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One of the things I love about Disney is there are so many ways “to do it.” At Walt Disney World alone there are four theme parks, countless restaurants, resorts, park-hopping, character meals, Disney Springs, dining plans – you could stay for a month or like we recently did, visit just for one day! There is so much to see and do, that no matter how much time you have you can’t see it all. But if you only have a short stay, you definitely want to maximize your time, so I’m sharing my best tips for spending only one day at Disney World!
Momma To Go would like to thank Walt Disney World for providing two park-hopper passes for purpose of this review. As always, all opinions are my own.
Tips for Spending Only One Day at Disney World
Now first and foremost, if you are just starting out in planning your Walt Disney World Vacation, I would NOT recommend spending only one day at Disney. Which I know, is contradicting the point of this post!
If you have the option, I’d say four park days over a five-day trip is probably the ideal amount of time at Walt Disney World. The price per day decreases with each day you add, and the sweet spot seems to be the 4-day ticket. Give yourself a non-park day to check out a character meal, take a breather, hang by the hotel pool, and visit some of the other resorts around property!
Interested in seeing more of Orlando – then check out my awesome list of non-Disney things to do in Orlando
A one-day ticket is the most expensive per-day option. But if you have no choice, one day is better than nothing!
On our recent Orlando trip, we were gifted two one-day park hopper media tickets and I purchased one more park-hopper for baby girl who is under 10. We visited on Monday, April 1st and this day was close to top-tier pricing. I paid almost $200 for a one-day park hopper ticket (price as of spring 2019).
UPDATE: How I spent Two Days at Walt Disney World during the Pandemic and we even got to dine at Breakfast ala Art with Mickey and Friends at Topolino’s Terrace. Everything you need to know about visiting during this time.
This day trip to Disney was not our first Walt Disney World trip. We visited for three days back in 2015 – spending two days at Magic Kingdom and one at Epcot so we did have a little bit of an idea what to expect and what we wanted to do. For something new, we wanted to visit Animal Kingdom, with the hopes of getting on Avatar’s Flight of Passage. We also wanted to park hop for the first time and return to our favorite, Epcot.
With that said, we wanted to maximize our time, having only one day. We went hard for sure – we were at Animal Kingdom at rope-drop (which was at about 8:50am) and stayed at Epcot to see Illuminations at 9pm, which was also when the park closed! Over twelve hours in the parks and we were exhausted by the end, but we did not waste any minute of our precious one Disney day!
With some careful planning, and some tips we figured out along the way, we were able to see and do as much as one day allowed! I’m excited to share these tips with other one-day Disney go-ers!
Planning a Disney trip is tough. Which resort? Ticket type? Park Passes? Touring Plan? Of course, there is your budget to consider as well!
For those reasons, it’s always best to work with a travel professional to help plan a WDW vacation. I help you with EVERYTHING, And the best part? My services are free! That’s right, you pay the same price whether you book through me or directly through Disney.
How to Maximize Your One Day at Disney World
Decide what park(s) you want to visit. For us, we wanted to try something new, Animal Kingdom, and visit an old favorite, Epcot. On the day of our visit, the Flower and Garden Festival was going on at Epcot, and with Illuminations ending soon, we felt compelled to try to see it! Alternate one-day Disney itineraries would include:
- One full day at Magic Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios & Epcot
- Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom
Park-Hopper or not? On a longer Walt Disney World trip, I’m honestly not a fan of park-hopper, especially with littler ones. BUT on a one-day ticket the additional up-charge for the ability to see more than one park is something I can get behind. We did utilize the park hopper and got to hit the highlights in two parks.
Fast Passes – If you only have a short time, you definitely want to maximize your Fast Pass choices! If you are not staying on-property, you can book your Fast Passes 30 days before your visit (60 if you are staying on property). After you use one fast pass, you can add another one through the My Disney Experience app or by visiting the Fast Pass kiosks located throughout the parks. You can only make advanced Fast Pass selections for one park, but as the day goes on, if you have a park hopper ticket, you can add a Fast Pass at any park. Clearly making early and often Fast Passes is the way to go!
Use a Touring Plan (or at least have a plan) – Once you know what parks you plan to visit, and have your Fast Passes booked, plan out the rest of the attractions you would like to experience. One efficient way to do this is to use TOURING PLANS (something we offer complimentary when using my agency’s FREE Disney Vacation Planning services). Since I have access to TOURING PLANS through my work as an agent, I was able to select which attractions we wanted to visit and print out a detailed plan for our day. These plans minimize waiting and try to minimize your walking between desired attractions. If you don’t have the official TOURING PLAN you should at least have an idea of which rides you want to hit and access to the My Disney App to check wait times and help plan your time.
Avoid visiting a park that has magic hours – Magic Hours are early morning times when certain parks are open ONLY to guests staying on Disney property. This tip would be for those interested in the real sell-out attractions, that you don’t have Fast Passes for. On the day of our visit, our plan was to be ready to run at Animal Kingdom rope drop and go right to Flight of Passage. BUT since there were magic hours that morning, by the time the park opened at 9am, there was already a 2.5 hour wait for the ride. Understandably everyone who arrived for the 8am Magic Hours, headed to Flight of Passage and we were essentially shut out.
PS I do have to make one more shout-out for using a Full Service Travel Agent to help plan your trip. By staying on-property, you have access to Magic Hours AND the ability to book Fast Passes way before other guests. Think staying on property is too expensive? Then have me create a FREE, no OBLIGATION Disney quote for your family – I think you will be surprised at the range of options to fit most budgets! Click HERE to get started on your magical adventure!
Utilize single-rider line – I felt like this was our best tip of the day. If you are traveling with kids 7 and up, your family can utilize the single-rider line. This line usually has half the wait time of the regular stand-by queue. At Animal Kingdom, the kids rode Expedition Everest twice, because the wait wasn’t that long. One time they were on different coasters, the second go around, they were on the same coaster, just not sitting next to each other. When you use single-rider, just make sure everyone is clear on the post-ride meet up location!
Rides that Have a Single Rider Line:
Animal Kingdom – Expedition Everest
Epcot – Test Track
Hollywood Studios – Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
Set realistic expectations – With any Disney trip, it’s good to set realistic expectations for what the trip will look like. For our one-day visit, I had to tell the kids that we would not be waiting to meet characters, not doing autograph books (like we did last time and the kids LOVED this), and not going to any shows. Shows are not something we regularly do at theme parks but it was worth pointing out to them that our goal for the day was to ride as many rides as possible. Since my kids are 7 and 10, I did go over the general plan with them so they had an idea of what the day would look like. Helps avoid any meltdowns over what we didn’t get to do and put an emphasis on the fun things we did get to do!
What to pack for One Day at Disney
Packing for a day at Disney is definitely an art, not a science. On one hand, you want to have the stuff you need, planning for different scenarios. But on the other hand, you need to lug what you have! If you have a stroller, it gives you a bit of a place to park your stuff, so you could for sure bring more snacks and drinks and maybe more clothing layers for comfort.
But if you are like me, carrying just a back pack, you want what you need to survive a long day, but don’t want to get bogged down with too much stuff!
Click here for a full Disney Park Bag Checklist
Wear comfortable clothes – On any park day, I would encourage wearing comfortable clothes, but even more so if you are planning for an epically long day at the parks! Sneakers, loose fitting, weather-appropriate clothes for sure. Don’t’ forget your sunglasses or hat.
Portable Charger – Again, something you might pack for any Disney day, but super important if you are trying to maximize that one day. You want to be able to access My Disney Experience and take lots and lots of photos! I travel with this one and it’s amazing. I was able to fully re-charge twice during my day at Disney.
A few snacks/water bottles – If you are visiting Disney for any length of time, you probably want to be mindful of bringing your own snacks and drinks into the park. Multiple days of shelling out for park prices is going to bust your wallet. But – in one day, I packed a few snacks for the kids, two bottles of water (which we could refill) and were a little more lax about purchasing food and drinks as needed. Plus, with only one day at Disney, I knew we wanted to indulge in some special park treats – we had Mickey pretzels, Mickey ice cream, and some snacks from the world showcase in Epcot!
Rain Ponchos – If you have many days to spend at Disney, you can plan around bad weather, but with one day you have to go with the elements. If rain is in the forecast, throw a few Mickey ponchos in your bag just in case!
Advil – Not taking any breaks from the attractions left my feet and legs aching. I was glad I could take some Advil mid-day to keep me soldiering on!
Hand Sanitizer – okay bring this whether you are doing Disney for five minutes or five years!
We very much enjoyed our one day at Disney World – we did a ton and had a great time! We were exhausted the next day, but it was so worth it. If you are in Orlando and only one day is what your schedule (or budget) will allow, then go for it!
Have you done one day at Disney World? What are your best tips for one day in the parks?
WHAT TO PACK FOR ONE DAY AT DISNEY WORLD: