By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

Basic 2017 December Disney World Itinerary

By Dave Shute

Note: I will revise and update this itinerary for 2018 once Disney’s December 2018 calendar comes out, likely in the early summer of 2018.

This  Walt Disney World itinerary is designed for the three weeks following Thanksgiving 2017.

If you aren’t going one of those weeks, see Other Itineraries for alternatives the rest of the year, which are published about six months ahead.

You can enlarge the basic itinerary by clicking it. 

A detailed  To-Do List covers all the planning steps you need to undertake. Even more detailed daily guidance is in the links:



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

  1. See the best that Walt Disney World has to offer, including all of its special Christmas season offerings
  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, by using FastPass+ and other tactics…
  4. Given all the evening shows and late nights, have as few early mornings as practical

The 2017 version differs from previous ones in a couple of ways:

  • It incorporates the new Avatar: World of Pandora land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • It now has two evenings in Disney’s Hollywood Studios so that you can see both evening shows there.
  • It uses the Rivers of Light dining package at Tusker House to save a FastPass+ at Animal Kingdom. This added meal, plus the two evenings at the Studios, has caused some dining re-shuffling.  All the latest dining material is in the To-Do List.
  • It’s updated to include various openings, closures, and time changes since the 2016 version.

If you can’t do the dates required for the Basic Itinerary, see Other Itineraries for alternatives for both the December week and the rest of the year.
The 2017 easy Guide

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1 Mimi { 05.14.17 at 12:42 pm }

Hi Dave, thank you so much for posting this December itinerary! If you would be kind enough to critique our preliminary park plans below (on a 5-day park ticket), I would be so appreciative! Also, do you know if MK is closing early on 11/30 for a cast event?
Sat 11/25- Arrive
11/26- AK
11/27- MK
11/28- Free day
11/29- EP
11/30- HS
12/1- MK
12/2- Free day
Sun 12/3- Depart

2 Dave { 05.15.17 at 7:14 am }

Hi Mimi, the park is closing the 30th at 4.30p, and I have heard it’s for a cast member event. Monday will be quite busy at MK, and Friday will likely have morning EMH–if you are eligible for them and can make it by 7.30a then it will be a good day.

3 Mimi { 05.15.17 at 1:25 pm }

Thank you! 🙂

4 Nikki { 05.15.17 at 3:16 pm }

Thoughts on December 3rd-8th! First time visit and will have a 5 year old and 1 year old. Looking forward to it.

5 Dave { 05.18.17 at 7:39 am }

Hi Nikki, I can’t really comment until the December calendar comes out, which should happen within a week. So ping me back next week, OK? (And sorry for taking so long to get back to you–I’ve been on the road for my day job…)

6 Chantelle { 05.16.17 at 3:21 pm }

Hi Dave,
Can you let me know how I should adjust this for our travel dates?
November 29th-December 7th (leaving early so no park on dec, 7th)

7 Dave { 05.18.17 at 7:44 am }

Chantelle, specifically I can’t until the December calendar comes out (which should be within a week), and generally my itineraries, which are integrated and sequenced to exact days in a specific order, don’t re-shape well. But ping me next week and I will help as much as I can.

8 Angela { 05.27.17 at 4:20 pm }

Hi Dave, I notice Chef Mickey is no longer on the sample 2017 itinerary and neither is Akershus but they are both ranked pretty high in your character dining ranking. Any reason for this ?

9 Dave { 05.28.17 at 2:14 pm }

Hi Angela, it’s a little convoluted, but here’s what happened and my thinking

–For 2017, I added a new table service, Tusker House as Rivers of Light Dining package. This saves critical AK FP+, but means I had to cut a table service elsewhere.

Tusker House is a Mickey and the gang meal, so it’s redundant with Chef Mickey’s. On the other hand, Akershus is mostly redundant with Cinderella’s Royal Table. So I decided to cut both redundancies, and add Crystal Palace instead!

10 Jeff { 06.01.17 at 11:20 am }

Any idea what’s going on with Disney releasing the December calendar? I’m a little over a week away from ADRs for my trip starting Dec 9, and still no word that I’ve seen. Isn’t December usually out by now?

11 Dave { 06.04.17 at 11:40 am }

Jeff, yes it usually is, at I have some hope–and that’s all it is, hope–that it’ll be out today or tomorrow.

Meanwhile the park calendars are just advancing a day for each day that passes, and are out through December 11, as of this morning…

12 Amanda { 06.24.17 at 11:13 am }

Hello Dave! I just bought your book and can’t wait to start reading it! My family of 6 will be at Disney Dec. 13-21, staying at a 2-bedroom in OKW. This is the initiatory I have so far- any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks in advance!

Wed, 13- drive down from SC and relax at OKW; dinner at Olivia’s
Thurs, 14- MK; hoping to get PPO BOG, dinner at Contempo Cafe and dessert at Poly
Fri, 15- AK, lunch at Tusker
Sat, 16- Epcot; lunch at San Angel
Sun, 17- AK, lunch at Yak & Yeti
Mon, 18- HS, lunch at Sci-Fi
Tues, 19- Epcot- Bon Voyage breakfast and dinner at Garden Grill
Wed, 20- MK; breakfast at 1900 Park Fare, can’t decide on dinner!!
Thurs, 21- check out and move to Universal!

13 Dave { 06.25.17 at 7:25 am }

Hi Amanda! Unless you picked the 20th at MK specifically to see Happily Ever After, I’d advise swapping Weds and Tues, as MK will be mobbed the 20th. Otherwise all is well!

You dining looks fine. You might want to make your Tusker House lunch a Rivers of Light package, as that will save you a FastPass+

14 Amanda { 06.25.17 at 4:42 pm }

Thanks Dave! Unfortunately, we’re going to MK on the 20th specifically for wishes. The other nights are party nights and I don’t think it’s worth an extra $600 for party tickets. Thanks for the tip about the Rivers of Light package! Hopefully, I’ll be able to change our reservation.

15 Dave { 06.26.17 at 2:23 pm }

Got it! The ROL package is not yet bookable for then–it’s been 2-3 months ahead available lately.

16 Peter { 06.27.17 at 3:21 pm }

The December calendar has Animal Kingdom closing at 7pm each night through the 23rd and River of Lights is not scheduled the entire month. Do you expect this to change on a future calendar update?

17 Dave { 06.28.17 at 6:10 am }

Peter, for a while now Disney has not been adding either Rivers of Light or the Star Wars show at the Studios to the calendar until much closer to the dates. I’d expect it to be on in the first 2/3 of December at least Sat, Sun, Tues and Thurs. Hours may get extended– Disney for years now has been publishing very limited hours then doing a major update and add the month before.

18 Angie { 07.10.17 at 1:14 pm }

Awesome website! We visited Disney at Halloween 4 years ago, staying at French Quarter. Kids are 12 & 15 now and we want to celebrate a birthday at MK Dec. 4 – we’re thinking of a 5 night stay to see parks and Universal’s Harry Potter – but FQ seems full and there’s a Pop Warner event that week. Do you think parks will be crowded? Any hotel advice? We *could* go at a different time in fall to avoid crowds or save $. Thanks!

19 Dave { 07.11.17 at 7:26 am }

Angie, that’s one of my three top-ranked weeks, because it combines low crowds, lowish prices, and the Christmas program. Pop Warner matters little–see this. For why the hotels don’t work as a crowd calendar see, among other things, this. Re POFQ, besides being generally the most popular moderate among returning visitors, it’s also more crowded from the closure of moderate capacity at Caribbean Beach and a construction program there that has led many to seek alternatives. Take a look at Coronado Springs.

20 Shawnya { 08.18.17 at 4:22 pm }

Love the site! I’ve been following it since February and I’ve found it extremely helpful. Will you be posting a finalized basic 2017 December itinerary soon? I’m also interested in a 7 night Saturday arrival itinerary as well. I noticed you put up a variant 7 night Sunday arrival so I was hoping the two in question would be following soon. Using your recommendations I’ve booked my trip with Kelly B. for 11/24/18 – 12/02/18 with the exception of that last day being travel only. So I’m looking to see what my options will be losing that 2nd AK on the 2nd Sunday.

21 Dave { 08.20.17 at 9:06 am }

Hi Shanya and thanks! I should have the rest of the itineraries done in a week or so!

22 Kelly B - Destinations In Florida { 08.23.17 at 11:24 am }

Thanks for booking with me Shawnya!!! I’m so excited to be a part of your family’s Disney vacation.

23 Kaylene { 09.20.17 at 8:52 am }

Hi, thinking of planning a trip december 19-24 what do u think? Traveling with a 3 yr old and 8 yr old. I wamt them to enjoy all the Christmas decorations.

24 Dave { 09.20.17 at 10:22 am }

Kaylene that’s not a great time to visit–it will be very expensive and very crowded. See this for more thought on when to go.

25 Masha { 10.03.17 at 9:39 pm }

I’m going to be in Orlando for a meeting and figured why not do Disney for a day. We have a 2 year old and a 4 month old, so take advantage of them being free. We are planning on doing Magic Kindom on OCT 18. I thought I remember finding a sample Iterary for what ride order to do and which ones to fast pass when. I can’t find this info. Any advice in general. Just want to make a few cute memories with the 2 year old. Thanks

26 Dave { 10.04.17 at 7:17 am }

Hi Masha, see the MK PDF “Magic Kingdom Cheat Sheet Fall 2017” from my book on this page.

You’ll find a one day itinerary in there–but a. many of the FastPass+ will be hard to get this late and b. it’s got a lot that’s inappropriate for kids that age.

So also in there you’ll find a two day character-centric plan–you could adapt that to one day. Use this chart for ideas on what to cut.

27 Meera { 10.23.17 at 11:51 am }

Hi Dave
We are traveling 1-9th dec with a 9yr old and a 6yr old . The other family traveling with us has a 5yr old and 1yr old.
Any thoughts on how we can plan out our days – its our first visit so everyone is super excited thanks

28 Dave { 10.24.17 at 6:32 am }

Hi Meera, my itineraries not only are for different days, but also they are built for much older kids (your 9 year old would be fine with them, but not so much the 5 and 6 year olds.)

Your best bet would be to note the special christmas stuff and dining in my itineraries, and then adapt the one and two day park touring plans in my book to your visit. You’ll find in it both “character centric” plans meant for younger kids, and other plans meant for all but especially those 8 and up. The book is here.

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