The Magic of 180: A Basic Disney Vacation Planning Timeline

It’s Labor Day Weekend! You know what that means – time to really start thinking about next summer’s Disney World vacation!

OK, that may be a bit much for some people, especially those of us who still haven’t finished unpacking from this summer’s vacation.  I do, however, want to illustrate why a Disney vacation can really benefit from early planning. It all has to do with the planning timeline.

This timeline will depend, of course, on when you are going and what you plan on eating and doing.  There are many people who can book a Disney vacation within a couple of months and still get lots of great dining and special event reservations; this is especially true if they are planning on going during one of the slower periods of the year. There are others who can plan a last-minute trip during a busy period and still have a wonderful vacation, especially if they are less interested at eating at popular table service restaurants or participating in popular special events.

However, if you are only able to vacation during the busier periods (especially summer, but other school breaks as well), either because of your schedule or because of your kids’ schedules, AND you want to be able to eat at the most popular restaurants at the most convenient times, you’ll want to consider the following timeline.

I bet you don't normally think about what you want to eat in August when it's still February.  You will if you are going to Disney!
I bet you don’t normally think about what you want to eat in August when it’s still February. You will if you are going to Disney!

180 is the magic number.  At exactly 180 days before your trip begins, you can make dining and most recreation reservations.  If you are staying on Disney property, you can make your reservations for the first 10 days of your trip at 180 days before the first day (this is commonly referred to as 180+10).  This means that if you want the most popular restaurants or recreational activities at the most popular times (or at all, in some cases), you should plan on being on the phone with Disney at 7:00 AM exactly 180 days before your trip begins.  Some places won’t open their reservations until later (60 days out, etc.) but most places will be available to reserve at the 180-day mark. To put this in perspective, if you are taking your family to Disney World starting July 15, you need to be on the phone with Disney to make reservations at 7:00 AM on January 16. January. In the middle of winter. Some of us may not even want to start thinking about summer vacations until then, but that’s when the best summertime dining reservations will start getting booked up.

So, the next logical question is: What, then, needs to be done between now and 180 days before the start of my next vacation? Well, in order to make the reservations, you need to know what reservations you want and on what preferred days. So, you need to consider the itinerary for your vacation, including the following:

  • What days am I going?
  • What special events may be occurring while I am there that I either want to take part in or avoid?
  • Which park do I want to do on each day? (This alone can take a while to figure out.)
  • Which restaurants would I prefer?
  • Are there any special activities (tours, Bibiddi Bobiddi Boutique, etc.) that I would like to do?

Booking a Disney trip anywhere from 7-9 months out should give you ample breathing room to consider these items and to put together a rough itinerary in time to make your reservations at 180 days.  After that, there will be some tweaking that needs to be done, but your major reservations will be taken care of and you will hopefully have everything you wanted.

The best way to make sure all of this happens, of course, is to work with a Disney Vacation Planner, like DW Dads. We will help you plan your itinerary and make your reservations for you. We will actually take care of most of the things mentioned in this article. And the best part? It’s a FREE service.  We get paid by Disney, not you.  So you’ll pay the same price you would pay to book direct with Disney, but you won’t have to worry about a thing.

So, enjoy the unofficial end of summer, but don’t forget: it’s not too early to start thinking about next summer’s vacation!

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