Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation has always been a daunting task. However, planning a Walt Disney World trip in the year 2021 is unlike anything we have seen before. Thanks to COVID, there are several more nuances to consider and navigate that will factor into your planning. The combination of all these complexities may feel like a Disney World trip in 2021 is not even worth it. However, we think it would be better to visit this year than ever before, as long as you plan it correctly. So, here is how to plan a Disney World Trip in 2021.

Your Budget

Before you make any decisions regarding your vacation, you must figure out your budget. Unless you want to come home in tons of credit card debt, this is definitely the step you need to take before anything else! This can get complicated along the way if you have not determined your budget ahead of time.

I recommend you decide on an “ideal” budget and a “maximum” budget. Your “ideal” budget should be a smaller amount than your “maximum” budget. Your maximum budget needs to be the absolute maximum amount of money you are willing to spend on your entire trip. The ideal amount would be slightly less than your maximum (the numerical value of “slightly” is your decision based on your situation). Your “ideal” budget should be your goal, the “maximum” should be your backup to give you some wiggle room. Every decision regarding your vacation that you make from this point forward will revolve around your “ideal” budget.

What You Want To Do (In General)

When it comes to Walt Disney World, there are so many things to do. Not only are there four theme parks and two water parks available, but there are also several restaurants, hotels, golf courses, shops, and more! First of all, you must have a general idea of what you would like to do. If you don’t think your little kids will enjoy visiting Epcot, you can skip it. If you are a massive Star Wars fan, you will want to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Once you have decided which parks you want to and do not want to visit (you can visit all of them or one of them if you want), you can move on to the next step.

When To Visit

There are certain times of the year when the parks are more crowded than usual. These times are usually during the summer or around the holidays. However, the reason those are the busiest times to visit is that that is generally when school is out. Some people work less during those times as well. So there are pros and cons to visiting during any time of the year. It is important to consider them all so you can make the best decision for you and your party.

Duration of Stay

Now that you have a general idea of what you want to do, you will need to figure out how long you can afford to stay. This decision and the decision regarding where to stay may go hand-in-hand. You may want to stay a long time but your budget may only allow you to stay at a less expensive hotel for that amount of time. On the other hand, if you would rather have a luxurious stay on a tight budget, you may need to shorten the duration of your stay.

Depending on your budget and what you want to do on your trip, you can stay for the amount of time that allows you to do it all without breaking the bank. We recommend that you allow yourself one full day per theme park. But if your budget requires, a little park-hopping has never hurt anybody. Although, you will need to purchase the more expensive park hopper ticket. Crunch the numbers to decide what is best for you and your party.

Where To Stay

As we mentioned above, determining the length of your stay and where to stay are decisions that should be made simultaneously. Unless you are made of money, your budget will likely dictate both where you can stay and how long you can stay.

There are several options you can choose from. First of all, do you want to stay at a resort on the property? If not, where? And if so, which resort? Walt Disney World offers guests a wide range of resorts to stay on property, in different price ranges. There are Disney Value Resorts, Disney Moderate Resorts, and Disney Deluxe Resorts, as well as a couple of campgrounds on Walt Disney World property. Disney Value Resorts and campgrounds are the least expensive, Deluxe Resorts are the most expensive, and Moderate Resorts prices range somewhere in the middle. Check the Disney World website for the dates and availabilities of each resort in your price range.


If you are staying on Walt Disney World property, you will not have to worry about paying for any transportation. Disney’s Magic Express shuttle will even take you to your resort from the airport (it should be noted that this will be changed starting in 2022). All around the Walt Disney World resort are different boats, buses, monorails, and Skyliners to take you wherever you need to go.

However, if you prefer to be in complete control of your schedule or you choose to stay off-property you need another option. You can rent a car, which we highly recommend you reserve ahead of time. You can also rely on taxi or rideshare services like Uber or Lyft. All of these options will cost extra money. So crunch the numbers to figure out which is best for you. You also have the option to bring your own car, if you live close enough to drive to your vacation destination and feel comfortable doing so.

Means of Travel

You are probably reading this part and thinking “Didn’t we already go over transportation?” Well, yes. We have not mentioned your means of travel before all that happens though. If you live far enough away, are you going to drive or fly? If you plan to fly, which airline? When will you depart and arrive? Are you planning to visit the parks on your departure or arrival days? What about potential delays? These are all really important things to consider before you book your Walt Disney World trip in 2021.

Important Things To Know

When You Are Ready To Book:

You have done most of the heavy lifting now. Once you have figured out your answers to all the above questions, you are ready to book your vacation! One of the coolest parts about booking a couple of months or so in advance on the Disney World website is the fact that you have the option to make smaller payments leading up to your trip. You do not have to pay for your vacation in full right away. However, if you can pay it then you should. It does take the stress away much quicker.

No Fastpass System

Until further notice, there is no Fastpass+ system in place. This was done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. So, you will not get to plan ahead as much as you normally would when you could reserve your Fastpasses two months in advance.

Covid Rules and Restrictions

As of the time of writing this, there are many health and safety rules that all guests and cast members must follow at Disney World. You must follow all signs and markings indicating correct social distancing, when and where face masks are required, etc.

There are also more cleaning and sanitation procedures than what guests in years’ past are used to. Each attraction vehicle is cleaned in between use and social distancing is enforced. This means that the lines, even though there may be fewer people waiting in them, may still be a long wait.

Tickets and Annual Passes

At the time of writing, new annual passes are not available for purchase until further notice. If you do not already have one but you want to visit the parks, you must purchase a single-day or park hopper ticket for each day you would like to visit.

Disney Park Pass Reservations

All guests must have a valid park ticket (or annual pass) AND a reservation for each day at each park. Yes, every single person in your party must have a valid park reservation for whichever park you are visiting that day. If you have park hopper tickets or annual passes, you must have a valid reservation for the park you plan to visit first. Around 1 p.m., you will be allowed to make a reservation for and visit another theme park. You can make your reservations on My Disney Experience.

Character Meet and Greets

Even though proper face coverings are no longer required while taking pictures, you cannot be within a certain distance from the characters. Right now, you can meet them and take pictures with them. However, they will usually be protected behind some sort of barrier and at least three feet away from guests.

Advanced Dining Reservations

Since the pandemic is changing a lot of things around the Disney World Resort, many people are making advanced dining reservations as soon as possible. This makes it even more important than ever before to make your advanced reservations exactly 60 days prior to your arrival day (EST). Many people (myself included) have confused it with 60 days prior to your first theme park day. Do not make this mistake! This is especially important if you have a bucket list of food items, dietary restrictions, or picky eaters. Look at the menus far in advance to have your plan and backup plans mapped out before making your reservation.

Mobile Order

Not all restaurants require an advanced dining reservation. In fact, most quick-service restaurants do not require it. However, COVID has still made everything weird and more difficult. You will benefit from ordering your food ahead of time on the My Disney Experience app on your smartphone. We highly recommend you do that around 30 minutes before you wish to eat.

Show Availability

With social distancing and capacity limitations, most shows at Disney World are not performing until further notice. You will be able to find this information for your trip specifically by going on the My Disney Experience App, clicking the map icon, clicking “Wait Times”, and scrolling to “Entertainment.” Once there, you should be able to see what is currently open and what is closed.

Height Requirements (if you have kids)

If you are bringing young children with you, it is important to know ahead of time what they are able to ride. This will help you avoid disappointment (and tears) later on. Trust me! Here is a list of all the attractions with a height requirement to ride. Guests must be at the listed height or taller to ride.

Magic Kingdom

  • The Barnstormer: 35 inches (89 centimetres)
  • Big Thunder Mountain: 40 inches (102 centimeters)
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 38 inches (97 centimeters)
  • Space Mountain: 44 inches (113 centimeters)
  • Splash Mountain: 40 inches (102 centimetres)
  • Tomorrowland Speedway: 32 inches (82 centimeters)


  • Mission: SPACE: 40 inches (102 centimeters)
  • Soarin’ Around The World: 40 inches (102 centimeters)
  • Test Track: 40 inches (102 centimeters)

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Alien’s Swirling Saucers: 32 inches (81 centimetres)
  • Millennium Falcon–Smuggler’s Run: 38 inches (97 centimetres)
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith: 48 inches (122 centimetres)
  • Slinky Dog Dash: 38 inches (97 centimeters)
  • Star Tours–The Adventures Continue: 40 inches (102 centimetres)
  • Star Wars–Rise of the Resistance: 40 inches (102 centimetres)
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: 40 inches (102 centimetres)

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  • Avatar Flight of Passage: 44 inches (112 centimeters)
  • DINOSAUR: 40 inches (102 centimetres)
  • Expedition Everest–Legend of the Forbidden Mountain: 44 inches (112 cm)
  • Kali River Rapids: 38 inches (97 centimeters)

Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park

  • Chairlift: 32 inches (82 inches)
  • Downhill Double Dipper: 48 inches (122 centimeters)
  • Slush Gusher: 48 inches (122 centimeters)
  • Summit Plummet: 48 inches (122 centimeters)

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park

  • Bay Slides: 60 inches (152 centimeters)
  • Crush ‘n’ Gusher: 48 inches (122 centimetres)
  • Humunga Kowabunga: 48 inches (122 centimeters)
  • Ketchakiddee Creek: 48 inches (122 centimeters)

What To Plan & When To Plan It

Even though you are all booked with your park reservations in place, you are not done yet! There is still a good amount of planning left to do and specific times when you’re supposed to do each of them. Let me explain them all to you so you never miss a thing!

As Soon As You Book

As soon as you book your vacation, you should be prompted by the system to reserve your theme park days. If it does not prompt you, you will need to make sure you do it manually. Open the My Disney Experience App, log in, and the option should be right there on the front page. You should also set aside the amount of money you plan to use for food, souvenirs, anything else you haven’t paid for yet, etc. That way you do not accidentally spend it before you have the chance to use it for your trip.

60 Days Prior To Your Arrival Day

As we mentioned before, exactly 60 days before your arrival day you are eligible to make your dining reservations. Since everyone will be trying to get their reservations at the same time, we recommend you do this as soon as possible to avoid missing out on your desired restaurant.

If Disney World happens to reinstate the Fastpass+ system before your trip, this is likely when you will be eligible to make those reservations as well. Again, we highly recommend you do this as soon as you are eligible.


There are a few things you will want to make sure you have done before you start packing. Some of those things are obvious: like the laundry so you have clean clothes for your trip, your MagicBands (if you have them), park tickets, etc. We also recommend that you plan your days ahead of time. You should do this a few days or so before you start packing.

Plan Each of Your Days:

Make a list of about three things you absolutely MUST do at each park you are visiting (as long as it is allowed, of course). Put those in your “Tier 1” column. Then, make a list of about four things you really want to do and make that your “Tier 2.” Do this until you feel satisfied with your lists. Then plan each park day around your advanced dining reservations and the most important items on your list. If you know something usually has a long line, prioritize it above the others.

We want to make a note here though. If you don’t get to everything, or something is not available during your trip or breaks down, stay calm. Make the best of it. You are on vacation after all.

Check The Weather:

Do not make the mistake of believing it will be cold in December when Florida is basically hot all year round. You also should not make the mistake of assuming you will only experience sunny and warm weather, and show up on a chilly and rainy day. Check what the weather is supposed to be like in Orlando before you pack what you need for your trip. Take it from somebody who makes this mistake way too often. Pack according to the weather!

What To Pack:

There are many things you want to make sure you do not forget on your trip to Walt Disney World in 2021. Your packing list will be a little different. However, here is a general overview of what you might need.

  • Clothes for each day of vacation (plus an extra set or two)
  • Toiletries
  • Hygiene Products
  • Socks
  • Shoes (which have already been broken in)
  • Backup Shoes (which have also already been broken in)
  • Hair ties, if you or somebody in your party has long hair
  • Medications needed for you or your party members
  • Vitamins
  • Electronics (iPad, laptop, etc.)
  • Chargers (including portable chargers)
  • Phone
  • Face Masks
  • Several Backup Face Masks
  • Books/entertainment for the drive/plane ride
  • Swimsuit
  • Poncho (optional)
  • MagicBands
  • Magical Express paperwork

You’re Ready To Go!

Well, if you made it this far then you are ready to go on your Walt Disney World vacation! How does it feel? Good luck, be safe, and have fun!