One of the most frequent questions we get asked is how we schedule our day to make the most out of our time in Disney. I’m sometimes hesitant to take people through how we, as a family, operate during park hours, simply because what works for some will not work for others. Depending on the size of your party, the age of any children with you, and your groups energy levels, your day at Disney will differ from others quite a bit; some people are up early, some need a mid-day nap, others spend from dawn-to-dusk in a theme park. It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to plan your day; whatever works best for your group and your particular set of needs is the right way for you.
That being said, sometimes a little inspiration is needed to help think of alternative ways to organise your day to work for your travel party, particularly if this is your first trip and you’re unsure as to what tactic to take when tackling the theme parks. In that spirit, here is our general Disney Day;
The Night Before
Our Disney Day really begins the evening before. We’ll take some time before we go to bed to look over tomorrows park hours, Extra Magic Hours and any Restaurant or Fastpass+ reservations we may have. I’m generally quite good a ensuring any evening restaurant we’ve booked will coincide with whichever park has evening Extra Magic Hours (EMH), and any Fastpass+ reservations will also be tied into whichever Theme Park we’ll be in for either morning or evening EMH. This allows full flexibility for the rest of the day. Based on these three key pieces of information, we then work out which Theme Park we’ll be at in the morning and where we’ll be for the evening.
We’re up early and have an early breakfast to be at one of the theme parks for opening; this will typically be whatever park is offering morning Extra Magic Hours or we have Fastpass+ booked for. If there are no morning EMH and we have no Fastpass+ reservations until later in the day, we will simply choose whichever park we fancy visiting that morning. We will stay here until lunch or just after, trying to fit in at least one of the bigger attractions and a couple of the lesser attractions (those with shorter queue times.) Lunch is often eaten at a Quick Service Restaurant in the same park, and will generally eaten early (around 11.30am – 12pm; hence the early breakfast!) to avoid long lunch lines. If the day isn’t too hot and the park isn’t getting too busy, we’ll try to do some more rides or attractions for a while after we’ve eaten, but generally we are leaving the park between 2pm and 3pm
The afternoon is our down time before things start getting busy again in the evening. We tend to leave the Theme Parks for some leisurely activities. Some days, this will mean a return to the hotel for a nap, other times, we’ll head to our Resort pool or a Water Park to cool off. We’ve even been known to head to Downtown Disney or Seven Seas Lagoon and hire out a boat, or take a trip to the outlets for a bit of retail therapy The key point we try to remember about this time is that is has to be relaxing and remove us from the Theme Parks so we can recharge and be ready to take them on again in the evening!
On occasion, we’ll spend and afternoon in the Theme Parks. However, this will almost always be a different park than we spent the morning in (a change is as good as a rest!). Generally, we will spend an afternoon in the Parks on days we know we’ll be spending the evenings relaxing elsewhere, for example dinner at a Resort before heading back to our own Resort to watch ‘Movies under the Stars’.
After a relaxing afternoon recharging our batteries, its ready to get right back into the action. Somewhere around 5pm we’ll head back into the Theme Parks. Generally this will be whichever one hits the three key areas; EMH, Fastpass+ Reservations or Reservations. However, if you’ve planned things correctly, you should be able to cover all three! We will either head to our Dinner reservation or Fastpass+ booking first, and the other will be scheduled to happen after. Regardless of the order of reservations we will always try to get a good view of the evening Fireworks (or Show depending on park). As park closes to outside guests, we start to gear up for our Extra Magic Hours and try to get on a few of the bigger rides that have long queues during the day. As the night goes on you’ll also tend to find me in the shops – I love this time of day for doing my souvenir purchases!
If we have no reservations for that evening, we’ll take our pick of which park we fancy going to. Generally, evenings where we have no reservations occur with mornings which are fully scheduled, and vice versa; this allows us the most spontaneity and flexibility with our day. We may try to pick up some more Fastpass+ selections in the park we end up at, but sometimes we’ll just enjoy our evening and not worry about trying to do any ride or show with a long wait. Again, we’ll ensure we see the evening Show or Fireworks and make the most of Extra Magic Hours if they’re on offer.
At Park Close, we’ll head back to our Resort and wind down for bed. One of us always ends up doing a drinks run as the other (who used to put their feet up and relax!) gets the boys into bed and asleep. We then settle down and have a look at reservations as we begin planning our next day of fun and action!
Regardless of how you decide to plan your own Disney Day, it is important to get right the fine balance between planning and spontaneity. Too much planning and your day will fill stressed and rushed to keep pace with your full schedule; too little and you’ll miss out on Restaurants and Fastpasses which require reservations and may not fully make use of Extra Magic Hours. We tend to try and break our day into 3 – Morning, Afternoon and Evening, and try to ensure only one of these is fully organised. Some days. we end up with 2 out of 3 being planned, but with plenty of rest time built in elsewhere, these more hectic days don’t take too much out of us!
Remember to plan your day to ensure you and your party get the most out of it; a Walt Disney World Holiday is about the enjoyment of it and that should be first and foremost no matter how you plan your days in the Theme Parks. And, if you’re not enjoying your days (for whatever reason, but usually its tiredness!) change it up and try a different structure. If you’re enjoying yourself, then you’re doing it right!