i. Basic Itinerary and Disney Itinerary Design Goals

By Dave Shute

When to Go      Itineraries for the Rest of the Year      Basic Itinerary

OVERVIEW

Disney-World-Basic-December-Itinerary-v3-hspThis Walt Disney World itinerary is designed for three specific December weeks.

If you can’t do the Basic Itinerary, see Other Itineraries for alternatives for both the December weeks and all of the rest of the year.

You can review the basic itinerary by clicking on the thumbnail; to enlarge it, when it’s open, click it again a couple of times.

As in all the itineraries on this site, there is also a detailed page for each day of your vacation, with specific instructions for that day.

The links to those pages can be found on the second of the two pages of this entry, the link for which can be found at the end of the text on this page.

ITINERARY DESIGN GOALS

The basic itinerary was designed to meet several goals: to ensure that you

  1. See the best that Walt Disney World has to offer
  2. See the parks in the order that works best for kids (essentially Epcot first, as it is potentially the most disappointing, and the Magic Kingdom last, as it is likely to be the best loved)
  3. Avoid unnecessary waiting (sometimes by being at the parks when they open, but also by using other tactics…)
  4. Avoid unnecessary traps–for example, when possible, do not attend park-closing fireworks events on the nights that these events…actually close the parks, as you will then be stuck in a crowd of tens of thousands all trying to exit at once
  5. Have as much time off, and as few early mornings, as practical
  6. Avoid unnecessary spending–for example, the basic itinerary does not require you to buy the “Park Hopper” option, saving you more than $200

If you can’t do the Basic Itinerary, see Other Itineraries for alternatives for both the December week and the rest of the year.

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Click HERE for links to detailed daily itineraries and your To-Do List

PAGES:  1  | 2 |  Next

GENERAL ITINERARY LINKS

  • For itinerary design goals and the basic December Itinerary, see this
  • For shorter and longer itineraries targeted at the same December week, see this
  • For itineraries covering all the other parts of the year, see this
  • To design your own itinerary, see this
  • For rides that might be skipped, see this
  • For a comprehensive guide to rides and attractions, see this

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320 comments

1 Pat { 11.16.10 at 6:55 pm }

Can you list which hotels near WDW and Universal offer smoking rooms or at least a balcony you’re allowed to smoke on? This info is lacking from most hotel websites so results in a whole lot of digging for those of us who smoke!

2 Dave { 11.16.10 at 8:07 pm }

Pat that’s a great question, and I don’t have an answer. I know that the Howard Johnson at Maingate East had smoking rooms as of January 2010…but it’s far from Universal. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/01/27/the-tightwads-guide-to-staying-off-site-at-walt-disney-world/

This seems to me like the kinda question you best can crowd-source. Suggest you raise it on a Disney discussion board like Disboards.com …

3 Jennifer { 04.11.11 at 11:23 am }

Hi Dave – I just LOVE your website! We’re going to WDW Sunday, 9/18 – Saturday, 9/24 and staying at the Polynesian (mainly because of your recommendation, it’s our 1st trip with the kids). What are your thoughts on Extra Magic Hours? Should we avoid going to those parks because of bigger crowds? We didn’t buy the park hopper (FYI). Also, we arrive Sunday late morning, should we avoid going to the Magic Kingdom on Sunday (crowds)? If so, would you recommend Hollywood Studios (so we could have the opportunity to see Fantasmic)? Thanks!

4 Dave { 04.11.11 at 12:06 pm }

Hi Jennifer! Glad you love the site!

If you don’t have hoppers, morning EMHs are to be avoided, as their parks get quite crowded late morning compared to days without morning EMH. Evening EMH at Epcot are good–that’s Friday for you–as it lets you see Illiminations without you (and 20,000 other people) then immediately leaving the park.

Yes on HS Sunday, for Fantasmic. Avoid AK on Monday and Weds, because of AM EMH, avoid MK Thursday for the same reason, and do Epcot Friday for evening EMH. That means Tuesday at AK, back to the Studios Thursday am, MK Monday and Wednesday, and MK (including Fireworks) on Saturday.

5 Jennifer { 04.11.11 at 12:23 pm }

Thanks for the advice! If we can only do one, Fantasmic or Illiminations, what do you suggest? My youngest will be 4 1/2 and want to limit too many late nights (we will stay for MK fireworks for sure).

6 Dave { 04.11.11 at 12:43 pm }

I think Fantasmic is the best thing at Disney World. For a 4.5 year old, though, it can be intense and scary…though it has a happy ending!

If he’s at all skittish, I’d go with Illuminations, otherwise Fantasmic would be the one I’d pick.

7 Tara  { 05.22.11 at 6:25 pm }

Hi Dave, I am soooo glad I found your site. It’s very helpful. My daughter is turning for December 14th so we are planning our trip either the wk of the 3rd or wk of the 10th… Which would be closer to her bday. She    absolutely loves all the Disney characters, but Goofy is her favorite. She talks about him allllll DAY long. It’s so cute!! Anyway, I am getting mixed reviews regarding the weather and parks being open. I am looking to get a hotel with an inside heated pool, but as far as the water parks are they open?? And would you know of a hotel that is great for a 4 year old?? 

8 Tara  { 05.22.11 at 6:25 pm }

Sorry I meant she’s turning 4 December 14th… Sorry :)

9 Dave { 05.22.11 at 7:09 pm }

Hi Tara!

None of the DIsney resorts have indoor pools. I don’t know enuf about the hundreds of non Disney hotels to know who might have one–they are rare, as 8 months of the year they are unnecessaryt!

One of the two Disneywaterparks will be open, but if its a really lousy day they will close it too. All of the 4 theme parks will be open every single day.

If you have your heart set on an indoor pool, I’d suggest you work with a travel agent to help you find a hotel with one.

Pros of the first half of December are lower crowds, lower prices, and spectacular Christmas decorations and sepcial events. The weather is the con–it’s very variable, and can be either 75 or 45. See http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/when-to-go/next-best-dates/weather-and-when-to-go/

I’d go in December in a heartbeart…

10 Hossie { 06.04.11 at 9:16 am }

I am w0rried I am going to exhaust my family on the first day! My husband and I have an 8 and a 10 year old. We will be at WDW Sept 15-19. Yes, it is a tight trip. We will be staying at the Polynesian. Our flight gets in a 10:30am. We will be up around 6am to make the flight.

9/15-MK, dinner at HS and Fastasmic, quick lunch and dinner.
9/16-RD HS, lunch 50′s PT 12:10, break in afternoon. I have a 5:35 and a 7:55 Chef Micky reservation. I need to cancel one. Maybe Epcot after dinner, EMH.
9/17-RD AK in am, Epcot in afternoon. Break @2pm. ADR Garden Grill 5:45, Epcot.
9/18-RD MK, ADR Cinderella’s 11:45. Break@2pm. 5pm ADR Plaza. Parade and Fireworks.
9/19-open? either E or MK. Flight leaves at 4:30

What do you think? Thanks!

11 Dave { 06.05.11 at 8:13 am }

Hi Hossie!

My personal take is that you are too busy–too much hopping, too many ADRs. The hops cost you time, and the ADRs limit your flexibility.

The ADRs you have that I’d view as most skippable are the Plaza and Garden Grill (not saying they are bad, just most skippable.)

9/16 is a good night to be at Epcot as with EMH you can see Illuminations without having to leave the park right after. That implies doing the 5.35 Chef Mickey so you can get to EPcot in time for Illuminations at 9.

With that, and with cancelling the Garden Grill, you can take the afternoon of 9/17 off and nap and relax.

I’d continue to keep 9/19 open and decide the nightn before where you want to go…

Hope this helps!! Dave

12 Hossie { 06.05.11 at 8:31 am }

Thanks, for the advice. I have reworked my schedule for less hoping.

What is your opinion of a first day. I really don’t want to have a quiet first day. Our trip is too short to just relax. I am thinking Animal Kingdom with a quick dinner in Hollywood Studios and Fantasmic. We probably will get to AK around 1pm.

13 Dave { 06.06.11 at 5:49 am }

Hi again Hossie!

So long as your visit is longer than three days, I’m a big fan of partial day visits. The way Disney prices tickets, days after your third are almost free- e.g. $5/person/day. Your plan sounds fine…

14 Sharon { 06.06.11 at 2:27 pm }

Hi Dave,
I’m really overwhelmed by our first vist planned for December 6-11. We haven’t booked our rooms yet but did get flights. We will probably be at the Polynesian or the Fort Wilderness Lodge. Are the disney dining packages worth it? I did book the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for the 7th which is also my son’s 6th birthday. My daughter will be almost 8 at time of trip. I’ve read your site but can’t seem to fit into any of the iternaries and am afraid of missing something big. I want to do the hoop de review and Fantasmic but I’m kind of lost after that. Help?!

15 Dave { 06.06.11 at 3:43 pm }

Hi Sharon!

Let me know the ages of your kids, and your approximate airport arrival and departure times on the 6th and 11th, and I’ll make some suggestions.

The Dining Plan is worth it only if you would do at least one sit-down meal a day anyway, and given how brief your trip is, I’d advise against that…so I’d say no to the dining plan

16 Sharon { 06.06.11 at 6:48 pm }

Hi Dave,
My kids will be 5 and 7 at time of trip though my son’s birthday is during our stay so I would like to do a character meal for his birthday. We arrive on the 6th around 1p.m. and leave early Sunday the 11th . Thanks

17 Dave { 06.07.11 at 12:08 pm }

Hi Sharon! At that age your kids will be a little less into Epcot which makes things easier.

Suggest Epcot on your arrival date, including Illuminations at 9.30, Magic Kingdom the 7th, with an afternoon break before you return for MVMCP, Animal Kingdom the 8th, Hollywood Studios the 9th (the only night on your trip that Fantasmic is showing) and the Magic Kingdom again on the 10th. Hoop dee Doo fits best the 8th (AK closes at 5p that night)

The character dinner to shoot for on your son’s birthday is the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom. You should also consider doing the Fantasmic Dinner package on the 9th, since with the small number of shows your week you might have to wait two hours otherwise. The dinner package gives you a reserved area and less waiting–eg 30-40 minutes…

This itinerary doesn’t fit your dates and has other comparability problems, but will help you in designing the days themselves: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/shorter-and-longer-itineraries-for-the-december-week/basic-itinerary-5-nights6-days-version/

Hope this helps!! Dave

18 Sharon { 06.08.11 at 12:01 pm }

Thanks Dave, those suggestions are a big help. We are looking forward to a fun visit.

19 Dave { 06.08.11 at 12:08 pm }

:) …plus I fixed the typos…

20 Janetta { 07.12.11 at 2:49 pm }

Hi Dave
I am very impressed with your website! We are is South Africa and want to visit DW next year. Our daughter will be 14 then and not a kid anymore but a teenager. Would you still recommend the Polynesian? We plan to go for 10 days. Is that too long?

21 Dave { 07.12.11 at 3:47 pm }

Hi Janetta! Thanks…

10 days is good. You won’t spend all that time in the parks, but you need some down time between–I recommend a minimum of 9 days…

The hotel question is a great one.

Tell me a little more about your daughter’s interests–watersports?? science and invention? whatever…–and I’ll give you some recommendations. The Poly is a great choice even at her age but there may be better… For family privacy, you might also consider a one bedroom villa–see this http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/special-circumstances/special-circumstances-large-families/more-on-large-families-at-walt-disney-world/the-disney-vacation-club-dvc-resorts-at-walt-disney-world/ and if money is less an issue see also http://yourfirstvisit.net/2009/12/28/the-most-comfortable-place-to-stay-at-walt-disney-world-1-the-options/

If you want to feel a little at home, the Animal Kingdom Lodge has probably the US’s best collection of South African wines! Though you could access those by getting a dinner reservation there (at Jiko). See http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/10/13/review-jambo-house-at-disneys-animal-kingdom-lodge/

22 Janetta { 07.13.11 at 9:00 am }

I must commend you on your assistance and helpfulness! Daniella loves water sports, and yes, privacy for my husband and myself would be great! I am so glad I found your website because this Disney World is quite a duanting place for rookies like me!! Lookinf forward to you suggestions! This would most probably be a once in a life time visit – so I really want to make the most of it.

23 Dave { 07.13.11 at 9:10 am }

Thanks Janetta! Given both your points, I recommend a one-bedroom villa at Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary. The Contemporary has tons of water sports available… See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/09/13/review-bay-lake-tower-at-disneys-contemporary-resort/

24 Janetta { 07.13.11 at 9:36 am }

Dave, you are amazing!! Now that we have sorted the accomodation, we need to tackle the time. Daniella has vacation from 24 March to 9 April 2012 and again from 8 Dec to 15 Jan 2013. I know you recommend early Dec, but will it not be too cold for water sports?

25 Dave { 07.13.11 at 10:18 am }

This one’s easy. The March/April dates are during one of the busiest times of the year, so avoid those. See this for more: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/07/11/disney-world-crowds-in-2012-spring-break-2012/

Later December will bring in Xmas crowds–even worse than Easter crowds–and January typically has ride closures…see http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/05/12/winter-ride-closures-at-walt-disney-world/

Your period covers my number 1 week for 2012, so I’d recommend a December 8 2012 arrival date! See http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/10/20/2012-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/

Yes, this may well limit the watersports–but compared to the crowds that’s a tradeoff I’d advise to 100% of families… see http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/when-to-go/next-best-dates/weather-and-when-to-go/pool-days-november-through-february/

26 Janetta { 07.13.11 at 11:17 am }

Dave, once again thanks for your valueble advice. Your website will DEFINITELY go out to all my friends, aquintances, family etc,etc!! :)

27 Dave { 07.13.11 at 12:01 pm }

…and newspaper and magazine editors…don’t forget them! :)

28 Shonda { 07.17.11 at 12:58 am }

We are planning a trip for our then 6 year old daughter from Dec 3 – Dec 10, 2011. We have previously had to cancel a trip but had already put a deposit down to rent a house close to Disney with its on pool. The balance remaining is $900. I have been looking online at the value resorts and dining plans. It looks like for 5 days of tickets (we hope to do some non-Disney parks too) it will be somewhere around $900 +the $900 left for the house…so $1,800. To add the dining plan is some where around $700. Is it worth it to stay at one of the Disney resorts in order to have the dining plan or can we eat for less than that. We will eat at least one “nice” meal a day, I am sure. I am also interested in some Princess dinners for our daughter. I love your site. Thanks for your help. Shonda

29 Dave { 07.17.11 at 8:12 am }

Hi Shonda!

You may save a little money on the dining plan given your intent to have a nice meal a day. But it won’t be a lot. It’s really a question of how much more (or less) your hotel vs house costs are. Also note that if you stay at the house, you’ll have to pay $14 a day at Disney for pakring. If you stay at a WDW hotel, parking is free….

30 Stephenie { 07.31.11 at 2:54 pm }

Hi Dave!
My husband and I are planning on going to WDW Dec 1 to Dec 12, 2011, and were thinking of going to the Riverside resort. We’ve gone a couple times before-stayed at Animal Kingdom on our honeymoon,,,and Coronado another time we went. Of course I loved AK lodge, but a bit pricey. Would you recommend Riverside for a couple/no kids?
Also, how is French Quarter vs. Riverside?
And do you think a 10 day park hopper is too long?? I can’t imagine, but thought I’d ask. :)

Thank you,
Steph

31 Dave { 07.31.11 at 3:29 pm }

Hi Stephenie!

Yes I would–and particularly French Quarter. Riverside is as spread out as Coronado Springs, but French Quarter is compact and lovely.

See this http://yourfirstvisit.net/2009/10/23/review-disneys-port-orleans-french-quarter-resort/ and also this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/10/25/personal-favorites-the-moderate-resorts/

Re the ten day hopper–remember that you can add days during your trip at no more cost than it would be to buy them now. Given that, I’d probably get fewer than ten and add more if needed once there…

32 Christine { 08.01.11 at 1:09 pm }

Hi Dave,

We are going to be in WDW November 29 thru December 4. I have reserved the Hoop-Dee-Doo Review (1st night at 6:15 pm), Royal Castle Cinderella Breakfast (9:05 am of the 3rd day), and Chef Mickey (7:15 morning of 2nd day) for our stay…we are using the Magic Your Way Plus Dining, do you think we should change it to the Deluxe Dining based on using the dining plan to pay for the reservations above? Our daughter is 2 (will be 3 in mid-December).

PS – There are 4 adults and one child (my daughter going and staying at Ft. Wilderness).

Also, if you have any suggestions for itinerary, that would be fantastic! It’s a little overwhelming trying to plan, but so exciting too!!!

Thanks so much for your help, it is greatly appreciated!!! We’re soooo excited now that we’re finally booked : )

Christine

33 Dave { 08.01.11 at 2:04 pm }

Chrisitne–I’ll get back to you on suggested parks in a day or so.

Re the deluxe dining plan, you need to prcie out the extra cash costs vs what you’d pay for the deluxe plan. I find most people find the deluxe plan to be much more expensive than the regular plan plus the incremental cash costs…but it varies by what you plan to do!

34 Dave { 08.02.11 at 12:53 pm }

Hi here’s my thoughts. You need to buy “Park Hoppers” to make this work–another $50 or so per person…let me know if you can’t. (The park hopper is because the only night Fantasmic is showing at the Studios is the same am you are doing Cindy at the MK, if I am interpreting “3rd day Cindy” correctly as Thurs the 1st…)

Weds the 30th: if you arrive in time go to the Studios before Hoop dee Doo
Thurs the 1st MK morning EMH and then Cindy and then more MK, but hopping to Studios to arrive by 5p to get in line for 6.30 Fantasmic
Fri the 2nd Epcot monring and evening, with Illuminaitons and evening Extra Magic hours
Sat the 3rd MK in morning and evening, with evening parade and fireworks
Sun the 4th AK or Studios–you pick!

35 Christine { 08.04.11 at 4:00 pm }

THANK YOU SO MUCH DAVE!!!! Your suggestions have been incredibly helpful, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. It is GREATLY APPRECIATED!!! Have a wonderful day!

Christine

36 Dave { 08.04.11 at 4:12 pm }

Christine, you’re welcome, and have a wonderful trip! Come back here when you are done and post about how it went! Dave

37 Stacey { 08.18.11 at 1:57 pm }

What a fun site with such great advice! My girls are 10 & 6 and my son is 2 1/2. This is our first trip to Disney (first big trip ever). We are going 9/21-9/27. My family had a rough couple of years and I want to celebrate my kids with as much magic as we can. We arrive 10:30 am on 21st and our plane is 7:30pm on 9/27. We are staying at Pop Century. We have so much we want to do. We are really considering the Not So Scary Halloween Party. I am not sure if is too late for my 2 year old. To save money, we didn’t do the park hopper option and we have the quick service meal plan. I somehow forgot about booking the CD : ( I did get breakfast at Crystal Palace on 22 and 23rd. If we do Halloween Party we would need to do the 23rd and cancel the 22nd. Do you find that any cancellations open slots this close to our arrival dates? I would LOVE any itinerary advice or any other first time advice.
THANK YOU!!

38 Dave { 08.18.11 at 2:49 pm }

Stacey it may take a day or to for me to get back to you on this…

39 Dave { 08.18.11 at 4:03 pm }

Hi Stacey, I’m back a little quicker than I’d thought I’d be.

Couple of things: cancellations happen, but I wouldn’t bet on them.

I don’t think the halloween party is worht the money–even for kids older than your 1.5 year old! See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/27/halloween-2011-at-walt-disney-world/

The 23rd is best at Epcot, which has PM EMH which makes it easier for you to see Illuminations.

The 22nd at MK (for your other Crystal Palace) is so-so. It has am EMH that day, so after 11 or so it will be a little more corwded than normal. That said, this is a very uncrowded time!

I’d go start at MK your arrival day, come back in the late afternoon for a nap, and then return for the evening parade and fireworks.

The 24th go to AK, and the 25th to HS. On the 26th return to your favorite park…

Hope this helps!! Dave

40 Jennifer Morris { 08.27.11 at 12:54 pm }

Hi we are planing a trip to wdw which is our first trip it is a surprise for the kids which are 12, 9 she is special needs also anda 7 year old we are arriving early to mid on dec 23rd 2012 and leaving mid to late on dec 29th 2012 we are looking for any all all help/advice anyone can give us so please help we do not know what days to do what my girls are into Disney as well as my son he went with his grandparents when he was 3 but this time he will not forget this trip is a long time of planing and saving for the perfect time we do want to suprise them as this is going to be the Christmas gift however we will do some little things in hotel room my husband is a chef and so we like to eat all types of food and my children are not pickey eaters either we are flying and will not have a car and are not going to go to anything that is not Disney plus the day we arrive we will not go to the park because it would be too much for the kids as well as the last day unless you think the 1st day would be worth it we are not getting hopper passes thats too much hopping for my daughter with special needs but since we are staying at disney do we still get the early morning hrs and late night hrs if available also? thank you so much i just want this trip to be something they will remember forever i went when i was young at christmas time and it was the best christmas

41 Dave { 08.27.11 at 5:34 pm }

Hi Jennifer!

That is the absolute worst time of the year to go. It is both the msot expensive time and the most crowded time to be there.

All of Disney’s Xmas program is in place by the day after Thanksgiving, so I’d strongly recommend rescheduling your trip.

For picking your weeks, see this:http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/10/20/2012-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/

For more on the Christmas season at WDW see this http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/05/29/christmas-2011-at-walt-disney-world/ It’;s about 2011, but applies to 2012 as well

42 Victoria { 09.09.11 at 9:09 am }

Hi. Thanks for the great site!! Anybody else reporting not being able to enlarge the “Basic Itinerary v2″ info? I have not been able to.

43 Dave { 09.10.11 at 2:47 pm }

Hi Victoria and thanks for the catch! Try it now and let me know what you think…

44 Lorie { 09.23.11 at 10:46 am }

Hi Dave!
I am planning kids first Disney trip. We will be going April 9-13, 2012. I know this is a very busy time, but the only time it works for us. Kids are 11 and 12. What do you suggest as must do and see in our time frame. We are staying at Pop Century.
Not sure of flight times yet.
Thanks!

45 Dave { 09.23.11 at 11:11 am }

Hi Lorie!

See the right side of the image on this page: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

Those are the favorites!

46 Julie { 10.01.11 at 3:44 pm }

Hi Dave!

I just came across your site and may I say it is WONDERFUL!!! This is our 1st trip to Disney, I have had this booked since January. My two children have no idea, we are surprising them the morning we fly out. So it is going to be a BIG morning! We have 4 day park tickets for November 19th, 2oth,21st, and 22nd. I was just wondering what day would be best to visit each park.. We would love to see the parades and night celebrations. Any advice would be great!

47 Dave { 10.01.11 at 6:41 pm }

Hi Julie! Because you are going during a busy and crowded time, the parades and fireworks are easy to see. If you want to see each of the parks, I’d advise MK the 19th, HS the 20th, Epcot the 21st, and AK the 22nd. However, if your kids are little (<8) I’d skip Epcot and add a second day at MK the 21st. Hope this helps and thanks for the kind words about the site! Dave

48 JJ { 10.04.11 at 9:32 am }

Hi Dave,
We are scheduling a last minute trip for Disney next week and staying at the Hilton on Int’l Blvd. We have 4 full days available (Sat Oct 15th-Tuesday Oct 18th). I can see from your wonderful blog that planning ahead is key. We have 3 boys ranging in age from 5-11 and would love some advise on which parks to visit on which days . Here are my questions: Is 4 parks in 4 days too much and if not, does it make sense to park hop? I also see from your blogs that dining with a character is an option.. can you tell me what that entails and how you make a reservation? I am purchasing tickets through my company and it looks like I get free passes to the water parks if I purchase a 4 day ticket.. which ones are the best for my boys based on their age? I believe the hotel is outside of Disney so would you recommend driving or taking the shuttle (price vs. convenience)?

49 Dave { 10.04.11 at 10:57 am }

Hi JJ!

For the parks, go to MK the 15th, HS the 16th, and AK the 17th. Return to your favorite–likely MK–the 18th, and, given the age of your kids, skip Epcot.

While you may get a free waterpark pass, the waterparks are not nearly as good as the theme parks, so I would not waste time on a waterpark.

For character dining–which will be hard to set up given your time frame–use the WDW website here: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining/

For suggested character meals, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-eat/dining-alternatives/character-meals-and-dinner-shows-ranked-in-order/

I think the Hilton probably has adequate transport. What you can do is once you are there, if you find its bus service too limited, is rent a car there…

Hope this helps and have a great trip!! Dave

50 Stephanie P { 10.12.11 at 5:38 pm }

I’ve been so totally overwhelmed by Disney planning! Your site has been amazing help but I still have questions. Our big hurdle is being a family w/6 kids, 7 of us plus an infant (mom/dad/girls 16,14,12/boys 9,7). We were going to rent an RV & stay at FW campground but hubby can’t imagine being that cramped. So, i’ve read that you suggest 2 rooms @ Polynesian or Wilderness. With the fall room rates at 30% off we might spring for it through AAA/WDW. Our dates are arrive Nov 27-Dec 2 departure… both resorts available with similar prices. I was going to go with Pop Century but hubby holding COMFORT at top of list. We will have a pack&play in room with us. Any thoughts on helping us choose would be great. Also, i assumed we would take advantage of extra magic hours but i see you caution against this? Should we be worried about the crowd level during this week or does that not necessarily apply? I’m hoping the transportation will be less congested as well? Appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.

51 Dave { 10.12.11 at 5:50 pm }

Hi Stephanie, did you see this page http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/12/20/deluxe-options-for-large-families-at-walt-disney-world/ ?

Extra Magic Hours are great first thing, but later in the day the park is more crowded than it would be on a non-EMH day.

You may see a bit of residual crowds from Thanksgiving the 27th, but otherwise it will be a great week!!

52 Tim { 10.13.11 at 2:37 pm }

How would this itinerary vary if we were staying at a non-Disney hotel. We will be taking a water taxi from our hotel, and it is supposedly a very short ride to Epcot. We will have two parents, four grandparents (all get around well), and a 7 & 4.5 year old. Another change from what you recommend is that we’re arriving and departing DW on Tuesdays (12/26/11 thru 1/3/12).

Thanks

53 Dave { 10.13.11 at 3:31 pm }

Hi Tim,

A couple of things: first, this itinerary does not works for you rweeks– for the first part of your week see this (even though it’s titled summer, it works for high crowd weeks) http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/12/06/summer-itinerary-for-walt-disney-world-v2/ and also this:http://yourfirstvisit.net/required-itinerary-changes-for-later-december-2011/

For the second part see http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/itineraries-for-the-rest-of-the-year/v2-of-2009-autumn-winter-spring-itinerary/

Second, I’m guessing from your description that you are staying at the swan or the dolphin, if so you don’t need to change anything beyond adapting the days. The days are specific, Friday means Friday…

54 Stephanie P { 10.13.11 at 10:38 pm }

Booked our rooms @ polynesian on your suggestion, got free dining too! I’m trying to nail down our parks itinerary for the week of Monday 11/28 (arrival 11/27@3:00) – Friday 12/2 (fly out Fri night).We have 6 kids…girls 16,14,12, boys 9&7, plus baby. Kids are very excited about hitting the rides mostly, but interested in mermaid, bug, lion king shows, maybe the car stunt show in HS if you think it’s worth the effort with this group. They would love all firework & light shows, and probably one evening at Downtown Disney. We want to take advantage of the extra magic hours and the kids are pretty tough when it comes to long days of fun. When I compare WDW calendars to your nov 2011/autumn itineraries I get a bit confused. And we don’t have a Saturday in our plan so that throws a wrench into things…I would sure appreciate your ideas for us on that week. The kids are also lobbying for Typhoon Lagoon but I don’t think there’s time for that this trip. I’m hoping the resort pools will be enough water fun.
Thanks for this incredible website!

55 Dave { 10.14.11 at 10:53 am }

Heya Stephanie given what you note here’s my recommendation:

On the 27th go to HS right after you check in and stay for evening EMH and Fantasmic. On the 28th, MK, including evening EMH and fireworks/parade. On the 29th AK, and the 30th Epcot, including evening holiday illuminations. Hold the 1st, and the am of the 2nd, for returning to one of these parks (likely HS and/or MK), and/or, if the kids insist, going to a waterpark.

56 Joan { 10.25.11 at 11:06 pm }

Hi, Dave,
Great site! We are bringing our 12-year-old niece for our first WDW trip on MLK holiday week, Jan.15–21, her only time available. Arrive Sunday noon and leave early Sat. a.m. We plan to stay at Disney resort property for the week, but want one day at Universal for Harry Potter. Which day of that holiday week would you recommend for Harry Potter, and what suggestions do you have for covering the highlights of WDW the rest of the days? Should we buy park-hopper passes to make the most of our limited time?
Thanks,
Joan

57 Dave { 10.26.11 at 10:08 am }

Hi Joan! This is a tricky week within your constraints given the possible crowds over Sunday and Monday (the rest of the week shoudl be fine!). I’d suggest MK on your arrival date, to see the evening parade and fireworks, Epcot on Monday, AK Tuesday, back to MK weds, HS Thursday, and Harry Potter Friday morning. Return to MK after Harry. You don’t need a hopper to make this work.

For hitting the highlights read through the itineraries here, focusing on what they suggest you do first! http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/ See also the right side of the graphic here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

58 Joan { 10.27.11 at 1:24 pm }

Thanks, Dave. Your WDW non-hopper itinerary looks great for us! One possible exception is that we are considering skipping HS altogether Thursday and moving over to Universal resort instead for Thursday/Friday nights so we can have TWO early admission Harry Potter mornings.
Several questions about this potential plan:
1) Are the perks of staying at Universal worth the time and trouble of moving hotels mid-week?
2) How helpful is the early admission feature to wizarding world since I understand that express pass does not work for Forbidden Journey? Does the early admission just get you in line for the ride earlier than outside guests? Or time in the Hogsmeade village before it gets packed?
3) How long do you anticipate wait for Forbidden Journey would be that time of year? In other words, if we spend just one day at Universal as opposed to staying overnight, would we be likely be able to ride it several times in that day without horrendous waits?
4) Aside from the Harry Potter exhibit, how do the other attractions at Universal stack up compared to HS for a 12-year old? Is it worth a two-day stay?
Joan

59 Dave { 10.27.11 at 3:24 pm }

Hi again Joan!

First, you get two days of early entry for one night at a Universal hotel–the day you check in, and the day you check out. You can check in at 7a (obviously you can’t get to your room) and get the room keys that allow you to enter early.

Second–I do strongly advise it. It makes a huge difference for the Wizarding World, and particularly for Ollivanders.

Third: there’s lots of relevant stuff in the material that begins here:
http://yourfirstvisit.net/2009/12/13/summary-of-instructions-for-your-first-family-visit-to-the-wizarding-world-of-harry-potter/

Finally, the rest of Universal is framed (mostly) around thrill rides–wild roller coasters, very cool and scary other attractions. I’d say that unless your daughter is a proven big coaster fan the studios are a better choice than the rest of Universal…if she were 15 I’d recommend the other way…

60 Laurie { 10.29.11 at 4:25 pm }

Hi Dave! Looking for advice on how to spend about 4 days in Disney World with our son(20) and daughter(24). We will be in FL to attend our daughter’s graduation from PT school on 12/9/11 and want to celebrate the holiday season and her graduation at Disney. Our time there is unfortunately limited, with arrival at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek planned for Sat. 12/10. We visited Disney World several times when the kids were younger and would love your help now as we feel like newbies again. It has been about 12 years since our last visit, and so much has changed, including our children!

We plan to purchase Park Hopper Passes and are considering MVMCP if you think we would enjoy it and could fit it in our tight schedule. We would love to attend the various Christmas events, parades, and fireworks, along with activities that would suit our now “older” family who still loves Disney! We are considering spending one of the days at Universal since our son is a Harry Potter and roller coaster fan. Do you think we can fit in a day at Universal? What sort of schedule would you suggest for us on the following days?

Arrival: Sat. 12/10 – about noon
Full days: Sun. 12/11 – Wed. 12/14
Check out Thurs. morning.

Any help for which parks/shows to hit which day, would be GREATLY APPRECIATED! I want this trip to be special; with the kids in college and our work schedules, it has been a long time since the four of us have been able to coordinate our schedules to all be together again vacationing as a family! By the way…we have never visited Disney in the winter, only the heat of the summer! Looking forward to the decorations and holiday spirit! Thanks Dave! Your site is wonderful!

Laurie

61 Dave { 10.29.11 at 5:49 pm }

Hi Laurie! Yours is a pretty tight schedule, but you’ll have a great time anyway.

I’d skip the hopper–you don’t need it.

Here’s my suggested days:
12/10: MK asap, and do rides during the fireworks and parade
12/11: Epcot, including illuminations,and try to get in to the Candlelight Processional. Suggest taking the afternoon off.
12/12: Hollywood Studios, including the Osbourne xmas lights and Fantasmic
12/13: Animal Kingdom
12/14: Harry Potter, then MVMCP including the fireworks and parade.

For which rides to target, see the right side of this page: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

Hope this helps and have a great trip!

62 Laurie { 10.29.11 at 11:13 pm }

This definitely helps! Thanks again!

63 Dave { 10.30.11 at 7:22 am }

Have a great trip, Laurie!

64 Laurie { 11.22.11 at 8:37 pm }

Hi again Dave! Our plans have changed slightly from my previous posting. After an afternoon check-in, we will spend our first evening (Sat. 12/10) visiting Downtown Disney and various resorts. Our last day in Orlando will now be Thurs. 12/15, and we will spend this one at Universal. I have checked dates for MVMCP at MK and the Candlelight Procession at Epcot (We’d like to see narrator Neil Patrick Harris who is scheduled for 12/11 and 12/12.) and have come up with the following possible schedules which include these events on the days we would visit the respective parks since we would not be park hopping as per your previous advice. Do these schedules look good to you? And if so, which one do you think would be better considering park crowds, the Christmas events, and the day of the week?

Days Schedule 1: or Schedule 2:
Sun 12/11 Epcot(Candlelight) or MK (MVMCP)
Mon 12/12 Hwd. Studios or Epcot(Candlelight)
Tues 12/13 MK (MVMCP) or Hwd. Studios
Wed 12/14 Animal Kingdom Animal Kingdom

I am choosing Animal Kingdom rather than any other park for our last day, since we may not want to spend a late evening at a park that night since we will be up early the next morning to head to Universal!

Your help is much appreciated. We are so excited about our trip!

Thanks for helping!
Laurie

65 Dave { 11.23.11 at 8:14 am }

Hi Laurie–I’m not keen on AK the 14th, as you will be arriving on an Extra Magic Hours morning, so the park will be busy when you arrive and really busy by late morning. For the three days before, either schedule looks good!

66 Aaron { 11.26.11 at 12:15 pm }

Hey Dave,
Your site is fantastic. The information is useful to anyone planning a Disney vacation. It has inspired me to blog my own vacation planning process. I’ll send you a link when it goes live.

Here’s my question: Is Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party worth the cost for a young married couple with no kids? The plan is to arrive on 12/10/2012

Thanks a million!

67 Dave { 11.27.11 at 12:38 pm }

Hi Aaron, it’s a tough call. What you get is special fireworks, which are great, lower crowds, and a fun, festive atmosphere. If one or both of you really loves Christmas and its pagentry, it will be a fun experience and a charming memory…but what’s your next best use of the money you’d spend to attend…

68 Aaron { 11.27.11 at 3:29 pm }

Hey Dave,

I was on the fence. I was worried it would be a mob scene. It sounds like a great time, we’re going for it!

69 Dave { 11.27.11 at 3:54 pm }

Yeah because they only sell 25k tix, it’s not too bad a mob. Have a great trip, and send me a link to your planning! Dave

70 Matt Z { 12.02.11 at 6:52 pm }

Dave,
I was going to buy Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party tickets for the 18th, but I waited too long and they’re all sold out. Is there another means to procure tickets? Or do folks resale tickets? DO I have and hope for my family… :(
Thanks

71 Dave { 12.03.11 at 9:14 am }

Hi Matt! I’ve seen posts on disboards.com from people looking to buy and sell MVMCP tix…because of the fraud risk, I’d only buy from someone who has a LOT of posts there…

72 Janetta { 12.05.11 at 11:24 am }

Hi Dave, I am in a bit of a pickle! In our previous chat you recommended that I book at the Bay Lake Tower (1 Bedroom) for 10 days arriving 8 Des 2012. I thought booking only opens 12 months in advance. When I checked the Bay Lake today, it says there is no accomodation available for those dates! What now?

73 Dave { 12.05.11 at 11:33 am }

Hi Janetta!

You can book 500 days out–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/02/21/how-far-in-advance-can-you-book-a-walt-disney-world-vacation/

Remind me what you were looking for and I’ll suggest some alternatives…sorry this one didn’t work!

74 Janetta { 12.05.11 at 12:06 pm }

I am just a bit perplexed because the Disney World reservations says I can only book up to 31 Dec 2012 which is far less than 500 days! Anyway, we are a faimly of three: my husband and I and our teenage daughter of 14. We want to go in your suggested 10 bday period starting 8 Dec 2012. We also want family privacy. That is why you suggested the 1 br. Do you think I must try your travel agent?

75 Dave { 12.05.11 at 6:02 pm }

Hi for the next best one-bedroom options ranked in order, see this page http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/special-circumstances/special-circumstances-large-families/more-on-large-families-at-walt-disney-world/the-disney-vacation-club-dvc-resorts-at-walt-disney-world/

Re the 500 days–you can’t do 500 on the website, only on the phone or via a travel agent. Many Disney reservationists–and even travel agents!–don’t know about the 500 day rule….

76 Janetta { 12.07.11 at 10:59 am }

Hi Dave
I managed to find a 1 bedroom villa at the Polynesian for our 9 nights. Two more questions: I see on your basic itinerary that we visit only one kingdom per day – so do we not need to get a Park Hopper ticket? Then I would also like you to point me to your 9 night (10 day) itinerary. We are also cosidering checking into a hotel near the airport the day before we enter Disney to allow us to get over our jetlag – we are flying in from South Africa. Will we be able to catch the Disney Express from the airport even though we landed the day before?

77 Dave { 12.07.11 at 12:55 pm }

Hi Janetta!

Couple of things: for the 9-night itinerary, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/shorter-and-longer-itineraries-for-the-december-week/basic-itinerary-more-relaxed-version/ You do not need a hopper for this.

You probably already know this, but what you have at the Poly is not a villa but a suite. The basic difference is that at a suite you do not get a full kitchen, but do get concierge service. For more see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2009/12/28/the-most-comfortable-place-to-stay-at-walt-disney-world-1-the-options/

Re using the Disney express after checking in elsewhere, I’m not sure. I’d think you are eligible for it your day of Disney check in, not your date of plane arrival…but am not sure. If you can’t use it, cab fare will cost you ~$70. There is a hotel in the Orlando airport–I think it’s a Hyatt…

78 mamawbud { 12.17.11 at 6:46 pm }

Oh yes we have 5 day hoppers

79 Dave { 12.18.11 at 9:41 am }

The park hoppers help, as they let you return to a different park if the first park you visited in a day closes…

80 SDVA { 12.28.11 at 2:31 pm }

Hi Dave,

I LOVE YOUR SITE! It is so helpful. We’re set to go to Disney World/Universal 12/30-1/5 and this will be our first time with our 3 children ages 22, 20 and 16 + my parents both 74. We will be staying at an offsite property in Kissimmee FL (Wyndham Cypress Palms) and have booked for a car rental. What kind of itinerary would you recommend from 12/31 through 1/4? The other 2 days (12/30 and 1/5) are for travel. We’ve been to Disneyland in CA 4 times and my kids are more interested in thrill rides while my parents just want to be there and take photos, lol. We want to be at the best place to watch the New Year’s Eve Fireworks, possibly not crazily crowded.

Please advise, any suggestions, tips for best budget on park tickets would be greatly appreciated. I hope to hear from you soon!

Best regards,
SDVA from New York

81 Rhonda { 12.28.11 at 5:15 pm }

Thank you SO much for this site! Here’s my dilemma: 5 kids with these ages: 14, 11, 9, 2, and <1. We'll be at WDW April 29-May 5, but where should we stay? The Contemporary appeals to me so that I can sneak away with the two little kiddos for daily afternoon naps. However, our big kids are rather big, and we don't want to be "stuffed" into a room, cuz we'll still have the stroller, diaper bags, etc. So our top priorities are convenience and a roomy room. What's the best deal in light of those priorities? Thanks much!

82 Dave { 12.28.11 at 5:16 pm }

Hi SDVA, and thanks!

Crowds will be appalling through the morning of the 2nd. The best thrill rides are at Epcot, AK, and HS. Suggest AK the 3rd and HS the 4th. For NYE, try Epcot, but see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/05/30/new-years-eve-20112012-at-walt-disney-world/ Do MK the other days, not expecting to ride much after noon… and arrive at least 45 mins before the parks open!

For ideas on the best at the parks, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

83 Rhonda { 12.28.11 at 5:18 pm }

Oh–and what about the water parks? For a 7-day trip, should I buy maybe a 4-day magic your way pass and a 3 day water park & more pass?

84 Dave { 12.28.11 at 5:26 pm }

Hi Rhonda! Are yuo draggin along a husband as well? Standard Disney rooms sleep 4 or 5, and they won’t let you add another (except a kid under 3.) For links to options for families that won’t fir these sizes, see this page: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/special-circumstances/special-circumstances-large-families/

85 Dave { 12.28.11 at 5:28 pm }

Rhonda most families find even 6 days in the theme parks not enough, and needa t least one full day off.

I’d skip the waterparks option until you arrive and have a better sense of the scope of WDW. You can start with 4 days of theme park passes and add more days at no extra cost compared to buying them now so long as you buy the extra days no later than the 4th day you use the theme park tickets…extra theme park days cost on the order of $9/day/person…

86 Adam { 12.30.11 at 1:47 am }

Dave. Please help. We are going to surprise our 9yr old son for his birthday with trip to wdw in early feb. unsure about how long to stay and should we avoid weekends. We want to do universal to see Harry potter. Very confused. Please help

87 Dave { 12.30.11 at 7:55 am }

Hi Adam! If this may be your ONLY visit, see http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/how-long-to-stay/ If you know you can return soon–in the next year or two, plan for a minimum of 6 days–one in each of the four WDW theme parks, one at Universal for Harry Potter, and one off…

88 Lisa { 01.09.12 at 10:59 pm }

We are arriving 12/11 out on 12/18 we would like to go to the Merry Christmas Party & enjoy as many Christmas events as we can. We haven’t been to Disney before. I’m a single mom taking my 20 yr old son, 16 yr son & 12 yr daughter. Any tips you can give us for planning to see the special holiday events would be very helpful.

89 Dave { 01.10.12 at 8:22 am }

Hi Lisa! Disney’s December schedules won’t be out til May or June, and the MVMCP dates even later than that. IN the meantime, take a look at this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/basic-itinerary-daily-links/ and also this (for 2011 but a good guide until the 2012 specifics come out): http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/05/29/christmas-2011-at-walt-disney-world/

90 Fiona { 01.15.12 at 4:27 pm }

Hi Dave

I think this site is amazing!!!…there is just nothing else like it!- you have done a great job
We have planned a trip from 5/4/12- 26/4/12 Easter.
|We are staying at Emerald Island Resort in a villa for 3 weeks and have 14 day tickets for all parks Universal/Disney/busch gardens, water parks etc.. except wet & wild.
Reservations so far are:
Sunday 15th April Cinderella table res at 18:45pm
Sunday 22nd April Discovery cove all day
We are a family of 4, children are 11 and 5, 5 year old measures 42inches.
I am trying to make sure we visit everywhere worth visting, but also actually relax!?..its a 3 week break and its an 8hr flight from the UK, we have never been before.
Do you have any advice for must do’s..and how to use your plans but across 3 weeks, bearing in mind some of it is Easter.
Also planning to have a food delivery from Garden grocer!?- worth it?..
Thanks in advance for any advice
Fiona

91 Dave { 01.15.12 at 4:46 pm }

Hi Fiona, and thanks!

For an extended itinerary, see the example on the bottom of this page: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/02/24/the-comfortable-guide-to-how-long-to-stay-at-walt-disney-world/ It won’t suit your days or dates, but gives you a starting point, and has some links at the bottom with further help.

Must dos for Disney are here: (the right side) http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

The Easter crowds will disappear beginning April 15 at the latest, and possibly a few days before. As much as you can, push your park visits til after those dates…

Garden Grocer is worth it if you don’t have a rental car. If you have a rental–or want to get one for shopping–see this, which includes local grocery stores: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/08/30/the-tightwads-guide-to-how-to-eat-at-walt-disney-world/

Hope this helps and have a great visit! Dave

92 Sheena { 01.15.12 at 7:59 pm }

Which itinerary and To Do List should I use for a trip in October 2012? Thanks

93 Sheena { 01.15.12 at 8:12 pm }

Sorry Dave,
I feel very bad for posting ANOTHER message. The more I read, the more questions arise. As I’ve said in a previous message, this is my family’s first time and b/c of my job, my husband’s job, and my son’s school schedule, our time frame is very tight. (10/18-10/22) Could you please suggest an itinerary where we could maximize our time and experience? Thank you. Things I’d like to squeeze in are:
1. MK
2. Universal
3. Dinner at Cinderella’s Castle
4. Epcot
5. A character brkfst/lunch/or dinner
6. Cirque Du Soleil for adults
7. SeaWorld
8. A dinner show

94 Dave { 01.15.12 at 9:47 pm }

Hi Sheena–as noted earlier, I won’t have itineraries out for October until Disney releases its October calendar–likely late March. When they are out, you’ll be able to find them on this page: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/

95 Dave { 01.15.12 at 9:51 pm }

Sheena, I can tell you that your are trying to do too much in the time frame you have. Tell me the ages of your kids, and whether you think you’ll have a chance to return in the next 3-5 years, and I’ll help you focus…

96 Tina { 01.22.12 at 4:19 pm }

Hi Dave, would like to say what a fab site you have here. I am planning a hol to DW arriving on 12/20/2012 through to 01/03/2013 and there will be 4 adults. we will be staying in a villa in Davenport and are looking for somewhere to spend NYE. Can you suggest anywhere? My husband will be driving most of the holiday so would like to be able have a drink so I had thought of booking into a disney hotel for NYE. Is all the action at the parks or is there anything at City Walk. Also we were looking to do something other than the parks while we are in Orlando, I have heard someone mention a ranch that is nearby with many activities, do you know of anything? We will be hiring a car so travel would not be a problem.
Thanks in advance, Tina

97 Dave { 01.22.12 at 4:28 pm }

Hi Tina, and thanks! I’m sorry to say that I don’t know about much other than Disney World itself.

98 Tina { 01.22.12 at 6:11 pm }

Hi Dave, thank you for the prompt reply. Going on what you said we are thinking of spending NYE in either Epcot or HS. I look to see if there are any hotels so may book one of these any recommendations? We will want to be able to book in early to get into the parks, Tina

99 Dave { 01.23.12 at 8:10 am }

Hi Tina! The best choice is one of the Epcot resorts, as from these you can walk to either Epcot or HS. The BoardWalk, Beach Club, and Yacht Club are the Disney resorts at Epcot. The Swan and Dolphin are also options…

100 Tina { 01.23.12 at 1:56 pm }

Thank you very much for your help Dave. I really appreciate it :-)

Tina

101 Dave { 01.23.12 at 7:30 pm }

Tina, glad to help and have a great trip!

102 Sheena { 01.26.12 at 10:56 am }

Hi Dave, I totally agree with you! We are considering moving our vacation to the first week of June 2013. I’m a teacher and from what I’m reading, it sounds best. I can stay for over a week and it will give us more time to do the things we want. We are going with some other family members. It will be 14 total (6 adults) Kids are 5, 9, 10, 11, 12). Are those dates better or will it be too crowded?

103 Dave { 01.26.12 at 12:48 pm }

Sheena, the June date is OK, but the October dates are better!

104 Sheena { 01.27.12 at 5:53 pm }

Hi Dave,
Thanks again for your attentiveness and wonderful site! I know the Oct. dates are better, I think about that every time I begin to make more plans for the trip. My dilemma was that in June, We could spend more days (possibly the much needed 8 days) but the Oct. dates I could only spend 3/4 nights since I can’t take time off from school (teacher) for vacation time. Ughhhh….Is is worth it to sacrifice the less busy crowds in order to spend more time at WDW?

105 Dave { 01.27.12 at 6:00 pm }

Oh Sheena, you are right–I had forgotten how few days worked for you in Oct. Go for June!!!

106 Eva { 01.28.12 at 1:22 pm }

LOVE YOUR SITE! Thank you so much! Now for the question… :)
We have booked a 5 night, 6 day trip for WDW 5/6-5/11. 2 adults and 2 boys ages 4, and 5.5. We are driving from Savannah, GA, so I feel that we can be in Orlando by about 4:00 on 5/6. We are staying at POR and have the regular dining plan.
I have booked 6 days of tickets and would like to “something” that night. I was thinking of booking at Chef Mickey’s for that night to start the trip off with some character interaction, but what do you think of hitting up HS that night? Its the park we are least excited about, but the kids love the characters that are there. Too much? Will we be able to enjoy it and not have to go back? Also, if you dont mind, what do you suggest for the rest of the days? Im conflicted about what parks to do when as we dont fit neatly into your itinerary (which is wonderful and helpful). I want to MK at least 2 days and not have to rush. Thanks SOOOO much!

107 Dave { 01.28.12 at 3:41 pm }

Hi Eva!

There’s not much at HS (and hardly anything at Epcot) for boys that age. (See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/ By that time, lines are long… I’d advise instead getting early dinner at Hoop Dee Doo Revue, and then the Magic Kingdom for the evening parade and fireworks.

The rest of the week you need three mornings at MK, and maybe one each at AK and HS. Also consider getting a babysitter and having the two of you got to Epcot in the evening for dinner and fireworks (if you go to another park that same day, you’d have to buy a park hopper, so that may make this idea too expensive….)

There aren’t a lot of bad days, so I’m going to suggest parks to avoid rather than parks to go to:

5/6: Avoid MK unless just for the parade and fireworks
5/7: Avoid HS and AK
5/8: Avoid Epcot
5/9 Avoid AK
5/10 Avoid MK
5/11 Avoid Epcot

Hope this helps! Dave

108 Eva { 01.28.12 at 11:32 pm }

it does help! Thank you so much! This site has helped me plan my trip more than any other one one the web. Awesome job :)

109 Dave { 01.29.12 at 9:23 am }

Thanks, Eva, and have a great trip!

110 Ashley { 02.20.12 at 8:30 am }

Good morning! My husband and I will be taking our 4 year old to Disney the last week in May for 6 days. We plan to do all the parks with Magic Kingdom being the 2nd and last day there. What other park would you suggest we spend a sencond day at?I could not decide between AK or HS.

111 Dave { 02.20.12 at 9:35 am }

Hi Ashley!

There’s not much at the other parks for a 4 year old, certainly not enough for 2 days, so I’d advise at nost 1 day each at the non-MK parks and 3 days at MK. Consider skipping Epcot entirely and taking that day off!

See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

112 Charita { 02.26.12 at 7:54 pm }

Hi Dave! My husband and 10yr old son are planning to visit WDW either in Sept or oct and we have absolutely no clue where to even start. We are hoping to spend 7-10 days. My son loves waterparks so we’d be interested in Blizzard beach/Typhoon Lagoon as well. Universal and Sea world are a must as well. Can you just give me some tips as to how long we should plan for each park, some must sees or do’s…my son wouldn’t be interested in any character stuff and we don’t need any fancy meals on a daily basis. I’m completely lost with figuring out any kind of budget or where to even start lol! Any advice would help!!! Thanks!

113 Dave { 02.27.12 at 5:54 am }

Hi Charita, you’re in the right place. Just start on the home page and work your way down… http://yourfirstvisit.net/

114 Jaime { 03.16.12 at 9:13 am }

Hi Dave!
Your site has been a huge help for my family as we are leaving for WDW next Friday, 3/23 and staying through Tuesday. We have a 6 and 3 year old. We do not have hopper passes and figured 2 days we would spend at MK, 1 day at AK and our last day just at the hotel pool since we have an early afternoon flight back home. Would you suggest spending the one remaining day we have at Epcot or Hollywood? I heard great things about both, but also concerned that there may not be enough at Epcot for my kids to last a whole day. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

115 Dave { 03.16.12 at 10:26 am }

Hi Jaime and thanks! Glad the site has helped.

Definitely not Epcot, and maybe not even the Studios. Suggest you astay open to returning to MK or AK on that last day, and make the decision the day before.

If at that time you feel you’ve covered them, then the Studios is the next best bet…see the bottom rows of the image on this page for rides attractive to kids the age of yours: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

116 Jaime { 03.16.12 at 2:37 pm }

Thanks, Dave!

One more question if you mind…

We have a 5 day pass (not hooper)…if we wanted to visit two different parks in one day using 2 different tickets, is that possible?? Wondering if the passes are dated so that you truly can only enter one park per day….

117 Dave { 03.16.12 at 3:00 pm }

Hi Jaime, ask away! No, you can’t–your ticket is coded and tracked, so they know once you’ve entered a park…and once entered, that’s the only one you can be in that day without a hopper

118 charo { 03.18.12 at 11:33 pm }

hi dave!thanks for coming up with this site.its a huge help for people like me who has no idea of what to expect at WDW.my husband & I with our 2kids ages 3 & 10 mo kids are driving from NY to FL, expecting to arrive in orlando on may 18&will stay until may 28.im attending a conference on may 21 to 24 so we have may 18-20 & 25-28 to visit WDW.please give me advise on how to spend our time to on all 4 parks.im planning to do character meals like cinderella, crystal palace,chef mickey

119 charo { 03.18.12 at 11:42 pm }

hi again dave,i hit the submit button by mistake!to continue;
i would like to know if the dinning plan would be a good idea for us. it will be our 1st time to go to WDW & might be the last.my 3 y/o daughter is sooo excited about this trip.what else can we do to make it a very memorable trip for her?for the hotel,im not sure if we will stay in disney resort or outside for the reason i wanted a spacious room but with less price.what can u say about doubletree at dismey or the one at seaworld and the wyndham hotel?lastly,do u think its still possible to go to universal for a day?
thanks so much in advance.i hope u dont get confused with so many questions

120 Dave { 03.19.12 at 6:47 am }

Hi Charo–this is in reply to your first comment.

Frankly, for kids the age of yours, there’s not much outside of the Magic Kingdom of interest, so you may want to reconsider the “see all 4 parks” idea. See the bottom row of this chart–which is designed for kids even older than yours: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

They should enjoy the character meals though!

121 Dave { 03.19.12 at 6:49 am }

Hi Charo! First, you can’t get the dining plan if you don’t stay at a Disney Resort. Second, there’s so mnay hotels in the area that I focus only on the WDW resorts themselves, so have no comment to offer on the Doubletree or Wyndham.

You can go to Universal for a day, but there’s next to nothing there for kids the ages of yours…

122 Grace { 04.25.12 at 12:49 pm }

Hi Dave, this is me and my family first visit to wdw. I have a 7 year old girl and a 5 year old boy. We are staying at the wilderness lodge from sept.18-25. I have already booked all of my dining for the week. T-Rex lunch Tuesday, akershus dinner on wed (do epcot),chef Mickey breakfast (do MK) thursday, Friday AK then spirit of aloha for dinner (8:00), sat HS then we have dinner Hollywood and vine (fantasmic show). Sunday we either have lunch or dinner at the whispering canyon cafe at our resort ( I was thinking going to MK come back for lunch and relax and then go back during the magic hours), Monday dinner at 1900 park fare ( I was thinking MK or?). All said and done I have booked my package with the 7 day ticket + park hopper. The more I talk to people the more I get confused. Some people say not to get the hopper and others say yes. From my schedule above I really can’t see me and my family going from one park to another. What do you think? Also I priced out taking out the hopper and adding an extra day, it was only about a hundred dollars more. I really do want to be able to find the happy medium so we can enjoy the parks and our resort. Thanks!

123 Dave { 04.25.12 at 1:30 pm }

Hi Grace! It looks like you are targeting parks on their EMH days.

For morning extra magic hours this can be a bad idea, as while the first 60-120 minutes are great, the park is more crowded the rest of the day than it would be on a non-EMH day. Some people handle this with hoppers–they start at an am EMH park, and hop away later when it gets too crowded. (Evening Extra Magic hours are both less of a benfeit and less of a problem, and I like them for Illuminations and Fantasmic nights.)

If the thought doesn’t drive you crazy, I’d either 1. reconceive your days to avoid am EMH days, and skip the hopper, or 2 keep the hopper, but assume you are hopping away from the morning EMH park and hence not dining there that evening. Either of these apporaches may require you to change some of your ADRs…

Coupla more thoughts–the luau is skippable, and if you do a breakfast, schedule it as late as you can (e.g. 10.30), as the low-crowd first hours in the parks are too valuable to spend dining…

124 Diane { 05.07.12 at 8:06 pm }

We are planning a Disney trip arriving at noon on Nov 21 and leaving Nov 26 am. We are making reservations at Polynesian. 2 grandparents, 4 parents and children ages 15, 14, 11, 10, 6. Tenatively plan MK on Wed, AK or HS on Thurs (relaxing part of day at Pollynesian) MK on Fri, AK or Epcot on Sat (children not too fond of Epcot), MK on Sun. Is this a good plan? Purchasing dining plan. ???Crystal Palace Wed, Trails End Thurs (then to HS for the lights?) Ohana’s Fri, Chef Mickeys breakfast Sat and Sun something at MK maybe Liberty Tree Tavern or back to Polynesian Kona (?) Is this a good plan? Would love your input!! Thank you, Dave!!!

125 Dave { 05.08.12 at 7:05 am }

Hi Diane! Things will be quite crowded during Thanksgiving Week, but your overall approach looks great to me. The only thing that looks unusual to me is Trail’s End–curious why you picked that one…

126 Diane { 05.08.12 at 9:24 pm }

No particular reason – just tried to avoid MK on Thursday. Some of the family had just never been to Fort Wilderness. How will it be to get from Polynesian to Fort Wilderness to HS in one afternoon? Not sure of the logistics for this choice. We are open to suggestions. Would a dining plan restaurant at HS work better? We had wanted to hang out at resort on Thurs morning. Our grands LOVE Christmas lights and we have heard about HS Osborne Light Display and Fantasmic! Is Thurs. our best bet for these attractions or will it be too crowded? Our overall favorite restaurant on our first Disney trip a couple of years ago was Ohana’s. Please make a suggestion for Thanksgiving bearing in mind our other restaurant choices. Thank you SO much! I love your website!!

127 Dave { 05.09.12 at 6:35 am }

Diane, all the parks will be mobbed most of that week, and particularly so on Thanksgiving Day. I have no issues with Trail’s End–it’s just undistinguished. Ditto for the HS restaurants other than the Brown Derby…if you pick HS, Brown Derby for food, or 50′s Prime Time for silly fun.

I think what I’d recommend is one of the two restaurants at Wilderness Lodge–Artist Point for food quality, or Whispering Canyon for family fun.

Transport to WL is the same as transport to FW. Monorail to MK, then boat from in front of MK. (Different boats, tho!) The boats run about every 15 mins. If you do end up picking WL or FW, take a look at the MK parade schedule for Thx and do your reservations so that you miss the post-parade departure crowd, or you may have to wait for two or three boats before you can board…

128 Diane { 05.10.12 at 10:19 pm }

Thanks so much! We really appreciate you help and Whispering Canyon sounds good.

129 Kaitlin { 05.14.12 at 6:05 am }

So glad I stumbled onto this site. Very thankful for all the valuable information. We will be first time visitors from Hawaii to WDW and plan to arrive sometime between 12-4pm on 12/12/12 and depart on 12/23/12. We are DVC and are planning on BLT with a one bedroom and eventually upgrading to a two bedroom later in the week as others will be joining us. The main group in the party for the full 10 days will be myself, 13 yr old, 11 yr old, and my father who has an ECV. We don’t know if or when we will ever make it back out to Orlando, so this will be a “do everything” trip. This is my tentative itinerary. EP 12/13, MK 12/14, HS 12/15, AK 12/16, go off property 12/17-12/19 to stay at Lowes Royal to do Universal, return to Disney afternoon of 12/19 and stay till we check out on 12/22.

Here are my questions: Is my itinerary ok (too hectic?) and if not suggestions are greatly appreciated. Was planning on a 5 or 6 day MYW pass but do you think I should upgrade to the “waterpark and more” feature (since we wanted to try Disneyquest, and maybe a waterpark-or is that crazy to do in December)? Do you think we should go to MVMCP and if the kids will enjoy it or are too old? What other “must see” events should we attend? Will the Disney Quick Service dining plan be beneficial for us on this trip? Do you think that on returning from Universal on the 19th that we should stay at BLT or do another hotel…was mostly wondering what would be the most convenient for my father to get around in his ECV. I’m not really sure what to do on the back end of the trip (12/19-12/21) as we would have done all of the main parks.

All suggestions are greatly appreciated. Was getting pretty overwhelmed planning this and just needed some extra advice. We all love to ride, see fireworks, and love everything about Christmas in Disney. The kids we to Disneyland when they were very young, so this will really be like a first trip for them. I have read through most of your site, and have tried to pick up on tips here and there. Thanks in advance.

130 Dave { 05.14.12 at 12:02 pm }

Hi Kaitlin! A couple of thoughts…

Both MK and Epcot are parks that deserve two days, so 6 days at WDW seems right–you can do the extra days when you return to Disney.

Unless your kids love thrill rides, you may have too much time at Universal–but you’ll need some time off, so you can take a day or afternoon off on the days you are at RP.

BLT and the Contemporary are nicely convenient to MK, especially for an ECV, as you can roll back and forth (or take the monorail–all the WDW transport can handle his ECV).

However, if you focus your Epcot days to the end of your trip, then staying at one of the Epcot resorts on your return to WDW may make even more sense from the convenience point of view…see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/02/16/the-epcot-resorts-at-walt-disney-world/

I would skip the waterpark and more upgrade for a couple of reasons. One is that the theme parks are much better than the waterparks/Disneyquest, so your “extra time,” as noted above, should be devoted to them. Second is that even if with that you have time, you’ll likely need a break instead. Third is that if you pay for just one entry it’s cheaper to do so at the gate than to add the option; and finally, if you decide to do both, you can add the ticket option while you are there!

Hope this helps! Dave

131 Kaitlin { 05.14.12 at 1:18 pm }

Thanks for the suggestions Dave! Just a few more questions…so sorry to take up all your time I’ll skip the waterpark upgrade. The whole family loves thrill rides, so I think we will stay at Universal for the two days and take your advice about taking in some down time for ourselves while we are there. Any suggestions on the itinerary for the first 4 days @ Disney that I posted above, are my park choices on those days good decisions? Also what was your advice for our family with the quickservice dining plan and taking in the Mickey’s Christmas party? Thanks again! This is the most informative site I have seen and truly appreciate all your advice and time! Thaks

132 Dave { 05.14.12 at 1:49 pm }

Kaitlin, I’m sorry I made you ask the same questions twice, and thanks for the kind words about the site!

Here’s the story on the quick-service meal plans: because everyone in your party will be paying the “adult” rates, you likely won’t save any money from it. It can help with budgeting and cash management, but isn’t really a deal…

For the dates and MVMCP questions, But I’m gonna ask you to ask them a third time!

What I should have said was this:

The issue is I can’t really give you good advice on either until Disney releases its December schedule–which it likely will do in the next 7 days or so. Come back to me in a week, and re-ask those two questions (they are related for reasons I won’t get into until the third ask :) )

133 Kaitlin { 06.05.12 at 2:57 pm }

Hi Dave,
Ok I’m back re-asking my questions (I wrote the 2 previous posts above) as the December schedules have come out. I just wanted to get your opinion on the schedule I have come up with. We are a group of four: my father-66 y/o, and my two children 13 y/o and 11 y/o. We love thrill rides and this is a once in a lifetime trip for us coming from Hawaii. We arrive at MCO at 9:30am on 12/12/12 and are staying until 12/24/12. We are getting an 8 day pass for the parks (no hopper), and we are DVC so all Hotels have been confirmed (staying at BLT and AKL). Here’s my plan

12/13/12-AK all day with the wild Africa Trek, then head to MK for MVMCP
12/14/12-HS with the Fantasmic Dinner
12/15/12-EP with candlelight dinner
12/16/12-MK
12/17/12-head to Royal Pacific (Staying onsite 12/17-12/19) and do 1st day at Universal
12/18/12-2nd day at Universal
12/19/12-check out Royal Pacific, head back to Disney
12/20/12-12/23/12: Do parks in morning, relax in afternoon, take in the sights
12/24/12-head home

Here are my questions. (1) Should we do anything on our arrival date, and if so what…a half day at a park or wander around the property? We arrive at 9:30am and am assuming we get to the hotel around 12. (2) Are all the extras that I want to sign up for worth it, such as the Fantasmic Dinner, and candlelight processional dinner? Also is the MVMCP good for us…I don’t have really young children, but thought it would be a good way to see the fireworks with it being less crowded and also riding some rides at night. Also is it too much to do after spending the day at AK before that? (3) I know that after we return from Universal on 12/19, the disney crowd level will have increased…is it good to just tour the parks in the morning and leave by the afternoon to rest and adventure around the property?

Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I want to thank you for all your help and this wonderful site.

134 Dave { 06.06.12 at 7:34 am }

Hi Kaitlin and thanks for the kind words!

I like your schedule! AM thinking that your arrival day–with the flights and time change–is probably best spent as rest and relax. If you get antsy, there’s a couple of good things to do on such a day. Epcot’s World Showcase and Illuminations would top my list; if you are ready to move earlier in the day, then seeing the 3p parade at MK would be my next choice (this makes your later visits to MK more manageable, as it takes a milestone out of your planning. As the crowds build after 12/19, yes you should plan on morning visits and afternoons off…

I’m good with all the “specials” you’ve picked up except for the Fantasmic meal…I’m not keen on most of the restaurants offered for this (except Brown Derby) and don’t think it’s necessary nor that it saves you that much waiting time…

Have fun and let me know how it goes!

135 Mark { 06.14.12 at 5:09 pm }

I was wondering if tou could explain the specific aspects of the Polynesian resort and the Wilderness Lodge that make them have “kid appeal?” It isn’t clear to me why these are better and why the WL is better than the Poly–especially if you are going in Nov or Dec when using the pools is questionable. We have a 6 and 8 year old who love animals, so the kid appeal of the animal kingdom lodge is pretty clear. Thanks!

136 Dave { 06.14.12 at 5:58 pm }

Hi Mark. It has nothing to do with pools. (Pools are tie breakers among groups of equally-appelaing resorts)

On this page http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-stay/ you’ll find this:

KID APPEAL

Kid appeal is principally visual, and it means whether the look of a resort has features that speak to kids of whimsy, playfulness, and adventure, signaling that that this resort was designed for them! (And not necessarily for their parents…)

137 Rod { 06.16.12 at 10:38 pm }

My kids will be 11 and 8 on our first trip to WDW. What attractions are areas will be the most interesting for kids that age and which will be the ones they will least likely enjoy.

138 Dave { 06.17.12 at 7:38 am }
139 sel { 06.26.12 at 10:32 pm }

I need some help we will be traveling to DW dec 2 -dec 7 and you website has been such a great help. I am trying to figure out on schedule and eating arrangements. We will be traveling with our daughter who is 6 and it will be our 1st time. I don’t want everyone to be to tired of the schedule but feel if we don’t set something up we will miss out on a lot. If you could please help and let me know if you feel like we are doing way to much and if we are park hopping to much. We have the deluxe dinning plan and will be staying at the contemporary MK view.Thanks for all you help!!
Dec 2 HS
Flight arrives @ 11:30 am
Hollywood & Vine (fantasmic dinner)
3:40 p.m.

Dec 3 Epcot am MK pm for EMH
Akershus breakfast
8:20 a.m.

Dec 3 AK
Tusker House Restaurant
8:15 a.m.

Dec 5 HS am Epcot pm
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
12:30 p.m.

Coral Reef Restaurant (processional dinner)
4:05 p.m.

Dec 6 MK
‘ohana breakfast
9:20 a.m.
Cinderella’s Royal Table
bbb 2:00 p.m.
4:15 p.m. RT dinner
We are planning on the Very Merry Christmas this evening

Dec 7 visit any park leave @ 6:00 pm
Chef Mickey’s
10:15 a.m.

140 Dave { 06.27.12 at 6:40 am }

Sel my reaction to yuor itin will be different depending on whether or not you are able to return in a few years–let me know if that will be possible for you…

141 Sel { 06.27.12 at 11:53 am }

Everyone who has gone said we will want to return but we are doing it as if we may never go back. Thats why we decided to do tower view. We are from Texas so we may return.
Thanks!!

142 Dave { 06.27.12 at 12:36 pm }

OK, it’s not that you will return but that if you chose to you could return. Given that a couple of thoughts:

–I’d skip Epcot entirely. There’s just not that much there for a 6 year old (see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/ ) and you don’t really have enough days in your trip anyway.

–You are in my judgement too focused on EMH and hopping. Morning EMH is great for the first few hours, but then the park gets more crowded than it would on a non-EMH day. If you are early risers–and you’ll be fighting time zones–seeing morning EMH and then hopping around 11a or noon–or taking the afternoon off and going to a different park in the evening–can be good, but it is simpler to just pick a park on a non-EMH day and stay with it.

–Suggest you think about 3 mornings, an afternoon and an evening (the evening can be MVMCP) at MK, a morning and an evening at HS, and a day at AK.

–Some more specific thoughts:

12/2 no great options, maybe Epcot if you don’t want to miss it (MK will be fairly busy and closes early, HS has EMH, and there are better days for AK)

12/3 HS

12/4 AK

12/5 MK am, pm off

12/6 MK am, off, return for 3p parade, stay for MVMCP

12/7 MK am

143 Sel { 06.27.12 at 1:19 pm }

Thank you so much for your help!!

144 Dave { 06.27.12 at 2:06 pm }

You bet, Sel!

145 Chelsea { 06.28.12 at 1:18 pm }

I worked in Fantasyland for about 7 months and I can tell you the Evening Extra Magic Hours are worth it. Especially if you come toward like the last half of them. For example if MK closes at 10 p.m. give it about till 11 -11:30 and the people will just start dropping like flies. Especially once it gets closer to midnight and later. Sometime we were open till 3 am and I would literally see the wait for dumbo and peter pan 30 min or less. So if you have little ones go back take a nap during the hottest part of the day then come back out later. Watch the parades, fireworks and then stay for the EMH. They can really pay off and its much cooler, great for summer months. Also when I worked their in 2009 the characters come out (mickey, minnie, donald, goofy, chip and dale and pluto) come out like an hour before the EMH ended in fantasyland and the lines for them are much shorter than during the day. Sometime they will even ride the carousel with the kids.

146 Dave { 06.28.12 at 2:15 pm }

Hi Chelsea and thanks!

FYI I edited your comment to add the word “evening” as that seemed to be your topic.

I’m with you on evening EMH getting very un-crowded halfway in–I’ve been at MK at 2a and ridden Splash Mountain 5 times in a row. I don’t have much of that in this site’s itineraries because of the impact on the next morning and family sleep patterns, but my various pages on how to deal with heavy crowd periods do suggest it. See for example http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/12/19/holiday-crowds-at-walt-disney-world/

I should do a post on “When to Use EMH…” so that I can fully incorporate great points like yours!

Thanks again Dave

147 Alycia { 07.13.12 at 1:52 pm }

Hi Dave – I am so glad I found this website, your advice is so helpful! We are planning our second family trip to Disney – we were just there in April, but we are going back to see Disney at Christmas! We have two little boys (4 and 1 ½) and plan to be in Disney for 5 full days from Sunday 11/25 – Friday 11/30 (not including travel days). We originally planned the trip for the following week (12/2 – 12/6) but found out that’s Pop Warner week and we didn’t want to take chances with the crowds… I guess Sunday will have some left over Thanksgiving weekend crowds and I would like to her your park suggestions for each day. I know we have young kids but they were troopers on our last visit and we even managed to stay for the fireworks, Fantasmic, etc. with just a few mid day breaks to nap and swim as needed (having a double stroller helped too!). The kids are up early so my initial thought was to hit the parks with EMH in the mornings – but your advice has me rethinking that plan. Thanks!

148 Dave { 07.13.12 at 2:08 pm }

Hey Alycia–glad the site is helping! Let me know your favorite parks from April–and any you missed but want to catch this time around…then I’ll get you some thoughts

149 Alycia { 07.13.12 at 2:38 pm }

MK was everyone’s favorite of course – we only skipped Epcot (we did 2 days in MK an a day each in AK and HS). Was thinking about skipping Epcot again this time, but there might be some fun rides and things to see for my 4 year old…

150 Dave { 07.14.12 at 6:56 am }

OK Alycia, here’s some thoughts on parks to avoid by day:

11/25: Avoid HS
11/26: Avoid MK, AK
11/27: Avoid Epcot
11/28: Avoid AK
11/29: Avoid MK
11/30: Avoid Epcot

Epcot may be worth a day of tickets…seeing Nemo and Turtle Talk and Soarin and a few other things in the morning, coming back in the evening for Illuminations, and doing either an early lunch or dinner at Askershus…

151 Fred P { 07.15.12 at 1:47 pm }

Dave,
What is your opinion of the private tour in A.K. “Wild Africa tour”. I know it’s a separate charge to do this?? Any readers or yourself have any thoughts if it’s worth it??
Thanks
Fred

152 Dave { 07.15.12 at 2:05 pm }

Fred I haven’t experienced it, and likely never will–it just does not appear to me to have a good price/value position. Have you seen Cirque du Soleil or Hoop Dee Doo? Those–which I, along with hundreds of thousands of others :) –have seen, I think are the next best use of any free cash you’ve got…and after that I’d put fine dining at one of the Grand Floridian options…

153 mary hendon { 07.15.12 at 9:11 pm }

we have booked pop century checking the nov. 15th and leaving out the 19. we got the free quick serve dining. this is our first time at disney and unsure in what order to see the parks. want to go to epcot, magic kingdom, universal studios and animal kingdom. would also like to book a cheap breakfast with crystal place for winnie the pooh. our kids are 12 and 7. we did not get park hopper tickets due to budget. unsure of best places to eat also.

154 Dave { 07.16.12 at 7:32 am }

Hi Mary, just double checking–you know that Universal Studios is not part of Disney World? The Disney “equivalent” is Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

As noted earlier on this page, see Epcot first and the Magic Kingdom last.

Crystal Palace isn’t cheap–though breakfast is the least expensive of its meals.

For other table service meals see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-eat/dining-alternatives/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-dining/

If you do more than a few table service meals, it’ll likely be cheaper for you to pay to upgrade your quick service to regular dining. You would just have to pay the difference between the free quick service plan and the price of the regular dining plan…

155 Peggy { 07.18.12 at 1:19 am }

We are considering Dec. 10 – 15. Can I piece together an itinerary by modifying the 5-day Dec. form, taking out the beginning Sun. and adding the end Sat. from the basic itinerary? Can you explain why Wed. on the basic doesn’t require a Hopper (going from MK to Epcot)? We’re thinking of Music for the family suite, b/c kids are 7 and 9 and we are afraid we won’t sleep well in two doubles (or even two queens). Any thoughts on that logic? Thank you!

156 Dave { 07.18.12 at 6:40 am }

Hi Peggy! You can do that change. It does need a hopper, as its To-DO List indicates. Music Suites will work, as would a suite at Art of Animation. See this for the difference: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/06/24/review-the-family-suites-disneys-art-animation-resort-p3/

157 Peggy { 07.18.12 at 7:12 pm }

Thank you–for some reason I thought the itineraries didn’t require hoppers–I’ll check more closely next time! Another question: would you recommend either of these over the others: 11/11 – 11/17; or 11/25 – 12/1; or 12/10 – 12/16 (first-time and probably only time visit)? My thinking was that the first option may have a bit higher chance for warmer swimming weather, but may get relatively crowded at the tail for first-timers. (Not yet sure where we will stay–I just can’t decide!–definitely no double beds.) Your site is amazing, by the way.

158 Dave { 07.19.12 at 6:37 am }

No worries Peggy–I avoid hoppers where I can, but not always…for you possible dates see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/10/20/2012-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/ and thanks for the kinds words about the site!

159 Mike { 07.23.12 at 8:17 am }

Dave,
We are going to wdw arriving 12/10 (mon) departing 12/16 (sun).
It will just be me, my wife and four and a half year old daughter.
We are staying at po-riverside and have the dining plan. Our only firm plans are to be at epcot on wed for the princess breakfast and the princess storybook time set up by AAA.

Knowing we want to maximize our time at mk but still see all the parks. What order
would you suggest we see them? We will not be attending mikeys very merry christmas party so that will limit our time to see fireworks and stay at mk late.
Thanks for any advice.

160 Dave { 07.23.12 at 9:54 am }

Hi Mike! I’d do AK Tuesday, and HS Thursday. All the 7p close days are great at the MK. You might want to knock off the evening parade and fireworks on your arrival night–otherwise it’ll have to be Saturday night…

161 brittanie { 07.27.12 at 1:43 pm }

Hi, we are going to disney world in december arriving on sat 12/8 leaving the 12/15. we have bippity boppity boutique set for tuesday 12/11, so figured we would stay at MK for the christmas party that night and eating at cinderella’s royal table on 12/12 for lunch. so I’m debating on how many days to do at each park and thinking of skipping epcot since we have a 3 & 6 year old. what are your thoughts on when and how many days on a hopper ticket? My dad would like to do gatorland one day .

162 Dave { 07.27.12 at 3:19 pm }

Hi Brittanie! For kids that age, skip Epcot, figure a half a day or so at each of HS and AK, and two days at MK…that means four non-hopping days of tix…

163 John { 07.31.12 at 10:12 pm }

Hi Dave-
Amazing site. Thanks for answering all these questions!
Me, my wife, my parents and my 3 boys (ages 8,6 & 4) will be landing in Orlando at around 10 am on Sunday, August 26 and will have until Thursday, Aug 31 (all day) in Disney.
A couple of questions- I have reservations for both the Port Orleans French Quarter and for half the price at the Wyndham in Downtown Disney. Which reservation should we cancel? (we plan to rent a car).
What do you think of this itinerary?
Sunday – late afternoon- Epcot including Illuminations
Monday- water park- typhoon lagoon
Tuesday- Magic Kingdom
Wednesday- Hollywood Studios
Thursday- Animal Kingdom
I see you aren’t a huge fan of the water parks but my thinking is that everyone says to take 1 day off, and that after a late night at Illuminations- a relatively relaxed day on Monday might be good. Plus this might be a nice break from the August heat.

What other activities are a must besides Illuminations? Tuesday night fireworks at Magic Kingdom?
Last question- would it make sense to split the boys up on Wednesday and have my 4 year old go back to Magic Kingdom?
I do hope to go back to Disney in 5-6 years.
Thanks so much.

164 John { 07.31.12 at 10:13 pm }

Whoops- will be in Disney until Aug 30th.

165 Dave { 08.01.12 at 9:59 am }

Hi John, first for must-sees, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

Second, on the waterparks–it’s not that I’m not a fan, but rather that the theme parks are so much better. You really need for everyone a second day at MK. So I’d go to MK on Monday, and then you can decide, having seen it, whether to return to it Tuesday or go to a waterpark on Tuesday.

Finally–I’d pick POFQ if this will be your ONLY trip, but if you cna return in a yera or so it matters less and the Wyndham may be worth the savings!

166 Lily { 08.01.12 at 1:59 pm }

I agree with Dave the POFQ is the way to go if this is your only trip, your kids will love the pool! I am not a kid and I love it!

167 John { 08.02.12 at 6:18 pm }

But doesn’t the Wyndham in Downtown Disney also have a nice pool. I know the website enhances everything, but based on the pictures, it seems above average as well.
Thanks

168 Dave { 08.02.12 at 8:13 pm }

John–I don’t know…

169 Melisa { 08.03.12 at 4:25 am }

Hi Dave

A big group of us (3 adults 5 kid (11,10,9,8 and 4) will be at WDW from 10 Dec – 15 Dec. Due to flight times, etc, we will only start touring on 11Dec. This is our plan so far:

11 Dec – Epcot ( go for EMH, early lunch, back to resorts and rest, back for dinner and Candlelight and Illuminations)
12 Dec- DHS (we have a fantasmic ADR)
13 Dec – MK and MVMCP (we plan to hit the park upon opening, stay for a lunch at CRT then go back to rest before MVMCP)
14 Dec – AK

Do you think this will work? We want to see all the parks. Part of the group is staying at Wilderness and the other at Contemporary. Is there anyway we can fit a Wishes viewing in during our stay?

Given that we are travelling in one of the low crowd weeks – how early do we have to be at a park for EMH and Rope drop (on non EMH days)?

Love this site and keep up the good work!

170 Dave { 08.03.12 at 3:58 pm }

Hi Melissa–it looks like you are often hitting parks on their am EMH days. This is usually a mistake unless you use park hoppers to leave the park after mid-morning. While the first 90 minutes are great, shortly after the parks is more crowded than it would be on a non-emh day. I’d do MK the 11th, HS the 12th, AK the 14th followed by MVMCP, and Epcot the 15th…

The fireworks at MVMCP mare 90% the same as Wishes…

171 Stacy { 08.11.12 at 5:29 pm }

Dave,
We’d appreciate some advice re: our itinerary for our 3rd WDW trip planned for February 9-15, 2013. We’re staying at wilderness lodge and arriving mid-afternoon of Saturday the 9th. We want to jump start our trip by going to a park &/or a dinner that evening. One son loves Epcot & the other prefers HS (toy story & star wars). Sometime that week we want to try the Hoop Dee Doo Revue for the first time. Are there parks we should avoid on certain days that week?Suggestions? Thanks for the valuable info!

172 Stacy { 08.11.12 at 5:44 pm }

Dave,
We’d also like to do fantasmic for the first time. Our boys were too young on previous trips. Thanks!

173 Dave { 08.12.12 at 8:06 am }

Hi Stacy–that’s a pretty clean week, so so long as you avoid parks on days that they have EMH–especially am EMH–you can otherwise do as you wish! You’ll love Fantasmic–it’s on every night–and Hoop.

174 Shelly { 08.18.12 at 4:32 pm }

Hi Dave,

My husband and I and our 2 children (age 11 and 6) are planning on visiting DisneyWorld & Universal for the period of December 8-15th, 2012 (both Saturdays will be travel days). We woud like to visit Epcot, MVMCP, Hoop-dee-Doo, Universal and Islands of Adventure. Also, my son will be celebrating his 6th birthday on December 14th. We will be staying off-site. Any suggestions on itineraries? Many thanks!

175 Dave { 08.19.12 at 8:45 am }

Hi Shelly, I don’t have any specific itineraries that come even close to what you are thinking of, sorry…you’ve picked a lot of parks that will be uninteresting to your 6yo… For a general approach, do Universal at the beginning and WDW later in your visit (see this for why: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/07/31/the-best-and-worst-days-of-the-week-to-see-the-wizarding-world-of-harry-potter/ )

176 Danny { 09.17.12 at 12:40 am }

Hi Dave

I want to tell y0u that we are not very interested in some restaurants you put here. Here are the ones:

Rainforest Cafe
Akershus
50′s Prime Time Cafe
San Angel Inn
Planet Hollywood

I have replacements for those restaurants. Do you think the restaurants I replaced with those would be okay

Rainforest Cafe–Yak & Yeti
Akershus–Les Chefs de France
50′s Prime Time Cafe–Hollywood & Vine Fantasmic Package or Sci FI Dine In Theater
San Angel Inn–Tutto Italia Ristorante
Planet Hollywood–Tusker House

I am looking at the 7 night summer itinery

177 Dave { 09.17.12 at 5:29 am }

Hi Danny–your replacements 1, 2 and 4 are great, but not as much fun for kids. I don’t recommend your replacements for 3 unless your kids are very little, and doing Tusker instead of DTD complicates logistics a bit…

178 SINGH { 10.01.12 at 4:54 pm }

Hi Dave

We have booked Dec 14 to Dec 20 – 4 day Base park tickets. Can you recommend which park to go first and when? My sons are 5 and 7 – the 5 year will be turning 6 on December 18. So which park would be the most fun for his birthday?

Thanks your site is fantastic !

179 Dave { 10.01.12 at 5:10 pm }

Hi, and thanks for the kind words about the site!

Given your 4 day tickets and the ages of your sons, I’d recommend two days at MK and one each at HS and AK–skipping Epcot.

MK always works best last–although many families can’t wait that long…

Here are parks to avoid by day (including Epcot)

12/14: Avoid Epcot
12/15: Avoid HS
12/16: Avoid HS
12/17: Avoid MK, AK
12/18: Avoid Epcot
12/19: Avoid AK
12/20: Avoid MK

Based on this, one good plan would be AK the 15th, HS the 17th, and MK the 18th and 19th. And MK would be the most fun for his birthday!

180 SINGH { 10.02.12 at 12:28 pm }

Thanks for your quick response Dave

when would be the best times to have breakfast, lunch and dinner – we have the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan?

I assume we cant reserve anything and would have to take food and just find a table?

Also, do you recommend any good kids dining places?

Thanks

181 Dave { 10.03.12 at 8:06 am }

Hi Singh–on your second to last point, yes, unless you choose to reserve separately and pay in cash for some table service meals.

On your last point, see the quick-service options in my itineraries–e.g. the image on this page. The underlined restaurants are quick-service.

For the best times two eat, there’s two keys. You need to be at the parks before they open, so either a very early (7ish) or very late (10.30ish) breakfast is best. Second, avoid the common meals times or you’ll face long lines..

182 Lou { 10.08.12 at 5:47 pm }

Hi Dave,

We’ll be at Contemporary Bay Lake from Monday 4/8 until Sunday 4/14 – any advice you can give us around itinerary. We’ll have our 6 year old boy and 3 year old daughter with us. Thinking of doing Chef Mickey for dinner when we arrive and then the royal table followed by MK the next day. Would also like to see Epcot, HS and AK, and maybe down town disney one evening. Thinking about splitting each day up by doing a break at pool mid day every day. Also, how many character dinings should we do? We have the standard dining plan. You have a great web site, thanks!

183 Dave { 10.08.12 at 6:33 pm }

Hey Lou, and thanks!

Take a look at this–it’s a near miss for you, off by a day and aimed at kids 8 and above: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2009/11/06/seven-night-walt-disney-world-autumn-winter-spring-itinerary-v2/ Then use this to filter it: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

Work through them, then come back to me with questions they raise!

184 Nicole { 10.25.12 at 7:37 pm }

Having booked a last minute first time trip to WDW w/ 8 and 10 year olds, to take advantage of the dining offer, I am now completely frazzled trying to sort out our itinerary and dining reservations….argh! Your site has been a tremendous help, we are traveling 11/28 (at 1:30)-12/6 & staying at AOA w/ free Quick Service dining. Beyond that I am lost bc I can’t seem to work around our arrival and departure dates to determine which days to hit which parks. I bought a 7 day MYW pass because my 9 year old son wants to celebrate his 10th birthday (12/3) at Universal’s Harry Potter land and we leave early on the 6th. Any help is appreciated!!

185 Dave { 10.26.12 at 9:47 am }

Hi Nicole–just confirm you’ve seen this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/shorter-and-longer-itineraries-for-the-december-week/basic-itinerary-less-first-saturday-and-second-sunday/ It’s a seven day itinerayr suited to your dates. It’s not an exact fit–but take a look and tell me what you think!

186 Nicole { 10.26.12 at 10:21 am }

Thanks Dave! I did see that itenerary and was trying to work with that. My problem is attempting to get the dinner and/or show reservations at short notice. I have determined the following optons:
11/28: either HS (Fantasmic/Osbourne) or EPCOT (able to get either 4:20 San Angel or 5:25 Coral Reef HATW dining package)
11/29: Possible HS w/ 11:15 Sci-Fi reservations otherwise open
11/30:Possible AK w Hoop De Doo at 8:30
12/1: Possible Epcot w/ 4:10 San Angel reservations for HATW package
12/2: Possible AK w Hoop De Doo at 6:15
12/3: Universal
12/4: Possible Epcot (only day able to get Akershus at 2:45) then MVMCP
12/5: MK w/ parade
12/6: Depart
Here are my questions: Do you need to use a park pass or just have a seperate MVMCP ticket to get into MK? I am trying to see if I can use our park passes somewhere else that day before the party. Also, I really want to go to a Rainforest Cafe one day but there are no openings the evening of 12/4 at MK so either MK 12/5 or AK are options. The EMH days/evenings are confusing me with when to go as are the days we are there versus the parks with the latest hours. Also, 12/3 and the morning of 12/4 at Universal is another option if we skip Akershus. Thanks again for any guidance!!!

187 Dave { 10.26.12 at 12:58 pm }

Hi Nicole–this looks good to me. Of your Epcot options I’d pick 11/28. You do not use a day of your regular tix for MVMCP–only its special ticket. And of your Universla options the 3rd will be better…

188 Nicole { 10.26.12 at 2:01 pm }

Last questions…if we do Epcot on 11/28 and do the HATW dinner package, which reservation time/place is best of my options. Should we do Epcot on the 3rd in order to do the Akershus at 2:45 before going to MVMCP or would another park be better? And finally, what kind of logistical complications does going to the 8:30 Hoop on 11/30 present as opposed to the 6:15 on 12/2? Other than that…I feel pretty good about everything. Your site has been a tremendous help!!

189 Gladys { 10.27.12 at 12:35 am }

David,

I have booked our holiday trip. We arrive in Orlando on the 25th and planning On departing on the 29th. I understand crowds and prices are the highest this time of the year but really don’t have a choice due to school, activities and work. I have been rescheduling this trip for the past two years and can’t afford to keep pitting it off. I need help planning our itenirary at WDW. Kids ages are: 13 year old boy, 10 year old girl and 5 year old girl. it will be just the four of us and don’t want to be over exhausted nor do I want them to overwhlem my kids. We are staying a few nights at Ft. Lauderdale and doing a 3 day cruise prior to WDW. What do you suggest?

190 Sue { 10.27.12 at 11:02 am }

Hi David
My husband and I are bringing my parents (76) and young granddaughter for a week. We are British but love the us and have visited on many occasions. As teachers we are tied to uk holiday periods. Today I realised you have presidents week in Feb. We will be visiting from 16th to 23rd, so it will coincide with our visit. I visited last Easter, so will crowd levels be similar. My mother is registered disabled so queueing for extended long periods coul be difficult. Do you ave ant advise.

191 Dave { 10.27.12 at 12:37 pm }

Hi again Nicole! The 8.30 Hoop would keep you up later, and mean that it won’t make much sense to go there directly from AK…for Epcot I guess it’s a question of which meal/setting would be more fun for you…

192 Dave { 10.27.12 at 12:55 pm }

Gladys, I don’t myself have much that helps during wildly crowded times like the one you’ve picked–my stuff is for longer trips, and is targeted at kids older than your youngest. Suggest you reach out to John at Leave it to Genie. For a shockingly low price he can craft custom itineraries for you. He’s here: http://www.leaveittogenie.com/

193 Dave { 10.27.12 at 12:58 pm }

Hi Sue! The good news is that while quite crowded, it’s not as bad as Easter. Regarding your mother, I suggest you get a copy of this book: PassPorter’s Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line: Easy Access Vacations for Travelers with Extra Challenges It will tell you what Disney will do for your mother, how to make that happen, and other ways to help with the circumstances.

194 Tammy { 11.03.12 at 4:01 pm }

Do I have to much planned for a 5 year old. (Note that this is planned for 2014). Yes I’m planning far in advance and want everything just right.
*Character Dining 1 Credit
** 2 Dining Credits

Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Friday 3 Travel Travel Coral Reef Restaurant
Epcot

Saturday 1 * Tusker House 8am **California Grill
Animal Kingdom
Sunday 2 *Ohana’s Best Friends Breakfast **Disney’s Spirit of
featuring Lilo & Stitch as late as we can Aloha Dinner Show
Monday 3 **Cinderella’s Royal Table 8am *Be Our Guest
Magic Kingdom

Tuesday 4 *Cape May Cafe at as late as we can **Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical
Revue
Wednesday 5
Epcot *Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, *The Garden Grill Restaurant
pm7:00
Thursday 6 *Chef Mickey’s as late as we can *Boma
¬Friday 7 *Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine 8am *Sci-Fi Dine-in
Saturday 8 *1900 Park Fare restaurant **Artist Point 7ish
Open Day

Sunday 9 *Boma right at open
27 each
23¬¬ used as of now Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage ??

195 Tammy { 11.03.12 at 4:03 pm }

Sorry, that did not copy well. I could not find a way to delete it. We will be doing the deluxe dinning plan and only planning out breakfast and lunch.

196 Dave { 11.04.12 at 8:19 am }

Hi Tammy! Yes I am having trouble interpreting the specifics but do have a general sense of your approach, and yes, I do think you are planning too many meals!

First, I assume you will be coming back when your 5 year old is older–and if not, then wait til he or she is 8 or so. Given my assumption, you can see some of these restaurants on your return trip. Having so many sharply defined times when you have to be certain places limits severely your flexibility and spontaneity, and doesn’t match well with the need for flexibility of a kid that young.

I would try to average <1 sit down meal a day–meaning that some days you have none booked.

197 Fernando { 11.06.12 at 7:52 pm }

Hi Dave
My wife and I will be arriving thanksgiving day this November, so just want it to know if it is some sort of discount on both WDW and Universal merchandise on black Friday???, and is it a good day to visit any of the parks on that particular day??, or should we rather go some place else

Thanks and great site, keep up the good work.

198 Dave { 11.07.12 at 7:28 am }

Hi Fernando. I don’t track merchandise prices but can’t imagine any real deals…And Thanksgiving is wildly crowded in the parks.

199 Melanie { 11.13.12 at 5:12 pm }

Hi Dave. Thanks so much for this great site & answers to endless DisneyWorld questions! My husband & I will be arriving at DW Thanksgiving night & will have the following full 5 days (11/23 – 11/27) to spend in the four parks. We are staying at a Disney resort so will have access to EMH but no park hopper. Our plan is to spend one full day at each park & use the 5th day to go back to our favorite or one that we didn’t get to fully experience. This is our 3rd time at DW but it’s been 13 yrs since our last visit so almost seems like a first visit. I realize that Fri & Sat should be the busiest days. I think we want to go to Animal Kingdom on Saturday & Hollywood Studios on Sunday but I’m having trouble deciding between Epcot & MK for Friday/Monday. On Friday we could either go to Epcot from 9:00 am – 12:30 am using EMH or MK with the regular longer 9:00 am – 12:00 am operating hours. Our choices for Monday are Epcot from 9:00 am – 9:30 pm or MK 9:00 am – 11:00 pm with EMH. We think we will probably want to use our extra day Tuesday for Epcot but that could change if we don’t make the most of our MK day. I would normally choose MK on a less busy day (Monday) but have read that it might actually be less busy on Friday than Epcot since a lot of people will have gone to MK the day before on Thanksgiving. Also not sure whether to avoid or embrace the EMH in these 2 situations given that Friday will be a busy day (Epcot EMH) & Monday will not (MK EMH). In your opinion would one of these two days provide an advantage over the other in maximizing our chances of experiencing more of the MK in a day’s time (knowing we will need to skip a few attractions that we’ve done before in order to do so)? Thanks so much for your advice.

200 Dave { 11.14.12 at 6:34 am }

Melanie, I’m not sure why you are targeting HS Sunday. You will face pretty strong crowds then, and other parks–especially MK–will be much better then.

Ignoring, for the moment, Friday and Sat. the best MK days will be Sun and Tues, and Monday will be the worst. The best HS days will be Mon, and Sunday will be the worst. The best AK days are Sun and Tues, and Mon will be the worst, and the best Epcot days will be Sun and Mon, and Tues will be the worst.

So, saving Tuesday for a return, I’d do MK on Sun and either HS or Epcot on Mon. That leaves AK, which will be best on Sat. On Fri, do whichever of Epcot and HS you are more willing to see in a crowd–I’d go with Epcot

201 Melanie { 11.14.12 at 11:32 am }

Thanks for the advice, Dave. Unfortunately, Sunday doesn’t work for us for MK because we prefer to go on a day without the special Christmas party & instead watch the normal nighttime events included in regular admission. I partially chose Sunday for HS because if crowds are starting to lessen a little by then, I thought we might could use the EMH to make the most of having just one day there but I’ll take a look at possibly doing it another day instead. If you had to pick between Friday or Monday for MK, which would you prefer? And in your opinion, would Saturday be any better for MK than either Friday or Monday? Thanks again!

202 Dave { 11.14.12 at 12:04 pm }

Melanie just to be annoying and not let go of Sunday at MK yet–for just the reason you note, MK will be much less crowded on Sunday–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/04/30/crowds-and-walt-disney-world/

Re the nighttime stuff, at this (that is the party) time of year frankly the best way to handle that is with a hopper–so you can hop back to MK to see the nighttime stuff without having to deal with the crowds all day…

So take a look at the link, and then get back to me and firmly insist on your MK day…:)

203 Melanie { 11.14.12 at 12:13 pm }

Thanks again. We’ve already bought our tickets & while tempted by the Park Hopper, we opted for the more budget conscious non hopper tickets. We know there will be some inconvenience related to the crowds re this but budget won out on this one as we found we didn’t use it all that much when at DW before since some of the time spent avoiding crowds is lost in traveling from one park to another anyway. That being said, since we don’t have the park hopper tickets, we are committed to being at one park per day & therefore want to avoid MK on Sunday since we want to get our money’s worth with the regular nighttime events already included in admission. I realize it will be more crowded on Friday, Saturday, & Monday than on Sunday. Was just trying to get some advice as to whether any particular day (of these less optimum days) might have at least a slight advantage over the other two.

204 Joan { 11.14.12 at 3:06 pm }

Hi Dave. My family plan to go to WDW during Xmas. We know this is not best season to go there becasue of crawds, but both my husband and I have time during this period. We will be driving from Canada to DW. We plan to arrive at DW late afternoon on Sunday, Dec. 23 and driving back in morning on Dec. 30, so in total we will have 6 days at WDW. We have two daughters, 8-year old and 19-month old. This will be our first visit. We really like to hear your thougths on where to stay and what itineray is the best fit for our family. Thank you very much.

205 Dave { 11.15.12 at 7:10 am }

Got it. Monday will be your best choice, then. You will see some very elegant analysis about how Friday of Thanksgiving week is a good day at MK, because so many people will have been to it the day before, or earlier in the week. This is true, but only compared to the earlier days of Thanksgiving week… the fact remains that across all 4 parks, on the order of 200,000 people will be visiting Friday, and 100,000 Monday…

206 Dave { 11.15.12 at 7:20 am }

Hi Joan! This itinerary should work pretty well: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/01/16/seven-night-walt-disney-world-summer-itinerary-v2/ Ignore the fact that it says summer–it’s the itinerary for high crowd periods.

For where to stay, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-stay/next-best-resort-choices/

207 Melanie { 11.15.12 at 10:57 am }

Wonderful – that settles it then! Thanks again!

208 Dave { 11.15.12 at 3:10 pm }

:)

209 Joan { 11.15.12 at 3:37 pm }

Thanks David. The itinerary works perfect for our family. We may adjust it a little bit, but it gives us a good guideline for 7-day stay at DWD. Your website is wonderful and your quick response is highly appreciated.

210 Dave { 11.15.12 at 4:07 pm }

You bet Joan and thanks for the kind words!!

One more thing to double check as the time gets closer is the park opening hours may become earlier than the itinerary says, and morning extra magic hours may be added as well. So your “arrive-by” times may end up being one hour to 90 mins earlier than the itinerary indicates…

For how to work the Disney calendars see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/07/05/how-to-use-the-online-park-calendars-at-walt-disney-world/ Calendars can change even the day before!

211 Barb R. - Spencerville, IN { 12.03.12 at 7:18 pm }

Dave,

What a relief to find your site. We are a family of 4 planning a surprise trip for our children September 21-29, 2013. We have two autistic children, our son higher functioning and daughter lower functioning. I have read a lot about the passes that we can obtain to help with Emily’s waiting issues. The last thing we want are melt downs in line due to long waiting periods. We have chosen these dates based upon your calendar review, hoping crowds will likely be low. We are debating a park hopper pass. We are also debating which parks to see and which to pass on by. This will likely be our only trip to WDW as a family. We are staying at RCI’s Orange Lake resort and will be driving our own vehicle to allow us as much flexibility as possible in and out of the parks. We realize this means more $$ for parking, but is an option we choose to spend the money for. We were considering Chef Mickey for a character meal, I think the kids would both enjoy seeing the characters. Otherwise, we will be at the mercy of packing snacks, eating breakfast at the condo and one nice meal in the park or off property each evening. We are trying also to plan a day to go to the beach to have some downtime with the kiddos. We were also wondering about a day at Sea World in place of a park day at the WDW. My son really loves animals and we think he would love the whale and dolphin shows. We want to enjoy ourselves without feeling like we’re missing something, or feeling so overwhelmed and exhausted that everyone ends up tired and cranky.

I appreciate any suggestions. We’re super excited, and not telling the kids until we leave that morning to head to Florida. I only hope that I can keep the secret!! :)

Thanks so much!

Barb ~ Spencerville, IN

212 Barb R. - Spencerville, IN { 12.03.12 at 10:33 pm }

Sorry, I forgot to mention….they will be 8 & 12 when we go. Our daughter is the youngest. Thanks!

213 Dave { 12.04.12 at 6:26 am }

Hi Barb!

I’ll be recommending itineraries for those dates in a few months, when Disney’s operating calendar for then comes out. While crowd levels overall are indeed low then, that’s a time of year when picking which park you go to which day makes a huge difference (see http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/04/30/crowds-and-walt-disney-world/ ), so check back with me a little more than 6 months before–i.e. in mid to late March.

Are you absolutely committed to RCI Orange Lake? Staying at the Contemporary or Bay Lake Tower would let you walk back and forth to the Magic Kingdom (it’s the only hotel where this is possible)–and you could use your car for the other parks…For more on the Contemporary see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/06/06/review-disneys-contemporary-resort/ and for its sister resort Bay Lake Tower this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/09/13/review-bay-lake-tower-at-disneys-contemporary-resort/

The bets way to handle the kids and being overwhelmed is to plan on morning and evening visits, with afternoons off. This will work at all the parks except AK, whihc isn’t open in the evenings that time of year.

Going to Sea World is likely a great idea. Given the age of your daughter (from your second post), the most skippable of the Disney parks is Epcot.

Hope this helps, and get back to me in March!

214 Tammy { 01.05.13 at 2:14 pm }

Dave,
I am planning on bringing my special needs son to the magic kingdom for his birthday 2-7-2013. It is his first trip there. He will be turning 12 physically, but mentally is still about 4 or 5. My mother lives near Orlando, so i will be staying with her,but I have a few questions. 1.) how many days should I visit? (can i get everything done in one day?)(I am able to come anytime between 2-7-2013 and 2.) Where should i take him for birthday dinner or lunch at the MK? 3.) do you have a 2 day itinerary that would work? it will be just the 2 of us. 4.) Does the magic kingdom have special needs discounts like sea world does? Thanks for the help!

215 Tammy { 01.05.13 at 2:16 pm }

my dates i can be there are 2-7-2013 to 2-9-2013

216 Dave { 01.06.13 at 10:09 am }

Hi Tammy, MK is definitely a two day park. I don’t have two-day itineraries, but you can find them here: http://touringplans.com/magic-kingdom/touring-plans

For birthday lunch or dinner, I’d suggest a character meal. For one with Mickey and Minnie and Donald, etc., go to Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary resort–just a five minute walk from MK. For Winnie the Pooh and Tigger etc., go to the Crystal Palace, which is in MK. For either you need a reservation.

The Magic Kingdom does not have special needs discounts. It does offer some stuff to make things easier, though. See this: PassPorter’s Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line: Easy Access Vacations for Travelers with Extra Challenges

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217 Dave { 01.06.13 at 10:11 am }

Tammy, unless you are staying at a WDW resort hotel, the 8th and 9th will be the best MK days…

218 Tammy { 01.06.13 at 3:32 pm }

Thanks so much!!!!

219 Shirley Smith { 01.17.13 at 1:09 pm }

Hi–grateful for any advise
Going to WDW June 15 thru June 19 arriving at 2:30 pm and departing at 5:00 pm
5 grandsons ages 5 thru 8
best dinners- shows- and attractions for them ??
staying at Bay Lake Towers

Thanks for the help

220 Dave { 01.17.13 at 1:40 pm }

Hi Shirley! That’s a reasonably busy time, and with kids that age you can focus just on the Magic Kingdom. If it’s hot they will wear out quickly, especially the younger ones. So I’d advise 3 mornings at MK, one afternoon (for the afternoon parade) and one evening (for the evening parade and fireworks.)

You can build what do do each day based on the Magic Kingdom sections of this–which don’t perfectly match, but you can get all the basic from it: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/12/06/summer-itinerary-for-walt-disney-world-v2/

Also in it are suggested meals and shows. With all boys, you likely want to skip Cinderella’s Royal Table, and they are likely too young for Cirque du Soleil

Hope this helps, and get back to me with any questions it raises!

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221 Aimee { 01.20.13 at 12:22 am }

Hi Dave, Me again, just on a diff part of your site =) Got our flights and accommodations booked, now onto planning our days. We are traveling with one other family. My family has a 5 yr old girl and baby, the other family has a 7 yr old girl and 3 year old girl. We are both getting 4-day passes (basic, without the park hopper). We plan minimum to spend 2 days at Magic Kingdom. And now trying to figure out if we should spend the other two days at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom OR spend 3 days at Magic Kingdom. We live in a city where we have a huge Zoo with many diff animal exhibits (from Savana to Tundra to Marine life to Jungles etc etc) so wondering if we can actually spend an entire day at Animal Kingdom to make it worthwhile. Have heard the safari expedition is pretty neat. Similarly for Hollywood Studios, can we spend a day there? We have heard Epcot is NOT for kids our age, I also read similar comments on some of your other posts. Skip altogether? The only reason we are considering Epcot is for Akershaus, but if we are able to get a booking at Cinderella’s Royal Table then we don’t need Akershaus. Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!!

222 Aimee { 01.20.13 at 12:31 am }

I should mention we are going in Mar over spring break (busy time!). Arrive Mon 1:18pm, 4-day passes Tue-Fri, leave on Sat at 9:40pm. Right now, the Cinderella’s Royal Table availability for us is dinner on Tue so we plan to be in MK that day. We were thinking MK again on Thur to split up the MK days. And we had Wed/Fri left to plan theme parks, so were considering AK and HS. Sat, given our late flight we plan to hit Disney downtown or spend some time checking out the resorts? Thoughts?? Thx.

223 Dave { 01.20.13 at 8:41 am }

Aimee…with kids that age, I’d plan on three MK days, divided among two or three mornings (the third morning is a fallback if you miss something the first tow, or want to re-ride) for rides, an afternoon for the afternoon parade, and an evening for the evening parade and fireworks. Each of the other parks, has something, but not much, for the younger beasties. (And AK is both much more and much less than a zoo…) See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/ And I concur that one princess meal is enough on a short trip!

224 Aimee { 01.20.13 at 8:26 pm }

Thanks Dave!! BTW – I downloaded your itinerary Excel template, very helpful!! Already starting building my own itinerary.

Ok, based on reading a bunch of other Q&As on your website, I read that best if we can to avoid days at Theme Parks with AM EMH given the crowds will be larger (especially since we are going during Spring Break). I read one of your posts to avoid AK on Mon’s/Wed’s and to avoid MK on Thurs due to the AM EMH.

So, here’s our draft itinerary for the week…I have my Qs within the itinerary below…
- Mon arrive 1:18pm, assume by the time we get to the resort (AoA) and settled it’ll be close to dinner time..plan to find a nice restaurant to eat at. Any suggestions for reservations that night? Good food would be nice! Our kids (age 5 and age 1) go out to restaurants often so can sit still for a good meal.
- Tue = MK since our Cinderella’s Royal Table booking is that night for dinner. We’ll spend the day at MK.
- Wed = HS, including staying for Fantasmic. (1) Would you suggest getting the Fantasmic package which has VIP passes for preferred seating and no line-up? The Disney rep said it cost about $5/person more to get the package vs. just getting the a la carte lunch or dinner. (2) If so, would you recommend the lunch at the Italian place (I think he said Mama’s) or the dinner at “Hollywood on Vine”?
- Thur = AK
- Fri = MK again
- Sat = ??. We leave that night at 9:40pm so we have the day to do something. Would you recommend we hit Disney downtown/check out the resorts OR we get a 5-day theme park pass vs. 4-day and hit MK again?

Would love your thoughts on my draft as we continue to build it. Thanks!!

225 Dave { 01.21.13 at 9:23 am }

Aimee, I need your actual dates before I can react…

226 Aimee { 01.21.13 at 3:34 pm }

Hi Dave, sorry I forgot to include Mon Mar 18 to Sat Mar 23. Thanks!

227 Dave { 01.22.13 at 11:26 am }

OK Aimee, in general you’ve done a great job on the which parks which day question! Repsosnes then to your specific quesitons follow:

Where to eat Monday: See the right side of the image here– http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-eat/dining-alternatives/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-dining/ Note that the places labeled “MK” “E” and “S” are in theme parks–which will cost you another ticket day. The rest are in hotels. Hotels can be tricky to get to from AofA unless you have a car–drop me a note once you’ve narrowed the choices down and I’ll help you get around.

Weds and the Fantasmic package. I’m not too keen on this because the restaurants are so-so–Mama Melrose is the better of the options but none are as fun for kids as alternation–you still have to show up 30 mins early, and the Fantasmic seats that go with this deal are only so-so. What it does do, however, is eliminate uncertainty about when to get in line for Fantasmic…

Sat: leave the option of what to do this day open until sometime Friday. You can add a fifth day to your ticket at the same price as if you added it today so long as you do so before the end of the day you use your fourth day.

228 Christina { 01.25.13 at 7:15 am }

Hi! I am bringing my sons for the first time May 5-12. They are 11 and 13 which theme parks would you reccommend for their ages? I wanted to visit Seaworld, Aquatica and Islands of adventure. We will also be taking a day trip to Daytona or Clearwater. Any thoughts or suggestions?

229 Dave { 01.25.13 at 8:42 am }

Hi Christina, I focus on the Disney parks–Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, so don’t have much to say about the other parks. I’d recommend 6 days at the Disney parks–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/how-long-to-stay/other-trip-lengths/designing-your-own-walt-disney-world-itinerary/designing-your-own-itinerary-continued/

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230 Josephine { 02.01.13 at 6:38 am }

Hi Dave, I just came across your website! 1 Word – SUPERB!!! Im bringing my husband and daughter (8 yr old) to WDW. Arriving Nov 30 (Sat) night. We plan to stay in WDW for the next 7-8 days and plan to get the 7 Day ticket. Is that too much? I’m also deciding which resort would be ideal that is not costly and appealing for an 8 yr old. Also, i plan to visit 1 park each day and maybe leave out some days that are park-free but i’m trying to decide which park will fit into which day. I am also getting mixed reactions from other websites between WDW transportation and renting a car. I’d like to hear if you have any suggestions? Much appreciated…Thanks!

231 Dave { 02.01.13 at 7:48 am }

Hi Josephine, and thanks!

For how long to stay, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/how-long-to-stay/

For which park which day, I’ll be publishing itineraries for November in a few months–after Disney releases its operating calendar for November, which it will do in mid-late May. You’ll be able to find them (when I release them!) here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/

For where to stay rankings by price class, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-stay/next-best-resort-choices/

A rental car gives you flexibility and saves a bit of time for park sother than the Magic Kingdom, but is not a required expense. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/02/28/renting-a-car-at-walt-disney-world/

Hope this helps!!

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232 Josephine { 02.01.13 at 7:57 am }

Wow! Thanks Dave – this really helps a lot. I will go through all the links and will come back for your recommended itineraries! Cheers

233 Suzie { 02.15.13 at 10:55 am }

Hi Dave, where have you been? I’ve been looking for you for almost a week. Hope all is well! Our WDW week is booked – We’ll be in Orlando Oct 12-19th (with 10/14) being Columbus Day. We are booked at Old Key West, hoping for a transfer to the Beach Club once the reservation transfer request can be made (7mos out). Our children will be 5 and 3 ½. We expect to go back to Disney in about 5 years. We don’t want to overwhelm the kids and pack in too much, but we do want to plan our days wisely.
Day 1 – Arrive (afternoon at hotel). See fireworks ?
Days 2-7. MK, MK, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Pool Day
Day 8: Depart
Given we are there on a holiday week, in what order would you arrange our week? Also, we would like to do two characters breakfasts (Chef Mickey and Cinderella’s Castle). Where would you place those meals? Also, is the Park Hopper worth it, or could I skip it to save money? Lastly, I’m considering doing Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween. Where would you add that? Also, are you a fan of the Touring Plans.com website? I like the idea of following their plans for Parents with Small Children for our days in the park. Thanks! Suzanne

234 Heidi { 02.15.13 at 10:53 pm }

Hi Dave~ What great info you have! I would love your input as well. I am taking my 3 boys; twins 13 & my almost 10 year old for their 1st Vacation! May 25th thru June 1st. Staying @ POR. One boy is a thrill seeker! Another is more laid back w/a nerdy side :) the youngest is all over the place. We have the dining plan. We hAve water park & more. No park hopper. *saturday~ DDT sun~ Mk & lunch @ Floridian cafe * mon~ Epcot dinner @ Garden Grill * Tues~ resort pool & hoopdeedoo review * Wed~ studios/sci-fi/fantastic *Thurs~ typhoon & dysney quest *Fri ~ AK Sat~ leave. Soooo any more advice or suggestions for us? Thanks so much

235 Dave { 02.16.13 at 6:58 am }

Hi Suzie, I’ve been here the whole time–as has the site!–were you having trouble finding the site or getting it to load?

Disney’s October calendar is not out yet–it won’t be out for another month or so–so come back to me in a month and I’ll advise on which days in which parks. That time of year, tho crowds are low overall, picking the right days for MK in particular is critical, as on the wrong days it is mobbed–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/04/30/crowds-and-walt-disney-world/

By the way, there’s not much at Epcot for kids that age, and a second pool day might be a better choice…

On your other questions, you can certainly skip the hopper. Both character meals should be done as late in the morning as you can stand–like 10.30 or later–and on your MK days. The latter because of location, the former because the first hour or so is the best time to tour the parks.

I’m not wild on the Halloween party because of its cost. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/02/14/halloween-2012-at-walt-disney-world/

And finally, yes, I am a fan of the TP itineraries!

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236 Dave { 02.16.13 at 7:12 am }

Hi Heidi and I’m glad the site is helping!

Two observations:

First, you are short on MK time and long on stuff that’s a little second rate compared to the theme parks (DTD, Disney Quest, Typhoon Lagoon.) I’d add an MK day–e.g. Tues or Thurs–and drop what you are currently planning Thursday.

Second, the Floridian Cafe is not worth the trip–if you want a sit-down lunch near MK, Whispering Canyon at Wilderness Lodge or Chef Mickeys at the Contemporary is a much better choice. However with the crowds you’ll face that week, I wouldn’t leave the park for lunch–it cuts too much into your ride time…especially if you decide to stick with one day at MK…

Hope this helps!!

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237 Suzie { 02.17.13 at 7:58 am }

Thanks Dave! Yes, I couldn’t load the site for over a week. So strange! I’ll sit tight until the October calendar is out. However, do you expect it to be out before the 180 window opens for the character meals? I hope so! Thanks, Suzie

238 Dave { 02.17.13 at 9:48 am }

Suzie, I’m so sorry! I’ve checked with my tech support and they can’t figure it out. An alternate place for questions if you can’t get here is the Facebook page (see below)…

I’ll have October itins posted here http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/ in later March–assuming Disney follows its usual schedule–which will beat the 180 day window by a couple of weeks for 10/1 and better than that for later in the month…

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239 Tami Gold { 02.28.13 at 7:15 pm }

Hi Dave! Help!! We have a great debate going on- in our house. Should we plan our trip the week of October 26th or November 30th? On the chart the dates show similar regarding crowds, expense etc… My husband seems to think the weather will be better in October and Halloween might be fun more fun. I think Christmas will bring magic and I dont care about the pool as much (he thinks we need the pool and down-time). My kids are 5 & 9. Do you have a strong opinion either way?

240 Dave { 03.01.13 at 6:57 am }

Tami, both are great weeks, and the difference is just as you note–the promise of better weather vs. the holiday decorations and program.

Because, frankly, kids will swim in the heated pools even when it’s 45 and raining, and Disney World is so special during the Christmas season, I recommend December, as you can see here http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/09/19/2013-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/ but the October weeks are the next best choice.

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241 Suzie { 04.04.13 at 5:02 pm }

Hi Dave, we’ll be in Orlando Oct 12-19th (with 10/14) being Columbus Day. We are booked at Old Key West, and are wait listed at the Beach Club. The kids will be 5 and 3 1/2. I have compared your 7 night Autumn itinerary with Touring plans.com. So, this is my proposal! We land on Saturday at 2pm, and I thought we’d skip the parks that day, and have dinner at O’hanas. Sunday – AK; Monday – Hollywood Studios; Tueday – MK (with breakfast or lunch at the Castle); Wed – Pool day; Thursday – Epcot: Friday -Chef Mickey breakfast / Pool / Mickey’s not so scary Halloween. Thoughts? On your itinerary, you have HS on Monday, but Touring Plans has them as a park to avoid due to Magic Hours. Since my kids are so young, should I switch my Monday & Tuesday? Thanks for your advice!

242 Suzie { 04.04.13 at 5:10 pm }

Sorry! The last message was from me :-)

243 Dave { 04.04.13 at 6:57 pm }

Hi Suzie!

On HS–I usually send people to HS (and Epcot) on evening EMH dates, so that they don’t have to leave with 10,000-30,000 others rights after Fantasmic/Illuminations. But how much that matters at HS varies by time of the year and more specifically on HS closing and Fantasmic times. Right now, that week shows HS closing most nights at 7.30, with one Fantasmic per night at the same time. (Hours, and number of Fantasmics, may be extended later). So I’d vote with keeping HS on Monday, so that because of EMH you don’t need to leave for the buses with 10,000 others leaving at the same time…

A broader issue I see is that for the ages of your kids, your itinerary is light on MK and heavy on the other parks. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

At those ages, AK is worth about a morning; HS a morning, and an evening for Fantasmic; Epcot barely a morning, and an evening for Illuminations; and MK is worth 2-3 mornings, an afternoon, and an evening (which you’ve covered with the party.) So I’d suggest thinking of your time off/pool days as being the afternoons, and on Weds, instead of a pool day, spend (at least) the morning at MK…

Hope this helps!!

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244 Dave { 04.04.13 at 6:58 pm }

Fixed! :)

245 Suzie { 04.04.13 at 6:59 pm }

Aha! I just found an error in my question…. I can’t swap Monday & Tuesday, because MK has the Halloween party on Monday night, so I’ll want to do MK on Tuesday. So we’ll stick with HS on Monday :-)

246 Suzie { 04.04.13 at 7:02 pm }

Thanks Dave! I was writing my last comment at the same time that your reply came in! Will go through my schedule again based on your suggestions, and see where I land. Looking to get those character meals booked as soon as the window opens. Thanks so much for the feedback! Suzie

247 Dave { 04.04.13 at 7:08 pm }

Yeah, we crossed! One note, though, for anyone else who reads this: Party days are GREAT days to go to MK. See the second half of this for why: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/04/30/crowds-and-walt-disney-world/ But I still think for the reasons noted you should go to HS on Monday!

248 Tricia { 04.05.13 at 6:05 pm }

Dave,
When do you think Disney will release November 2013 hours and calendar?

249 Dave { 04.06.13 at 9:11 am }

Hi Tricia, the November calendar should be out at the beginning of May, and perhaps earlier…

250 J { 04.24.13 at 2:41 pm }

Dave,
I am really glad I found your site! My little girl is 10 and we have never been to Disney. I am thinkign about taking her the 1st week in Dec as she loves Christmas. She is not a huge fan of crazy rides. I am thinking Nov. 30th(arrive early) – Dec. 4th stay at Art of Animation. Any suggestions, what meal plan? Thanks for taking time to answer.

251 Dave { 04.25.13 at 7:38 am }

Hi J, take a look at this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/shorter-and-longer-itineraries-for-the-december-week/basic-itinerary-5-nights6-days-version/

I won’t be able to confirm that it’ll work until Disney releases it December schedule–which it should do in about a month…but it’s a great starting point for you.

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252 J { 04.25.13 at 10:16 am }

Wow, this is great! I was so overwhelmed before I actually had to stop looking, but now that I have this link it is going to be a great experience! Thx! J

253 Danny { 05.08.13 at 12:42 pm }

Hi Dave

Just to base out CS, and TS restaurants, it might be a good idea to move Cindy’s Table to a dinner on tuesday night. Also as I said in the autumn winter spring itinerary, more AK time would be a good idea.

254 J { 05.13.13 at 1:45 pm }

Dave,
I am J from post 250. A of A room was actually booked right after Thanksgiving, so I actually booked the A of A Little Mermaid room from Fri. Dec 6th(we arrive at 2pm) to Tuesday Dec. 10th(leave around noon) I figure Fri night we do Mickey’s Christmas Parade at MK. Sat we do AK. Book dinner at nice place. Sun we sleep in and then do Epcot in afternoon and stay for dinner and Christmas Processional, fireworks. Monday we do MK again with meal at Cinderella’s castle. Any ideas or am I on right track? Also, just found out Park Football is during our time. Think we will be ok or should I switch rooms? Thanks so much for anymore input!- J

255 Dave { 05.14.13 at 7:37 am }

J your overall approach sounds great, so long as the December operations are the same as they have been in prior years–check back with me in a week or so when that calendar should be out.

The football stuff has no real effect on park crowds, and my guess is that they won’t be much at Art of Animation either…

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256 Kate Doyle { 05.16.13 at 8:31 pm }

We are staying at the Pop Century with two premium rooms, we have 4 kids 12,9,7 and 5, we have planned on doing the magic your way plus dining with no park hopper: Can you take a look at my itinerary and give me any advice based on our plans? It is our first time ever with our kids and we have no clue what we are doing!

We fly in late on the 22nd

Wed-Oct.23- – -To Magic Kingdom – -5:10pm Character Dinner Buffet (7)-Chef Mickey’s-Mickey & Friends-Contemporary Resort -8:00pm Main Street Electrical Parade – 9:00pm Wishes! fireworks

Thu-Oct.24- -To Disney Studios – -To: Jedi Training Academy; Toy Story; American Idol – - – -4:45pm Dinner (7)-Sci Fi Dine In-Disney Studios– -Optional: 7:30pm Fantasmic! show

Fri-Oct.25- – - -To Epcot – -9:45am Character Breakfast (7)-Princess Storybook-Restaurant Akershus-Norway/Epcot- – -Walk/boat through International Gateway to ESPN/Boardwalk Area – -6:30pm Dinner (7)-Teppan Edo-Japan/EpcotIllumiNations! fireworks

Sat-Oct.26- – -sleep in morning – - -To Magic Kingdom – - – - – -Monorail to Polynesian to Ohana- dinner

Sun-Oct.27- – - – -To Animal Kingdom – - -Afternoon rest & relax – - – -To Magic Kingdom – - – - -6:25pm Dinner (7)-Be Our Guest-Magic Kingdom- 7:00pm Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (7)-Magic Kingdom

Mon-Oct.28- – - – - Maybe back to Epcot? We fly out at 5:45 pm.

Any advice would be awesome!!!!!!!

257 Dave { 05.17.13 at 9:38 am }

Hi Katie, this looks pretty strong. Be aware that MK will be quite crowded 10/23, and that there is great stuff you can do at Epcot in the morning that your Akershus breakfast will get in the way of…ant that overall you are short on early mornings at MK. You can fix that the 28th…

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258 April { 05.25.13 at 9:33 am }

Hello, just found your site :) and would like your opinion on our future vacation….we are planning a Christmas visit and a very merry Christmas party with Mickey on 12/20/13, the last day it’s available, thoughts on crowds?? We have been before so our goal this trip is to maximize the christmas experience and the girly/baby experience…We have an 11, 10 (boys) and 2 yr old (girl)…entire stay will be 8-9 days with plans to visit MK twice, Epcot and AK once…any suggestions to maximize our Christmas stay?? FYI, we will be driving in on 12/18 & 19 and leaving 12/27 and we will be staying off the resort…thanx

259 Dave { 05.25.13 at 3:09 pm }

Well, April, that’s (beginning the 21st) single most crowded and highest-priced period of the year, with afternoon waits of 3 hours per ride not uncommon.

The best way to handle it (if you can’t switch your visit to earlier December, which has all the same holiday program but much lower crowds) is to be at the parks well before they open, which won’t work as well for you, as you won’t be able to do morning extra magic hours, and you can expect to see those every morning at AK and MK.

Take a look at this–it’s from last year, but the general approaches still apply: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/12/04/coping-disney-world-holiday-crowds/

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260 April { 06.01.13 at 11:47 am }

So having read your response on our Christmas vacation (dec20) above, would going the week of dec14-dec21 be considered “earlier” enough to avoid such ridiculous crowds? Doing the Christmas party on the 15th and/or the 17th? thanks for your help :)

261 Dave { 06.02.13 at 8:08 am }

April that would be MUCH better!!!

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262 Jennifer { 06.04.13 at 12:33 am }

OK, so I am definitely not on your plan! We are leaving Wednesday (that’s right, basically in 48 hours, less actually). My daughter is competing at Disney so we couldn’t book ahead because we didn’t know her schedule and we just missed booking anything. We have our hotel and obviously flights and car set. We also bought park tickets. Other than that I have no reservations, no real plan. I also STILL don’t know what time my daughter is competing. We are there for 7 nights total, but she is competing on 3 of the days so I have no idea of our schedule for those days yet. My kids are 12, 9 and 7. Anything you can recommend or are we just going to have to wing it? I’m feeling completely overwhelmed. We are getting there late Wednesday night and leaving the next wednesday at lunchtime. We have too many tickets-3 days at Universal and 5 at Disney, all park hoppers. I don’t even know where to start! Thanks for any advice or tips you can give.

Jennifer

263 Dave { 06.04.13 at 8:17 am }

Hi Jennifer–it’ll be OK!

First, Universal is best Saturday-Monday. You should plan on a Harry Potter morning, and then let the kids decide–after they’ve seen DIsney World–how much more time to spend at Universal.

At Disney World, avoid the following parks on the following days:

6/5: Avoid Hollywood Studios
6/6: Avoid Magic Kingdom
6/7: Avoid HS and Epcot
6/8: Avoid HS and Animal Kingdom
6/9 Avoid HS and MK
6/10: Avoid HS and MK
6/11: Avoid Epcot
6/12: Avoid AK

What you want to do–within the limits of the competition–is to try to hit each of the Disney parks for a full day (or the equivalent–you can split over a couple of days) and Magic Kingdom for a seocnd day as well.

Arrive if you can well before the parks open, and see one of my itineraries–e.g. this one http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/12/06/summer-itinerary-for-walt-disney-world-v2/ –for what to do first.

For days when becasue of competitions you can only go in the evening, the evening events at Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and the Magic Kingdom are well worth it.

Hope this helps!

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264 Tara { 06.05.13 at 8:17 pm }

Hi Dave,
We are going to Disney with 4 boys ages 4, 5, 7 and 9. We have booked a 2 bedroom villa at animal kingdom kidani Dec 11-19th. We are trying to make an itinerary and are open to suggestions. Any must sees for boys? Pirate fireworks? Also do you recommend the park hopper or do you think one park a day is going to be busy enough with 4 boys traveling to and from animal kingdom? My biggest concern is how busy it will be at that time? Best date to book mickey christmas? Lastly – do we go to the parks on EMH days or are they busy.

265 Dave { 06.06.13 at 8:11 am }

Tara, besdies starting on weekends, my itineraries are all designed for kids 8 and older–see this for why http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/how-oldtall-your-children-should-be/ –so they aren’t really usable for you. You could use this one as a starting point http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/basic-itinerary-daily-links/ (note that days are days– “First Saturday” means “Saturday,” not “Day 1″) while using this to filter it for the younger boys http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

It won’t be particularly crowded then, and you shouldn’t need a park hopper. I do recommend the Christmas Party, and while some days (e.g. Tuesdays) are slightly better than others, all the Christmas Party dates are good.

In general avoid parks on days they have morning extra magic hours–AK in December is an exception, as it closes early and the EMH gains you an hour–and avoid MK on evening EMH nights. Epcot is a good on EMH evenings as you can stay after Illuminations ends, and avoid the mob at the bus stop…

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266 Emily { 06.29.13 at 7:52 pm }

Hi Dave,
I just came across your site and was hoping you could give us some ideas or hints on how we should schedule our first Disney trip. We will be in Disney from 11/29/13 (late in the evening) until 12/6/13 (leaving mid-day). We have 10 people total going – kids ages 6, 4, 3, and 18 mos. All we have booked so far is Chef Mickey’s character breakfast on 12/1 (at 7:30am) and the Bippity Boppity boutique for our girls on 12/1 at 2:30pm at the Magic Kingdom (earliest we could get despite scheduling 180 days out). We were thinking this as our daily schedule, but I have no idea if this works well or not:
11/30 – AK
12/1 – MK
12/2 – MK
12/3 – HS
12/4 – Epcot
12/5 – MK then stay late for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party
We have 6 day park tickets, but not park hopper tickets. The infant and 2 adults will be going to Sea World on 12/2, but the rest of us plan on going to a park. The infant and 2 adults will also be leaving on 12/4 and are okay with missing out on Epcot. Also, we are pretty clueless as to what restaurants we should be reserving or are recommended. We have a reservation at the Rainforest Cafe in AK on 11/30, but can always change/cancel it would work to do that park another day. Thank you so much for any help or advice you can offer! We really appreciate it!

Emily

267 Emily { 06.29.13 at 7:53 pm }

I forgot to say we are staying offsite, at the Wyndham Resort. Thank you again!

268 Dave { 06.30.13 at 12:02 pm }

Emily, take a look at this. It’s designed for just that week, though it starts and ends a day later, assumes you are staying on site, and is optimized for kids much older than yours. Scan it and its days and then tell me what you think. http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/shorter-and-longer-itineraries-for-the-december-week/basic-itinerary-less-second-sunday/ I can then help you modify it for your dates and ages and SeaWorld and the early departure…

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269 Dale { 07.20.13 at 10:32 am }

Hello. I am trying to use this site to maximize the number of attractions we can see at each park, but I am confused (or tired from all the planning). All the itineraries I see involve park hopping. I got the 4 day pass (non-hopper). I was planning 2 days MK, one day epcot, and one day HS. I don’t see any all day itinerary for epcot or HS (or am I missing this)?? Also, is there a 2 day MK itinerary? We arrive 7/23/13 and just plan on DTD that evening. We leave 8/2/13. We are also going to Universal 2 days, and SW one day. Staying off site.

270 Dave { 07.20.13 at 11:10 am }

Dale, all my itineraries are 1. integrated week-long itineraries and 2. designed for on-site visitors. You can find one and two day straight itineraries at touringplans.com–e.g. here: http://touringplans.com/magic-kingdom/touring-plans?utm_campaign=referral&utm_medium=website&utm_source=yourfirstvisit&utm_content=r1&property_id=1

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271 Adrienne { 08.12.13 at 12:56 am }

Hi Dave,

I heard your best and I know you can help me from reading previous questions and amazing answers. I have been panicking over getting this itinerary perfect or close to it. We’ve save and save!!!! And made personal sacrifice ….missing family reunions, so my family can attend Disney for the first time for some and in 20+ year others. Ok, now for my delimma! The Smith family trip is taking place on August 23rd, arriving @ 12 noon, staying @ the Sheraton Villas, and departing on August 30th @ 1pm. Fri to Fri.. I haven’t seen much itineraries for date like these.. That’s a couple of days away. I don’t have the Tickets yet, still of to add the water parks or not? I know I want the Park Hopper option, but just not sure how to either use it the right way. O let’s see who traveling, 1 Adult, 1 Senior, 2 boys 7yrs and 3 1/2, and 1 girl 7yrs. The Senior can get around! She even wants to go to Universal, I thought it would be too much for them. Please Help! Hear the crying.
Thank you in advance,
Adrienne,

272 Dave { 08.12.13 at 8:52 am }

Hi Adrienne, you are right that I don’t have itineraries for trips of that length and days, especially with an off-site hotel and adding Universal to the mix! My suggestion is reaching out to my bud John. He designs custom itineraries for a ridiculously low price. Find him here: http://www.leaveittogenie.com/

273 Schar { 08.23.13 at 1:07 pm }

Hello Dave! I just found your site this morning!! Thank you so much for such a wonderful site!! Ok. I’ve been to WDW many times as a child & adult but I have two small girls ages 4 & 5 and this will be their second trip. My 5 year old will be turning 6 on Jan. 13. We have our trip planned for 01/12-01/22/2014. This is what I have planned thus far. 01/12 arrive, explore AoA, dinner at Chef Mickey’s at 1700. Due to the marathon we decided against a park on the 12th. 01/13 Crystal Palace breakfast at 0815, early dinner at Royal Table at 1630. Please make suggestions for the remainder of our days. I know we want to get in as many character meals as possible. We have the deluxe dining plan because it works better for us, gives the kids a nice sit down break to re-group. FYI, we are naturally early risers so early mornings are not a problem. Any advice/tips you offer will be greatly, greatly appreciated!! Again, your site is WoW and most helpful!!!

274 Dave { 08.24.13 at 9:16 am }

Hi Schar and thanks!

I focus on older kids, so won’t be a lot of help, but here’s some thoughts:

On the character meals see this http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-eat/dining-alternatives/character-meals-and-dinner-shows-ranked-in-order/ but don’t forget Hoop Dee Doo http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/04/24/review-the-hoop-dee-doo-musical-revue/ and other kid-pleasing meals that aren’t character meals—see the upper third of this http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-eat/dining-alternatives/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-dining/

Having been there before, you already know that there’s not a ton outside the Magic Kingdom for kids that age–best (and worst) attraction choices are here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

Here’s park to avoid by day:

1/13: NA, since you are already set for MK
1/14: Avoid Epcot
1/15: Avoid AK
1/16: Avoid MK
1/17: Avoid Epcot
1/18: Avoid HS
1/19: Avoid MK
1/20: Avoid AK and HS
1/21: Avoid Epcot
1/22: Avoid AK

Note also that the 18th-20th is MLK weekend, and will be more crowded than the days immediately before and after it…

Hope this helps!

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275 Schar { 08.24.13 at 1:58 pm }

Thanks Dave!! These are great!! You are great!! I love the ‘avoid park dates’ that alone is a tremendous help!!! Everything else is a bonus!!! Now, I feel like I can sit down and make some positive progress with my planning!!! Thank you!

276 Dave { 08.25.13 at 8:30 am }

Cool, Schar!…and keep the questions coming!

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277 Ro { 09.16.13 at 5:40 am }

Dave -just found your. Fantastic site. Need your help. I’m a single mom surprising my 6 year old son. We will stay at the Polynesian based on your suggestion. We arrive Dec 19 early afternoon and depart early morning dec 23. My son turns 7 dec 24. I want to make this trip special any itinary suggestions? Also I have family in Orlando and I want to invite them for Disney for my sons birthday probably Saturday dec 21st any restaurant suggestions. Also should I get Disney to decorate his room for his birthday. We live in toronto

278 Dave { 09.16.13 at 10:22 am }

Hi Ro, and thanks!

A couple of thoughts.

Disney World will be massively crowded beginning 21/21, and especially 12/22 and after. So pack as much as you can into the earlier days of your visit.

At that age, he should enjoy all the parks except maybe Epcot. But with just three full days, you could spend you entire visit at the Magic Kingdom, and I’d allocate at least two days there.

I’d do his birthday meal in a hotel–that way your family won’t have to buy park tickets. At the Poly, a birthday breakfast at Ohana would be fun–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/06/09/review-the-lilo-and-stitch-best-friends-character-breakfast-at-disneys-polynesian-resort/ Dinner at Ohana is fun too–just no Mickey…

For other birthday points see the second half of this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/02/01/is-walt-disney-world-free-on-your-birthday/

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279 Tonya { 10.07.13 at 9:20 pm }

Dave can I get a discounted military ticket for the mvmcp?

280 Dave { 10.08.13 at 8:02 am }

Hi Tonya, yes you can–see this: http://www.militarydisneytips.com/blog/military-discounts/2013-military-discount-prices-on-mickeys-very-merry-christmas-party/

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281 Judy { 10.10.13 at 11:04 am }

Hi Dave. My extended family is going back for another wonderful week at WDW but unfortunately because of some of the kids now in college could only book at non-school week. We are arriving afternoon of Dec 27th and leave morning of Jan 4th. Only one specific plan and that is ADR booked for HS on New Years Eve. Any suggestions for itinerary for the rest of the anticipated, crazy busy week would be very much appreciated.

282 Dave { 10.11.13 at 7:05 am }

Judy, I don’t have a lot to offer other than the basics, which you already know: arrive well before opening; avoid parks on their EMH days; ride first the rides that build lines fastest, and use Fastpasses for the other long-line rides.

I published some other thoughts last year–ignore the specific dates and take a look at the ideas instead: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/12/04/coping-disney-world-holiday-crowds/

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283 Chris { 10.12.13 at 1:08 am }

Hi, Dave. You are the Disney oracle! Wondering if you have any tips for us. We’ll be arriving in Orlando this Sunday, Oct. 13, at 6pm and staying at Pop Century. This is our first visit with our daughters, ages 6 and 8. We’re departing Friday Oct. 18 at 11am. The only thing we have scheduled is the 100 Acre Wood character lunch at Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace, Tuesday, 12:50pm. In particular. we were wondering the “must sees” for our daughters and how we should handle food. Many thanks in advance! PS: You should add a tip jar to this page!

284 Dave { 10.12.13 at 9:19 am }

Hey Chris and thanks!!

Your girls are old enough to love all the parks but Epcot. I’d target 2 days at MK, and one each at HS and AK. You can adapt any of my itineraries to your trip, using this as a a way to filter: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/

Just focusing on Mon-Thurs of next week, Tuesday will be very crowded at MK, but is a good day to see the fireworks and evening parade. Your other MK day should be Monday. That leaves Weds and Thurs for AK and HS, and either day will be fine at both parks.

Most of the great dining will have been booked for months–what you have with Pooh is a wonderful choice. My other recommendations are all built into the itineraries themselves, but also see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-eat/dining-alternatives/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-dining/

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285 Rob { 10.12.13 at 10:23 am }

First visit to Disney – arrive Halloween morning (leaving Monday evening) and looking for some recommendations. I have tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween but wasn’t sure what order to do the parks with young kids – 10 and 8 on Fri/Sat/Sun. My 10 yr old is special needs (autism) and we will have to figure out the new rules on getting him onto the rides as he won’t make it waiting in long lines……. Suggestions on low key food options as the 10yr old doesn’t have too many foods he eats other than normal finger foods like nuggets, fish sticks and corndogs (like MacNcheese and pizza too). We were told to book at Chef Mickey’s so we have that lined up for Sunday night. So many websites and everyone recommends something different but have really enjoyed reading your site and like the honest recommendations. Look forward to hearing back from you.

286 Rob { 10.12.13 at 10:24 am }

FYI – staying at Polynesian per your recommendation :)

287 Amy { 10.12.13 at 10:50 pm }

We are planning our first visit to Disney; however, we are flying into Orlando on Tuesday, December 10th at 3pm and flying out Monday, December 16th at 2pm. How do I follow the itinerary since it starts on Saturday? Do I just change the dates of the itinerary to my dates so I ensure that I am doing the events in order? Thank you for your help.

Amy

288 Dave { 10.13.13 at 11:27 am }

Hi Rob, kids that age can enjoy pretty much anything at WDW, and you are very short on time. So I’d go with a Magic Kingdom-focused trip.

i’m assuming you are going to the Halloween Party Thursday (see this for thoughts on how to spend your time at it: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/09/24/review-mickeys-not-so-scary-halloween-party/ ) I’d then return to MK the 1st–it’ll be much lower crowd then than the 2nd or 3rd.

Because you have Chef Mickeys on the third, you want to be at a park that day that you can finish in time for dinner, and that’s the Animal Kingdom. So do that park on Sunday.

Saturday you can then go to Epcot or the Hollywood Studios, or return to the Magic Kingdom. I would make the decision the night before. Just on crowds, Epcot will be the best choice. But you will likely still be short on MK time, so you may end up there! If you got to HS, note that it has morning extra magic hours, so show up extra early!

For food, in the circumstances, sound like you want quick-service options that offer pretty standard fare. AT MK, the choice would be Cosmic Rays, Epcot the Electric Umbrella, HS ABC Commissary, and at AK Restaurantosaurus.

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289 Dave { 10.13.13 at 11:39 am }

Hi Amy! The itinerary is tied to different things that happen on different days–that is, “First Saturday” means “Saturday,” not “Day 1.” So you can’t just start at the beginning. Moreover, your visit is two days shorter than it covers.

If you tell me the ages of your kids, and whether or not you are staying at a Disney hotel, I’ll give you some thoughts on how to re-do it!

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290 Jim { 10.15.13 at 12:07 am }

Dave,
I have read all your posts. Great details!!! Just have a question about Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013.
This is our last full day in the parks. We have dinner reservations/Candlelight Processional at
Epcot. I know you have said that Dec. 21 begins the huge crowds. What would be your best idea about what to do on the 21st?

291 Dave { 10.15.13 at 7:22 am }

Jim, thanks! Is the 21st your only Epcot day?

292 Ellen { 10.21.13 at 2:50 pm }

Hello, so glad that I stumbled across your AMAZING website. You have so many great ideas. I should have seen this before planning a week stay in Orlando for New Years. Plans can’t be changed – it’s a surprise xmas gift for our 3 kids – ages 4, 6 and 10 -shhhh! We plan on going to the parks 4 days and have purchased park-hopper tickets and SeaWorld tickets for one day. Can you give me your opinion on which park/which days? From what I gather it won’t be as crowded after the 2nd of January, however we want to take advantage of any xmas event before it gets taken down. We have been to Disney before but only very quickly. Wasn’t too eager to return to Epcot, really enjoyed MK and AK. Also which resort restaurant would you recommend for our New Year’s Eve dinner (we have the dining plan)? There are openings at the Wilderness.
We will be at Disney Jan 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5th (taking 1 day off for Sea World)
Thanks again :)

293 Dave { 10.22.13 at 7:50 am }

Ellen, thanks for your kind words, but I don’t have any great ideas for you. While things will be better beginning the 2nd, they will still be lousy until the 5th. I’d completely avoid the parks on New Years Eve, so dinner at WL sounds fine. The early morning of the 1st should be good anywhere as tens of thousands sleep in. Avoid MK the 2nd, Epcot the 3rd, HS the 4th, and MK the 5th.

294 lisa { 11.11.13 at 3:13 am }

Thank you for all the information on your site! I am formulating a schedule for our trip based on what you have recommended and our needs. We are first time visitors who fly into Orlando 7:30pm 11/24 and fly out 4pm 11/28. Kids are ages 10 to 20. We have a 5 day pass. My idea is to do MK on Monday, Epcot on Tuesday, AK on Wednesday, Hollywood Studios on Thursday. Originally I planned to do AK on Thanksgiving to avoid crowds (per your advice), but I am worried we would run out of time, whereas HS we only HAVE to do: RocknRoller coaster, Toy Story Mania, and Star Tours. Problem: that means to see Fantasmic we have to switch parks one night (Weds night I suppose?). I would love any input you can give me on all details I have shared with you. Thank you! P.S. we are staying off site

295 Dave { 11.11.13 at 8:28 am }

Lisa, I’d make a couple of changes.

First, you’ve targeted parks on days they have extra magic hours–Epcot Tuesday, and AK weds. EMH makes the parks quite crowded, so I wouldn’t do that.

Second, I would not go to HS instead of AK on Thursday–among other things for Fantasmic on another day you will need to buy park hoppers which will cost another ~$60/person, plus the lines will be quite long even for just the three HS rides you’ve targeted.

So I’d do HS Tuesday, Epcot weds, and AK Thursday…

296 lisa { 11.11.13 at 5:11 pm }

Thank you, that makes sense, I had forgotten to check the EMH. We do have a 5 day pass for 4 days in the parks so we can use that extra day to park hop one time, can’t we? Does that change anything in your opinion? On my list for AK I have: Kilimanjaro Safari, Pangani Forest, Maharaja, Lion King, Dinosaur, Expedition Everest and the Rapids – but I think we have to leave the park by 2pm, that’s just not possible is it? Thanks again!

297 Dave { 11.12.13 at 4:00 pm }

Lisa, you can’t use the extra day to park hop. You can only use it for another entire day. To go to more than one park in a day, you must have a hopper…sorry…

298 Anne { 12.29.13 at 7:05 pm }

Hi Dave,
We are first-timers with kids ages 9, 7 and 5. Our visit will not be a full week and we can only go during spring break (believe me that was not my first choice but it is what it is). We arrive late the evening of April 12, fly out the evening of April 17 and we are staying at the Polynesian. Would love some guidance as to an itinerary, it is all so overwhelming. Thanks so much for all the work you do on this site, it is amazing!!!

299 Dave { 12.30.13 at 7:23 am }

Hi Anne! The 7 and 9 year old can enjoy pretty much everything, but not the 5 year old. That makes it trickier. Moreover, there are no good choices that week- just bad and worse ones.

With 4 full days and a couple of partial days, and the wild crowds, you’ll have to skip a lot. Put the Animal Kingdom on the 17th, as it has no evening events.

MK won’t be good any day, but will be best the 15th and 16th, and its worth two days.

That leaves HS and Epcot. I’d do HS the 13th and Epcot the 14th…the 5 year old may not like Epcot much…

Be sure to sign up for and use FastPass+!! See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/08/20/what-you-need-to-know-now-about-fastpass/

300 Kelly { 02.05.14 at 2:43 pm }

We are planning a once in a life time trip to WDW June 23 through July 1. I know that the dates will be crowded but that is what we have to work with:(
Monday arrival and go to either downtown disney or the boardwalk.
Tuesday MK with breakfast at Cinderelle castle.
Wednesday MR with nothing booked
Thursday universal studios
Friday universal studios
Saturday animal kingdom dinner at tuskers
Sunday hollywood studios dinner at 1900 park fair
Monday epcot with lunch at coral reef and dinner at akershus. (This sounds like a lot but I really want to do both.)
We are doing universal for my son who is 9 and my husband who really want to see harry potter. I am thinking that maybe my daughter and I could skip it and do extra days at My instead and save the money. The down side would be splitting up on our family vacation., but my 3 year old is probably too little for harry potter anyway. We are also on the fence about the dining plan. We like the idea of it being prepaid but think we could save money if we eat smart. If we don’t do the dining plan I will probably cancel 1900 and/or tuskers but wanted to have reservations if we do do the dining plan. Thank you for all your information. It makes all this craziness a bit easier!

301 Dave { 02.05.14 at 3:07 pm }

Hi Kelly, yup, there’s not much for a 3yo at Universal. And BTW, Universal tend to be busiest late week, and best Sat-Monday…the dining plan frankly will likely save money for the kids, cost money for the parents, and overall be about a wash or put you just a few dollars ahead…

302 Gaby { 02.11.14 at 11:37 am }

Hello Dave!! I love your site!!! is so helpful!!! we are taking our family for the first time to WDW and I have a lot of questions!!! we arrive 5/10 at 2:40 pm and depart 5/17 at 10:30 am so we have 6 complete days and the day we arrived that we were planning to go to MK we have a reservation at royal table at 9:35 pm. do you think this is good?? we are not buying pass hoppers, do you think is a good idea to take advantage of magic hours? our plan is to go to Epcot on Friday (that is our only day at epcot) and we have dinner reservations at teppan edo at 7:50 that night, do you think we are going to be able to watch Illuminations??? oooohhhhh this is a lot of planning!!! :) thanks a lot for your help!!!!

303 Dave { 02.12.14 at 8:00 am }

Gabby, Extra Magic Hours days, over the full day, are more crowded than comparable non-EMH days. You can still manage them, though, especially your dates. 7.50 is cutting it very close for Illuminations. You are paced by the chef at your table and the others guests there (typically 8 to a table) whihc is a little out of your control. I wouldn’t–Illuminations is unique, whereas restaurants like Teppan Edo are everywhere.

304 Keith { 02.25.14 at 8:22 am }

We are arriving Monday sept. 8 and will stay through sept. 16. How does that affect the itinerary that you made for the week of Sept 6th? IS there a way of adjusting it to keep the same general flow of what parks to visit on each day? It just costs quite a bit more to get in on saturday, (flights..)
Thanks again

305 Dave { 02.25.14 at 6:08 pm }

Keith, the days in the itinerary are tied to actual calendar days, because of operating pattern differences among days–Monday is Monday, not day 3–so you can’t quite slide it along. What you can do is do what it says for the first Saturday on Monday, then pick up the itinerary Tuesday through Saturday, then re-start on Sunday with what it shows as the First Sunday…

306 Barbara { 03.02.14 at 11:38 am }

Love your site – I have read lots but am so overwhelmed! So . . . this will be a first visit for everyone in our family except youngest daughter who been once. We hope to go in October and well be celebrating our youngest daughter’s 21st birthday, oldest daughter 25th birthday and our 30th wedding anniversary. Mom and Dad will be 52 and 71 at the time of the trip. I think we want to stay on site since this is a first (and probably only) trip. We are thinking Pop Century, and I think we want to do the meal plan. We want to go to Harry Potter one day too.

What do you think of this? Arrive October 17, dinner at Reglan Road Irish Pub, Magic Kingdom with Cinderella’s Royal Table on the 18th, Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues and then Hollywood Studios on the 19th, with the Fantasmic dining package possibly, maybe Harry Potter on the 20th, Epcot with the Biergarte on the 21st, Animal Kingdom on the 22nd, with the Hoop Dee Doo Revue possibly, and then the Magic Kingdom and Be Our Guest on the 23rd, and then head for home on the 24th.

I wasn’t sure about the order of the days, except that I’ve heard it’s a good thing to begin and end your trip with the Magic Kingdom since it’s the most memorable, and of course the Gospel Brunch would have to be on Sunday, but other than that I don’t have any idea of what would be preferable. What do you think? I really appreciate your help and insights!

307 Dave { 03.03.14 at 10:32 am }

Hi Barbara and thanks! I won’t be able to comment on your days until Disney releases its October calendar, whihc it will in a couple of weeks. So check back with me in later March, OK?

308 Bill B { 03.16.14 at 10:23 am }

This is a wonderful site, albeit overwhelming with all the information. I was informed, by my wife, that we are going to Disney for spring break next week (March 24 – 27), for 4 days, Monday through Thursday. I don’t have a lot of time for research, so I am looking to an expert for help. We have two girls 13 and 10, neither of whom are into princesses any more (shame on us). Anyway, any help with what we HAVE to do, HAVE to avoid would be greatly appreciated. We are not staying on site, but are close with a free shuttle bus service from our expensive resort. Original plan was to spend two days at Disney attractions and two days at Universal. That was before I started looking at the enormous task of actually planning ome ort of itinerary. We are looking for uniqueness of Disney, or Universal. Thrill rides are not a major attraction as we live close to Paramount Kings Island for thrill rides. I can see why you recommend so much time to plan the vacation and for so many days, as there is so much to do. We are stuck with dates and limited time as it the kids spring break ( which is why I am sure this will be a crowded week). Thanks for any advice, and I am very thankful for your very helpful site.

309 Dave { 03.17.14 at 7:31 am }

Bill, Try Epcot Monday, MK Tuesday, HS Wednesday, and AK Thursday. For one-day itineraries for each, see this: http://www.easywdw.com/category/cheat-sheets/

310 Barbara { 03.29.14 at 9:40 am }

Yes that would be great! I’m thinking we may have to do Universal another time since I think it might be too much with it being in two parks now. Any suggestions would be so welcome!

311 Chris { 03.29.14 at 1:55 pm }

Fantastic site and very useful for us “detail-oriented” sorts.

I’m wondering if there is a list of Magic Hour dates / times / locations somewhere that can assist in planning? Or are these already worked into the basic itinerary?

We’re looking at December 1 – December 9 as this drops the costs down quite a bit. This puts us there for some of Pop Warner football, but I’m assuming those kids are busy during the day?

Also, our kids are a little younger (we hope that this won’t be our only visit) at 6 and 9. Is there anything on the basic itinerary that you would definitely change for younger visitors?

Thanks for the valuable assistance!

312 Ronda { 03.30.14 at 4:16 am }

Thank you for your informative sight…it is amazing!!! We are planning a Disney trip for December 2nd-10th (based on your recommendation for time of year and length of trip). How should I adapt your Saturday through Sunday itinerary to a Tuesday through Wednesday trip?Our group includes myself, my husband and our 5 1/2 year old daughter (at the time of the trip). Thank you for any information you can give me. I would also like to include Be Our Guest and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ if possible.

313 Dave { 03.31.14 at 7:40 am }

Chris, Disney publishes hours and such about 6 months in advance. When it does, I then publish recommended itineraries here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/

I know even without this calendar that the Basic Itinerary will be heavily revised, becasue it no longer works with the transition to FastPass+. I’ll have a revised version of it out in April!

For the 6 year old, a lot depends on both temperament and height. See this http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/how-oldtall-your-children-should-be/what-if-theyre-too-shortyoung/taking-your-too-shortyoung-kids-anyway/

314 Dave { 03.31.14 at 7:48 am }

Ronda, hi and thsnk!!!

For now, just hold, as I will be republishing the Basic Itinerary to reflect FastPass+ later this month, and then likely revising it again in late May when the actual operating hours for then come out. When it’s clean (that is later May), you’ll be able to find it here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/ Let’s talk then about specific changes?

315 Dave { 03.31.14 at 11:18 am }

Barbara, I’d do a quite different itinerary. What you have proposed–because of EMH days and other factors–has you going to parks on particularly crowded days.

I’d suggest this instead:
10/18 AK
10/19 HS
10/20 Epcot
10/21 MK
10/22 MK
10/23 off, or return to your favorite park.

For some of the logic behind this, see this, especially the second half: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/04/30/crowds-and-walt-disney-world/

316 amanda { 03.31.14 at 4:13 pm }

I have 2 boys 4 and 6 and have no clue where to begin. We will be going 9/28-10/4 and staying at Port Orleans riverside. only plans I have so far is dinner at chef mickeys on 9/28. Im not sure if we should skip epcot and just do 2 days at MK, and 1 day at AK and HS. My husband wants a day to just relax too. any advice would be appreciated!!

317 Dave { 04.01.14 at 7:09 am }

Hi Amanda! Either tart with this http://yourfirstvisit.net/2014/01/16/seven-night-fastpass-lower-crowd-itinerary-sunday-arrival/ but thin out the Epcot time given the ages of your kids, or use Josh’s cheat sheets to build your own itineraries http://www.easywdw.com/category/cheat-sheets/ Your dates, MK will be best Sunday, Thursday and Firday, and worst Monday. HS is good Tuesday on, and AK any day but Mon or Weds.

318 Barbara { 04.05.14 at 4:28 pm }

So now we’re thinking Universal will take two days, with the opening of the new part of Harry Potter. So now I’m thinking Universal 10/19 and 10/20, with Magic Kingdom on 10/21, Epcot 10/22, Animal Kingdom 10/23, Hollywood Studios 10/24, and Magic Kingdom 10/25. We’ve heard it’s a good idea to begin and end on a high note. How does that sound?

319 Dave { 04.07.14 at 6:50 am }

Hi Barbara, your dates look great to me. I generally advise seeing Epcot first, but 10/21 is a bad day for Epcot!

320 Barbara { 04.07.14 at 9:02 am }

Good to know! Thanks for the confirmation – makes me feel better!

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