The biggest and most important part of planning your Walt Disney World Resort vacation is figuring out which days you are going to which parks. There are plenty of variables to consider when you’re deciding how many days to go to the Magic Kingdom and when, but clearly there is a best way.
We want to plan the perfect vacation, and that means setting the perfect tone and tempo for the time you’re there. That means we want to dive in as fast as possible and become immersed in the theming and the fantasy. We want to cast away the stress and the rest of your real life worries the moment you step onto property. Disney veterans know this as the Disney Bubble.
We’re going to consider three different scenarios where you have either 3, 5 or 7 days set aside for parks.
To get into the Disney Bubble the best way, the day you arrive at your resort is very important. It’s the appetizer to your meal, so you don’t want to fill up right away. Visits to Disney Springs for shopping and dining are often suggested. You can also explore your resort and take in some of the actives, like campfires or movies under the stars. After a day of travelling to Orlando, these are great ways to unwind, relax and get ready for a good vacation.
The Three Park-Day Vacation
The three park-day vacations are a sprint. You’re probably staying on property for five or six days with two built-in travel days and maybe one extra day. So where do you start?
Park #1 – Magic Kingdom
This is a no-brainer. To get that Disney Bubble going, you have to go to the Magic Kingdom the first day. Walking under the train station and onto Main Street U.S.A. and seeing the castle first thing in the morning is something that fully cements you in the Disney Bubble. There is no other park entrance that can bring the sensations, memories, joy and experiences that walking down Main Street brings.
Not only that, the rides and attractions are pure Disney. Over twenty million people visited the Magic Kingdom in 2017, and there’s a reason why. Watch the parades and end your day with a wonderful fireworks show.
Park #2 – Animal Kingdom
If you’re planning a trip right now for sometime in the next 8 months, this is the pick. You’re essentially going for Avatar Flight of Passage, which has been called one of the best attractions in North America. The rest of the park is fantastic with its Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest.
If we were to revisit this question next year, the answer is probably going to be Hollywood Studios with the opening of Star Wars Galaxy Edge. For those with some extra cash, the savvy move would be to split the day between Animal Kingdom in the morning and early afternoon and finish the day at Epcot.
Park #3 – Magic Kingdom
That’s right, a second Magic Kingdom day. All Disney vacations should be bookended by the Magic Kingdom. You’ll want to close out your vacation the way you started it. All that magic and joy you experienced on the first day, you’ll be able to savor it and take some home with you on the last day.
I know what you’re thinking: “You’re only at the World for three days, why not experience three out of the four parks?” It’s a good question, and it will cause quite a debate. Magic Kingdom is at minimum a two-day park. If this is one of your first trips down, get the most out of the best park there.
To get an idea, here are the numbers of visitors to each park in 2017:
- Magic Kingdom: 20.45 million
- Animal Kingdom: 12.5 million
- Epcot: 12.2 million
- Hollywood Studios: 10.7 million
A lot of people suggest building resort days into your trip. Days that you can wake up late, swim in the pools, explore Disney Springs and basically relax without running through the parks are very important. If you have a resort day available during your three park-day vacation, take it after your second park-day and recuperate.
The Five Park-Day Vacation
A five park-day vacation is probably a typical week-long vacation with two travel days built in, or a leisurely nine- or ten-day trip to the World with some resort days built in. You’ll start seeing a pattern here.
Park #1 – Magic Kingdom
You always start your trip out with the Magic Kingdom for all the reasons listed above. You have a long trip with five full days of parks. Start it off right.
Park #2 – Epcot
Epcot has some great food and drinks, and is a popular destination during the International Food & Wine Festival. Plenty of attractions like Soarin’, Test Track and Frozen Ever After to keep you occupied throughout the day. You can finish the day by watching Illuminations.
As the second park of the trip, Epcot offers a less crowded option that gives you a less hectic day. While there are plenty of attractions to line up in a queue for, Epcot does have the World Showcase that you can leisurely stroll through and visit all the pavilions. When you have a five-day marathon of parks, Epcot on the second day might give you something of a reprieve.
Park #3 – Hollywood Studios
You’re in the middle of your trip and Hollywood Studios is in the middle of a lot of construction. In a year this will be a very different park with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening, but still it offers a lot of shows, the new Toy Story Land and a few thrilling rides.
This is the perfect park to go in late after sleeping in and leave early. Before Toy Story Land some considered it a half-day park, and for some it may still be that way. Because of this, it’s perfect for the middle of your trip if you don’t have any resort days baked in. Sleep late, relax back at the resort or Disney Springs in the evening and get a solid 4-5 hours in the park.
Park #4 – Animal Kingdom
You’re going to this park for all the same reasons listed in the three-day vacation, but you’re putting this on day four. Why? The later in your trip, the better chance you can get a FastPass at your 60-day mark.
Park #5 – Magic Kingdom
It doesn’t need to be explained again. You bookend your trip with the Magic Kingdom for the same reasons, again, as the three park-day vacation.
So if you’re staying for 9 or 10 days and have a few resort days built into the trip, you might want to break it up so you don’t have more than three park days in a row. But realistically, after you purchase five tickets, daily tickets only amount to an extra $10 each day or so. Your resort days become heading into the parks at night just to see fireworks or hit up a dinner reservation.
The Seven Park-Day Vacation
So how do you plan a seven park-day vacation? You’re most likely going to be at the World for 10+ days if that’s the case. At this point you’re planning out half-days at some parks for specific FastPasses or advanced dining reservations. But with trips of this length we’re really working on tempo and tone to achieve the most satisfying and fun vacation possible.
Day #1 – Magic Kingdom
Day #2 – Mid Morning/Half Day Hollywood Studios
Day #3 – Epcot
Day #4 – Evening/Half Day Magic Kingdom
Day #5 – Animal Kingdom
Day #6 – Half Day Epcot
Day #7 – Magic Kingdom
Here’s the best order you can possibly have for your vacation at Walt Disney World. You start your vacation with the Magic Kingdom. After a full day and night at the park, you can sleep late and grab a nice breakfast before heading over to Hollywood Studios and getting on Slinky Dog Dash and Tower of Terror.
After a slower day at Hollywood Studios, do your thing at Epcot. If you chose to “drink around the world,” don’t worry, because on day #4 you’re hitting up the Magic Kingdom at night. Do some shopping and swimming during the day, maybe an earlier dinner at ‘Ohana, and head over to the park for some nighttime fun as the day cools down.
Then we’ll be going to the Animal Kingdom on day five because we managed to get our Flight of Passage FastPasses at 60+6. Head back to Epcot on Day #6 for some lunch and dinner at the World Showcase and hit up any rides you missed on day #3.
As usual, you’re trying to capture that magic from the Magic Kingdom to bring home with you on the last day.
If you’re there longer than ten days, you’ll have plenty of days to visit other places in Orlando or just relax by the pool to break up a seven-day marathon of parks. However, if you notice, there are only four days out of seven calling for full days at the park.
The seven-day rotation starts you off with two character-driven parks, followed up with Epcot and then a day of relaxation with a foray back into the Magic Kingdom. The back half of the vacation is meant for getting on Flight of Passage and doing what you missed earlier in the week at Epcot and Magic Kingdom.