Disneyland Trip Planning Timeline

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In today’s post, Guy Selga Jr., coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, shares with us an extensive Disneyland trip planning timeline. This comprehensive timeline represents major research, decisions, and tasks that come into play when preparing for a typical Disneyland vacation.

Most Disney trips involve about a dozen important dates to remember. If you’ve started planning more than 11 months before your trip, you’ll have plenty of time to do research ahead of them. If you’ve just decided to visit Disney World within the next couple of months, you’ll have a few more decisions to make a bit quicker.

12–9 Months Before Your Trip

You may already have a general idea of when you want to visit Disneyland. What the trip will cost you, however, can be a surprise. Take a couple of evenings to plan out a budget, an approximate time of year to travel, and narrow down your hotel choices. Disney releases certain discounts around the same time every year. A good place to check for these is mousesavers.com, which lists these regular discounts, once they’re announced. Create an account at disneyland.com because you’ll need it to make hotel and dining reservations. Next, make a preliminary hotel reservation. This typically requires a deposit equal to one night’s cost, and it guarantees you a room. You can change or cancel your reservation without penalty for several months while you continue your research. Disney Vacation Club members can make reservations at their home resorts starting 11 months before their trip. Investigate whether trip insurance makes sense for your situation. Third-party policies, such as those from insuremytrip.com, are usually cheaper than Disney’s trip insurance—and often more comprehensive. If you’re not a US citizen, make sure your family’s passports and visas are in order. Passports need to be valid for six months beyond your travel dates, and you may need a visa. Visit official government site for details.

9–6 Months Before Your Trip

Now is the time to start thinking about when to visit, and what to see on your trip. Check the best days to visit each park. Use our Disneyland Resort Calendar to select the parks you’ll visit on each day of your trip.

6–4 Months Before Your Trip

Review the attractions and shows. Become familiar with the rides, shows, and attractions at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, and start planning what you’ll see each day. This will help you identify any potential bottlenecks, which you can address using our touring plans.   

Make a list of must-see attractions in each park. If you’re unsure about your children experiencing a particular attraction, preview it for them on YouTube.

Review our touring plans, and use them to begin putting together a preliminary touring strategy for each park. You can also use our touring plan software online. You’ll also see whether you’ll need the Park Hopper option on your theme park tickets, which you’ll purchase later.

Get familiar with Disneyland Resort restaurants. When Disney’s dining system opens at your 60-day mark, you’ll be ready to make reservations. You can also check out the menus of all Disneyland Resort restaurants.

60 Days Before Your Trip

As your vacation approaches, it’s time to make concrete arrangements for your days in the theme parks. Now you can start making dining and other reservations.

Purchase your park admission at least this far in advance, and make sit-down dining reservations beginning at 6 a.m. Eastern time online or at 7 a.m. by phone at 714-781-3463. Also make your reservations for theme park tours (714-781-8687), spa treatments (714-635-2300), and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (714-781-7895).

Save money on stroller rentals in the parks (if needed) by renting from a third-party company. Several will drop off and pick up at your hotel. You can save on wheelchair and ECV rentals by using third-party companies too.

Start a walking regimen to prepare for the 7–10 miles per day you may be walking in the parks.

30 Days Before Your Trip

This is your last chance to cancel Disney room-only reservations booked online without a penalty. Call 714-956-6425 to do so. Cancellations made 29-2 days prior to arrival are subject to a $200 cancellation fee. Cancellations made 1 day before arrival, or reservation no-shows, cannot be refunded.

Final payment is due for Disney vacation packages. Final payment for room-only reservations is due at check-in. Confirm park hours and finish preliminary touring plans. Download our mobile app, Lines, to your Apple or Android device, so you can follow your touring plan and get updates while you’re in the parks. Arrange to stop delivery of mail and newspapers, and make sure you have enough prescription medication. Arrange for pet or house sitters.

Two Weeks Out

Arrange grocery delivery to your resort. If you’re flying to the US from another country, complete the Advance Passenger Information and Secure Flight (APIS) process at least 72 hours before your flight. You should be able to do this through your airline’s website; otherwise, make sure your travel agent has your information. You’ll need to provide the address where you’ll be staying in the US, so have that information handy when you complete this form.

Five Days Out

It is time to start packing.

The Day Before

Check in to your airline online, cancel any unneeded dining or babysitting reservations, and do one last check of park hours and weather. And now, off you go. Have fun!

All Disneyland fans should also check out The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream by Sam Gennawey. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for our newsletter here.

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