By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

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The Tightwad’s Guide to How Long to Stay at Walt Disney World

By Dave Shute

This page is part of the series The Tightwad’s Guide to Walt Disney World


I have noted elsewhere in the instructions for typical families visiting Walt Disney World for the first, and perhaps only, time, that they should plan to be there for 8 nights and 9 days to see all of its best, while also building in sufficient time to relax and rest.

I have also noted elsewhere that to save money on a trip to Walt Disney World, you will find more promise in optimizing when you go and where you stay than in shortening your trip.

However, this page provides some thoughts on a minimum length trip to Walt Disney World.


Doing the parks right takes about 6 days—about two days each at Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, and about one each at the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.  Adding in a half day of rest and travel time for each day in the parks, and you get to the 9 days this site recommends.

By shortchanging Epcot a day, and eliminating most of your time off, you can cram your trip into 5 nights and six days.

Example Walt Disney World 5 Night 6 Day ItinerarySee the image for an example of how this might work.

The example likely won’t work in any specific week, as you should tie your evenings at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios to the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks show Wishes, Epcot’s Evening Extra Magic Hours, and Fantasmic at the Studios.

Five Night Walt Disney World Summer ItineraryAs an illustration of this, I recently designed a 5-night itinerary for a family with a Wednesday arrival in June.

Because of the timing of Fantasmic, evening extra magic hours at Epcot, and morning extra magic hours (to be avoided) at the other parks, the material on the right resulted–but I would not recommend this itinerary for a Tuesday arrival.

See Designing Your Own Walt Disney World Itinerary for suggestions on how to fit these various events and days together.

One more note: older, or second-rate, guidebooks and websites spend some time worrying about whether you should spend “expensive” theme park tickets on travel days.

However, for several years now Disney World has used a ticket pricing model in which the first three days are very expensive, and days after the first three cost next to nothing—$5 per person per day.  (See this for more on Walt Disney World admission ticket prices.)

With these pricing changes, it makes perfect economical sense to spend partial days in the theme parks so long as your tickets are for more than three days.

For example, an adult could spend three full days in the theme parks for $233.  Spending an extra two days–the evening of arrival day, and the morning of departure day–increases the ticket price by only $10–$5 per extra day!! (See this for more on Walt Disney World admission ticket prices.)



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1 Neil H { 03.30.13 at 8:10 pm }

Dave, we are a family of six. 4 kids are 11, 8, 5 and 2. We are staying at WDW for five nights, 9 May to 14 May. Could you give some pointers on an itinerary, including events and character dining choices? Anything gratefully received…


2 Dave { 03.31.13 at 9:46 am }
3 Neil H { 03.30.13 at 8:12 pm }

Sorry, ahold have said that the three eldest children are girls!


4 Joda { 05.02.13 at 9:17 am }

Dave – I know this is not your optimum plan but we are going with 4 adults, a 6 year old and two 4 year olds (will be 1 month shy of 5) in March 2014 for 5 days. I see that your iteneraries are primarily for longer stays with older kids but I wonder if you have any suggestions for our particular group. Many thanks for all the help you have provided for us so far. BTW we are staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

5 Dave { 05.02.13 at 6:22 pm }

Hi Joda! My itins can be thinned down for younger kids using this: but you are probably better off starting fresh here or here:

For kids that age think of 2-3 mornings, an afternoon, and an evening at MK, and a morning at each of Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Returning to HS in the evening for Fantasmic is cool if they aren’t easily scared by Disney villains…

Hope this helps a bit!

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6 Joda { 05.02.13 at 9:18 am }

OH no SORRY 6 nights Saturday night through Thursday!!!

7 Joda { 05.02.13 at 9:19 am }


8 Joda { 05.03.13 at 7:57 am }

Dave- thanks so much! This helps A LOT!!! So glad you are there to help!

9 Dave { 05.03.13 at 10:47 am }


10 Sara { 02.04.14 at 2:48 pm }

Good afternoon. I found your website this morning and have been taking notes – thank you for all the great information. My family will be going to Disney for the first time February 18 – 22 (not the best week, I know). We have two boys (ages 12 and 10) and two girls (ages 7 and 5). While I’ve done quite a bit of research, I’d love to have any specific suggestions you have for us to maximize our five days while allowing everyone to do some things they enjoy. Additionally, we have 5 day park hopper tickets. Thanks so much, Sara

11 Dave { 02.05.14 at 2:32 pm }

Hi Sara!!

Here’s parks to avoid by day:
2/18: avoid Epcot
2/19: avoid AK
2/20: avoid MK
2/21: avoid Epcot
2/23: avoid HS

With kids that age and 5 days, I’d spend two at MK, and one each at the other parks. I don’t have itineraries that suit for trips that short, but see Josh’s Cheat Sheets here:

12 Meghan { 03.10.14 at 5:52 pm }

Hi Dave,

We’re going to WDW 4-27-5-1, we have 3 days at WDW and 1 at Sea world–what would you recommend? We have 4 & 7 year old boys…

13 Dave { 03.11.14 at 7:47 am }

Hi Meghan! At those ages I’d spend at least two days at the Magic Kingdom. The third WDW day could be either a return to MK, or a visit to the Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios. Sea World will be least crowded Sunday and Monday.

14 Susan { 03.13.14 at 1:40 pm }

Hi Dave,
We’re coming to Orlando on Sun, 5/11 – Sat, 5/17. We’re planning to go MK and Epcot, followed by Blizzard Beach, Universal (for Hogwarts) and the Kennedy Space Center. This will be our second time to MK and Epcot, although the first time in Epcot we did not see a lot because I was very sick that day. Based on a Monday – Friday schedule, what would be the best days to spend at the parks when they might be the least busiest? We do plan to see the fireworks at MK & Epcot. I’m still on the fence on whether going to Blizzard Beach is a better deal for us or purchase another day at MK (I know my 11 year old daughter would probably prefer more rides). Thank you!

15 Dave { 03.14.14 at 7:23 am }

Hi Susan! MK is good Tuesday and Wednesday, and Epcot Monday, Weds and Thurs!

16 Susan { 03.14.14 at 9:17 am }

Hi Dave,
Thanks for days to visit MK and Epcot. Have you been to Blizzard Beach? Is it worth it? Or another day at MK? This will be our last time to visit Disney so I just want to make sure that we are using our time the best way. My daughter does not like thriller rides so at both places it is the easier family rides (which is okay by me). Thank you!

17 Dave { 03.15.14 at 8:38 am }

Susan, I like the waterparks, but find the theme parks so much better that it’s hard for me to fit them into a visit…

18 Hi Dave, { 03.16.14 at 4:13 pm }

Hi Dave, thank you for your helpful responses. I talked it over with my husband and we decided that another day at MK would be the best way to spend our time in Disney at a more leisurely pace. Your site is wonderful!

19 Kent { 06.30.14 at 4:33 pm }

Hi Dave. Really great information on your site. Really trying to educate myself, but a lot to take in. We are going to be traveling to Disney Sept 4 – Sept 8. 2 adults, 2 girls age 7 and 5. We are staying at Art of Animation in a family suite with the free QS dining plan. We have park tickets for 4 days. We were thinking of not hitting a park on the day of our arrival, so looking at going to the parks on the 5, 6, 7, 8. Not sure if Epcot would have a lot for the girls, so I was thinking maybe MK 2 days, AK 1 day and HS 1 day. We have the Cinderella’s Royal Dinner reserved, but not sure what other character things to do (or if we could even reserve anything this late in the game). Any suggestions on what parks for sure and what not to miss in each park? Thanks a ton. You really are doing a tremendous service with your site. Appreciate anything advice you can give.

20 Dave { 07.01.14 at 8:57 am }

Hi Kent and thanks!

One trick to your dates is that MK closes early the 5th and 6th. This will make the park uncrowded, but also means that you’ll miss the evening events there if you only go to MK those days. MK will be crowded the 7th and 8th, but I think the 8th will be the better of the two. So pick one of the 5th and 6th, and the 8th for MK. The 7th will be better at HS than AK, so go to HS then, and hit AK whichever of the 5th and 6th you don’t go to MK.

As you note, you may have little luck with other reservations. Try for a late dinner at either Chef Mickeys (unlikely, review here: ) or 1900 Park Fare (review here: ) on which ever of the 5th or 6th you are at MK. Crystal Palace for lunch and dinner in MK is another great choice, but may be booked up. For other options see this:

21 Kent { 07.02.14 at 11:20 am }


Thanks so much for the reply. Sorry, I forgot to mention we have the Cinderella’s Royal dinner booked for the 7th, so I assume we will have to go to MK on the 7th. The 8th will be a shorter day for us as we are traveling to Naples that evening. With that in mind, We could do MK on the 5th or 6th and the 7th. Do you recommend HS or AK on the 8th (again, this will be a somewhat shorter day). I will look into the reservations on the character dinners that you recommended.

Thanks again for your feedback. I appreciate it greatly.

22 Dave { 07.02.14 at 3:17 pm }

Kent, AK works much better as a shorter day, but it is morning extra magic hours there the 8th so you need to arrive early!

23 Jessie { 08.23.14 at 12:29 pm }

Hello Dave,

Such an informative site! But still, will need your expert’s advice. 🙂

Will be arriving on 22 Feb 2015 and leaving for NY on 27 Feb morning. Am planning to get a 5-day ticket – no park hopper. Is that doable? What will you suggest for an itinerary?

24 Dave { 08.24.14 at 1:13 pm }

Jessie, you will be best served by our book. The 2015 edition is not out yet, though…

25 Jessie { 08.23.14 at 12:30 pm }

Oh, and to add on..only 2 adults – my husband and myself

26 Julie { 08.25.14 at 5:44 pm }

Hi Dave,
Wondering whether to buy a new camera for our trip. We have a canon power shot which while more compact than an SLR is still quite heavy to carry around. Should we go for a pocket size camera and have heard good reviews about the Sony Rx100? The only problem with this camera is that the zoom isn’t very high so is that something we need at WDW to zoom in a lot or not?? And we are also going to buy the Disney photo pass package too.
Thanks for your site, it is incredibly helpful and will be buying your kindle now too.

27 Dave { 08.26.14 at 6:56 am }

Julie, I am not a photography whiz by any means. I’ve been using an Rx100 for this site for 12 months now and have been VERY happy with it. See this for examples of results I’ve gotten from it: (note that the smaller shot on the page is form my iphone…)

28 Melody { 09.16.14 at 11:48 am }

Hi Dave!
We are set to arrive on our first trip ever, for all of us, to WDW on 9/28/14! I’m super excited! My kids are ages 4 (43 inches tall) and 6 (48 inches tall). We have a 4 day base ticket, but will probably skip epcot this time. Do you have an itinerary for us, or can you make some suggestions? My travel agent has been awesome and has done a lot of work for us on this, I just want to see how your ideas compare to hers. Also, my kids love the movie Frozen. Do you have any comments, suggestions, etc on seeing the frozen attractions in Hollywood Studios? FYI, we are staying at Pop Century.

29 Dave { 09.17.14 at 8:25 am }

Melody, my itineraries are both much longer and aimed at older kids. There’s much more flexible stuff in the book–The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit

Those dates, avoid HS 9/28, avoid MK and AK 9/29, avoid Epcot 9/30 and 10/1, and avoid MK 10/2

30 Allison { 08.07.16 at 1:12 pm }

Hi!! Wow what a great site. My husband and u grew up visiting Disney world. We have a 2 year old and plan to visit Disney in November check in November 6th mid afternoon and check out to return home morning of the 10th. We are not trying to get a lot done but thought we would do animal kingdom, magic kingdom, and maybe another park. This time is to take advantage of getting her in free and seeing what’s it’s all about so our next trip is better planned when she is older. We haven’t booked yet so we aren’t expecting anything great from a dining perspective. Any suggestions on what to do for sure, or itineraries for 3 days that will likely include quiet nap time mid day? We will have a car, thanks!!

31 Dave { 08.09.16 at 9:43 am }

Allison, I don;t have itineraries that will work on this site but you can find them in my book. (Ignore “2017”; the itineraries in the book work right now.)

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