in the past but our upcoming February trip will be my husband’s second visit to WDW. We will be staying at the Polynesian resort and have already booked several dining reservations. We are now down to planning activities inside the parks. Do the weekly schedules get posted way in advance or do we have to pick one up at the hotel/park when we are there? Normally the pareades are at 3pm and fireworks late towards park close, but we are mainly interested for instance at EPCOT the shows at each of the countries? They only have 3-4 showings per day and since we have lunch reservations at Le Cellier we want to be sure to plan accordingly.
Thanks in advance!!!

6 Dave { 12.28.12 at 3:28 pm }

Hi Rossana and I’m so glad the site is helping!

Disney’s schedule is usually posted 6 months in advance, so February is out. For example, go here and click on your day:

The calendars can be a little annoying, so see also this if you have trouble:

Follow on Facebook!

7 Sarah { 02.18.13 at 1:33 pm }

Hi Dave,
I’ve been reading your site for sometime now. (Love it BTW) I am planning a September 2013 WDW trip with my family the week of the 22nd. I know you’ve said it before but I just want you to comfirm it with me. If I book a room only reservation 181 days out, do I lose money on not making it a magic your way package? Obviously I’m hoping that they will come out with a deal of some sort for Setpember. But I’m nervous it won’t come out till after the 180 days out. But I’m also nervous that I won’t be able to change my reservation and add tickets to it with out some sort penalty. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are. Thanks so much,

8 Dave { 02.19.13 at 8:33 am }

Hi Sarah! Glad you like the site!!

Couple of things. At 180 days you can book restaurants even if you have NO Disney package. Having a reservation lets you book for the next ten days as well, but you still have the opportunity to reserve without them.

Second, if you do reserve a room, it’s better to book a package–e.g. tickets and a room–rather than room only…for technical accounting reasons, it’s easier for Disney to move you into a deal, if one comes out, with a package than with a room only…

Follow on Facebook!

9 Sarah { 02.19.13 at 9:42 am }

Thanks so much for getting back to me. I will take your advice and book a package. I’m glad I double checked!

10 Dave { 02.19.13 at 12:40 pm }

You bet, Sarah, and have a great visit!

11 Jamie { 02.19.13 at 4:29 pm }

H Dave, we have firmly decided on December 1-8th for our trip to disneyworld! We are also pretty certain we want to book a family suite at art of animation. That being said would you recommend we book now? If we do and the price changes, or a deal comes out between now and then, will disney offer a price adjustment? Thanks!!

12 Scott { 02.19.13 at 4:55 pm }


For what it is worth, my family and I were at Disney last year from December 7 -16. We spent one night in a hotel in downtown Disney and the rest of our stay at the Art of Animation. We spent two nights in a Lion King suite and the rest in a Car’s suite. We originally booked our trip in March. In late Spring or early Summer Disney offered free dining. My wife called when the offer came out and we were able to arrange our stay to allow us to get the free dining. This is actually why we were two nights in one suite and the rest in another as the free dining did not start until December 10.

I would highly recommend doing the Candlelight Processional at Epcot. Next to the time spent with my wife and two of my sons this was my favorite thing.

This was our fourth trip to Disney but our first during the Christmas season. It is a great time to be there, especially if you have younger kids.

13 Jamie { 02.19.13 at 6:20 pm }

Scott, Thanks so much for your comments. Any advice in terms of the art of animation resort? Do you recommend either suite over the other? We will definitely have to check out the candlelight processional at Epcot. I have not heard of this before so will definitely look into it. Thanks again for the information!!

14 Scott { 02.19.13 at 9:22 pm }


My pleasure. I am glad to share our experience.

We personally liked the car’s suite over the Lion King. It had a more comfortable couch and we just liked the overall appearance more. In the end you cannot go wrong with either though. The Art of Animation is very nice.

As for the Candlelight Processional, it is a retelling of the Christmas Story (Gospel of Luke) with a celebrity narrator and a full orchestra. Our celebrity narrator was Jodi Benson and she was amazing. This is something that you will want to get the Candlelight Dinner Package for as it will guarantee you seating. Last year the dinner packages became available for booking on June 26.

If you search on Dave’s website you will find valuable information about this. This website is excellent and really provides everything one might need to help plan their Disney vacation.

15 Scott { 02.19.13 at 9:40 pm }


Disney typically raises their ticket prices annually and this has been in June or so the past couple of years. I have read that this year the annual increase could actually happen as early as the beginning of April. Disney typically does not provide much notice that this is happening and I do believe that if your package is not paid in full before the increase your package would be subject to any increase in ticket prices.

We actually had our trip booked and paid in full before the June ticket increase. However when the free dining offer came out we adjusted our package and were subject to the increased ticket prices. The free dining more than offset this and afforded us the opportunity to extend our stay by a few days.

16 Dave { 02.20.13 at 7:05 am }

Hi Jamie, I’d book room and tickets now. If prices then go up (which they likely will for tickets) then you won’t have to pay more.

f a deal comes out, you can call Disney and convert to the deal (at the new ticket prices, tho…). They won’t “offer” you the deal—you have to find out about it and call them…Deals as they come out can be found here:

Follow on Facebook!

17 Dave { 02.20.13 at 7:05 am }

Thanks for the details, Scott!!

18 Dave { 02.20.13 at 7:07 am }
19 Dave { 02.20.13 at 7:08 am }

Garrsch Scott, thanks! (“Garrsch” is my attempt to note that sound Goofy makes when he’s kinda bashful and thankful at the same time…)

20 Dave { 02.20.13 at 7:10 am }

Jamie, there’s more on the Family Suites at AofA starting here:

21 Jamie { 02.20.13 at 4:05 pm }

Thanks, you both rock!!!

22 Scott { 02.20.13 at 4:34 pm }


I am glad I was able to contribute. My family and I love Disney and anything I might offer to make somebody’s Disney vacation better I am more than happy to do.

23 Tara { 02.25.13 at 7:34 pm }

Hi Dave!! Your website has been such a help, I didn’t realize all the planning involved with a Disney trip!! This is our first time going and I want it to be a wonderful experience!! I have two questions 1) I was told that I should book the room within a 14 day grace period so that I can work it around airline deals? Do you have any experience with this will Disney let me knock off some days once I narrow down my exact travel dates? 2) want to make sure I understand you correctly we can make dining reservations with a character 180 in advance even if we do not have a dining plan…and then if we do get one use our credits? And If we do not end up getting a dining plan and I have to cancel some of the reservations is there a fee ?

24 Dave { 02.26.13 at 7:25 am }

Hi Tara and I’m glad the site is helping! On the first point–I’v never done that, so don’t have a comment. On the second you can pay cash for any meal you book. The dining plan is just a way to pre-pay–you can still make and use reservations 180 days out with or without it!

Follow on Facebook!

25 Lisa { 04.27.13 at 10:57 pm }

Has WDW offered annual pass discounts on family suites, or only standard rooms?
Do you think pass rates are possible in October?

26 Dave { 04.28.13 at 11:35 am }

Lisa, the honest answer to your first question is probably, but I don’t know for sure. The AP discounts don’t come with a list of what’s eligible–you just have to try and see. But since the Family Suites have been in the regular discounts for a while now, I suspect they do.

On your second question, the answer is yes!

Follow on Facebook!

27 jamie { 05.01.13 at 11:43 am }

Hi! So I want to book a magic your way package for September. Knowing this is the time where free dining will most likely come out. If I book and I then find out about a free dining do I just call and rebook? Is this a fairly simple process? Thanks so much!

28 Dave { 05.02.13 at 6:46 am }

Hi Jamie, yes, you can do exactly that, and it is simple…

Follow on Facebook!

29 Roxanne { 06.08.13 at 11:36 pm }

You may have this somewhere but I have not been able to find the answer! When you book an ADR, some of them like Cinderellas Royal table require full payment in advance, what if you have the dining plan and will use credits? When you make the reservation will it ask you that so you dont have to charge your card? Thanks for your help!

30 Dave { 06.09.13 at 9:03 am }

Roxanne, for meals like this, the credit card is to ensure that you still pay if you don’t cancel in time (as they can’t deduct a no-show penalty from the dining plan) You can still book it, or convert it, to dining plan, but they’ll still do the credit card. If you show up and pay via the dining plan, or cancel before the penlty, you won’t have a charge…

Follow on Facebook!

31 Susan { 12.31.14 at 2:10 am }

Hi Dave! What an awesome site you have for those of us “newbies” who are so completely overwhelmed by everything!! We are planning on going June 7-14 (I know, prime time, but it’s the only time that fits in our schedule!). Anyway, we have 2 15 yr old girls and a 20 yr old who is in a wheelchair. My confusion comes a) which tickets to get/do I add on the park hopper, etc., b) what areas will be enjoyable for our oldest who is in a w/c and can’t go on many rides, what is more cost efficient…staying at a vacation home (but then we’ll have to rent a van) or stay at one of the resorts. I just feel overwhelmed & not sure where to begin. I’d appreciate any help. Thank you!!

32 Dave { 01.01.15 at 9:56 am }

Susan, there’s no need for anything beyond a base ticket. See this:

Staying at a Disney owned hotel is a better choice in every dimension except price.

And there’s tons of wheelchair accessible rides at WDW, even more if she can shift herself into the ride vehicle. See this from my friend Melissa:

33 Melissa { 04.30.15 at 12:21 pm }

Hi. If we plan to go in June 2016 when will we be able to book a Disney resort? Looks like right now we can only book on their website though Dec 2015?

34 Dave { 04.30.15 at 4:18 pm }

Melissa, you can always book 500 days ahead–just not thru the website. See this.

35 Jane { 05.21.15 at 10:25 am }

Hi Dave, as my 180 day dining window approaches, I am getting more nervous. You say that you should have your Cindy res spooled up and ready to go at 5:50 AM (and that is the one we’ve decided to try for the most). How does this work? Will the computer automatically recognize me since my resort reservations are in my My Disney Experience account, and automatically open up any restaurant’s availability to the # of days out that my resort is for (it is 7)? Can I put it on the correct day at 5:50 or will I have to wait until exactly 6:00 to do so? I know this sounds pretty paranoid, but last time I spent a long time on the computer getting cancellations, so I want to get it right this time. I am worried that website glitches will ruin it. (But I had no trouble getting FP reservations last time following your instructions, and all worked as it should….) Thanks!

36 Dave { 05.21.15 at 11:49 am }

Jane, from your My Disney Experience account, do some test reservations–e.g. for dates 170 days from today! Then what “setting it up” means will become clear–it’s getting the right restaurant, party size, and date all lined up. Then get Cindy lined up at 5.50, and around 6a start banging the refresh button on your browser. The site should let you book to ten days from your arrival date. Only do the hard to get ressies this way–for the rest, call 7a or later that morning.

37 Jane { 05.21.15 at 12:28 pm }

Hi Dave, thanks! I will definitely do a test reservation, as I will be traveling and will have to use my Dad’s (old!) computer. I want to be sure this works, or I’ll have to come up with another plan. Is there any particular reason to wait and call to do the rest of the reservations? Last time I did all of them over the net, except the Thanksgiving dinner which I needed recommendations for (BTW we are planning Whispering Canyon for that this time).

38 Jane { 05.25.15 at 11:13 pm }

Hi Dave, I just wanted to thank you for your advice. I got us all of the ADRs we were looking for. Had to be a little creative (like with 2 parties at BOG at different times) and move some things around, but it turned out for the best. Thank you!

39 Dave { 05.26.15 at 8:15 am }

Yay, Jane!!!

40 Chelsie { 09.30.16 at 5:29 am }


I stumbled onto your site, and hope you are still responding to comments. My family is wanting to go on vacation to Florida December 7/8 to December 14 2017, with December 9 being our first night in disney to December 12 being our last night (a few other things we want to do in fl). How quickly do those dates fill up? Since it’s in December, do we need more than 180 days in advance?

41 Dave { 09.30.16 at 10:06 am }

Chelsie that is a very popular time among knowledgeable Disney World repeat visitors–the same folk who know to book in advance. So yes, the most popular venue do fill up and 180 days is a good target.

42 Jim { 03.05.17 at 10:20 pm }

Hi Dave,

I absolutely love your website and planning tools on the site. So much valuable information and overwhelming at he same time. We are taking a 8 day 7 night trip but only have a 5 day pass (we building a 2 relaxing days and a trip to universal also since we traveling with an almost 4 year old). We arrive fri may 12, 2017 and leave fri may 19 at night. I couldn\’t find any tailored itineraries so was wondering if you would let me know if you would change anything to the one I customized to try to get the most out of it and least crowds as possible.
Fri AK
Sat universal
Sun MK
Mon rest
Tues Hollywood
Wed Epcot
Thurs rest
Fri MK

All our days are flexible so let me know what you think?

Also we just recently booked any suggestions since we are well within the 180 day dinner reservations? Thanks

43 Dave { 03.06.17 at 8:36 am }

Hey Jim, for some reason you went to my spam folder.

Anyway restricting myself to the WDW part of your itinerary, I’d aim for Tuesday and Thursday at MK, and fit the rest in around it. Friday could be AK or HS, Weds could be your rest day, and Sun could be AK or Epcot.

On dining, there will still be some availability. You might want to scan the reviews in my book and use those to target.

44 Jim { 03.06.17 at 12:18 pm }

Hi Dave,

Thanks for the quick reply. You wouldn’t stay away from MK on tues even with the early morning magic hours? Would you prefer a wed or sun for Epcot? Thanks for all he help


45 Dave { 03.07.17 at 8:28 am }

Jim, MK does not have EMH on Tuesdays anymore. That week it has evening EMH Weds 5/17 and morning Fri 5/19…

46 Jim { 03.07.17 at 5:08 pm }


Not the EMH it’s the special event morning magic hours listed on their calendar. It’s the one people have to pay extra for. With that in mind would you still target Tuesday?

47 Dave { 03.08.17 at 10:32 am }

Oh, sorry Jim! The special event has too few people to affect crowds.

48 Jim { 03.09.17 at 8:15 pm }

Awesome! Thank you for the advice!

Leave a Comment | Ask a Question | Note a Problem

My response to questions and comments will be on the same page as the original comment, likely within 24-36 hours . . . I reserve the right to edit and delete comments as I choose . . . All rights reserved. Copyright 2008-2017 . . . Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by me--even the ones in focus--except for half a dozen from my niecelets . . . This site is entirely unofficial and not authorized by any organizations written about in it . . . All references to Disney and other copyrighted characters, trademarks, marks, etc., are made solely for editorial purposes. The author makes no commercial claim to their use . . . Nobody's perfect, so follow any advice here at your own risk.