How far in advance should we plan our Disney vacation?
A good rule of thumb is that as soon as you know the exact dates you'll be going, you should begin planning. This is especially true if you plan to go during one of the busier times, such as the summer months or around Christmas. If that's not possible or it's too early, generally beginning 6 months before you travel will assure you of getting the room that you want and planning the rest of your vacation. If you're really on a tight schedule, it is possible to plan a Disney vacation only a month or two in advance if it is during the off-season.
What should I do first?
The first thing you should do is decide what hotel you want to stay at and book it. Though there are many off property sites, Disney's hotels provide a lot of advantages and conveniences, such as free transportation to the parks and being able to stay in the parks later or arrive earlier than other guests. If you have any sort of special circumstances and require something specific of your hotel, you want to make sure this gets done so all of your needs can be met.
What other things is it important to plan in advance?
If you plan on eating in one of the Disney restaurants for a sit down meal, be sure to make reservations well in advance. Again, this is more important if you're traveling during a peak time. However, the more popular restaurants will fill up during any time of year. You can book a table up to 180 days in advance at most Disney restaurants. This is especially important if you want to dine at Cinderella's Castle, California Grill, Spirit of Aloha Castle, Crystal Palace, and most of the international restaurants in Epcot.
You can also buy your park tickets in advance. This isn't necessary, but can save you money. You can buy a package deal for a certain number of days, with discounts for each additional day after the first few. Also keep in mind that prices usually go up around the new year, so buying park tickets in advance can save you money there as well.
So if you've been thinking about a trip to Disney World and you've been asking yourself, "How far in advance should I plan my Disney vacation?", hopefully these tips have helped you and pointed you in the right direction.