When you’re vacationing with kids, a visit to Disney World is enough to fill a week, or maybe even more. Kids can’t get enough of this stuff, and the chances are that they would happily scale Space Mountain every single day if the fates allowed. As adults, however, you may find that spending excessive amounts of time at Disney World itself prevents you from seeing all the other wonders that Florida has to offer.
After all, Florida, and Orlando in particular, offers way more than just a theme park, including Madame Tussauds, Universal CityWalk, and a chocolate museum that it would surely be a crime to miss. While there’s definitely a call to hit Disney World while you’re visiting, then, there’s no need to dedicate your entire trip to the cause.
The question is, how quickly can you realistically get Disney World in the bag? After all, this is no usual attraction, and this entire theme complex consists of four theme parks, amazing shopping outlets, and much more. It’s this that leads the experts and Disney lovers to state that you need at least a few days to even touch on what Disney has to offer. And, factually they might not be wrong – there’s a hell of a lot to unpack here.
But, if you’re wondering how on earth you could keep yourself entertained spending more than one day on a theme park excursion, fear not, because we have it on good authority that you can, indeed, tackle Disney in a day when you don’t have kids driving you to stay longer. Okay, you might not see everything this way but it is doable and you’ll probably see all the important stuff if you simply follow these pointers.
# 1 – Arrive early and stay late
When you’re trying to tackle four theme parks plus extras in one day, making the absolute most of your time is essential. Notably, you’ll want to make sure that you’re one of the first there and the last leaving. The good news is that, while traditional Disney openings run from around 9-6, there’s a whole lot of leeway here, and it comes in the form of what Disney heads refer to as ‘extra early magic hours.’
Open to guests of World Disney hotels and some select others with valid passes, these early hours can see guests entering certain parks for limited ride access from as early as 6 am. Admittedly, this does mean that it would be best to stay in a Disney-specific hotel, but with fantastic transport links to each, this isn’t a bad way to see Orlando in style anyway.
Adding these extra special hours to special park events, festivals, or carnivals also means that, in some cases, closing isn’t until as late as 3 pm in locations like Magic Kingdom. While few people would feel up to a theme ride at that hour, you can bet that a timescale of this scope will provide you with every chance to see everything that you want to.
# 2 – Get a park hopper
There are a range of different ticket options at Disney World, and not all of them are suitable for one-day purposes. Most commonly, guests will buy what’s known as a ‘pay per day’ ticket, which grants one person access to one park at a time. This is fine for guests who are taking things slowly, but it will be useless for your purposes unless you’re 100% certain that everything you intend to see is in one location.
If not, then a park hopper is a much better option, enabling you to switch between parks per the capacity of the park in question. While slightly more expensive than standard tickets, it is possible to purchase a 1-day hopper for around $65 subject to availability. That may seem a little steep for one day, but you can guarantee that the opportunity to knock all your Disney dreams out of the park at once is worth the cost. Being able to leave and reenter any park of your choosing certainly ensures an inclusive one-day experience that won’t disappoint or leave you needing to come back anytime soon.
# 3 – Prioritise your rides
With 49 rides across four parks, even arriving early isn’t going to help you tackle everything in a single day. Heck, with average queue wait times of around 40 minutes or longer for the most popular rides, even a week-long visit is unlikely to see guests riding on every single offering.
For this reason, a one-day wonder also very much relies on your ability to prioritize rides, and know what you’re definitely not interested in going on. Luckily, even if you have no clue about top-rated Disney rides, there are now plenty of resources to point you towards your best options. The Disney World website, itself, provides maps of each park that you can filter by thrill level, interests, age, and even height to help you tailor a unique, and inclusive, one-day experience.
Failing that, turning to visitor recommendations is a good way to ensure you’re tackling the most-loved, and logically, best rides, which according to reviews include –
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Expedition Everest
- Haunted Mansion
- Splash Mountain
- And more
# 4 – Skip the queues
However you’re choosing your rides, waiting in line for 40 minutes for even 5 rides could waste a huge amount of your day, meaning that skipping the queues should also be a priority to ensure that you make the most of your time. Luckily, arriving early as mentioned can be a huge help here, allowing you to beat the queues and hop on the busiest rides before excessive queues form. But, with such a limited time to play with, you may want to take this benefit even further.
The good news is that FastPass+ tickets are available for purchase, and they’re well worth the time in your case. For any visitor, these are available for booking up to 30 days before arrival and, while they don’t cut queues altogether, they do make it far easier to get on rides quickly. Online booking, currently used for the ever-popular Star Wars, Rise of the Resistance, is another way to save yourself time if you first research the secrets to getting a boarding group before slots fill up for the day of your visit. This way, you can simply log onto the My Disney Experience App, book your slot (available at 7 am or 1 pm but typically filling up fast,) and then get right on the ride when your group is called, saving yourself time, and enabling you to fit at least one extra ride into the day for your trouble.
# 5 – Eat on the go
There are an impressive 160 full-service restaurants in Disney, and they range from themed buffets through to fine French dining. Unfortunately, if you’re trying to tackle Disney in a day then the chances are you’re going to want to skip the sit-down meal. Of course, if experiencing Disney cuisine is high on your to-do list then by all means make a booking and integrate this into your plan (see below.) If not, then you’re going to want to pick up some of the equally amazing counter food on offer. It’s fast, tasty, and you’ll importantly be able to polish it off while queueing for your next big adventure. Some counter-based offerings especially worth considering include –
- Sunshine Seasons
- The Mara
- Wolfgang Puck Express
- Katsura Grill
- D-Luxe Burger
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# 6 – Plan it right
All other tips aside, getting Disney done well in a day is all about planning. In fact, you’re going to need to time your day pretty closely if you’re going to get everything done. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to approach your day at Disney with military precision – Disney without the kids is all about fun, after all! That said, having a rough time guide to keep you on the straight and narrow, perhaps with some activities that you can strike off if needs be, is the best way to tick off those Disney bucket list items. Obviously, the precise details of a plan like this will vary depending on your unique preferences, and revisiting your priorities here will surely help. As a general guide, a pretty decent and doable plan might look like –
- 9 am: Magic Kingdom
- 11 am: EPCOT
- 1 pm: Animal Kingdom
- 3 pm: Disney Studios
- 6 pm: BED!
A final word
Disney World might be the most prominent Orlando attraction but, for couples looking to enjoy a vacation to remember, there’s a whole lot more on offer in this destination than just theme parks. By tackling Disney in a day, you ensure that you get a taste of this top Orlando hotspot, and free yourselves up to take Florida by storm for the remainder of your stay. It’s not always easy, but the chances are that a one-day Disney detour will make for a Florida trip to remember.
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