Designing Your Own Itinerary, Continued

By Dave Shute

(For the first page of this material, see this.)

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If this won’t work, you can design your own trip.

How to divide up and allocate your days

  • Decide how many days you can be at the parks—include if you can time on your arrival and departure days, as the cost of tickets after three days is so low that partial days are worth it! Shoot for at least 6 days and 5 nights on site–e.g. four full days and two partial travel days. 7 days and 6 nights is much more humane, if you can do it
  • Divide your days among the parks. You have two different issues here: the overall use of your time at the four parks, and the mornings you can dedicate. You need at least four mornings—one at each park—and even better no fewer than five, with the fifth a second morning at the Magic Kingdom.
  • For the overall use of your time, very few sources will suggest less than
    • At least a day each at the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios
    • More than a day at Epcot
    • Around two days at the Magic Kingdom.

How to sequence your days

Work through the following five rules in order. You rarely will be able to design a perfect trip unless you have extra off times that you can move around, so do the best you can. You will need to check the Disney calendar while doing this.

It’s easier to work with the individual park calendars. To view a day–for example, to figure out if and when Fantasmic or Wishes is on that day–go to the individual park’s monthly calendar and click within the date you are curious about.

1. Except at the Animal Kingdom, avoid morning Extra Magic Hours —the loss of sleep is not usually compensated by what you can get out of them

2. Have one of your Epcot days be the one that it has evening Extra Magic Hours,

3. Try to have one of your Hollywood Studios days be one that it has both evening Extra Magic Hours and also is showing Fantasmic. (Fantasmic is more important than the Extra Magic Hours.)

This way you can see Fantasmic and Illuminations without being stuck in the crowds departing right after they are over

4. Make sure that one of your Magic Kingdom evenings is a day with the fireworks show “Wishes,” and ideally one that also

5. Within the constraints above, try to see Epcot first, and the Magic Kingdom last

If this is all too much, may help–although it focuses more on days than on trips… Sign up for a fee, or buy their book, which gives you a discount on their site.

See also John Schunk’s Leave it to Genie site if you need more help planning your trip.


Reviewing sections C1-C3 of the To-Do List for the Autumn-Winter-Spring Itinerary will reveal what food, shows, etc., I suggest. You can find it here. If you can’t do, or won’t, do something on that list, see this for various meal options ranked in order.


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1 Tara { 01.08.12 at 6:34 am }

Hi, I have been diligently planning my holiday using your wonderful site. I am now trying to design my own itinerary based on your rules but just wanted to check there’s nothing else I should consider as we are in a slightly different situation. We are coming for 2 weeks from UK 21 July staying at polynesian with a pass that allows multiple park entry (this is standard issue here). We do want to do the Disney water parks and other things in Orlando. We have two 6yr olds.

So I have worked on basis of using EMH in mornings as we will be jet lagged and awake early! Using the late EMH when there’s a late parade/show as per your advice so we are not trapped in the crowds. 2 days in each park & covering am/pm, more in MK. Doing Epcot before MK. Doing all the performances/character meals you recommend. Is there anything obvious I’ve missed? Thanks so much. Tara

2 Dave { 01.08.12 at 10:05 am }

Hi Tara, sounds like you have a great plan!!

3 Rebecca { 07.15.12 at 11:29 am }

How easy is it simply to shift over the summer itinerary by one day, if I want to arrive on a Sunday and leave Monday?

4 Dave { 07.15.12 at 12:13 pm }

Rebecca, days matter–”Saturday” means “Saturday,” not day 1. Check out this: Or you can just start Sunday as Sunday where you can and backfill what you missed Sat night and Sun am at the end of your visit…

5 Judith { 01.09.13 at 1:56 pm }

Hi Dave! What a wonderful site. Thank you for the time you’ve put into it to help us all out! We’re planning a trip to WDW in 2015 (early, I know, but I like to plan ahead) and thinking of arriving in late October. Could you suggest which itinerary to start with if we’re planning a one week stay with a saturday arrival and a friday checkout? Also we’re thinking of doing a split stay at either AoA/Shades of Green (first part) then Polynesian (second part). Would you recommend AoA or SoF for the first part? Thanks so much for your help!

6 Dave { 01.09.13 at 5:29 pm }

Hi Judith and thanks!

I won’t be publishing recommended itineraries for those dates until 6 months before they occur–as I have to modify them based on Disney’s calendar, which it only puts out 6 months before. Moreover, I expect Disney’s Fastpass+ system, whihc it will be rolling out over 2013, will cause me to change the itineraries too. (See this: )

On the AofA versus shades question–are you thinking a standard 4 person room at AofA, or a family suite? As they are wildly different…see this and its links:

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7 Judith { 01.10.13 at 2:25 pm }

Hi Dave – thanks for replying so quickly!

We were comparing AoA family suite vs SoF family suite. We like the suites as they give us a way to put the children down for a nap/bed and have a separate room to wind down. The decision may be a moot point as we might just do AoA for the first part (for AK, Epcot, HS, maybe a waterpark) and then move to SoF for 2nd part (mostly MK, golf, wandering around) and forget Poly all together. We may scrap all that and just do SoF for the entire thing to save money and maybe rent a car. We’re anticipating there will be military discounts during October, but we’re comparing everything full price in our planning. Also, if we do a split stay anywhere with SoF, would we need to use a cab to transport luggage or would Disney transport it (I’ve heard they do this if you stay in different resorts on property). Thanks again!

8 Dave { 01.11.13 at 12:02 pm }

Judith that’s a though call because of the pricing difference. I haven’t stayed in a Shades suite so I can’t give you a direct comparison, but the overall AofA environment is much more fun. I’m assuming you’ve looked at my AofA review here:

Disney will transport you among its owned and operated resorts, but not from one of its resorts to or from Shades.

9 Judith { 01.11.13 at 1:25 pm }

Good to know, thanks Dave. I’ve looked at a lot of your reviews :). Again, such a great site. It’ll be really hard to wait the 2 yrs before we actually get there! Good thing we’re not telling the children anything. :) Looks like there may be quite a few changes in 2013 and possibly 2014 (Rapunzel tower?), so we’ll wait to start planning a specific itinerary until Jan 2015. Thanks again for all your help!

10 Dave { 01.12.13 at 9:30 am }

You bet Judith!

11 cathy burke { 01.21.13 at 2:33 pm }

Hi Dave. This site is great, but I’m really overwhelmed trying to plan my family’s (husband, two pre-schoolers, mother in law) first trip to Disney World. We are arriving Monday, August 26, 2013 around noon, leaving Saturday, August 31, 2013 in evening, and are staying in the Art of Animation Resort. I have been looking at the sample itineraries and am having trouble figuring out a five day with a Monday arrival and Saturday departure. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks!

12 Dave { 01.22.13 at 7:17 am }

Hi Cathy! I don’t have itineraries aimed at kids that young, or for trips that short.

For preschoolers, you want to focus on the Magic kingdom, spending 2 or three mornings, one afternoon (for the afternoon parade) and one evening (for the evening parade and fireworks).

You can adapt my itineraries, using this as a filter: or adapt the itineraries you can find here:

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13 Christy { 03.19.13 at 9:57 pm }

Love your site! I am trying to plan our first and probably only trip to disney world. We will be flying in around 5 pm aug 23 and staying until aug. 31. Flying out that morning. We have a 7 year old girl and 5 yr old boy. We are thinking about staying at art of animation – little mermaid We were thinking of purchasing the 5 day pass and are unsure about the dining plan (our kids are not huge eaters). We would love you input. Thanks!

14 Dave { 03.20.13 at 6:39 am }

Hi Christy and thanks!

Nowadays the dining plan really doesn’t save much money, it’s more of a pre-payment and budgeting tool. So view it as optional.

I don’t have itineraries for trips that short or for kids theta young, but you can assemble them from stuff like this:

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15 Chanelle { 05.22.13 at 4:46 pm }

Hi. Thank you so much for all the helpful information on your website!
we are looking at going to Disney with our 4-year daughter in the first week of December (right after thanksgiving), which appears to be your favorite week.
Given our daughter’s age, we were thinking about skipping Epcot at this point as we think she is too young to truly enjoy it. So we were thinking about only doing Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. Do you agree about doing only those 2 parks given her age?
We were thinking about 1 day at Animal Kingdom. Would you say it is sufficient to see most everything? how about Magic Kingdom? do you believe 3 days would be sufficient?
Anything you highly recommend to do in that first week of December related to Christmas? any special events?
thanks so much for your help!

16 Dave { 05.23.13 at 7:29 am }

Hi Chanelle, and thanks!

The special Christmas events I recommend are all in the itineraries or the Xmas weeks–see this:

I agree with skipping Epcot at that age. A day at AK should be fine. FOr MK, I’d recommend 2-3 mornings, an afternoon, and an evening. Spreading these out over 4 days will make it easier on all of you…

Hope this helps!

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17 Mandy W { 05.30.13 at 12:31 am }

Hi, Dave! I’m addicted to your website! :) We are going to Disney Dec. 4th – 12th, 2013 with our girls (7, 4, and 1) and another family with an 8-year-old girl. They are a little young, but we are planning a future trip in 7 years or so. Anyway, I was wondering if you might give me some feedback on our itinerary. I’ve relied heavily on your basic itinerary, also looking at Touring Plans. Here’s what I’ve got so far (the 4th and the 12th likely will just be travel days):
Thurs, Dec 5th: HS
Fri, 6th: Epcot (dinner at San Angel Inn, Candlelight Processional package)
Sat, 7th: Chef Mickey’s at 10:30a, then evening at Epcot and dinner at Akershus
Sun, 8th: MK, Cindy’s for lunch (or dinner?)
Mon, 9th: AK (dinner at Boma)
Tues, 10th: partial day at MK (sleep-in morning)
Wed, 11th: MK (dinner at Crystal Palace, view nighttime events)

Thanks so much for your input! I am nearing the 180-day mark for ADRs so it’s crunch time. :) I would like to be able to do MK on Mon for evening EMH, and I guess I could switch Mon and Wed, but I like the idea of ending our trip with the fireworks at MK…. Anyway, thanks!

18 Dave { 05.30.13 at 7:40 am }

Hiya Mandy, and this site is one of the good addictions so I’m glad it’s happened!

With one exception (which I’ll come back to) I like your approach. In particular you are wise to avoid MK the 9th. With EMH sandwiched between two 7p closes, it’ll be a real zoo that day… (see this: )

Here’s my issue: for the ages, you are over-scheduled and probably have too much time at Epcot. The simplest revision would be to punt on your 12/7 plans, do AK that day instead, and take the 9th off–including having no dining reservations…


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19 Mandy W { 05.30.13 at 11:36 pm }

Hm, that’s interesting! Well, it feels odd to have an entire day off (I had scheduled afternoon breaks into every day except our AK day), but I must admit, I tend to over-schedule on vacations. And I’ve never done anything like this Disney marathon with kids! So, I think I like your idea. You think we would have enough time to do AK in one day without morning EMH?

The other thing is, I don’t want to lose Chef Mickey or Akershus. What do you think about making Akershus our Candlelight Processional reservation? I’d prefer Akershus over San Angel Inn if I have to choose. We have some princess-crazy little girls. :)

As for Chef Mickey’s, I’m thinking we would move that to Sunday morning and make Sunday a half-day at MK, then do our two MK mornings Tuesday and Wednesday. (With the little kids, we won’t be doing MVMCP). Will Wednesday also be crazy at MK due to the early-closing sandwich factor, or is that mitigated by the fact that it’s the middle of the week?

Then we would have an extra table credit on our dining plan, but we could use it on Thursday at HS, Sunday evening at MK, or maybe even for the day we leave, something like Whispering Canyon.

Thanks for helping me sort this out! It feels like a higher-level math equation! :)

20 Dave { 05.31.13 at 7:54 am }

Mandy, it is a higher level math equation! I like all your ideas…

21 Maryann m { 07.04.13 at 4:34 am }


Hi i am traveling to Disney on Sept 23 and leaving Fri Sept 27th..I know not enough time but we bought the one day base pass any suggestions as we are going to sea world on monday …how do we plan the rest of our days..i am trying to following everything but im lost…help:) there are 6 of us 5 adults and 13 yr old. we also have the deluxe dining plan any suggestion for dining the must do..we only american foods/buffets but want to have one really nice sit down dinner for birthday!!! is tarted planning monday night mk maybe tues epcot..weds hollywood and thurs mk and friday i on the right track….

22 Dave { 07.04.13 at 11:01 am }

Maryann, first you have largely aimed at days when Disney has extra magic hours, which is usually a mistake.

I’d suggest Epcot Monday evening, MK on Tuesday and Weds. Thursday you could do any park but MK, and Friday and park but AK.

My dining recommendations are all built into my itineraries, but they aren’t sorted by cuisine. See this for some help:

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23 Steven { 07.30.13 at 11:21 am }

Hey Dave,

Grat website thank you!

I have a little question for you.. My gf and I are flying from the UK on September 11th and was wondering if you change the Autumn/winter itinerary or could I just start on the Thursday instead of the Saturday? We’re staying in Orlando for 2 weeks and plan on visiting Universal as well..

Many Thanks


24 Dave { 07.31.13 at 8:03 am }

He Steve! This itinerary is tied to days, so “Thursday” means “Thursday,” not “Day 6.” Moreover, even so it doesn’t work quite right for those weeks–see this:

You can change anything day for day–e.g. do “Thursday” as week one Thursday. Note that Universal is best Sat-Mon so those are particularly good days to move around…see

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25 John { 10.22.13 at 1:18 pm }

What an unbelievable site! I must tell you though, my brain is smoking from information overload. My wife and I are planning our first trip to WDW with our 4 and 6 year old daugthers. I would like to stay at the Wilderness Lodge but my wife is leaning more toward a value resort like the Art of Animation which you recommend. We plan to arrive on 11/29/14 and check out on 12/5/14. Can you recommend an itinerary for our trip?

26 Dave { 10.23.13 at 7:15 am }

Hi John and thanks!!

I post itineraries here about 6 months ahead, after Disney releases its operating calendar for the relevant months.

However, they are aimed at older kids and longer stays. For your trip, at those ages I’d focus on MK and skip Epcot. Think 2-3 days at MK, and a day each at HS and AK.

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