By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

Basic 2018 December Disney World Itinerary

By Dave Shute

This  Walt Disney World itinerary is designed for the four weeks following Thanksgiving 2018.

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 2018 version differs from previous ones in a couple of ways:

  • It incorporates the new Toy Story Land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • It’s updated to include various openings, closures, and time changes since the 2017 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.

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1 Michelle { 05.25.18 at 11:25 am }

Hello. I posted before but lost where it was . I asked about a 5 day itinerary in Dec. My children will be 5 and 3. Both are tall (one will be 44″ and the other hopefully 38″). Both enjoy rides including roller coasters. I read your book (loved it!) and started a draft itinerary (below) and was hoping for any advice/suggestions you may have. It’s our first time but not our last. I jumped on the free dining promotion then read the book. We are limited because of work to the dates we selected. ADR is right around the corner and so I wanted to get things in place. We do have an agent but still wanted your opinion. Thanks in advance.
Friday 12/7
• Breakfast @ Airport Traveling
• TIME?: Arrive (land 8:30? am; plan on taking the early flight)
• Park: Hollywood Studios (Smallest makes the most sense?)
• TIME?: Fastpass – Slinky Dog 38” or Alien Swirling Saucers 32” (if both Tier 1)
• TIME?: Fastpass – Slinky Dog 38” or Alien Swirling Saucers 32” (if one is Tier 2)
• TIME?: Fastpass – Frozen Sing-Along? Little Mermaid, Tower of Terror (40”) KIDS?
• TIME?: Fastpass – possible 4th Frozen or Toy Story Mania
• TIME?: Lunch Quick Service
• TIME?: ADR – dinner @ Minnie Holiday Dine at Holiday and Vine w/ Fantasmic Package (OPTIONAL do on last day) (Schedule may not be out at 180 out or Fastpass Fantasmic?)
• ADR Back Up Dinner – 50’s Prime Time Café; Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater (ok for small kids?)
• TIME?: Sunset Seasons Greetings or Disney Movie Magic??
• TIME?: Fantasmic w/ Dinner Package arrive or Fastpass?
• TIME?: Jingle Bell Jingle Bam (OPTIONAL do on last day)
• Other “Must Do”: Beauty and the Beast; Disney Jr. Stage Show; Toy Story Characters; Meet Olaf; Little Mermaid

Saturday 12/8
• Breakfast at Hotel (out of pocket)
• Park: Animal Kingdom Opens @ 8 or 9 AM (arrive 30 mins. Early if we make it.)
• Park Open Target: Na’vi River Journey (no height restrictions)
• TIME?: Fastpass – Flight of Passage 44” (Okay for 5 year old?)
• TIME?: Fastpass – Expedition Everest 44” (Okay for 5 year old?)
• TIME?: Fastpass – Rivers of Light? Finding Nemo Musical? Festival of Lion King?
• TIME?: Fastpass – possible 4th Rivers of Light; Finding Nemo; Festival of Lion King
• TIME?: Lunch – Quick Service (Flame Tree Barbeque)
• BREAK @ Hotel
• OPTIONAL: After break do MK Boutique @ 4:30 & 6 pm Cinderella’s Royal Table (CAN WE WATCH FIREWORKS IN CASTLE IF SCHEDULE AT NIGHT?)
• TIME?: ADR – dinner @ Rainforest Café (Animal Kingdom) (or Rivers of Light w/ Dining (Tusker House?)
• TIME?: Tree of Life Awakenings?
• TIME?: Rivers of Light
• Other “Must Do”: See Animals; petting zoo; some characters; ride other rides

Sunday 12/9
• Breakfast @ at Hotel (out of pocket)
• Park: Magic Kingdom (MVMCP)
• TIME?: Fastpass – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train 38”
• TIME?: Fastpass – Peter Pan? (no height)
• TIME?: Fastpass – Tomorrowland Speedway 32”, characters; shows?, Space Mountain 40: Big Thunder Railroad 40”, Pirates of the Caribbean?
• TIME?: Fastpass – Characters, shows? Rides?
• TIME?: ADR: lunch Quick Service at BE OUR GUEST
• Break? Beware Xmas Party Attendees come @ 4 pm & others exiting
• TIME?: Dinner – Magic Kingdom (QUICK SERVICE? Columbia Harbour House (NEED TO BE DONE EATING BY 6 AND GET IN PLACE FOR PARADE AT 7?
• 7 pm: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party & Parade
• TIME?: Christmastime Parade
• TIME?: Holiday Fireworks
• Other “Must Do”: Characters, rides, shows (ARE ALL RIDES OPEN DURING PARTY?)

Monday 12/10
• Breakfast @ Hotel (out of pocket)
• OPTIONAL: Do Epcot today & Boutique & Cinderella’s Royal Table Tues. or
• Park: Magic Kingdom AM; Epcot (Start Future World East/West) PM
• TIME?: Boutique –MK (1.5 hours)
• TIME?: ADR – lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table
• Break?
• Fast Passes – EPCOT?
• TIME?: Fastpass – Frozen Ever After (1st)? or Soarin 40” (1st)?
• TIME?: Turtle Talk w/ Crush; Spaceship Earth (3rd)? 4th Pass Test Track 40” or Frozen or Soarin? Illuminations?
• TIME?: Dinner or Lunch – Epcot (Quick Service? Liberty Inn?) or
• ADR Back Up Dinner – Teppan Edo (If picky kids menu available? Do they offer Candlelight Dinner Package?)
• Other “Must Do”: Santa Claus @ US Pavillion; Visit Princesses; Festival of Holidays?
• TIME?: Candlelight Processional Show (typically at 5, 6:45 & 8 pm) (Will kids like this?)
• TIME?: Illuminations w/ Additional Xmas Added

Tuesday 12/11
• Move things here that we can’t fit into other days. See notes on various days above
• Breakfast @ Hotel (out of pocket)
• Park: Magic Kingdom AM?; HS OR EPCOT PM?
• OPTIONAL: Boutique & Cinderella Royal Table if not done
• Fast Passes – TBD What didn’t we do in Magic Kingdom or Other Parks
• OPTIONAL: TIME?: Dinner – Hollywood and Vine (Minnie’s Dine w/ Fantasmic Package if not already done
• Jingle Bell Jingle Bam or Fantasmic at HS (if not seen already)
• Epcot – Typically PM Xtra Magic Hours

Wednesday 12/12
• Departing (Time TBD)
• Could Possibly do breakfast at Ohana or Chef Mickey if time

2 Dave { 05.26.18 at 8:56 am }

Lots of questions, Michelle!! Some thoughts

–All three Toy Story rides at HS are Tier One, so you will be able to pre-book only one. None are likely to be available as a 4th FP+ (though it is always worth trying). Use the 5 year old’s reaction to SLinky DOg (the highest FP+ priority) to decide whether or not to do the other thrill rides in that and other parks. Tower of Terror is unlikely to be well received by a 5yo.

–Saturday is likely to be morning EMH day at AK, so you would have to get to the park earlier than most kids that age are able to to do the plan you have indicated. You might want to do AK on Sunday morning, take the afternoon off, then head to MVMCP later.

–The MVMCP parade and fireworks schedule, operating attractions, etc from last tear is here. This year should be broadly similar.

–The Teppan Edo menu is here. Scan down for the kids menu. Last year’s Dinner Package restaurants are here–including Teppan Edo

–You want to be done with dinner well before MVMCP starts

–You cannot see the fireworks from Cinderella’s Royal Table.

–In general the biggest errors with kids that young are overscheduling too many fixed times in a day, thinking you can get to the parks earlier than you can actually getting them up, dressed, fed, and out the door, and making the days too long. At most you should aim for 2/3 of a day–e.g. a morning and an evening, morning and afternoon, afternoon and evening. Don’t plan early mornings after late nights.

3 Michelle { 05.28.18 at 7:54 am }

Dave thank you so much for your response. I’m sure some of the things will be scratched because of cranky kids! Just so I understand do you suggest dividing Animal Kingdom into 2 half days? You said do Animal Kingdom before MVMCP on Sunday. Does that mean maybe do a later Saturday since we probably won’t make the EMH and then finishing AK on Sunday morning? If we only do a partial day at AK Saturday then any suggestion on what to do if we kids want to head out later on Saturday or should we do the Boutique and Cinderellas for dinner? Otherwise to you think the park days/order works or any suggestions on how to make things flow more easily? I really appreciate your help. Your book and website have been a life saver!

4 Dave { 05.28.18 at 9:54 am }

Michelle, on a five day trip with kids that age you will have to compromise on several parks. Epcot is the one I would skip. I would avoid AK on Saturday.

5 Shy { 06.11.18 at 2:30 pm }

Thank you for your site. Do you have a suggested itinerary/tips for the week of Christmas? I know it is highest crowds. Hours are often extended. Are there any strategies we can employ if we cannot make a 7 am rope drop? We can be at the parks by 8:30 or 9. I know hopping wouldn’t be recommended for the actual holidays. Do you recommend splitting other days that week into a morning & evening park or just staying in one park per day. I have only seen the rope-drop then nap mid-day followed by late night strategy recommended. What can a family do that does not nap & likely won’t be able to arrive before 8:30? Thanks in advance!

6 Dave { 06.12.18 at 9:08 am }

Shy, if you are eligible, arriving at the morning EMH park well before its open, staying there in the morning, then hopping to a non EMH park can work quite well.

If you can’t arrive before EMH open or regular open at non-EMH parks, then things get hard, and there’s no great way to do things. Book your three initial FastPass+ tightly together (e.g. 9.15, 10.15 and 11.15( and then refresh madly looking for fourth and further FP+ as soon as you tap in for your third. I’ll be able to give more specific advice once the calendar for then is out, but as you note it likely will have both more EMH and more 8a opens added later, as late as November.

7 Tess Cox { 06.12.18 at 12:25 pm }

We are going the week of dec 15-22. I can’t squeeze in the 8nights/9days as recommended. I do have the hopper option and wondered about AK/HS 1.5 days each as I can’t stay the last day to get more AK time in. And in which order. Thoughts?

8 Dave { 06.13.18 at 8:15 am }

1.5 days each is enough for AK and HS, Tess, though it will tire you out to put it all into three days, especially if you see all three evening shows at these two parks. The trick will be dividing the high priority rides across three rope drops and three sets of FastPass+. If you want to see Flight of Passage or SLinky Dog Dash via FastPass+, then set those rides up for the end of your trip, as FastPass+ for them are hard to book.

9 Mark { 06.13.18 at 10:37 am }

We are traveling to the parks the week after Thanksgiving and are largely following your recommendations above. However, we are considering a couple changes where your perspective would be helpful. For context, we are traveling with my parents (mid-60’s) and our two kids (son turns 8 in October and daughter turns 3 during the trip).

1) We are arriving late Friday night 11/23 instead of Saturday morning 11/24. Also, we are planning on skipping the Candlelight Processional (we attended with Neil Patrick Harris during our last visit after Thanksgiving in 2016). With the extra time on Saturday and the elimination of the show, I wanted to reduce our visits to Epcot from 3 days to 2 days. Is this reasonable?

2) Plan on attending MK on the final Sunday (12/2) instead of AK to basically end the trip with a set of morning rerides for FastPass+ favorites. Can the AK plan for Sunday fit into a single day, or should we adjust something else instead?

3) My sister-in-law is going to be joining us for Saturday – Tuesday only and we want to move one of the later MK days into this timeframe so they can experience the park more thouroughly than just during the Tuesday night party. How should the park order shift to do this?

4) During one of the trips to Disney Studios, we are also planning on trying to sign-up my son for the Jedi training. I know this line fills up quickly in the morning and that my son is required to be in line to register. How would you recommend accommodating this relative to the Tier 1 rides you currently recommend as hitting ASAP at park open?

10 Dave { 06.14.18 at 11:22 am }

Hi Mark, my itineraries don;t really adapt well to the level of changes you are proposing, but you will be able to find one and two day touring plans (e.g. one day at AK and two days at Epcot) in my book

That said, on your specific questions

1. Yes!
2. Yes, but AK in a single day, if you try to do everything and stay for the evening show, can be exhausting
3. AT this time of year because of the Christmas parties there are many fewer good MK days, and the days it is good it closes at 6p. MK will be good–but with early closes–Sunday and Tuesday. It will be mobbed–but with late closes–Saturday and MOnday. If an early close is OK, swap first Sunday and Tuesday
4. Since we have time, check back with me in the fall on HS, after I have a fact-based sense of how the two new rides are affecting waits among the HS rides.

11 Ngoc Le { 07.18.18 at 1:35 am }

Hi!!! Thank you for your blog! I am Soo happy to have stumble across your page. I know, I’m asking for the impossible. But due to time constraints, I am only able to do wdw for 2 days. I was wondering if you had any recommendations and/or itinerary for 2 adults.

I have a 2- day park hopper 12/4 and 12/5. I was thinking on 12/5 I will do Mk in the AM and Hollywood in the PM. On 12/6 I will do animal kingdom AM and epot in the PM.

Again, I would be happy to hear any of your suggestions. Thank you!

12 Dave { 07.18.18 at 8:32 am }

Ngoc, I’m sorry–I don’t have anything on this site that can help with that. I will note that you will get much more out of your visit if you just pick two parks and visit one each day. This page can help you select your parks.

If you do end up doing one park per day, then you can find one day itineraries for each park in my book.

13 Barbara { 08.28.18 at 10:18 am }

Hello! You’ve helped me before and I really appreciate that! We’ve got our dining reservations, and I was hoping you would give me your opinion on our plans. I am second guessing just about everything! Haven’t thought too much about fast passes yet, I will worry about that later! Our first night is at Art of Animation, rest of the our stay is at Pop (added a night, and couldn’t get it at Pop)

12/8 arrive, Disney Springs with lunch at Cooke’s of Dublin, Hoop Dee Doo Revue 6:15

12/9 Epcot breakfast Art of Animation food court or Las Halles, lunch Biergarten 1:45, Candlelight Processional, 6:45 show, dinner quick serve not sure where

12/10 Magic Kingdom lunch Tony’s Town Square 11:35 AM, Festival of Fantasy parade (dining package), dinner Pinocchio’s Village Haus

12/11 Hollywood Studios breakfast Hollywood & Vine 9:15 AM, Woody’s Lunch Box for either lunch or dinner, Fantasmic (dining package)

12/12 rest/resort day breakfast Boma 9:35 AM , lunch Contempo Cafe, dinner Florida Homecomin’ 5:15 PM (hoping to change this to a later time)

12/13 Animal Kingdom lunch Tusker House 12:35 PM, dinner Flame Tree Barbecue or Yak & Yeti QS, Rivers of Light (dining package)

12/14 Epcot lunch Sunshine Seasons maybe, dinner Garden Grill 4 PM, Illuminations

12/15 Magic Kingdom breakfast Gaston’s Tavern, granddaughter’s first haircut 9:00 AM, lunch Be Our Guest 11:55 AM, dinner Liberty Tree Tavern 5:05 PM, Pirates & Pals fireworks cruise 7:45 pm

12/16 breakfast Tangled Bon Voyage breakfast 7:45 AM, maybe Gospel Brunch at House of Blues before leaving for home

I’m kind of worried about 12/15, feels like we have a lot that day. Maybe I should try to change the haircut to 12/10, if possible? Thanks so much for your thoughts!

14 Dave { 08.30.18 at 8:18 am }

Hi Barbara, your plans mostly look great. The exception is your MK days, both of which will be wildly busy. You can make them work with early starts and good plans, but don’t be surprised by the crowds!

15 Kelly B - Destinations in Florida { 08.30.18 at 8:18 am }

I think your schedule looks great. I do agree that your morning on the 15th is a bit crowded. If you can switch the haircut to 12/10, I would. Otherwise you may want to eat breakfast at the resort before you go. We love the quick service in France and if you can – grab a Napoleon for dessert while you are there.

16 Barbara { 09.21.18 at 8:58 am }

Thank you for your input! I’ve called twice to try to change the haircut to 12/10, but they don’t have anything available. One rep said we should try to do a walk in on the 10th because they don’t release all the appointments for reservations, so we might try that. I can’t change our MK days because of the reservations we have in place, but I’m sure we will be okay. We’re going with a little one, and her pregnant mommy, so we can’t move at a crazy pace anyway. Time to think about fast passes now! Thanks again for your help!

17 Dave { 09.21.18 at 11:45 am }

OK Barbara!

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