Trip Planning by the Tens

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By Erica Colmenares

In honor of’s tenth anniversary, we’re trip-planning by tens. Here’s a quick run-down of ten things we recommend doing ten months out from your Walt Disney World vacation, as well as ten weeks, ten days, and ten hours. The lists aren’t exhaustive, but they’re a good start!

Ten Months Out

  1. Start looking into airfare. Some people like to wait for last-minute bargains, but for the best times, booking early is a good bet. For some carriers, like SouthWest and JetBlue, you’ll have to wait to book tickets.
  2. Where are you going to stay? On-site? Off-site? Now’s a good time to contact a Disney-specialized travel agent or start narrowing your options online.
  3. Make an over-all plan. What do you really want to fit in during this trip? Take some time to find out what everyone in your travel party wants to get out of this trip.
  4. Order your WDW planning DVD.
  5. Listen to Disney fan podcasts. New faves on our list are Travelears and Be Our Guest. Podcast neophytes should check out our podcast primer, Put Disney in Your Ears.
  6. Consider subscribing to TourGuideMiKE, especially if your trip is during one of the more crowded times (between Christmas and New Year’s, around Easter, or during the summer). To get three dollars off the $21.95 subscription price, visit our TGM member savings page.
  7. To get in the mood, program “Disney” into your TiVo or consult Bartlett-Sloan’s weekly guide of Disney-related TV.
  8. If you are traveling to Disney World from outside of the United States, be sure your passport and visa are in order.
  9. If this is a first visit for you to Disney World, reading a guidebook or two can be invaluable. No need to buy them new. Your local library should have copies of the Unofficial Guide and Passporter. Check ’em out!
  10. Purchase park tickets

Ten Weeks Out

  1. Print out your packing list. While it’s early to start packing, it’s a good idea to look over your list and see what you need to buy prior to departure. Check out the Ultimate Packing List on
  2. Got pets? Now’s a good time to make a reservation for the kennel (although for popular vacation dates, this should be done earlier). Alternately, arrange for a pet-sitter.
  3. Make sure that you’ve got the prescription medications you need, or arrange for new prescriptions with your physician.
  4. Make a list of who you’d like to get gifts for, or send postcards to (with their addresses).
  5. Make an appointment to get your car serviced if you are driving.
  6. Prepare to make your “must do” advanced dining reservations. These can now be made 90 days out. You can either let your travel agent do this for you, or call 407-WDW-DINE.
  7. Contact a grocery delivery service, if you are going to use one. Reputable vendors include WeGoShop and Garden Grocer.
  8. Make arrangements for a towncar pick-up, or confirm that you are signed up for Magical Express. If you are using a rental car, double-check that you have gotten a good rate.
  9. Make Mousekeeping tip envelopes and pre-fill them with dollar bills ($1-2 per person per night).
  10. Plan out anything special you want to do on your trip: gather quarters and pennies if you’re pressing pennies; find items to keep the little ones entertained in the car or on the plane; decide if you’re going to purchase autograph books on property or if you want to make something yourself when you get home.

Ten Days

  1. Get out your luggage, and start packing vacation items (like swim-suits) – be sure to mark them off the packing list as they go into the bag. Also, make sure all of your baggage is labeled with your name and phone number.
  2. Ensure you have essential toiletries in 3-ounce or less size for your carry-on, and get your on-board bag ready. For more information, visit the Transportation Security Administration website.
  3. Give neighbors and/or family members contact information in case of an emergency. Let them know if anyone will be in your house during your absence. Consider making photocopies of credit cards and passports to give to trusted people in case yours are lost.
  4. Start working on that pile of dirty laundry. As you wash things that you want to take on your trip, put them in your luggage.
  5. If you’re staying on-property, access Disney’s online check-in service by visiting
  6. Notify the post office to hold your mail, or asked a trusted person to pick up your mail and newspapers.
  7. If you don’t have a portable GPS system and will be driving during your vacation, print out from directions from MapQuest or Google Maps.
  8. If you are driving, get your car serviced and cleaned.
  9. Stop your newspaper delivery for your vacation dates.
  10. Preorder PhotoPass CD. For tips on maximizing your PhotoPass, visit Stitch Kingdom’s Definitive Guide to Disney’s PhotoPass.

Ten Hours

  1. For most airline carriers, you can do online check-in 24 hours in advance. If you haven’t done so already, do it now.
  2. Set any light timers you have.
  3. Clean and organize the house as much as you can. You’ll be glad you did when you get back from your vacation.
  4. If you have time, jot down some thoughts or stats in your trip journal: what time you’re leaving, how excited your kids (or you!) are, what you’re looking forward to doing on your first day of vacation.
  5. If you are flying, make sure your tickets are in order and that you have a confirmation number in your planner or purse.
  6. Some people recommend throwing the breaker on the hot water heater if you’re going to be gone for two or more weeks.
  7. Check to make sure that you haven’t left anything outside that should be secured, like bikes.
  8. Water your plants.
  9. Unplug appliances, especially your toaster or other appliances with heating elements.
  10. Check that your thermostat is set to vacation mode.

Ten Minutes

  1. Confirm that all doors and windows are locked. Set your alarm.
  2. Double-check your packing list to make sure you included all items (especially any items you might have taken out of your suitcase to use that day).
  3. Check the weather report, to see if you might need to include that umbrella (or wide-brimmed hat) after all.
  4. Take a photo of your child with your digital camera and/or cell phone; in case of emergency, you’ll have a photo of your child with the clothes he’s wearing that day.
  5. While you’ve got the camera out: write your cell phone number or e-mail address on a piece of paper and take a picture of it; in case the camera gets lost, you might be able to get it back more quickly.
  6. Get any medications you might need before or during your flight ready to go.
  7. Before leaving the house, check that your airline flight is leaving on time.
  8. Verify that you have photo IDs for all adults in your group.
  9. Say out loud what you’re checking as you go through your home: “The oven is off; the iron is unplugged.” It might help you remember that you did, in fact, check on it!
  10. Take ten seconds to remember what the vacation is all about — the Magic!


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