By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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(Already Too Late?)

By Dave Shute

Your plans should be firm more than 180 days before your arrival date. See this for why.

If it is already fewer than 180 days from your planned arrival date, see the items below.


Depending on the week you are targeting, the Polynesian may already be unavailable, and you may have to target a different value resort than Art of Animation. Moreover, you may have difficulty getting in to Cinderella’s Royal Table, Hoop Dee Doo Revue, and Chef Mickeys.

If you can’t get in to the Polynesian or Art if Animation, see Next Best Resort Choices for alternatives.

For Hoop-Dee-Doo try going on a different night altogether that your itinerary does not have you already scheduled.

Missing Cinderella is unfortunate but OK, so long as you are successful in your attempt to reserve Akershus. Just pick the next most appealing Magic Kingdom restaurant for which you are not already reserved from here.

Some of the other restaurants you are targeting may not have availability near the times that the To-Do list and itineraries direct. Make the reservations you can make, then get off the phone and double check the daily itineraries on the dates that aren’t working out, to see how flexible that date looks.

If the itinerary implies that you can move your time around, call back and reserve the right restaurant for a different time that day.

If not, go here and pick the next best dining option for your family in the same setting—e.g., if you can’t get in to the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom restaurant, pick the next best Magic Kingdom option on the list that you are not already scheduled for.

Keep a careful tally of the special dinners and other events that you are forced to miss.

If you have to miss more than half without exciting replacements, are in the wrong hotel, and will be missing both the Akershus Banquet and Cinderella’s Royal Celebration, then move heaven and earth to reschedule to either a later, or an earlier, but much less crowded, date—one that might still have the best of Disney World available.


When Your Plans Need to Be Firm

Already Too Late?

180 Day Calendar




1 Amanda from Destinations in Florida { 09.10.12 at 11:06 am }

Susan, I would highly recommend booking your Walt Disney World vacation with an agency that has Authorized Disney Planners. The benefit in booking with one of these agencies (such as Destinations in Florida) is that we work directly with Disney, we are paid by Disney (so priced the same if not a little cheaper than if you book online or by phone with Disney) and we DISCOUNT WATCH! Meaning if you book a vacation early and a discount or promotion pops up, the agency will change your reservation to reflect the better price! Discount sites like travelocity will not provide this type of service.
Another “perk” of booking with an agency is that we can help recommend a Disney Hotel/Package that suits your family!

2 Joseph Baumchen { 05.26.13 at 12:06 pm }

When should I book flight, hotel and packages when going Sept. 13-20th? Not worried about dinning or other excursions. Just price flux from now until then. Will it go down if I wait or stay the same or go up???

3 Dave { 05.26.13 at 1:45 pm }

Joseph, I don’t track when flights go up and down much anymore, as the consistency seems gone. But Disney World ticket prices literally could go up any day now–see this:

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4 mary { 08.16.13 at 4:18 am }

Need help….first visit for 11 folks, 6 adults, 5 kids…want to have thanksgiving dinner together…any suggestions on available restaurants???

5 Dave { 08.16.13 at 8:01 am }

Mary I don’t know what’s available. My recommendations for Thanksgiving are here:

I’ve never tried to book a group that large, but have heard many many times that you’ll have better luck if you book as two groups–e.g. a table of 5 and a table of 6…so try 11 first, then try the smaller groups…

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6 Mary Beth { 08.24.13 at 10:41 am }

Hi Dave – we are in the process of finalizing our Disney trip in Florida. We would like to fly out May 3rd and come back May 10, 2014. We have twin girls who are 7 and will be 8 on 5/12. I have contacted Disney direct and looking to stay at Disney Port Orleans – French. Is this a good location hotel for us to stay at? Pools nice? Looking at a 7 night stay and a 5-day ticket w/ park hopper and water park. Our question is regarding the meal plan – we are looking at the standard meal plan – what is your opinion re Disney meal plans? We would also like to do a character breakfast and or lunch. We would like to book as soon as possible. Any advise – our first major trip since we had the twins:). Do you have any other suggestions regarding planning our trip. Did we cover everything? We have never been to Disney and will look into an itinerary in November along with booking our air fare. Thanks look forward to hearing from you! MB

7 Dave { 08.25.13 at 8:29 am }

Mary Beth, there’s a number of things here I’d do slightly differently or have specific advice on. Your dates are fine, but after that, suggest you just work down the topics on the home page

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8 Brittany { 02.04.14 at 5:19 pm }

I am in a but of a mess! My husband has been crazy busy with work and we just found out that we can take a trip to Disney in April or June. I know we are super behind but I am thrilled we can go and I want to make this the very best trip it can be! We haven’t talked about a budget or anything like that since we just found out we could do it, so I am desperate for advice and ideas. This will be our first ever big family vacation and my husband and 3 year old daughter’s first trip to Disney! I have been to Disney but it was 10 years ago. Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated! Thank you!

9 Dave { 02.05.14 at 2:40 pm }

Hi Brittany, be glad to help. Tell me that exact dates that are possible for you, as April in particular has both wonderful and horrible weeks…

10 Brittany { 02.05.14 at 7:10 pm }

We actually had to adjust our plans a bit and we will most likely be going in May. We are thinking of heading down on May 2nd, would that be a good time?. Thanks in advance for your help!

11 Dave { 02.06.14 at 7:01 am }

Hi Brittany, yes that’s a great time to visit! See this:

12 Lori { 05.18.14 at 2:16 pm }

Planning to stay Nov.17-21. What do you think? Any suggestions?

13 Dave { 05.19.14 at 11:50 am }

Lori, see this: If you are loking for something more specific, tell me the ages of your kids…

14 Cameron { 08.23.14 at 2:15 pm }

Hi Dave, we are visiting 19-26 September and have a 3 and a 6 year old. We are also bringing my inlaws (free babysitters!) and are staying in a 2 bedroom villa in Saratoga Springs. We are short on organization time and have high hopes to at least be able to book a few special things in advance. Any advice is certainly appreciated.

15 Dave { 08.24.14 at 1:15 pm }

Cameron, all my stuff on this site is for older kids, but we have daily plans for younger kids in our book: The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit

16 Maggie { 10.08.14 at 3:08 pm }

I’m in a panic to plan a trip. We learned this morning that our foster son of four years -our only child- must leave his home with us to be returned to the custody of a little-known biological relative on November 1. We are beyond devastated for both him and ourselves, but are putting our grief on hold for a day or two to form a plan to make his Disney dream come true. In a nutshell, we will drive from Charleston, SC and hope to stay on a value property and tour parks three or four days. We have decided to pull him from school the week after next (October 20th) and do what we have only wished of for too long. He is seven, unbelievably easy to please, and I want to make the most of this time. I am selling a couple of personal effects to fund this effort, but am fearful of having so little time to plan. Not going is not an option, and I am overwhelmed. I need a go-to person to help paste this trip together for me, as I am in pieces and need to spend my time preparing my son for this unexpected transition. Would you please consider offering up your best contact for the task? Fairly broke and terribly broken, I don’t have the clarity to get it done myself. I am beyond grateful for any suggestions you have.

*Also, I acknowledge that my post is not the fuzzy, feel-good content that people like to see while planning their own trips to the happiest place on earth. Should you decide that the tone is not suitable for your site, I will absolutely not be offended should you decide to remove it. I tremendously appreciate your time and effort on this most incredible resource. I can see you have a direct impact on the successful outcomes of thousands of Disney goers.

17 Dave { 10.08.14 at 4:48 pm }

Maggie, I am so sorry. There’s a couple of people who may be able to help.

Kelly is a travel agent who works with the readers of this site. Her services are free (although she may not do detailed itinerary planning–she’d focus more on your hotel, tickets and such), and her email is in this comment:

John at does itinerary planning for a really low fee.

Then there’s my book: The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit

And no worries–this is a site by people for people and life happens in its glory and misery to us all…

18 Kelly B - Agent with Destinations in Florida { 10.08.14 at 5:28 pm }

Maggie, Please contact me. I would more than happy to help you make this a magical experience for foster son and your family. You can contact me at or call me at 980-241-7066

19 Dave { 10.08.14 at 5:48 pm }

Maggie–the comment right above is from the Kelly I was referring to!!!

20 JILL { 11.09.14 at 4:24 am }

Hi Dave,
I have been back on you wonderful side for the last 2 weeks reading for all the great advice. I took your advice last yr and cancelled a planned trip to disney the last 2 wks of Dec. Thank you so much, didn’t realize how big difference in cost and crowd would be. Had sudden change in plans last month and will be at disney 30 Nov-6 Dec. It will be my adult child and I. We are booked for water view room at Coronado Springs Resort(is this best for adult only party?) and prefer the adult friendly itinerary/dining plan if you could suggest one. I printed the 5 nights Dec version itinerary and also wondered about moving Sat am to Mon am. We have @ 12 hr drive and will be ready to rest when arrive on Sun. My daughter has to report for departure @ 0530 on Sat so M-F are our park days. Also do you think it is worth adding Cirque du Soleil to our plans. I know this is alot of info but any advice/help you can give will be deeply appreciated.

21 Dave { 11.09.14 at 8:52 am }

Hi Jill and welcome back! Coronado Springs is a good choice. And yes, you can move Sat am to Monday am! This is a VERY intense itinerary, so I would not add Cirque to it…there’s already more than enough demand son your time…

22 JILL { 11.11.14 at 1:40 am }

Dave, thanks for the confirmation. I will try to get what we canin this visit. My daughter already suggested we start planning to return next holiday season. This will hopefully give us the time for booking the resort I really wanted and more time there. Will keep monitoring your site for the info I find soo handy. Thanks again.

23 Melissa { 08.14.15 at 2:48 pm }

Hi Dave,
This is our first trip to Disney and I know I am already going against some recommendations because we are staying off-site and not at a Disney Resort. We are renting a home in Kissimmee with another family of 4. I have twin boy and girl who will 8 in December. We are arriving Friday Nov 13th and departing Friday Nov 20th. We plan on getting park hopper 5 days passes. We wanted to do one day at SeaWorld. I was wondering if you could give me a suggestion as to how we should plan out the week? I should also add that we are planning on attending Mickey’s Very Merry Xmas party on Tuesday Nov 17th. Should we only go to Magic Kingdom during the week and avoid the weekend? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated? Thank you!

24 Dave { 08.15.15 at 7:37 am }

Hi Melissa!

The 14th, avoid all parks but AK
The 15th avoid HS and Epcot
The 16th avoid MK
The 17th avoid Epcot
The 18th avoid MK and AK
The 19th avoid Epcot

Since you have 6 days, I’d take the morning and afternoon of the 17th off.

25 Renee { 11.06.15 at 10:19 pm }

Hi! I love your site but it’s a little overwhelming! I received complementary one day passes and hotel stay so we have a really last minute trip planned Dec. 10-14 with my 3 and 7 year old girls. I purchased two day passes and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party for 12/13 but am trying to figure out when/where to go and which rides to pick! We arrive mid-afternoon on 12/10 and plan to hang at the hotel, then go to MK on 12/11, possibly Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios on 12/12, and back to MK on 12/13, home on 12/14. We will definitely plan to come back for a longer trip when the kids are a little older but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go now and are going to surprise the girls. I would love thoughts and tips!! Thank you!

26 Dave { 11.08.15 at 8:52 am }

Renee, my park plans on this site are designed for older kids. Take a look at the two day “Character Centric” MK plan in my book.

Those dates,

12/11 avoid AK
12/12 avoid MK and HS
12/13 avoid HS

I’ll be posting a review of the 2015 Christmas Party later this week (I see it tonight!) so come back and look for that

27 Renee { 11.08.15 at 9:30 pm }

Thanks Dave! I will definitely check out your book. Curious why you would avoid Hollywood Studios on 12/12. Is it just because it’s a busy Saturday? After talking to some friends of ours with similar aged kids, I think we are going to do 12/11 MK, 12/12 HS, 12/13 MK and DVMCP. Thanks!

28 Renee { 11.08.15 at 9:31 pm }

Thanks Dave! I will definitely check out your book. Curious why you would avoid Hollywood Studios on 12/12. Is it just because it’s a busy Saturday? After talking to some friends of ours with similar aged kids, I think we are going to visit Hollywood Studios instead of Animal Kingdom. Thanks!

29 Dave { 11.10.15 at 6:24 pm }

Renee, Hollywood Studios has morning Extra Magic Hours the 12th. That means a fair number of the 75,000+ guests eligible for EMH will make it their park that day. Hence extra crowds.

30 Joy { 07.12.16 at 1:00 am }

Hi, Dave! Thank you, thank you, thank you for such a comprehensive site – couldn’t imagine how much more overwhelming disney planning would be w/o it!! Onto my dilemma….
Planned a trip in June for October 2016 same year… So, even with all of the wonderful information you provided, i committed the cardinal sin of booking within the 180 day window. And, of course, went to make our show/dining reservations but everything i planned was BOOKED regardless of the day and time :o( SOOOO disappointed. Since i only have a room booked at the Art of Animation, made a very hard decision to push back our trip to next year. But, my husband (biggest kid of all) told me not to give up & then some coworkers suggested i try a travel agent… maybe they have an inside track on dining reservations that i may not see or have access to. What is your thought on this?
Here are the details: me, my husband, & my mother; our 3 kids – 2 girlie-girls 12 & 5 – and our 1 yr old son. Dates October 15th – 21st. Places I tried to get reservations to that did not work out – Cinderella’s Royal Table, Akershus, Hoop Dee Doo Musical, Be Our Guest, & Chef Mickey (did i mention NONE of them were available regardless of the dates i tried in & OUTSIDE of that 3rd week in October)

If you were in my shoes, 1st disney trip… what would you do? Keep trying? Up until when? Reschedule??

Thanks in advance for your help/guidance!!!

31 Dave { 07.13.16 at 8:03 am }

Joy, first thanks, and second, no a travel agent can’t help you access dining better than you could do yourself. What they can do (or you could do to) is keep checking, as cancellation do happen, especially about 30 days out (when full payment is due for those buying packages) and the day before (to avoid no-=show fees.)

I’m of two minds about the broader issue. Your 12yo is already at the outer edge of the full magic. Older kids still love Disney, but not in the silly crazy way of youngsters. So if you are able to return when say the 5 year old is 7 or 8 I’d go now, and then with a fully planned trip later. If this is a once in a lifetime trip, then I’d delay.

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