By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor







Which Days at Which Park at Walt Disney World?



By Dave Shute

SCHEDULE OF WHICH DAYS TO VISIT WHICH PARKS

While working on a recent post about TouringPlans.com‘s updated daily calendar, I realized that while I had advice on which park to go to when here and here, and of course built in to the design of this site’s core itineraries, I hadn’t brought it together into one place.

So here we go!

HOW TO FIGURE OUT WHICH PARK TO VISIT WHEN

The itineraries on this site put first time family visitors to Walt Disney World into the parks on certain days based on the following principles, in order:

See Epcot first, and the Magic Kingdom last. The Magic Kingdom so well matches kids’ expectations that if you see it first, all other parks–and especially Epcot, which was designed to be as unlike it as possible–suffer by the comparison.

See the park closing events–Illuminations at Epcot, Wishes at the Magic Kingdom, and Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios–on the nights that they don’t actually close the parks.

(To figure out when and at what times these shows are offered, and the Extra Magic Hours schedule, see this page on using Disney World’s online park calendars.)

Avoid parks with morning Extra Magic Hours. On mornings with Extra Magic Hours, guests staying at Walt Disney World resort hotels, and at a few others, can enter a park an hour earlier than other guests. The first hour of this is great, but by mid-morning the park is even more crowded than it would have been on a normal day.

Unless you plan is to quit the park mid-morning, the value of morning Extra Magic Hours is not worth the hour of lost sleep.

To the extent you can, avoid weekends, Mondays and holidays.  Weekends. Mondays, and holidays are almost always be busier than the other days around them.

RELATED STUFF

30 comments

1 Garry { 06.20.13 at 11:25 am }

We have the option of travelling Thurs – Thurs or Sun – Sun. The arriving day would be a half day at the parks. The Departing day would be an early morning departure and would have no time in the parks. Which schedule would you recommend?

2 Dave { 06.21.13 at 7:42 am }

Garry, Thursday makes for a better half day than Sunday, so I’d target Thursday-Thursday…

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3 sandy { 06.21.13 at 4:38 pm }

Arriving Aug.25 early evening & departing Sept.3 with a 16&17 yr old. I am 71 and enjoy all rides . We have a package, staying at Port Orleans , dining plan & a 9 day ph w/both beaches. In order to utilize the early and late times for the parks & castching all the fireworks, parades and late night shows, how would you set up the itinerary?

4 Dave { 06.22.13 at 9:52 am }

Sandy this one is a good fit overall: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2009/11/06/seven-night-walt-disney-world-autumn-winter-spring-itinerary-v2/

You have more days at the end than it has, so move either its Monday or its Tuesday to your second week, and do one of the water parks on the moved day. Reserve the other time at the end of your trip for re-visits to favorites, or the second water park!

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5 Melissa { 06.27.13 at 11:22 pm }

Dave,
My family of 4 (kiddos are 10 & 11) will be staying at the Caribbean Beach. 8 night stay 6/30-7/8 Our son is playing in the baseball tourney at the WWSC this week. We have 3 hopper passes in our purchased package. Would you please advise us as to which days might be best to use our passes? Maybe even suggest which park on which day 😉 Our schedule… Tournament Pool play Sun 6/30 game time @ 8 am Mon 7/1 gm @ noon Tues 7/2 gm @ 10 am Wed 7/3 gm @ 8 am Thurs 7/4 no game Fri-Sat 7/5-6 game times determined by wins during pool play. Sat 7/6 8:30-11:30 all tourney swim party at Typhoon Lagoon special additional ticket provided. I have enjoyed your website and have gained great insight. I am overwhelmed with the thought of combining a baseball tourney with the Magic of WDW! I was determined to take this just one day at a time, however, I am a “plan it” kind of Momma. Any thoughts & insights would be most welcomed & appreciated!

6 Dave { 06.28.13 at 7:03 am }

Hi Melissa, I can help, but do need to check one thing–do you have only three tickets for the four of you, each with a park hopper, and if so, for how many days, or do you have one 3 day hopper ticket for each of the four of you, or something else?

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7 Melissa { 06.28.13 at 10:08 am }

Thx for responding! We each have (4 of us) 3 days of park hopper passes. Look forward to hearing what ideas you have 🙂

8 Melissa { 06.28.13 at 10:16 am }

The 3-Day Sports Magic Your Way® Ticket with Park Hopper® Option entitles you to 3 days admission to Magic Kingdom® Park, Epcot®, Disney’s Hollywood Studios™ and Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park with the freedom to visit multiple parks within the same day
This is copied from our email correspondence with the tourney director.

9 Melissa { 06.28.13 at 10:40 am }

One more thought Dave… This is not our 1st visit. Kiddos have been 2 other times ’05 & ’07. It’s just been awhile for them.

10 Dave { 06.29.13 at 10:05 am }

OK Melissa, got it now. The complexity of your trip is that you are going during the busiest week of the summer, the best way to handle any day–busy or not–is to arrive before the parks open, which your 8a games makes tough, and your day off–the 4th–is the single busiest day of the summer.

So given that there are no great options, here’s what I suggest:

Spend the 4th at Disney’s Animal Kingdom til close–it will be, by far, the least crowded park. Then hop to any other park for the 4th fireworks. The Studios will likely be the least crowded. (For more on the 4th, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/02/27/the-4th-of-july-at-walt-disney-world/ )

Spend at least one of your other two days at MK, and if you don;t spend both at MK, use the other one at HS. Your latish game July 1 leads me to suggest spending that day at MK, as you can arrive before opening and do at least 90 mins worth of rides. (HS is a bad choice the 1st) You can then return to MK after the game.

The second you could return to MK–decide after you are done for the day the 1st, or go to HS. HS will be OK the third as well–tho MK won’t. Either way, becasue of your late arrival after the 8a/10a games, you will face crowds and long lines…

Steel yourself to not care about mob scenes and long lines, and you’ll have fun!

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So you’d then

11 Melissa { 06.29.13 at 10:27 pm }

Dave thx again for your insight! We have taking into consideration your suggestions & made a family plan. We are ready for a great week of Baseball & WWD!
God Bless.

12 Dave { 06.30.13 at 12:02 pm }

Melissa, have a ball and let me know how it goes!

13 Melissa { 07.20.13 at 12:35 pm }

Hi Dave,
Wanted to thank you again for your prospective on our trip to WDW that included Disney’s Internatioanl Salute to Baseball. We played baseball 6 of the 8 days so your insight did help us create a plan that worked well. I would like to share our experience for others that might have the some of same questions I did in regards to a combined trip. I found very little on the web (blogs) about this kind of experience.

We used our 1st pass on Sunday at MK after playing an 8 am game. Despite the nonstop monsoons we were able to see & do every attraction on our list.

Monday we play BB at noon so we rested in the afternoon then enjoyed an early night out at DTDisney.

Tuesday we play at 10 am. Afternoon was spent at Carribean Resort pool & laundry ( time to wash uniforms). We did a parents date night swap with another family, so we took our kiddos & their kiddos that evening to Fort Wilderness for s’mores, visit with Chip n Dale & Cars Movie under the stars. While their parents had a kids free dinner.

Wednesday was our 2nd trip to the parks. We played bb at 8 am. We started at Epcot then park hopped around 5 pm to Hollywood Studios. Most fast passes had been distributed at both parks but we still accomplished all on our list at Epcot & got a good start on our list at HS. My DD was exhausted at this point so DH put her to bed while DS & I closed down HS. We considered park hopping to MK for EM hrs until 3 am however with baseball everyday so far he was ready to call it a night! HS emptied out that evening due to rain & EM hrs at MK so we enjoyed Toy Story Mania with only 20 min wait compared to 170 min all day with no fast passes available.

Thursday 4th of July was our only day without baseball. We spent our 3 rd and final ticket with an early start to AK (your suggestion) this park did have fewer crowds than we had seen all week. With arriving early & fast passes we accomplished our list of must do’s by noon. Our next trip to WDW we will spend more time at AK, this is one of our favorite parks. We loved the pace & the atmosphere. At noon we park hopped back to HS. After finishing all shows & attraction minus Toy Story Mania (which DS rode the night before) I took my DS and put him to bed, he was sleeping by 10pm completely exhausted (we had to be up before 6 am the next morning for bb). DH & DD walked onto Toy Story Maina in only 15 minutes just after they watched an incredible 4th of July Fireworks show.

Friday Started bracket play. We were grateful at this point that we had used our 3 days of tickets. We spent Friday afternoon at the Carribean Beach Resort pool & laundry. Friday evening we implemented the second half of the Parent’s date Night. The other family took our kiddos to our resorts beach fire for s’mores then hooked up our Wii for a rainy night in with friends. My DH & I went to the Polineasian Resort for a sushi at Kona Island. We had immediate seating at the Bar. After dinner we took the tram for a short ride to the Grand Floridian. We rested together quietly on one of their comfy couches while the orchestra played. A pianists (right in front of us) played beautiful request for the next 30-45 minutes. What a perfect way to wrap up our kiddo free date night after an extremely over busy week with bb & parks.

After winning on Friday we did play again on Saturday. After bb we made on last trip to DTDisney for last minute shopping. 8:30-11:30 Sat. Night we joined the rest of the bb teams & families at Typhoon Lagoon (opened special just for us) for the team pool party. We enjoyed this event. It was catered with BBQ.

Sunday was our check out day. We slept in some, packed & loaded up & then toured (outside only) the Art of Animation Resort. What an amazing place for families with kiddos. After such a long week we decided to spend two more night near the Atlantic coast. A full day at the beach was much needed before heading home.

Combining BB & WDW is exhausting. However with a good plan it is doable with excellent results. Everyone in our family was completely satisfied. We teamed up with another family and created some treasured memories.

Just one more thought. We did not purchase the meal plan. With not knowing our bb schedule until the week before we were unable to make any meal reservations. So daily we had our first two meals in our rooms (beacause we drove I was able to bring along a microwave & tub with breakfast & lunch items) packed snacks and carried backpacks with a water bladders (free icewater was available everywhere we went to refill them & the icewater tasted great despite what I read on other blogs.) We ate one meal out everyday depending on where we were & what was available. This worked out great. We didn’t do any of the character dining or nicer buffet style restaurants but combining the two events some sacrifices had to be made. We still ate well everyday. Overall this was an excellent experience & would recommend this combined trip with well thought out planning & flexibility.

Thx again Dave for your insight & response!!

14 Dave { 07.21.13 at 8:30 am }

Hi Melissa! Thanks for the detailed report! Sounds like you made it work, with some help from the rain ands late nights!

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15 Jen { 04.08.14 at 12:55 am }

Hi Dave,
I love this website. I think I’ve spent hours reading so many wonderful tips. However, I am feeling overwhelmed. I have printed all your cheat sheets for the parks. This is a very last minute and short Disney trip. My husband is going for a business trip, and the kids (12 boy and 9 girl) and I are joining him in Orlando. We are staying at the Ritz which isn’t very close to Disney. They have a private shuttle that will transport us to the parks. I still need to find out more about the shuttle.

We arrive late afternoon around 3:30 on Wednesday, 4/24. The crowd meter doesn’t look good:( It can’t be any worse than Disneyland on NYE at midnight! (Yes, we have made that mistake with small kids). We leave Sunday around 7:00pm on 4/27. I need suggestions on which parks for the days we are there. We have been to Disneyland twice but never Disney World. I guess I had no idea how far apart the parks were. How easy is it to go from park to park in a day? My kids are older now and pretty good about keeping up and following schedules. I know they would love Universal, especially my 12 year old son. Can Universal be done in one day or should I make it two days? I was thinking about skipping Animal Kingdom all together if I had to give up something. My husband can only join us on Sunday. He has never been to EPCOT so I thought we might go there the day we leave, Sun. 4/27. One of my top priorities is for us to enjoy the MK evening parade and fireworks. What are your thoughts on having dinner reservations on Friday at 8:30 at The Plaza to watch the fireworks? At Disneyland, my husband and kids would enjoy a ride or two while I stayed to secure a good viewing spot. I can’t do that this time since I will be the only adult. I was hoping the Plaza would allow a view of the parade and wishes.

We have seen Fantasmic twice at Disneyland which we loved. I have reservations on Thurs 4/24 at Hollywood &Vine to get VIP seating. I’m not sure if it is worth it for VIP seating? I think they would love Sci-Fi Restaurant or ’50s Cafe more than Hollywood. Can we do Illuminations the same day as Fantasmic? Saturday, 4/26, I though we would go to Universal/Islands of Advent. I will probably splurge on the Express Passes for us since we don’t have a lot if time. Please let me know if I have some or all of it wrong. One more thing, I don’t have character dinner reservations. My 9 year old would rather just get photos with a few princesses and ride rides instead of dining. Thank goodness, since it’s too late to get reservations anyway.
Thank you,
Jennifer

16 Dave { 04.08.14 at 4:17 pm }

Hi Jen, and thanks for the love!

First, on the parks. Animal Kingdom and Epcot are the most different from DLR—that matters much to some, less to others. Your dates, any park but MK is OK the 24th. HS will be crowded the 25th—any other park would be better. The 26th, HS and Epcot are good choices, and the 27th, any park but MK.

The special seats from your package at Fantasmic are great! There are next to no seats at the Plaza from which you can see the fireworks, and none from which you can see the parade. Suggest you plan to see the fireworks, then the second 11p parade—crowds for that will be a ton lower.

Universal is a 2 day park for kids that love thrill rides. The best way to see it is actually to double book a night there—see this for why: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2009/12/17/where-to-stay-during-your-visit-to-the-wizarding-world-of-harry-potter/ As you’ll see there, one night at the Royal Pacific gets you the equivalent of two days of Express passes, plus early entry to Harry Potter. So it sounds nuts, but you may actually save money…

It can take an hour to get from one park to another, including waiting time. The exception is HS-Epcot, where you can walk in 20 minutes. You won’t be able to get to Epcot after Fantasmic (which will end around 8.45, and take ten minutes to exit) in time to see Illuminations (which begins at 9)

17 Jackie { 07.29.14 at 3:34 pm }

Hi Dave,
We are planning a February 2015 trip to Disney with my 3 year old daughter. I assume we will go again in 5 or so years. Anyway, I was thinking of doing a 5 day park pass, but was wondering which parks you would suggest going. I know I want to do Magic Kingdom 2 times, Epcott at least once and Hollywood Studios once. The question is, is Animal Kingdom skippable? Adding the 5th day for the 3 of us only adds $31 dollars to our trip, ticketwise, but an extra night in a hotel and food….is that worth what we will get out of animal kingdom? Do you suggest:

A) Get only a 4 day park pass and go home?
B) Get a 5 day park pass and visit Animal Kingdom for 1 of the days, or
C) Get a 5 day park pass and visit one of the other parks and additional day?

I have heard mixed reviews and was wondering how you think we should prioritize that last day considering the age of our daughter and our plans for the other days.

Any insight would be appreciated!

Jackie

P.S. I have bought and read through your book and really love how simple and organized it is!

18 Dave { 07.30.14 at 6:57 am }

Hi Jackie thanks for the kind words about the book! For a kid that age, a trip focused entirely and only on MK would be totally appropriate. There’s next to nothing at Epcot for her, and not much more than a morning’s worth at either HS or AK. With four ticket days I’d spend three at MK (with lotsa of time back at the hotel for naps and breaks and the pool) and the fourth at AK. With five days I’d add HS.

19 Jackie { 07.30.14 at 8:28 am }

Thanks Dave, that is very helpful….I’m so glad the resort prices came out today online!

20 Andrea { 07.31.14 at 9:27 am }

As a FL resident, I’ve been to Disney several times throughout my life, but never at Christmastime. My husband, 2 and 5 y.o. girls, and I are going in October for 4 days, and we’re upgrading to a season pass. So, we plan to return for a very short trip in early December with my parents. I know that on Sunday I’d like to go to MK. We’ll take a break in the afternoon, then I’d like to bring our older daughter back for MVMCP. What would you recommend doing on Monday with my young girls and older parents? I was thinking Epcot in the day and HS to see the lights at night. I think my mom would really enjoy the Candlelight Processional, but don’t know if it would be possible to do that and see the Osborne lights. We may or may not tour on Tuesday morning before we drive back home. Do you have any suggestions to improve these plans? Thanks!! You’re the best :o)

21 Andrea { 07.31.14 at 9:27 am }

By the way, I’m Andrea, not Andre–Doh!

22 Andrea { 07.31.14 at 9:30 am }

This may also be helpful to know: During our Oct. trip, we’re spending 2 days at MK and one each at HS and AK. We’ll only hit Epcot once or twice in the evening.

23 Dave { 07.31.14 at 1:55 pm }

Andrea, I need your exact December dates to be the best help…

24 Dave { 07.31.14 at 1:57 pm }

OK I went into your comment and changed your identity, Andrea!

25 Andrea { 07.31.14 at 6:28 pm }

Thx! We’re looking at Dec. 7-8 and possibly morning of the 9th.

26 Dave { 08.01.14 at 7:35 am }

OK, for the Candlelight/HS–HS is open til 8p Monday the 8th, and the Osbornes show for an additional hour after park close. So see the first Candlelight–you should do the package to save waiting–see this http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/05/09/the-candlelight-processional-and-candlelight-dinner-package-at-walt-disney-world/ then head to HS. Note that you will need park hopper tix to go into two parks the same day!

27 Andrea { 08.01.14 at 8:52 am }

Thanks, Dave! So, do you agree that that’s the best way to spend our two days? I know Epcot isn’t usually the best park for a 2 and 5 y.o., but I figured Christmas might be an exception. I think we covered the big “must dos”…am I missing anything?

28 Dave { 08.02.14 at 7:31 am }

Yup, Andrea–although while you are around MK, you might also want to look at the Xmas decorations in the nearby hotels as well!

29 Andrea { 08.02.14 at 8:56 am }

Great! Two more questions: I read on another blog that, if you’re only going to visit one resort at Christmas, you should do the Grand Floridian. Do you agree?
If we arrived early and decide to do a park on Saturday afternoon/evening, what would you recommend?

30 Dave { 08.02.14 at 9:11 am }

Andrea, tastes will differ. I’d argue if just one, then the Wilderness Lodge, and if two, then WL and GF.

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