Disney, to me, is about the atmosphere and overall experience. This is why I tend to spend all day at the park, with no break. Now I know other articles have stated that this is a big no-no, but really it depends on if you’re doing the park at warp speed (i.e. booking fastpasses and looking for every short-cut through the park) or you’re in more of an exploring mood (i.e. wanting to see every inch of the park and don’t mind waiting in the odd long line for some of the attractions). So, how do you know if you’re in one category or the other? The answer is easy: how often do you get to go?
I’ve found that people with annual passes or even those that are close enough or able to afford a trip a couple of times a year tend to be in the first category. They’ve been so many times that they know the park like the back of their hand and have really developed a sort of routine when they visit. If you’re like me and can only manage a trip every year or so (or less) then you might be more likely to take as much in as you can because you don’t know when you’ll be back again.
So let’s take a look at how I tackle my typical day at Disney.
First, I research. Even though I’ve been countless times to both parks, I still review Disney’s official site before I even book my trip. Browsing Disney’s official site, (and our articles) also gives you all the info you need to prioritize and plan each day of your trip. You can learn ahead of time all about age appropriate rides, new rides and attractions, bathroom locations, healthy food options, affordable dining locations and even where and how to ensure your little prince or princess gets to meet their favorite characters. Knowing ahead of time what your “must-do’s” are is crucial to a good trip.
Second, make sure everyone is well rested and has a good breakfast before you hit the park in the morning. Stay hydrated throughout the day and be mindful of what family members are saying. If kids are getting whiny, take a break! A shady spot with a little snack does wonders for getting kids rejuvenated. We spend our little breaks people watching, bird watching and just discussing the fun we’ve had so far.
This is also a great opportunity to re-work your plan for the day and tweak anything that needs adjusting. For instance, maybe you planned on doing the Haunted Mansion at night, but as you sit there browsing the map you see you’re quite close to it now and still have another hour until your fastpass for Splash Mountain is usable. Why not head over right now? This indoor attraction offers a great break from the afternoon sun and is air-conditioned! Making sure you are flexible and mixing up your indoor and outdoor attractions is key to helping you manage the hot days that Disney Parks often ensure.
Third, only get fastpasses for the rides that have a longer than 1 ½ hour wait time \if you’re visiting during peak tourist seasons. (Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Test Track, Expedition Everest etc.)“WHAT?!” you may be saying, but here’s why. Fastpasses are exactly that, fast passes. When you use them you quickly zig-zag back and forth past everyone else passing most of the magic of Disney. For instance, on the new Under The Sea- Journey of The Little Mermaid ride in the expanded Fantasyland at MK, there are interactive piles of treasure and the line winds through a beautiful cave and grotto. If you fastpass this ride you’ll miss most of that, and I’m telling you, it matters, especially for kids or if it’s your first trip.
Some of my most vivid memories of Disney from my childhood were these kinds of magical details that made me feel like I’d really been transported into the middle of a fairytale. These little details and elaborately themed lines help create the experience of not only the attraction but Disney as a whole. Compare standing in line at Disney to reading a good book; you need all the chapters ahead of the climax to make it a good book. No one enjoys a good story by skimming through to the best part. If all you want is the thrill of a ride, visit The State Fair instead.
So, here’s a breakdown of a typical Disney (Magic Kingdom) day for my family; and remember, this is not rushed ( I normally allow for 2 days at MK, 7 days for the resort as a whole; one day for each of the other parks and one for a water park and one for a repeat of another park).
-Arrive at the park by 9:00 am having already eaten breakfast
-Walk down Main Street, stopping for pictures.
-Veer left towards Adventureland walk through to Frontierland and get a Fastpass for Splash Mountain if the current wait time is longer than an hour. If less, get in line. If waiting for Fastpass time to arrive, ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, next door. Go back to Adventureland and either ride Pirates of Caribbean or Jungle Cruise before heading back to ride Splash Mountain. Go back to Adventureland and ride either Pirates or Jungle Cruise that you didn’t earlier.
-Take a break. Have a drink, a light snack and review the park map to discuss the next destination. Take a bathroom break whether you have to or not, because it really sucks when you’re standing in line for a ride and your kid announces they have to go.
-Take a tour of Swiss Family Robinson’s Tree House then stop at Country Bear Jamboree for the show and to cool off before heading to Liberty Square to visit the Haunted Mansion.
–Take the raft over to Tom Sawyer Island and hike around while taking pictures. If you’ve packed a lunch (which is allowed) have it here or head back to the mainland for lunch and another bathroom break.
-Make your way over to Fantasyland stopping at Peter Pan’s Flight (Fastpass this if you can as the line is not themed) and It’s A Small World. (These rides aren’t big on thrills but are Disney Classics you need to do at least once.) Stop and catch Mickey’s Philhamagic before heading over to the new Fantasyland Expansion area where you’ll find the Under The Sea (Little Mermaid) ride.
-Take a break. (You know the routine with this by now.)
-Leave Fantasyland via the Castle (I prefer to veer right here and walk around the castle by the pond as there are awesome picture opportunities on this side of the castle.) Circle around in front of the Castle and stop to grab a picture of the Walt and Mickey statue. Make your way towards Tomorrowland and hit The Speedway. Then make your way to Monster’s Inc. Laugh Shop to rest your feet and cool off during this hilarious show. If by now you’re feeling weary, make your next stop either the 3 o’clock parade (you can catch this on day 2 as well) or the People Mover. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is a good way to wrap up this section. -Have dinner and take your time!!! Find a nice area to sit after dinner and take your shoes off. Rub your feet and drink some water. As the night begins to cool things down a bit, you should get your second wind. This is when I do my “One more times” as I refer to them. Pirates is usually my first stop followed by the Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain if the line isn’t too bad. Dusk is also a great time to take pictures as Florida gets a golden glow in the early evening that just seems to make the castle more magical.
–Take in the 626 Dance Party in Tomorrowland (or leave it for day 2). This is also the time I use to get souvenirs. The kids have seen the park and know what stood out the most to them. This is easier on your pocketbook and also means you’re not lugging bags around all day. Finally we get our spots for the Wishes show and Main Street Electrical Parade that close the park.
-**Note anything missed on day 1 at MK will be covered in day 2, including the Circus Expansion Area of Fantasyland.
Of course we fall into bed exhausted, but you’ll sleep great and be up and ready for more the next morning, just from sheer anticipation of another great day!