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Disney World in one day? It may sound crazy, maybe even impossible. But with the stamina, the will, and a solid plan, not only is it possible, but it will also be worth every single penny spent. From fast passes to single rider lanes to park hopping in a polka dot Minnie Van, here are 9 tips you need to make the most of your magical Disney World vacation when time is limited.
Updated February 2021
When your kids tell their friends they went to Disney World, they won’t say how many days they spent at the Orlando theme park. They won’t care about the things they didn’t do. They will just be happy they got a chance to go to the Happiest Place on Earth and to see Mickey Mouse! There is honestly nothing more magical than seeing the Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom in person.
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Many people wonder if they can really do all they want to do and see all they want to see in a single day at Walt Disney World. They also may not be sure if it is worth the cost of the ticket to spend only one day there. While those are decisions every person has to make on their own, I strongly encourage families to try it out. One day at Disney World is way better than no days at Disney World in my book!
But if you do decide to do one day in Disney (and, yes, you should!), then follow these nine tips to make the most of your magical visit.
TravelingMom Tip: You can now book Disney vacations up to 500 days in advance! That means you can book now for visits in 2022. All it takes is a $200 down payment. The balance isn’t due until 30 days prior to travel. You can get details on this, as well as help booking, from our partners at Get Away Today. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, it offers a best price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, the company will beat it.
1. Make a Plan.
Before you head out for your one day at Disney World, be sure to make plan! Start with a list of the things you must do at Walt Disney World. Is it experiencing the Pirates of the Caribbean? Giving yourself a scare at the Haunted Mansion? Seeing a parade on Main Street? Or maybe you want to marvel at some of your favorite childhood memorabilia found at Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios? You have to decide the top picks for your family. Once you have a list of what everyone wants to do, have a discussion to see if you reasonably can get to them all before moving to the next tip.
2. Stay at a Disney Resort.
I always like staying at a Walt Disney World Resort if at all possible. It eliminates the complications of driving and parking and you can take advantage of the WDW transportation. You can stay at a Disney Resort Hotel and only go into the parks for one day. The other days you can spend by the pool or taking advantage of what the hotels have to offer (which is a lot). In addition, during this period of reduced capacity it gives you priority for getting into the parks.
Also by staying on property, you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours offered only to resort guests (not available during coronavirus). One park each day opens early and/or stays open late. Be sure to check out the schedule for the day you plan to go. Getting extra park time may mean being able to ride a few more rides you couldn’t get Fast Passes for!
3. Don’t Make Dining Reservations. (Except for breakfast.)
Unless dining at a signature restaurant is imperative to you, avoid having a sit-down meal during your day at Disney World. On average, a table service meal can take up to two hours from the time you check in until you walk back out the door. That’s valuable ride time you’d be spending! The only exception is breakfast. If you can get a breakfast reservation before the park opens to the public, that means you get to go in even earlier than the “Rope Drop” people! (Check our Disney glossary to find out what rope drop means!)
Traveling Mom Tip: Avoid eating at peak dining times and you won’t have to wait in long lines for food. Ideally, we like to eat breakfast at the hotel or on the way to the park. We wait to have a big lunch around 2 or 3 p.m. I usually bring a small soft-sided cooler into the parks with snacks, items for lunch, and bottled water. It is faster and cheaper. Here’s how to save up to $50/day on snacks at Disney. We then splurge on a yummy quick service dining meal later in the evening.
Need help planning your Disney trip? Get all your questions answered from our Disney Planning & Fun Facebook Group!
4. Pick Your Parks.
You will have to decide how much of the Disney Parks you can logically experience with your family. In the past you could use a Park Hopper ticket to hit all the parks. Currently, due to COVID, Park Hoppers aren’t available. Spend leisurely day experiencing just all that one park has to offer. To help decide how many parks to visit, be aware of the predicted crowds on the dates you have chosen to visit. Wait times should be taken into account.
- Magic Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
Ideally, go in September, November, January, and May, as they are the months with lower crowds. Check the crowd calendar for the date you are going and see if that changes your mind as to what parks to visit. Also take into account the ages of your children. Little ones may not be able to keep with an intense plan to see it all.
Bringing little ones to Disney World? You need to check out these awesome tips for experiencing Disney with preschoolers and grandparents.
5. Buy Tickets Online in Advance.
Don’t wait to get to the parks to purchase your Disney World one day ticket. Buy it in advance online. In the past, the last thing you want to do is spend precious time waiting in a line to buy a ticket or even to pick them up at Will Call. Currently, you can only get into the parks with advanced reservations.
Traveling Mom Tip: We recommend purchasing your Disney tickets through Get Away Today. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, it offers a best price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, the company will beat it. In addition, with the uncertainty of a pandemic in play having an agency on your side makes everything more secure. If your vacation is impacted they will do the work for you.
6. Schedule FastPasses ASAP. (Not in play during COVID)
As soon as you can, schedule FastPasses via the My Disney Experience app on your mobile phone. Take into consideration your travel plan and must-dos and try to get those FastPasses first. Very popular rides like Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and the terrific Slinky Dog coaster in Toy Story Land can have waits of up to two hours without a FastPass.
Traveling Mom Tip: Schedule FastPasses for the morning if possible. This will leave you time to schedule more throughout the day if they are available. Also, don’t see the availability on the rides you want the first time you look? Keep checking! Things change by the minute!
7. Arrive Early. Stay Late.
You only have 1 day at Disney World, so make the most of it! Plan to arrive at the parks as early as you can. Always factor in at least one hour to get to the parks. This is especially important if you are driving to the parks. If you can get your family going early in the morning, try to arrive an hour prior to the park opening. You might get to see the Opening Show and experience a “Rope Drop.”
Even better, make breakfast reservations inside the park It’s the secret to early entry at Disney parks!
And if your family can keep going, stay as late as you can. The only way you will be able to get in a lot of rides in one day is to take advantage of how long the park is open. Try to arrange to be there on a day when the parks stay open late!
TravelingMom Tip: Want to save money on food while at Disney World? You can. Here is the best cheap food at Disney World for your family travel on a budget.
8. Use Lyft.
This may sound crazy since Disney Parks transportation is generally so good (and free). However, if you have limited time, take Lyft between parks. It will cost you less than $10 and may save you an hour or more. If you have bought a pricey one-day Disney World ticket, then you want to make use of it the best you can!
Plus, Disney Parks now has Minnie Van Service! Your Lyft driver might turn up in a polka dot van (which seats up to 6). You can also use Uber (but no Minnie-anything will show up).
9. Take Advantage of Single Rider Lanes.
At Disney Parks, there are a few rides that have single rider lanes. These rides include Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, and Test Track. If you don’t absolutely have to ride with your family all together, take advantage of this option. Most of the time, your wait will be half as long as the regular line. Just make sure your children are tall enough to ride the ride alone. Cast members can help you when you have questions about the single rider lane.
Chances are that in 1 day at Disney World, you will not be able to do everything that was on your list. But look on the bright side. You’re at Walt Disney World! Some people may think that a Disney World 1 day ticket is a waste. I disagree. If you have a lot of stamina and want to see the parks, I encourage you to try it! I have done it with my family several times and we have always enjoyed it.
Homework Before You Go
You can the most of your one day at Disney by doing some homework prior to your visit. Here is a short list of things to do before your Disney Vacation:
- Download the My Disney Experience app. Become familiar with the app and all that it has to offer. Look at the current wait times for rides, locate showtimes for the day of your visit and double check that you have all of your FastPasses booked.
- Did you know that you can watch some the rides ahead of time? You might want to take advantage of these virtual rides to help you narrow down which rides you MUST ride while visiting.
- Make your Disney snack wish list ahead of time. Research ahead of time where you can find these must-haves. The parks are big and you don’t want to waste time wandering around.
- Watch the ‘One Day at Disney‘ feature-length documentary created by The Walt Disney Company and narrated by Sterling K. Brown. This documentary series is available on DisneyPlus and follows cast members and Walt Disney imagineers as they show you what it’s like working for Disney. Experience what it’s like to be Eric Goldberg (Disney animator), Mark Gonzales (Disneyland Railroad ), Grace Lee (publishing illustration manager), Ryan Meinerding (Marvel Studios), Jerome Ranft (Pixar artist) and Eric Baker (Imagineer). Not only will you get to see what it’s like working inside of Disney World and Disneyland but you’ll get to catch a glimpse of what Disney is doing around the world. For instance you can follow the South African actor Zamavus “Zama” Magudulela, who is starring as Rafiki in a production of The Lion King musical in Madrid. You’ll even see some familiar faces like Robin Roberts, co-anchor of Good Morning America. If you like this documentary you can buy the coffee table book based off the series written by Bruce Steele with a. foreword from Bob Iger from Amazon.
What’s your best tip to spend one day at Disney World time-saving tip? We’re here to help you plan the best vacation to Disney World and Disneyland.
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