Basic Itinerary: 5 Nights/6 Days Version

By Dave Shute


This incredibly difficult itinerary (click to open; when open, click again to enlarge) and its associated To-Do List are for the basic December weeks, but three days shorter, skipping the first and second Saturdays and second Sunday.

It provides–just barely–enough time in the parks by

  • Taking out almost all of your off and down time
  • Accepting the risk that you won’t see everything–and especially all the pavilions in the World Showcase–at Epcot, which is typically the least favorite park for kids
  • Assuming that everything goes just right at the Magic Kingdom

The entries below provide daily guidance and your To-Do List.




BASIC ITINERARY: Summary To-Do List Sat Sun Mon Tues Weds Thurs Fri Sat Sun

BASIC ITINERARY LESS SECOND SUNDAY: Summary To-Do List Sat Sun Mon Tues Weds Thurs Fri Sat

BASIC ITINERARY LESS FIRST SATURDAY: Summary To-Do List Sun Mon Tues Weds Thurs Fri Sat Sun


BASIC ITINERARY 5 NIGHT VERSION: Summary To-Do List Sun Mon Tues Weds Thurs Fri

BASIC ITINERARY RELAXED VERSION: Summary To-Do List Sat Sun Mon Tues Weds Thurs Fri Sat Sun Mon


  • 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


1 Sarah { 02.24.12 at 1:20 pm }

I can’t get this itinerary to enlarge when I click on it. All the other ones work, except this one! And it’s really hard to read so small! :)

2 Dave { 02.24.12 at 1:53 pm }

Hi Sarah! It doesn’t get bigger because unlike the rest I never re-wrote it in 15 point type…I’ll get to that, but not right away…

You can try enlarging your browser magnification, or I can email you a version of it in powerpoint that’s blown up…or you can save the image, copy it to ppt, and blow it up yourself…

Sorry, and I’ll fix it soon…


3 Adrienne { 05.28.13 at 1:49 pm }

Hoping you can give me some of your expert advice regarding our upcoming WDW trip. We have it planned for Sept 21-26. (Yes, we’re doing this a bit last-minute due to my husband’s work schedule.) We have 4-day passes (we’re both military and using the Salute tickets) and will be arriving around 1pm on the 21st and we’re staying either at Wilderness Lodge or Caribbean Beach. It’s two adults and our daughter who is 8…and we do plan on returning to WDW in the future. The Cinderella castle meal is booked up already for that entire week, so that’s one less thing for the itinerary. However, I see on some of the itineraries you’ve posted that you have dinner at Akashus on the night of arrival. I like this idea, but wouldn’t we be “wasting” a full-day ticket to go there for only half the day to eat dinner and see a little bit of Epcot? Also, since we do plan on coming back, what sort of itinerary would you recommend for a 5-night stay if we decided to just stick to MK, Epcot and maybe HS? The last time I visited WDW was when I was in high school and Epcot was brand new, so this is really overwhelming!

4 Adrienne { 05.28.13 at 3:29 pm }

Oops…slight mistake on my part…our hotel choices are Animal Kingdom Lodge or CBR, not Wilderness.

5 Dave { 05.29.13 at 7:06 am }

Hi Adrienne, yes–I’d spend an arrival day at a park only with many more ticket days than you have. Almost all my itineraries are for 8 nights and 7 or 8 ticket days, and the way Disney prices those longer tickets, it’s worth it–but not for your 4 day tix.

Given the age of your daughter, I’d advise 2 days at MK, and honestly would skip Epcot, seeing a day at AK and a day at HS as likely more fun for an 8 year old. I don’t have 4 day itineraries, but you can cobble approaches together from something like this

Skipping Epcot would rule out Akershus, but you can still do a princess meal without using a park ticket at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian.

Your dates,
Avoid HS the 21st
Avoid MK the 22nd
Avoid HS and AK the 23rd
Avoid Epcot the 24th
Avoid Epcot the 25th
and avoid MK the 26th

One more thing to consider is the special military deal on Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party that’s available your dates the 24th. Though Disney won’t tell you this, you can enter MK at 3p on party nights, so if you did this the 24th and saw other parks on 4 other days, you could get in effect almost a fifth full day (if this works with your arrival and departure schedule). See this:

Hope this helps!

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6 Dave { 05.29.13 at 7:12 am }

Hi Adrienne, between those two I’d do Animal Kingdom Lodge in a heartbeat…

7 Adrienne { 05.29.13 at 8:36 am }

Thanks Dave! I pretty much immersed myself in WDW planning sites all day yesterday and came up with a rough itinerary of my own. I honestly don’t want to skip Epcot because my daughter is a bit of a science/geography nerd and I think she’d really enjoy it (plus it was always my favorite park!).
21st: Arrive and visit Downtown Disney and/or The Boardwalk
22nd: Hollywood Studios
23rd: Epcot (Akershus dinner)
24th: Magic Kingdom (so we can catch the Halloween Party)
25th: Animal Kingdom

I know that the AKL is nicer and better than CBR, but considering our short stay and it’s location, wouldn’t CBR be a better choice since it seems more central to everything? Or is the AKL transportation better due to its remote location?
Thanks for all of your help! :)

8 Adrienne { 05.29.13 at 9:35 am }

Hate that I can’t edit my post above….but wanted to add that we do have Park Hopper tickets, so my thought is that maybe we could change the Akershus dinner to breakfast, do Epcot in the morning and, if she gets bored with it, then head over to MK for the rest of the day.

9 Dave { 05.30.13 at 6:59 am }

Adrienne, this looks great! And the multiple bus stops at CBR more than make up in annoyance the extra travel time from AKL!

10 Dave { 05.30.13 at 7:31 am }

Great plan! Try to get a seating at Akershus at either 8.10 or 10.30 or later…

11 Nikki { 06.03.13 at 4:55 pm }

Hi Dave,

You are amazing! I’m so Type A and especially when it comes to travel and Disney has just thrown me for a curve ball…and I literally ran for the hills scared about planning this trip…until I found your site (BRAVO!) Okay, so I need help with our itinerary please. I copied your 5 night basic December, but we are arriving on MONDAY, Dec. 2 – SATURDAY Dec. 7. We will be there for my son’s 5th birthday (TUES. Dec. 3). My daughter will also be with us and she is 3 yrs. old. It will be my family’s first time! Granted, I was there back in the early 80′s (my husband too) so I imagine A LOT has changed! Oh, and my birthday is Dec. 8 so a celebration for me too.
I have a few MUST/WANT TO SEEs (especially after seeing your site) but I especially want to tailor the day of my son’s birthday to be a day he would like (presently it is a Tuesday so if we pushed out your schedule a day it would put us at AK and that wouldn’t be his 1st preference). By pushing out your schedule, I’ve been looking to see if it drastically changes anything (like if some events aren’t happening, etc.) Also, with the new FantasyLand open, I want to ensure we factor time in for that too. Could you help give us some pointers (my 180 days is upon us soon and need to be ready :-) )

FYI. We don’t have plane tickets yet, but can get pretty much whatever times we need. We are staying at the Grand Floridian (requested a 3rd floor room with theme park view to see the fireworks). Have a Hopper Pass (as of now) and the Deluxe Meal Plan (as of now).

With that all said, the things we really want to do/see are as follows but trying to figure out when/how while still having time to do the parks/shows/etc.:
1. Cinderella’s Royal Table (alternate Akershaus)
2. Bippity Boppitidy Boo Boutique
3. Chef Mickey (for my son’s bday) Breakfast (alternate Cape May Cafe)
4. Hoop Dee Doo Review (thought for my son’s bday) Dinner
5. Mickey’s Very Very Christmas Party
6. Fantasmic (based on your review)
7. Le Cellier
8. Illuminations
9. Candlelight Processional with reservations (based on your review)
10.. Sci Fi Diner (snack based on your review)
11. Whispering Canyon Cafe (for breakfast or dinner) * granted based on time of year is reservation necessary?

Originally, we didn’t think we’d spend much if any time in Epcot, but with Christmas and all the events you mentioned, we think the countries decorated would be great, plus we love the thoughts of the BierGarten! So, now we are thinking we would end up at all parks! Even Hollywood Studios didn’t seem as important on our list, but we figured they might like the Disney Jr. Live show and the stunt/crash show as well as the other things you list if we are there for Fantasmic! Granted, we know we might have to give up some things, we are just trying to organize it in the best fashion, for our kids, and our birthday kid day!

MANY THANKS if you even attempt to help me!

12 Dave { 06.03.13 at 5:03 pm }

Nikki, before I answer…will you be coming back again later, when the kids are older?

13 Nikki { 06.04.13 at 3:58 pm }

Yes, I’m sure in a few years that would be the plan :-)

14 Nikki { 06.04.13 at 4:47 pm }


I took a try at it and wondered what you think–granted many moving parts based on me getting my reservations “fingers crossed” when I call in, but I have some alternates chosen just in case, but I hope I don’t have to switch it around too much for then I am in trouble!

Let me know if you think I’m on the right track…this is seriously a full time job, how do you do it?! Thanks!

Monday 12/2 Arrive as early as we can off flight…
Pretty much follow your 5 night Dec. itinerary (but do your Sunday) Go To Hollywood Studios…we know the park will close at 8pm. We would do Fantasmic show and do a dinner package. Probably go to bed (or hit Magic Kingdom if we REALLY felt the need)

Tuesday 12/3 Son’s 5th Birthday
Chef Mickey Breakfast (early)
See if we could get Boutique and RoyalTable Dinner reservations for this day.
Do Very Merry Christmas party too so park is open later so do the parade and wishes after dinner. Big Day we know..but birthday!

Wed. 12/4
We’ll kind of follow your Monday itinerary..AK has magic hours on this day (Wed). So, get there by 7:30am do the 3:45 parade..then take a break! Eventually go to the Hoop Dee Doo Revue. And, then bed or if there is time, Magic Kingdom?

Thurs. 12/5
Sleep in some or take advantage of the MK magic hours (8 – 9am). I also thought we could choose to go back to Hollywood Studios on this day and see some more if we wanted to do that. Or, if we didn’t get into Boutique we could do this on this morning. Also, interested in that steam train tour before park opens (but one disney agent just told me you have to be over 10 years old to go on in at 7:30 am…I read somewhere that a 4 yr old went on it for his birthday, I would think boys would LOVE this…you know anything about it?)
Also, this is good backup for Royal table choice date.

But, by 2pm, we need to be in Epcot to then follow your itinerary taking us to the 6pm tree lighting, Candleight Processional Dinner Package (When will that go on sale by the way?) and Illuminations.

Friday 12/ 6
sleep in –sort of (relax)
And, just go back to Epcot and do this is magic hours day so we may want to go early and do stuff and then leave and go to another park later in the day, but taking it easy early day sounds nice, do you think because it is December it will be less crazy then it would be normally?

Sat, 12/7
We depart…not sure but if we leave late afternoon, how does Disney handle passes? If we have a 4:00 flight…what do you recommend us to do? Do we need to buy another ticket/pass for the day?

The only thing I didn’t fit in was Whispering Canyon Cafe! I thought I could put Le Cellier in the Candelight Processional dinner package restaurant choice if it is available then…
So, is this all way too aggressive?

15 Dave { 06.05.13 at 6:59 am }

Hiya Nikki, I think you’ve done a wonderful job! Just a couple of comments/responses

1. You are a little over scheduled Tuesday. You might want to skip Chef Mickey’s, buy some breakfast stuff in the gift shop the night before, and just grab a quick bite in your room

2. Yes the steam train tour is for 10 and up. See this and its links And a three-hour tour, honestly, is not the way to spend your time on such a short trip…

3. You can add a day for about $12/per person so long as you do so before the last day of use of your current tix. See this:

Otherwise, it looks great, and good luck with the ADRs!!

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16 Nikki { 06.05.13 at 10:19 pm }


Thanks so much for looking it over–and it makes me feel good that overall, I have a doable plan! Couldn’t have done it without you/this site, seriously, so thank you so much for giving me a launching pad and guiding me. I was able to pretty much get all my ADRs…around most of the times I wanted (had to skip the Fantasmic dinner package, but you said from the get go, that you don’t know if that is necessary, so here’s hoping the December crowds help make it easier too with that!)

I must say I have ran into a lot of computer glitches with Disney’s online site, especially when booking online. Not only was I not able to book for my full stay 180 days out (it was painstaking, had to play around and jump through a lot of hoops to get it to work–sometimes it did and sometimes it didn’t). Not to mention, although I had my resort number and dining packages all assigned to me and online through my account, I still had to advance pay for the Royal Table and Hoop Dee Doo Review. Getting a refund has been painstaking. It is surprising with how brilliant Disney is that there has been so many computer issues. I’m glad a did a “dry run” the night before to see what I might run into online…a word of advice for first timers so there aren’t as many “surprises” when they log on EARLY am to get their ADRs!

With all that said, I do have a question, I got my refund for the Royal Table, but for Hoop Dee Doo, I had one agent tell me something I would like to see if you could confirm. He said with my Dining Plan–Deluxe, Category 1 Seating is NOT included and therefore I have to pay, ONLY Category 2 or 3 comes with that plan. Do you know if this is true? If so, couldn’t they take like one table credit and charge me some cash? Just want to confirm.

Thanks too for breaking down the extra day ticket price…you don’t miss a beat!!!!!

17 Dave { 06.06.13 at 8:18 am }

Yo Nikki.

You can get cat 1 Hoop seats only at the late seating–see page 5 of this: Why they don’t let you buy up into Cat 1 I dunno. Seems like they are leaving money in wallets that way–an un-Disney-like behavior.

And yup, DIsney’s systems have been a bit of a mess since they re-deployed their web site earlier this year. Their not being able to get them to work is a main driver behind my thinking that Fastpass+ is a ways off–see this:

Thanks for the kind words about the site! Feel free to tell your 3,000 closest friends about it…the travel reporter for the New York Times…etc :)

18 Jamie McMorris { 06.10.13 at 12:18 pm }

Hi Dave,
I am a bit overwhelmed. This is our first Disney trip with a 5 year old. I need help with suggestions for which days to visit each park and with scheduling restaurants.
We will arrive at Disney on Sun Dec 1st and leave on Sat Dec 7th. We are staying at Animal Kingdom. We have tickets for Sun-Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. We have Hopper passes and the deluxe dining plan. Suggestions on which parks to visit on which days and scheduling of dining would be wonderful. We would like to eat at Chef Mickey, Crystal Palace, Ohana, Hoopty Doo Review and possibly 1900 Park Fare.
Thanks so much!!!
Any help will be greatly appreciated.

19 Dave { 06.10.13 at 12:43 pm }

Hi Jamie! My stuff is for older kids, but you can adapt it for a 5 year old. This one is a tight fit to your dates: Just swap its Tuesday and Sunday to match your Sunday night MVMCP.

The restaurants are a little different than your targets–take a look at it, tell me what you wish to skip and add, and I’ll help with slotting those meals in!

It’s heavy on Epcot for a kid that age, and also has other inappropriate rides. You can use this to filter it down:

Take a lot, and let me know your reactions!

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20 Julia { 09.01.13 at 12:15 am }

Hi Dave,
I would greatly appreciate your assistance with figuring out our itinerary for Dec 6 through 12. I have 3 year old and 15 year old child who is special needs. I already reserved Chef Mickey’s dinner for the 11th since it was the most important dining experience I wanted for boys to have. We will be arriving early on the 6th, sometime around 11am and being military we only have 4 days park hopper tickets. We are staying at AoA. The more I look for information the more I get myself confused how to get GF dining as well as visiting every park to fit in those 4 days. We are leaving late on the 12th so I am hoping to find something to do for the kids.
Thank you so much for your website and everything you do!


21 Dave { 09.02.13 at 8:57 am }

Hi Julie, I don’t know what you mean by “GF dining”?

Your basic choice is whether to to see all 4 parks or to skip one and spend two days at MK. Most of Disney World would be over the head of your 3 year old so I’d focus on the older child in making this decision. Mostly, the hopper helps little, as on such a short trip you’d waste too much time hopping that you could be spending riding.

However, one good way to use the hopper at this time of year is to spend daylight at AK, and then, when it nears close, to hop over to MK to see the evening parade and fireworks. Your dates,, this would work well the 7th, and OK the 9th and 11th (the 9th and 11th are morning extra magic hours at AK, so you have to get up earlier, and will face higher crowds in the afternoon than on the 7th, but in return will have low crowds between 8 and 10a…)

You can take a similar approach to seeing Illuminations at Epcot, and otherwise skip Epcot.

So here’s what I ‘d do:
7th: AK til around 3, break at hotel, MK by 8 for 9p parade and 10p fireworks
8th: MK til close at 7, then take monorail to see 9.30 Illuminations at Epcot
9th: Hollywood Studios
10th: MK

Let me know what you think!

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