For my thoughts on the re-opening of Walt Disney World, see this.

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.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

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 KRIS { 08.02.12 at 4:53 pm }


2 Dave { 08.02.12 at 6:06 pm }

Kris, that’s a great time to go–see this: and also this:

Pretty much all my stuff is for much older kids, but take a look at this example–you;d want to cut out Epcot and add more Magic Kingdom:

3 Tracy { 08.15.12 at 9:00 pm }

Hi! Looking for suggestions as I am on a tightwad schedule and behind the 8-ball on dining reservations! Traveling Wednesday, Oct 10 – Monday, Oct 15. Arriving mid morning on Wednesday and morning flight out Oct 15 so have essentially 4 1/2 days (5 nights). Family of 4 with a 2 year old and a 4 year old. Our first visit, so would like suggestions on an itinerary – what days are best to go to which parks, dining suggestions, fun activities/what not to miss with the kids. We are also traveling with 6 other people (another family of 4 and grandparents), but not always going to be together. Reservations already have are Akershus on Friday morning and Chef Mickey on Saturday morning. Do you suggest doing both? What else is fun with the kids. Do you recommend having dining reservations for every day? With naps, will be taking afternoons off so can get back out at night with the kids. Thanks so much – starting to feel a little stressed!!

4 Dave { 08.16.12 at 6:47 am }

Hi Tracey! I can’t be a lot of help, as this site focuses on kids a lot older than yours, but here’s some thoughts:

I’m assuming that you’ll have a chance to take the kids back another time, as otherwise I’d suggest cancelling–they are too young to enjoy much of the best at WDW.

Because of that assumption, things get pretty simple. There’s next to nothing at Epcot for kids that age, so I’d cancel Akershus. You don’t need a dining reservation every day–again, with kids that age, it doesn’t matter much, but does force you into a schedule that may cause meltdowns. There’s at most a morning worth of stuff at AK and HS for kids that age. See this to help identify what to do, focusing on the bottom row:

You should focus your trip on the Magic kingdom and take lots of breaks and time off. Plan at least two mornings, one afternoon (for the parade) and one evening (for the evening parade and fireworks) at MK…

5 Tracy { 08.15.12 at 9:09 pm }

Would you recommend the “not so scary Halloween Party” – does it overlap with the Electrical Parade – would you recommend to do on different nights?

6 Dave { 08.16.12 at 6:51 am }

Tracy I don’t recommend the party for people following one of my itineraries–see this:

The Halloween parade is different (and more fun than) than the electrical parade, but I don’t see a huge value to seeing both….

7 Kate { 10.09.12 at 9:12 am }

My parents have very generously planned a trip for their 4 children, our spouses, the 12 grandchildren, and themselves, for July 4th week, 2013. We will be arriving on Monday July 1 via autotrain, and will be leaving on Saturday July 6 by autotrain. We understand that this is most likely the busiest week for WDW, but it was the only week we could ensure all the children would be available. We will not be doing all of our activities in the massive group of 22 people, so I’m mostly concerned with an itinerary that is good for my family of 5 (3 kids will be 2.5 yrs, 6 yrs and 15 yrs). Can you suggest an itinerary for us, or at least a starting point? I assume the magic hours schedule won’t be available for a while. My assumption is that we will have to start early every day. We will have a dining plan, just not sure which one yet. And we’ve got lots of girls who will be interested in dining with princesses. Thanks in advance for your help!

8 Dave { 10.09.12 at 11:46 am }

Hi Kate, what fun!

My itineraries are all pegged to kids 8 and older and 7 night or longer visits so I don’t really have much on this site to help.

A couple of thoughts though.

One is to group the kids by age, not by family–there’s an enormous difference between what kids 8 and up can enjoy vs 5-7 vs younger. See this and also this

Second, if you take this apporach, you can then find one day and longer itineraries by age group on

9 Kelly { 12.02.12 at 10:08 am }

Going to Disney Feb 9-13, 4 adults and 1 child age 7 (50 inches tall). We are staying at the Wilderness Lodge. DD is not a princess fanatic, however loves most of the Pixar movies and animals in general. Not using Disney dining plan. We made reservations for dinner italian Sat night Epcot, coral reef Sun Epcot, Mon Magic Kingdom the plaza, Tues no reservations, Wed Epcot japanese. We plan on being at the park for 5 full days, staying elsewhere before and after, and we do have a vehicle. Any idea about a park itinerary and what special things (parades/fireworks) we shouldn’t miss?

10 Dave { 12.02.12 at 11:34 am }

Hi Kelly! Kids that age are usually not much interested in Epcot, but you’ve got yourselves at Epcot three evenings–at least two too many. That means that to go to another park of more interest that day, you’ve got to buy the “park hopper” add-on to your tickets, and will still spend excess time getting to Epcot, and will have trouble catching the evening shows at MK and HS.

I’d pick the parks first, and then pick dining. You want at least two days at MK, and one day in each of the other three parks.

On your dates, here’s parks to avoid:

2/9: avoid HS
2/10: avoid MK
2/11: Avoid AK, HS
2/12: avoid Epcot
2/13: avoid AK

MK will be best the 12th and 13th, and of the rest of the days HS will be best the 10th. That implies going the 9th to AK and 11th to Epcot

For the best of the rides and fireworks and such, see and for the dining rankings see this:

Hope this helps!

11 Casey Yoder { 01.07.13 at 3:10 am }

Love, love your info! I do have a few questions in hopes for a little help planning out Disney Trip. Everything I have found is for plans around 5-8 days. We plan on going to Magic Kingdom, staying at the Art of Animation, eating at Cinderella’s Royal table and taking our 5 and 7 year old to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Our intenaray are as follows: leaving home around 8:00am, luckily we only have no more than 4 hours of travel time. We check in Feb. 9, 2013 at AoA, have an Appointment with Bibbidy at 2:15pm for the girls to be transformed in little princesses, afterwards we will be eating at Planet Hollywood at 4:15pm. This day alone will be spent around Downtown Disney. Feb. 10th will be our magic kingdom day. Breakfast in our room…saving our 2 quick meals and snacks for the park, and eating at Cinderella’s at 9:35pm (dinner, our 2 credits each are being used for this). We check out on the 11th. Questions I have is what about the photopass??? Am I missing anything? This will be my family’s first trip (husband and 2 little girls..I have been but it was 12 years ago). Would love to know if you have any more suggestions or tips for our short trip. Thanks so much for all the wonderful info!!

12 Dave { 01.07.13 at 7:06 am }

Hi Casey, all my stuff is for longer trips, and I don’t pay much attention to photopass, so I’m sorry but I don’t think I can help much…Magic Kingdom really needs a couple of days, but for some one day plans take a look at this:

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13 Casey Yoder { 01.07.13 at 3:39 am }

Also…. Why use the online check-in? I have seen this on the but not sure as to why we would check-in now.

14 Dave { 01.07.13 at 7:07 am }

Hi Casy, I don’t use the online check in until a day or two before I arrive.

15 Kelli { 01.17.13 at 3:47 pm }

Hi Dave, first time on your site, but fourth time taking kids to disneyworld (we try to go every 3 years or so.) This time we are taking a teenager (13) and a tween (almost 10.) I have always had a very tight itinerary, but want to make this really fun for them. Any suggestions or must dos? We will be there from Feb. 14 late night to Feb. 18 early am. We are staying at the family suites at all star music.

16 Dave { 01.18.13 at 7:23 am }
17 Linda Kastle { 01.20.13 at 9:33 pm }

My husband and & I are in our fifties. We are arriving Feb 9th & leaving Feb. 14th morning. Camping at the Fort & buying 4 day tickets, what itinerary do you suggest?

18 Dave { 01.21.13 at 9:29 am }

Hi Linda, I don’t have any 4 day itineraries. If you’ve never been before, I’d suggest two days at the Magic Kingdom, one at EPcot, and the 4th at either Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom.

Parks to avoid your dates:
2/9: avoid HS
2/10 avoid MK
2/11 avoid AK and HS
2/12 avoid Epcot
2/13 avoid AK
2/14 avoid MK

You can find one and two day itineraries for the parks here:

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19 Heather { 01.25.13 at 5:09 pm }

We are planing for 4 nights in Feb 2014. Just magic kingdom. 5 yr old child. Is lunch best for Cinderella’s royal table regarding being able to ride rides? or is breakfast ok too? Is dinner ok (crowd wise) for 1900 park fare? Generally Is it better to have table service (reservations) at lunch or dinner regarding rides? Thanks

20 Dave { 01.26.13 at 8:17 am }

Heather, early morning is the best time for rides, so lunch for Cindy is the best choice. Crowds peak in the afternoons, so either late lunch or dinner works fine for 1900 and other dining…

21 Catherine { 01.26.13 at 11:32 am }

Hi. This site is really helpful. Can you help me with a five night trip? My family is going to Disney Monday August 26 and leaving Saturday the 31. I have a five and a three year old. We’re staying at art of animation. Looking for an itinerary. Thanks.

22 Dave { 01.26.13 at 6:15 pm }

Hi Catherine, all my itineraries are for older kids on longer stays, but take a look at what you can find here:

With kids that age, you’d want to focus on the Magic Kingdom, and plan for three mornings, one afternoon, and one evening (the afternoon and evening for the parades and fireworks.)

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23 Sarah Mars { 02.10.13 at 12:49 pm }

Do you have an itinerary that does not include travel time. We are planning on being at the park for 6 full days. We will be at the park July 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, & 19th. We are taking a day off on the 16th to go to the beach. We will not be purchasing the dining plan, but have made reservations at Tusker House on the 14th, 50’s Prime Time Cafe on the 17th, Via Napoli on the 18th & Crystal Palace on the 19th.Thank you so much for putting together such a remarkable site! It has helped me immensely.

24 Dave { 02.11.13 at 7:45 am }

Hi Sarah and thanks for the kind words!

You can modify my seven night summer itinerary for your trip–see this: It has six full days and tow partial days. The aprtial days are at EPcot and MK, and you could move these times inot what it currently shows for Friday.

The days won’t match your trip, but this matters a lot less in the summer, where there’s little variation among the days. You do need to adjust for different morning and evening extra magic hours when you changes your days…

Hope this helps!

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25 cathy burke { 02.19.13 at 11:50 am }

Hi Dave. Thanks for your earlier help. My family and I are travelling to WDW for our first time in August. We are arriving Monday, August 26th around noon, and leaving Saturday, August 31 in the afternoon (5 o’clock flight). My kids will be 3 and 5. We have the Disney Magic Your Way Plus Dining Plan. I’m getting ready to book my dining reservations 180 days in advance (February 27th), and am wondering how this itinerary looks as far as parks and times. I haven’t been able to find any info on fireworks, parades or shows for my dates yet. Skipping Epcot. Trying to work dining in. Here’s what I’ve got so far. Please let me know.
Monday 8/26 – MK afternoon and evening, dinner at Crystal Palace
Tues 8/27 – MK in am, Tues afternoon off, dinner somewhere
Wed 8/28 – MK in am, Afternoon off, Evening back to MK for dinner at Cinderella’s Castle
This 8/29 – Animal Kingdom
Fri 8/30 – Hollywood Studios – Fantasmic thing?
Sat 8/31 – MK in am
I’d like to do Chef Mickeys (breakfast?), Hoop De Doo, Backyard BBQ, not sure if I left any out…
Please let me know what you think. Thank you!

26 Dave { 02.19.13 at 12:48 pm }

Hi Cathy!

First, you can find the current draft of the August schedule here:

Second, your itinerary looks great to me!

Finally, for additional restaurant ideas, take a look at the stuff linked to from here:

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27 Keith { 03.08.13 at 1:17 am }


Wow. I hope you make a (good) living doing this. Extraordinarily helpful.

Going to meet the grandparents (traveling from CA — about 15 minutes from Disneyland, which makes no sense on a certain level). arriving on the 20th late in the day, staying at the AK. I see that MK makes the most sense but would also like to spend time at AK. Main question: what are some of the things that I might think about buying tickets for ahead of time? Example: Cinderella’s Royal Table; Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique etc. DD is 5, and into the princess thing. 3/20 arrive; two night stay; 21 and 22 in the park. I will take your advice to others and subscribe to to get a good shorter itinterary.

Thanks again!

28 Dave { 03.08.13 at 8:18 am }

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

You definitely want to reserve your dining as soon as you can, as many of the most popular places book up 5-6 months ahead (see this: ) On such a brief trip I would not have more than one table service meal a day

For thoughts on the best dining venues to target, see this:

If BBB is a priority, book that now too.

Otherwise, you should be fine!

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29 Laura { 03.08.13 at 9:14 pm }

Hi Dave,
This is absolutely the best site!!
I’m gonna be arriving WDW April 25, late afternoon and leaving Wed May 1st in the morning.
I’ll be with my 4 yr old, we were there in the fall for a long weekend. Do you have any suggestions of what we should/shouldn’t do? I plan on purchasing park hoppers and def want to go one day to sea world.
Also, we will be staying at pop century standard room (first time there), do you know how far the walk is to transportation and dining? One more thing, I’m not sure about getting the dining plan, do you recommend getting it?

Thanks for any suggestions,

30 Dave { 03.09.13 at 7:52 am }

Hi Laura, and thanks!!

My stuff is focused on older kids, but you can get some help from this page and also from this:

Pop Century is a little spread out, but the walk from even the furthest rooms to dining/transport is little more than ten minutes.

I used to wholeheartedly advise the dining plan for people who would be doing that many table-service meals anyway, but prices have gone up so much that it’s more of a budgeting tool than a money saving tool…

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31 Robbie { 03.11.13 at 12:49 am }

Hi dave,
Been having a great time reading your site. I am bringing two young 17 year old girls to wdw from Australia arriving 11/23/13 and leaving 12/5/13. We are staying in little mermaid room at art of animation, planning a 5 day pass to disney, 2 days at universal and 1 day at sea world with shopping in Orlando thrown in on our free days. Have realised that we will be there over thanksgiving, do you have any suggestions on how we avoid the worst crowds. Also, I know we can’t get the uk discounts but do you know of any for Australia.

32 Dave { 03.11.13 at 7:31 am }

Hi Robbie, the best way to avoid crowds is to defer as much of your park visits as possible til 12/1 and later.

I can’t access Australian discounts from the States, but if, form an Australian IP, you google “Disney Special Offers” you should find an Australian landing page…or you could check with an Australia-based travel agent…

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33 Laura { 03.11.13 at 2:05 pm }

Thanks Dave..

34 Alex { 03.14.13 at 4:34 pm }

Hi Dave,
You have a great and very informative site. My plans for visiting WDW with my wife and 3 year old is for arrival on Thurs. 5/23 early morning (we have to catch a red-eye due to my business meeting on Thur. morning) until 5/27 Afternoon. Based on the sites recommendation planning to stay at Polynesian Resort, and spending at least 2 days at MK I would greatly appreciate any suggestions with regards to building an itinerary, for our trip specially with regards to dinning.

Thank you in advance.

35 Dave { 03.15.13 at 9:30 am }

Hi Alex and thanks! I don’t really have any itinerary help for kids that young, but you can find help here:

My dining advice is also tuned towards older kids but the character meals could be a hit. See this:

(For why I focus on older kids, see this: )

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36 Samanthia Crabtree { 03.16.13 at 2:11 pm }

Hi Dave!!

I have been reading this website for a couple days now!! It’s so wonderful and helpful!!

We have booked a trip to Disney World for our daughter’s Golden Birthday in August!! We are going 8/8 – 8/13 and we are staying at the Arts of Animation in one of the Little Mermaid rooms!! I think she will love it!!

Do you have any itinerary suggestions for us while we are there?! I’m usually VERY good at planning but I’ve been reading so many websites and tips that I’m starting to get overwhelmed!! There are 6 of us total going…4 adults, 2 children (ages 4 and 2)…any help or advice for a plan would be greatly appreciated!! We know we want to do a princess themed character dinner, and I know I need to make reservations ASAP, but I just can’t decide what day we should do the dinner based on a good intinerary.

Thanks so much!!

37 Dave { 03.17.13 at 7:37 am }

Hi Samanthia…just to keep clear, you know the Little Mermaid rooms only hold 4 people, right?

At those ages, it’d be entirely appropriate to focus just on the Magic Kingdom, as there’s little at the other three parks of interest. See this:

That’s a wildly crowded and quite hot time at WDW–see this: –so you should plan to spend mostly just mornings in the parks, returning, if they can stay up, in the evening for the evening fireworks and parade.

Those dates, MK, while crowded every day, will be best the 11th and the 13th…

Hope this helps! And if it does…

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38 Samanthia Crabtree { 03.18.13 at 9:18 am }

Thanks Dave!!

We are getting 2 rooms at the Arts of Animation! :o)

I wish we could go a different time of year when it’s not going to be so crowded or hot, but we are going down for my daughter’s Golden Birthday and it’s the best time for my husband to take vacation (he works construction so the beginning of summer is completely out of the question for him lol)

Thanks so much for the tips and links to check out!! I will be looking at them today!!

I definetely have it down on the intinerary to return to the resort each afternoon for some rest and a change of pace for the kids. So I’m glad you mentioned that too!

We decided not to go with the Park Hopper option for our tickets so we were thinking about going to one park each day, except for our last day because it will be too chaotic to go to a park before we leave that day. My daugther loves the zoo, so we really want to try to get to Animal Kingdom for her!!

Again, thanks so much!!


39 Dave { 03.18.13 at 11:59 am }

You’re welcome Sam, and have a great trip! Write back when you return and let me know how it went!

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