One of the most daunting tasks of planning a Disney vacation is planning your trip itinerary. For this reason we have developed a five step process to help get you started on your itinerary. If you haven’t read our post on Principles of Itinerary Planning or the Nuts and Bolts of a Good Itinerary they are a nice introduction to the Disney itinerary topic if this is your first time planning a Disney vacation. Of course we always recommend using a travel agent like our friends at Big Dreams Travel to help plan your trip as they should always be able to help with your itinerary. Or in the case of Big Dreams Travel they will write a complete itinerary for you if you so desire. This itinerary process may not be the perfect solution in all situations, but it is a great place to start, especially if you are planning your first Disney vacation. Of course, you will need to make some tweaks and adjustments once you get your initial plan on paper (or in most cases a spreadsheet), but this should give you a nice plan to start with. We do recommend keeping these steps in order for the best results.
- Arrival Day Should Be Easy – The initial day of any vacation is almost always going to be very tiring due to the travel involved and that a lot of times it started with an early morning. For that reason we always recommend taking it easy after your arrival at Disney World. We think the best thing to do is spend a nice, restful evening getting to know your resort. That way you can turn in to bed early and be well rested for your first full day and rope drop! If you get in early enough that you want to go to Disney Springs for a meal and some shopping that is a good option, we just really recommend turning in early on the arrival day. So when it comes to planning your itinerary we say start with planning how you want to spend that arrival day, and keep it easy!
- Decide How Many Rope Drops for Each Park – We find that the next step that helps get the plan off to a good start is to set up your rope drops. Remember our blog post on principles of itinerary planning and how we said for every 2 rope drop days we recommend 1 sleep in and restful morning. So for a 6 day stay we recommend 4 rope drops and 2 sleep in days. With four rope drop days it is pretty easy to say you want one day in each park, but again it depends on your family and what is important to you.
- Decide on Nighttime Entertainment – The next step will be to decide on what evenings you want to take in the nighttime entertainment, such as Wishes, the Main Street Electrical Parade, IllumiNations, the Star Wars Fireworks, Rivers of Light, or Fantasmic. Remember we think you should plan these options on nights preceding one of your sleep in mornings. You may also want to spend some time in these parks in the evenings and these are great times to do it because you should have nothing to wake up for in the morning.
- Plan Your Rest Time – We spoke of the importance of this in our blog post on principles of itinerary planning and this is the next step you need to complete in your itinerary planning process. Now that you have most of your parks planned each day as well as your nighttime entertainment you need to go through and make sure you have rest periods planned. We recommend the afternoon breaks after a rope drop morning so you can get some rest and relaxation on those days you were up a little earlier. We also think you should have a night or two per week of your trip where you are off during the evening to just enjoy your resort hotel or take in a nice dinner reservation at another resort. Whatever you do, make sure you have rest time planned each and every day of your trip.
- Add Dining Plans – Prior to making your itinerary we recommend having a list of table service dining reservations that your family thinks they will enjoy, or if you are veterans, restaurants that you know you love! If you have this list it is easy at this step in the itinerary process to plug those dining reservations into your plan. If you have meals in theme parks you can plug them in for lunch or dinner the days you are in those parks. If you have meals you would like to do in resorts you can plan those for the evenings where you are planning to rest and get to bed early. Bottom line plugging your dining reservations in should be simple now that your itinerary is laid out. If you do need to move one or two things around on the itinerary to make a certain reservation work that is certainly fine to do, just make sure you don’t violate any of the principles we have already discussed when doing it. For some ideas or to view reviews of dining at Disney World visit our Dining Page.
At this point your itinerary should be pretty well laid out. Now, are you going to need to make some minor changes once you make sure you can get all of your dinner reservations, yes, most likely, but it is nothing to worry about. Just keep the principles in your mind and your itinerary will be great!
As always, if you have any questions leave a comment below and we will stop by and do our best to answer them for you.