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There are few things more iconic than a trip to Walt Disney World resort. There’s something so magical about that place, but it can also be stressful. We have a friend who works there who regular sees guests having a “midday meltdown.” We think that’s because a Disney vacation can be overwhelming and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make it perfect. That’s what inspired us to create this Disney World Trip Planning & Guide. 

Walt Disney World Resort is located in Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake, just outside Orlando, Florida. Founded in 1965, it will celebrate its 55th anniversary in 2020. This blog post will provide Disney World trip planning tips for buying tickets, where to stay, how to do Disney on a budget, best Disney rides, and how to see all four Disney World parks in one day. 

We’ve visited Walt Disney World Resort countless times over the last four decades. Now, we’re pulling from our combined experiences to help you have the best trip yet, whether you’re going as a family or doing Disney World for adults. It’s a great place for everyone! Also, don’t miss our Guide to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge! 

 

Table of Contents

Where Is Disney World?

Before we start giving directions, let’s make sure we’re talking about the right park. This is an essential step in your Disney World trip planning! Disneyland, which opened in 1955, is in Anaheim, California. Dubbed “The Happiest Place on Earth,” it came first by a decade. 

Magic Kingdom Walt Disney World Resort Dapper Dans

Walt Disney World Resort (also known as Disney World), is just outside Orlando, Florida in Lake Buena Vista/Bay Lake. It was created as a supplement to Disneyland, but ended up being much bigger. While Disneyland Resort consists of two parks (Disneyland and California Adventure), Walt Disney World Resort offers four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. 

Additionally, guests can enjoy two water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach), 27 themed hotels, golf courses, a campsite, Disney’s Boardwalk and the Disney Springs outdoor shopping area. 

How to Get to Disney World

The closest airport to Walt Disney World Resort is Orlando International Airport(MCO). If that’s not an option, to next two best Sanford (SFB) or Tampa (TPA). We’d highly recommend MCO, though, because it really is the most convenient. 

From the Orlando airport, guests at select Disney Resorts can hop on Disney’s Magical Express, a free motorcoach that will take them to their hotels. We’ve done this many times, but we’ve also rented a car. If you’re driving, just put the details into a map app on your phone or GPS and it should be a relatively easy drive. 

Disney's Magical Express

If you’re staying at a Disney property, you’ll also enjoy a variety of complimentary transportation options for getting around Walt Disney World Resort. These include:

  • Bus transportation (air conditioned shuttles to parks and water parks)
  • Water transportation (ferryboat or water taxi)
  • Monorail transportation (our favorite)
  • Skyliner (the new gondola system – it’s not air conditioned)

A quick word — we don’t recommend the ferry unless you’ve got a lot of time and/or really want to see the water. It can take a long time, and it’s even worse after the fireworks. One time, in blistering heat and humidity, we waited an hour just to board the boat. Our little guy did a lot of whimpering and the people around us were miserable. 

 

Walt Disney World Tickets 

Before you buy any tickets, an essential part of your Disney World trip planning is to know what you actually need. There are four Disney World parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Do you want to visit all of them? Here are some things to consider:

  • Magic Kingdom — This is where you’ll find Cinderella Castle, the parade, the nighttime fireworks, and all of the classic Disney World attractions.
  • Epcot — You’ll find great rides like Test Track and Soarin’ as well as annual events such as the International Food & Wine Festival
  • Hollywood Studios — A must-see if you’re interested in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, or thrill rides like Rockin’ Roller Coaster. 
  • Animal Kingdom — Any Avatar fans in your group? This is where you’ll find Flight of Passage.

To purchase Disney tickets, you’ll have several choices on the official website:

  • Standard Theme Park Ticket (gets you into one park)
  • 4-Park Magic Ticket (four tickets, one park per day)
  • Book Room & Ticket Packages together
  • Annual Passes (ranging from just water parks to the Platinum Plus)

The Park Hopper add-on is particularly popular with guests as it allows you to visit multiple parks in the same day. The Park Hopper Plus upgrade allows you to also visit the water parks, golf courses, or ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

 

How to Do Disney on a Budget

Let’s face it — Disney vacations are expensive. Really expensive. If you’ve spent any time on Disney World trip planning, you might be feeling a little discouraged. That’s why you’ve got to do your research ahead of time if you’re hoping to do Disney on a budget. Here are some of our tips for saving money. 

Go at the Right Time

If you scroll down a little further, you’ll see our tips for the best times to visit Walt Disney World. Late spring and fall tend to be have good prices and smaller crowds. Aside from that, you can also use tools like Google Flights or Kayak to check for flight costs. Our favorite is actually Skyscanner. Here’s how you search for the cheapest travel days:

  • Go to Skyscanner.com
  • Put in your cities (choose MCO for the destination)
  • Instead of putting in dates, click and choose “Cheapest Month”
  • Choose from the recommended dates and start packing! 

Discount Disney Tickets

You can sometimes find deals on the official Disney website. While you might be able to find better prices out there, you have to be careful where you buy. Unfortunately, there are some outlets that will sell you tickets that are not valid or authorized. 

Here’s where we look for cheap Disney World tickets:

Always do your research before making a purchase. Google any site that is selling tickets and see what the reviews have to say. Trust me, if there’s a problem people will be talking about it!

Flights, Hotels and Car Rentals

Once you’ve picked your dates, you’ll obviously need to book flights. Be sure to check different airlines to see if they are offering any Kids Fly Free deals. Then, to get around Orlando, you’ll need to decide if you want/need a rental car. 

If you’re not planning to leave the Walt Disney World Resort, you probably won’t need one. If you’re hoping to explore other areas like Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, or Wizarding World of Harry Potter, consider a rental car. 

Here are some resources for Orlando flights, hotels, and car rentals:

Have a Disney Vacation Plan

One of the biggest mistakes we see people make is not having a plan for their Disney vacation. We’ve done it ourselves, and it really can lead to disaster. Unless you have a lot of time or a family who can really go with the flow, not having some sort of itinerary can derail your trip. 

Here are our tips for Disney World trip planning:

  • Accept that you probably won’t (and don’t have to!) do everything.
  • Pick what’s important — talk to everyone who’s going on the Disney trip and have them come up with a few things that are really, truly important to them. 
  • Check ride height requirements — we’ve got them listed below, so please make sure children are tall enough for the attractions before you include them in your plan. 
  • Eliminate stuff no one cares about. We don’t love Avatar or Animal Kingdom, for example, so we don’t even include it in our plans. 

By knowing which parks are truly necessary, you could save a bunch of money on admission prices. If all the kids in your group only care about Magic Kingdom, just go there and keep your sanity (and wallet) intact. 

You could also be crazy fools like us and visit all four Disney World parks in one day. If you’re interested in this plan, keep scrolling. It’s down at the bottom. 

 

The Best Times to Visit Walt Disney World

When it comes to theme parks, there aren’t many places more magical than Walt Disney World. One thing that can ruin the magic, though, is showing up to find super long lines! Let’s get one thing straight; Disney World is never not busy, but there are times of the year that are less busy. To help you out, here’s some info on the best times to visit Walt Disney World.

Best Disney World Dates in 2020 and 2021

We trust Undercover Tourist completely when we’re doing Disney World trip planning. We checked out their predictions for the best dates to visit Disney World in 2020. Be sure to also consult the site’s Crowd Calendar:

  • Jan. 6-9, Jan. 13-16, Jan 27-Feb. 13
  • Feb. 25-March 6
  • The second half of April
  • Weekdays in the first half of May
  • The second half of August
  • Most days in September
  • Most weekdays in October
  • Weekdays in November (minus the week of Thanksgiving)
  • Weekdays in December (minus the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Eve)

The very best times to visit Disney World in 2021:

  • Jan. 5-13, Jan 25-Feb. 11
  • Feb. 22-March 5
  • The second half of April
  • Weekdays in the first half of May
  • The second half of August
  • Most days in September
  • Most weekdays in October
  • Weekdays in November (minus the week of Thanksgiving)
  • Weekdays in December (minus the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Eve)

Fall Weather Means Falling Crowd Sizes

This first tip is the biggest, but also the most obvious; try to avoid the times when school isn’t in session. Keep this in mind when doing Disney World trip planning! When it comes to both crowd levels and hotel prices, September and October are your best bets. This is back-to-school time and people won’t be traveling as much. You’ll enjoy much smaller crowds and cheaper hotel rates during that quieter time of year. 

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom

Aside from enjoying the blissfully shorter lines, there are other great benefits to visiting Disney World this time of year!

Avoid the Winter Holidays

So you’ve got Thanksgiving off, or maybe the week of Christmas and New Year. If you want long lines and crowded resorts, this is a great time to go do Disney! You aren’t reading a piece about the best times to visit Walt Disney World for that, though. Still want or need to plan a trip in November or December? There’s one trick that can make it work — just avoid the holidays!  Yes, it’s that simple! 

Weekdays in these months, aside from the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, are a great time to visit and avoid the crowds. We personally think that Tuesday and Wednesday are the best, especially if you go first thing in the morning. Even with the cooler weather, though, the weekends can be absolutely brutal.  Holiday travelers will pack the parks and restaurants while driving up hotel prices. Still, there are some genuine benefits to a November or December Disney trip:

  • Temperatures are dropping, but still comfortable or even mild for people from most other parts of the country.
  • Heated pools mean you can still swim under the volcano at the Polynesian or relax in a hot tub after a day in the parks.
  • Holiday decorations are either going up or are already up, too, so you can truly revel in the spirit of the season.
  • Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a great holiday event (although it requires its own ticket) and Christmas treats abound throughout all of the parks.

Escape the Cold at Disney World

Once New Year’s is over, the unofficial Disney off-season begins in January and February. With the holidays behind us, kids are heading back to school again and the new work year begins. People are so busy getting the new year off to a good start that they forget all about Walt Disney World! As a result, crowds drop to their lowest levels of the year. You definitely want to use this to your advantage!

During the beginning of the year, the ticket and hotel prices start to drop too, making this one of the best times to visit Walt Disney World! It won’t be as sunny and bright as you’ll find the park in summer, but it could still be worth it. Unless you live in a warm climate, chances are that, even in the middle of January, Florida will still be warmer than where you live. What better way to escape the cold than with a fun trip to Disney?

Planning a January or February vacation to Disney World?  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Two weeks to avoid are Walt Disney World Marathon week in January and the Valentine’s Day/President’s Day holiday window in February.
  • Winter means smaller crowds, but also means reduced park hours and fewer showtimes.
  • This time of year is also a popular time for ride refurbishment. Many rides, and the two Disney water parks, routinely close during January and February for maintenance.
  • Pack some hoodies, sweaters and warmer shoes (flip flops are probably a bad idea!). Even though it’s Florida, it’s still the middle of winter!
  • Still be prepared for cool weather, but don’t forget a bathing suit for the heated resort pools and hot tubs!

The Crowds Will Return

As spring arrives, the crowds will begin to return to Walt Disney World. Spring break trips lead to the Easter holiday, leading to schools getting out and ultimately the return of the summer “peak” season.  As you can imagine, it’s pretty crazy in the parks during this time which is why we try to avoid it. If this is the only time when you can go, you’ll still have fun, but you’ll just be surrounded by a lot more people. Plus, it can be unbearably hot and humid. 

Missed your window this year? No problem. The good news is that this cycle repeats every year, so you can start planning your next vacation now! Just remember to follow this guide for the best times to visit Walt Disney World, and you’ll be heading to Florida before you know it!

 

What to Pack for Disney World

Check out our comprehensive Disney Packing List for a more in-depth discussion, but for simplicity, we’ll list some must-haves. Really, some of this will boil down to personal preference. For example, we do our best to avoid germs at theme parks, so we need supplies that others might not. So, take what works for you!

    • T-Shirts: One per day, plus at least one
    • Shorts: Two pair, plus at least one
    • Underwear (adults): One per day, plus one pair
    • Underwear (kids): Two for every day of travel
    • Socks: One pair for every day
    • Pants: One long pair of pants
    • Outerwear (warmer months): One hoodie, sweater or sweatshirt
    • Outerwear (winter months): Lightweight, but warm jacket. Preferably something with wind blocking.
    • Hat: Sun blocking for summer, warm for winter
    • Sunglasses: For the whole family. The sun glare is real in Florida, folks! 
    • Comfortable travel clothes for the trip home

As you can see, we’re not light packers. Both Josh and I are anxious about not being well-prepared. We’ve had some emergencies while traveling, and we’re always glad we brought what we needed. Still, we only take backpacks and carry-ons on our flights. We accomplish this by using packing cubes and being well organized. 

Staying Healthy at Walt Disney World

Eat on the Go If you want to do all four Disney parks in one day, you don’t have time for a sit-down meal (unless it’s breakfast BEFORE the gates open!). You’re going to want to eat on the go as much as you can, which might mean nibbling on snacks from your backpack on the bus or monorail.  Want something more substantial? Take advantage of mobile ordering from the My Disney Experience app so that you can just pick up your food at the counter. Yes, you can skip the lines! Then, end the day at a sit-down restaurant and enjoy a well-deserved meal.  Pro tip: If the International Food & Wine Festival is happening, end your day at Epcot and just do the one-mile lap around the lake and enjoy food from countries around the world. That’s what we like to do!

Disney Family Packing List

  • We love this foldable travel stroller! You can rent a stroller from Disney, but we recommend bringing your own. Get a small, umbrella stroller and just call it a day. We’ve got twins (almost triplets) and you can do a double and a single, if need be. 
  • Consider a stroller fan, because it gets HOT!
  • Extra pacifiers. Years ago, when my oldest was a baby, we forgot hers and it was not fun trying to find one in the middle of the night. 
  • Car seat backpack bag. Your back will thank you and you’ll keep the seat clean.
  • Swimming Diapers in case you go to the hotel pool or water park. 
  • Kids Poncho: In case you go on Splash Mountain

General Disney Packing List

Where to Stay at Walt Disney World

There are many, many hotels around Lake Buena Vista. We will say, though, that if you’re wondering where to stay at Walt Disney World, we’d highly recommend booking a room at a Disney Resort property. Sometimes, they prices are a little higher, but the benefits might more than make up for that. 

Walt Disney World Polynesian Hotel

As mentioned, you’ll be able to use the Disney’s Magical Express motorcoach to get from Orlando International Airport to your hotel. You’ll also be able to use free transportation to visit the parks, Disney Springs and other areas of Walt Disney World. 

There are different types of official Disney Resorts with more than 25 choices. For each, you’ll have to verify which of the following apply, but here are the main perks that come with staying at a Disney property:

  • Early access to FastPass+ planning (choose your FastPass+ selections up to 60 days before your trip!)
  • Extra Magic Hours (spend more time at one theme park per day)
  • Complimentary Magic Bands (used to enter parks, pay for food or merchandise, access FastPass+ and PhotoPass, and unlock your Disney hotel room)
  • Disney Dining Plans (we don’t know much about this from personal experience, but you can read more here)

The best way to book a Disney Vacation Package (including hotel) is through the official Disney site, Costco Travel, or sites like Priceline.

 

Most Popular Rides & Attractions 

Whether it was the 1980s, 2000s, or last year, there are some Disney World rides that you just have to experience. It’s been fun to take our kids and watch them discover the same magic we felt so many years ago. 

Of course, there are also some great new additions. By park, here are some of the most popular rides and attractions (be sure to scroll down to the ride height requirements):

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Space Mountain

Magic Kingdom

  • Goofy’s Barnstormer
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train 
  • Splash Mountain (make sure your child is okay with getting wet!!!)
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 
  • Space Mountain
  • Astro Orbiter
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Haunted Mansion
  • It’s a Small World
  • Jungle Cruise
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pirates of the Caribbean

Walt Disney World Epcot Test Track

Epcot

  • Test Track
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Frozen Ever After
  • Spaceship Earth (motion sickness alert on this one!)

Walt Disney World Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios

  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • Star Tours
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

  • Kali River Rapids
  • DINOSAUR
  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Expedition Everest (roller coaster can get dark and the growling “yeti” might scare riders like me!)
  • Primeval Whirl
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • TriceraTop Spin
  • Wildlife Express Train

 

Ride Height Requirements: Walt Disney World

Families save up for years for a trip to Walt Disney World Resort. It’s hard to beat the excitement of stepping into that park. Both magical and steeped with history, Walt Disney World is also filled with long lines under the hot, humid Florida skies. 

The last thing you want is to try to queue up for something and be turned away because your child isn’t tall enough to get on an attraction. As part of your Disney World trip planning, review these ride height requirements for Walt Disney World to make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible!

Height Requirements at Magic Kingdom

The most classic and iconic park at Walt Disney Resort, so many parents cherish their kids’ first rides on Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. Unfortunately, most toddlers won’t be able to get on either of those rides, and if they meet the height requirements, they may still need a companion. 

Space Mountain Ride Height

Review these height requirements to avoid disappointment and meltdowns before planning your day in the Magic Kingdom.

35 inches (89cm) or Taller:
  • Goofy’s Barnstormer – Minimum age requirement of 3 years old. Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).
38 inches (97cm) or Taller:
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).
40 inches (102cm) or Taller:
  • Splash Mountain – Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad –  Minimum age requirement of 3 years old. Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).
44 inches (113cm) or Taller:
  • Space Mountain – Minimum age requirement of 3 years old. Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).
52 inches (132cm) or Taller:
  • Tomorrowland Speedway – Height requirement is to ride alone. Any child can ride when accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).
No Height Requirements

(Under 7 Must Be Accompanied by Supervising Companion 14 years or older):

  • Astro Orbiter
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Haunted Mansion
  • It’s a Small World
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Liberty Square Riverboat
  • Mad Tea Party
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
  • Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Walt Disney World Railroad
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

 

Height Requirements at Epcot

There are so many great things about Epcot, from the rides and scenery to annual events like the Food and Wine Festival. Unlike the Magic Kingdom, though, there isn’t a lot for very small children, so before you and your family head to this park, be sure to get familiar with the ride height requirements.

40 inches (102cm) or Taller:
  • Test Track
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Mission: SPACE

*Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).

No Height Requirements (Under 7 Must Be Accompanied by Supervising Companion (14 years or older):

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
  • Journey Into Imagination With Figment
  • Living with the Land
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
  • Spaceship Earth

Height Requirements at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

You’ll find the most intense rides at Walt Disney World in Hollywood Studios. Thrill seekers who want a bigger experience than the Snow White Mine Train will want to hop on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, but even if your tween or teen seems mature enough, you’ll want to make sure they meet the height requirements.

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge Grand Opening 2019 Picture Frame Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World

32 inches (81cm) or Taller:
  • Alien Swirling Saucers

*Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).

38 inches (97cm) or Taller:
  • Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
  • Slinky Dog Dash

*Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).

40 inches (102cm) or Taller 
  • Star Tours
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

*Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).

48 inches (122cm) or Taller:
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

*Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).

 

Height Requirements at Animal Kingdom

Any Avatar fans in your group? If so, you’ll love Animal Kingdom. The most natural landscape and park at Walt Disney World, you’ll almost feel like you spent the day in the jungle. While there are some good options for families, the best known attractions may have height requirements that are too high for younger toddlers.

38 inches (97cm) or Taller:
  • Kali River Rapids

*Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).

40 inches (102cm) or Taller:
  • DINOSAUR

*Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).

44 inches (113cm) or Taller:
  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

*Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).

48 inches (122cm) or Taller:
  • Primeval Whirl

*Children under 7 must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).

No Height Requirements

There are no height requirements on the following rides, but anyone under seven must be accompanied by a supervising companion (14 years or older):

  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • TriceraTop Spin
  • Wildlife Express Train

While your children may not be able to ride everything on their wish list, you’ll still find plenty to see and do at Walt Disney World Resort. Learn about ride height requirements ahead of time and set the expectations to avoid heartbreak and disappointment at the parks. This extra step can go a long way to ensuring your visit is the happiest it can be!

For a list of all attraction requirements and accommodations, please see the Walt Disney World Ride Restrictions.

 

How to See All Four Disney Parks in One Day

Before we dig into this, I need to make a confession — I’ve fallen out of love with Walt Disney World. This is a topic I’ll probably need to tackle in a post at some point. For today, I’ll just say that my need to spend hours and hours in each park has ended which is why I can easily see all four parks in one day. In some ways, it’s made my Disney World trip planning easier!

Disney Packing List Mickey Ears

The price of Park Hopper Passes and Single Admission at Walt Disney World gets higher every year. It’s expensive for families to visit Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios (and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge) and Animal Kingdom. We share tips on how to see all four Disney parks in one day!

On a recent trip, we took our four-year-old to Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and even though the snacks at the International Food & Wine Festival were tasty and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was cool, he genuinely asked if we could go back to Universal Orlando Resort

That being said, if you’re like us and don’t need to inspect and ride every little thing, you could easily see all four parks at Walt Disney World in one day. Here’s how!

Choose Your Time of Year Wisely

This should be a huge part of your Disney World trip planning! You won’t stand a chance if you go in the summer, so if you really want to see everything in a day, pick the off-season. We like to go in September and October because the crowd size has dropped, but the weather is still decent. Another great time would be April and May for similar reasons. 

Of course, you could also go in the winter months but it’s pretty chilly. The upside is that the crowds will be at their lowest in January and February, so if you’re okay with packing a jacket, then this could be the best time for you. 

Pick Your Rides

Get really, really specific about which rides are important to you and your group. There are so many attractions that don’t really live up to the hype or simply aren’t necessary on every trip. You need to be picky because the lines can get crazy long. Is it worth waiting three hours in line for the Snow White Mine Train? Not for us!

The thing is that, while you can use the FastPass+ system, Disney doesn’t sell Express Passes that let you skip the line on all or most of the attractions. And now that they let people book their FastPasses months in advance, the selection is limited. Most of the time, you’ll probably have to wait in line so be absolutely sure that it’s something everyone wants to experience. 

Related post: 7 Ways to Fight Motion Sickness on Rides

One last thing about this — please check the height requirements to make sure your child is tall enough to actually get on the ride! We saw many, many devastated kids at the parks and even our own son was disappointed that he couldn’t get on Space Mountain. The measurements might also be different from what you’ve seen at your doctor’s office also, so keep that in mind (it happened to us!). 

Make a Plan to See All Four Disney Parks in One Day

Once you’ve identified which rides you want to tackle, come up with a plan of attack. As mentioned, we absolutely love Undercover Tourist. We’ve used that site every single time we’ve done Disney World trip planning with our kids. It’s even easier than ever now. Just download the app and customize your day based on your preferences and suggestions from the site. 

Don’t worry if you start rethinking your strategy or someone has a last-minute stroke of genius. It’s super easy to modify the plans. If anything changes, you can quickly update your day plan in the app. While there are some premium features, we’ve always stuck to the many free tools on the website with great success! Definitely check it out!

Check Construction

There’s often something being built or renovated at Walt Disney World. If your goal is to see all four parks in a day, make sure that everything is actually open. The last thing you want is to have your heart set on riding It’s a Small World and you get there only to discover it’s being updated. 

On top of that, if there’s heavy construction going on, it might impact how quickly you can get around. Are there bus detours? Are all the stations operational? Have things been relocated to accommodate crews? Know before you go! 

Josh collects Starbucks mugs and he really wanted the one from Epcot to complete the set. Sadly, it closed for construction three days prior to our arrival. The items were not moved to any of the other Starbucks locations. It was pretty disappointing.

Eat on the Go

If you want to do all four Disney parks in one day, you won’t have time for a sit-down meal (unless it’s a nice, big breakfast BEFORE the gates open!). You’re going to want to eat on the go as much as you can, which might mean nibbling on snacks from your backpack on the bus or monorail. We got so lucky last time. Josh’s grandmother had some bananas, and Caleb gobbled them up.

Considering how many times we’ve seen bananas at the finish lines of marathons or races we’ve run, we know they’re the PERFECT food for replenishing reserves and keeping up our endurance. Still, if you want something more substantial, you’ve got plenty of options at Disney. Take advantage of mobile ordering from the My Disney Experience app so that you can just pick up your food at the counter. Yes, you can skip the lines! Then, end the day at a sit-down restaurant and enjoy a well-deserved meal. 

Pro tip: When Disney World trip planning, check to see if the International Food & Wine Festival is happening. If it is, definitely go! Close out your day at Epcot and just do the one-mile lap around the lake and enjoy food from countries around the world. That’s what we like to do!

Transportation

We just touched on this but I want to take a moment to talk about transportation at Walt Disney World. To get between the parks, you can take the monorail, buses, and the new Skyliner gondolas (yes, there was an incident right when it opened. Sigh). We’ll readily admit, though, that the transportation situation at Disney has been a source of frustration for us and it’s cost us valuable time.

The Disney Tourist Blog has great tips for saving time, but I’ll just say that, even if you’ve been to Disney before, double check your planned route. We were surprised to learn that we couldn’t take a bus to Epcot from the Magic Kingdom, for example. Instead, we had to make our way back to the main gate by monorail, switch lines and then take the monorail to Epcot. It just didn’t make sense to us. Pretty annoying.

And, for the love of all that is holy, avoid taking the ferry if you’re in a rush. In fact, unless you really, really want to take a boat ride, skip this thing entirely. It takes FOREVER if there are crowds (especially after the fireworks), communication is terrible, and everyone gets super cranky. Even if you decide it’s taking too long and you want to leave the line, it’s really difficult to do. We felt trapped the last time we queued up, and we’ll never do it again (it took a whole hour just to get on the ferry!).

Stay Hydrated

The Florida heat can really sneak up on you — just look at my face and neck in the picture of me feeding Caleb the banana. I’m sweating like a pig! It doesn’t take long to feel the unfortunate effects of dehydration, either. This can be particularly tough on small children, especially those who are too young to ask for water and may not even realize that they are thirsty. 

With all the deals and displays around Walt Disney World Resort, it’s easy to get sucked into the trap of loading up on soda. Please avoid doing this! Sugary, carbonated drinks are not the best for staving off dehydration, but if it’s all your kids will drink, it’s better than nothing. 

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World Blue Milk

Many of the restaurants sell juice, and while it’s not much better, there are some nutrients in a juice box. If you can, though, stick to water to hydrate your body. Bring a water bottle and sip throughout the entire day. If your kids say they don’t want to drink, TOO BAD. If they want to keep adventuring, they’ve got to have a sip or two whenever water is offered. Set a good example by taking a swig every half hour, at the very least. You’ll all feel a lot better and you’ll need all your strength to see all four Disney parks in one day!

Stay at a Disney Resort

I’m not a big fan of the Disney hotels, but lots of people love them. For someone like me, who lives and travels with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), the rooms are too well-used. Don’t get me wrong, this is perfect for families — but kids are really rough on hotel rooms. It’s just not a good fit for me. Truly, it’s a me problem. 

Related post: The Ultimate Germaphobe’s Guide to Hotel Stays

One of the perks of being a guest of Disney Resort and a few other hotels is that you can spend extra time in one of the theme parks every day. That’s a big deal if you’re trying to see all four Disney Parks in a day! If you’re interested, these are the properties that provide this benefit:

You can choose to visit the Disney parks before it opens or after it closes with valid theme park admission and hotel ID (bring your room key!). For more information on participating parks and times, click here

Keep Your Car in Mind

Staying at a Disney property might make your goal easier because you won’t have to battle the parking lot and you can take advantage of that extra hour! If you drove, however, you’re going to want to choose where you park wisely. Common sense says to park where you plan to start, but that’s not always the right choice either. 

One Disney World trip planning strategy is to start with the busiest park (Magic Kingdom), so why do we park at Animal Kingdom? Because it’s the least busy park. What that means is that there will be fewer people leaving from the parking lot at the end of the night. We’ll spend less time inching through the gates and more time in our beds back at the hotel. Sounds good to me!

Some Last-Minute Disney World Trip Planning Tips

I’ll probably keep updating this post, because I’m already thinking of more tips to share. There’s just so much that goes into Disney World trip planning! In the meantime, here are some last-minute things to keep in mind:

  • I’ve already said this, but I’ll say it again — don’t take the ferry if you’re in a rush. It’s not worth it.
  • If you stay for the fireworks, head to the parking lot before they end. You’ll probably still be able to see and hear them from your car, and you’ll beat the enormous crowds. 
  • Respect your limits. If you start to feel overly stressed, excessively tired or overheated, take a break. Go back to your hotel and rest for an hour. Seeing all the Disney parks in one day is not worth risking your health or creating tension when you should be enjoying your vacation.

Related post: 5 Ways to Avoid Germs at Amusement Parks

Our Most Important Disney World Trip Planning Tip

Don’t try to make this day “perfect” for your children! Most small kids don’t care about getting on every ride. I’ve seen kids have more fun playing in the grass as their parents stress out about hitting everything on the checklist. Just look at Caleb’s face in this picture. He wanted to just look around without having to pose for more pictures. We listened and the rest of our day was fantastic! 

Smugglers Run Star Wars Galaxy's Edge Millennium Falcon Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World

In the end, our little guy did very few rides at Disney, and really enjoyed just looking around at everything. If you’re in line all day, they might miss the magic that we adults too often overlook. Let them linger, let them just stand and look around, and let them say NO to rides. 

Think about all the effort it took to get to Disney World and just enjoy it. Roll with the punches, have a loose plan, and let the rest go. You’ll look back and be so proud that you kept your cool and focused on being happy rather than having the perfect Disney Vacation. Have a great time!