No matter when you take a Disney Vacation, figuring out what you should do the day you arrive at Walt Disney World is always a struggle. Should you maximize your time and head to the parks? Allow yourself a second to breathe and just stay at the resort? Make a dinner reservation? With transportation options, time, money, and stamina to consider, here are some favorite things to do on your Disney World Arrival Day.
Disney World on Arrival Day
We believe in no-stress vacations. But, if you’re fitting a Disney vacation into a short period of time or feel like every second counts, then you’ll likely make a few rushed choices. Especially if this is your First Trip to Walt Disney World and you’re trying to do all the things! So how can you make the most of your first day at Walt Disney World? Without overdoing it? Here are some things to consider for your Arrival Day at Walt Disney World BEFORE you start making plans. Because it will affect how you fill your day and set up the rest of your vacation.
What should I do the day I arrive at Walt Disney World?
A Walt Disney World Arrival day could include pretty much anything. But, we recommend you keep plans to a minimum. So what should you do the day you arrive at Walt Disney World? This depends on a few things; what time of day you arrive, the length of your vacation, money, and what kind of traveling you’ve done that day. We’ll assume that travel is exhausting, that you want to stay on your Disney Budget, and that you want to make the most of your Disney Vacation. Here are our best tips for what you should do on your first day at Walt Disney World.
Skip the Parks
No matter how long your vacation or how much money you’ve spent on this Disney Vacation, know that a rushed first day can affect your WHOLE vacation. For this reason, we almost always recommend not to go to the parks. Yes, Don’t Go to the Parks. Even if you arrive early. Why? Several Reasons.
Say you grab a flight in the wee hours of the morning somewhere between 4-6 am. Even if you get to the Orlando International Airport by 8 or 9 am, you’re already behind. Because it will take you about 45-60 minutes to get to your Disney Resort from the airport. This means you’ll be entering the parks sometime during the busiest time of day; 10 am-4 pm. This also means you’ll be faced with crowds at the gates, faced with lines at the rides, and tired from the journey in.
Another reason we usually stay away from the parks on arrival day is that we are conscious of our Disney Budget. Spending money on a park ticket for your arrival day when we may be exhausted, can’t arrive by park opening, and won’t be able to hold out through the evening fireworks, doesn’t make sense for us. And with tickets at generally $110 bucks a day, we’d rather spend that on a full day in the parks than a compromised day.
Settle into your Disney Resort
While not the most glamorous Arrival Day at Walt Disney World option nothing sets up a great vacation, like settling into your resort. With the changes in Disney Transportation options, you will be traveling with your own luggage. But, your room may not be ready. If you find that to be the case, you can easily leave your baggage at bell services until your room is ready. Need a hack to get into your Disney Resort room sooner? Check into your resort In the My Disney Experience App. When you check-in you can pick a “time of arrival” that you would like your room ready. While there is no guarantee that your room will be ready at the time you choose, your chances of having it ready earlier are BETTER if you check in on the My Disney Experience App and choose a time. Otherwise, you will have to wait till 3 PM which is the official Disney Check-In time.
We love Disney Resorts. Perhaps you’re staying at Caribbean Beach Resort, with its Island theme, hidden alcoves, winding trails, and the colorful main building. Or the classic Pop Century Resort, with its beautiful grounds, fun rooms, and the Everything Pop Shopping and Dining area. Maybe you’re staying closer to the action at the Boardwalk Inn, and going wild at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Wherever you choose, there is plenty to explore. Get familiar with the most things at your resort to help make your vacation easy and breezy.
Check out your Disney Resort Grounds
- Find the Commissary. This is the central hub at any resort for snacks, drinks, and food. While Disney Deluxe Resorts typically have a designated restaurant that acts as the commissary, the value and moderate resorts generally have the commissary in the main building where you check-in.
- Check out the Gift Shop. Home not only to Disney souvenirs, but the resort gift shop is also also the place where you’ll find last-minute necessities. Things like sunblock, band-aids, medicine, and all the stuff you should buy before you go to Disney.
- Look for the Pools. If you’re a pool family, take your Disney World Arrival Day to find them at your resort. The pool schedule is available so you can plan pool time with or around activities.
- Assess your Dining Options. It doesn’t matter how well you plan there will be a day when you need something to eat. It could be a last-minute pizza or a quick breakfast, or maybe a full dinner. Each Disney Resort typically has a commissary or quick-service restaurant, a table service restaurant, and sometimes even a Disney Lounge.
- Check out the Recreation Calendar. Every Disney Resort has a recreation calendar that includes pool time games, trivia, and a list of movies that are part of the nightly movies on the lawn. Check out our Animal Kingdom Lodge Recreation post for examples of what the resorts typically have available.
- Find the Laundry Building. If you’re on a longer vacation or have little ones, you may need the on-site laundry. This is typically open 24 hours and has vending machines with soap and softener, so you’re covered if you’re forgotten these things.
- Scope out the Transportation Options. Where’s the Bus Stop? Do you have access to the Disney Skyliner, Monorail, Boat, or Walking Paths? Check out our Disney Transportation post to see which options are available at your Disney Resort.
Unpack your Bags
For us, on vacations where we actually take the time to unpack our suitcases and settle in, we find the whole trip easier. Getting ready for early mornings is easier. Getting ready for bed is easier. Suddenly there is time to shower, to watch Mickey cartoons, and not worry about digging through suitcases to find things. As a Disney World Arrival Day activity unpacking can feel daunting, but we do find it helpful!
Head to the Resort Commissary
We are big fans of the Walt Disney World Refillable Mug. This mug, while typically free with the Disney Dining Plan, can also be purchased at the resort commissary. And if you’re staying for any amount of time, we highly recommend you grab the refillable mug. It’s RFID activated to get you free drinks in the commissary throughout your stay, once purchased. Soda fountain drinks, coffees, teas, and cocoas are all included. Grabbing this mug on your Disney World Arrival Day is the best way to make the most of your Disney Budget. Beverages are typically 4 dollars per person. But, it’s simple to multiply that by the number of days and people to see if this refillable mug souvenir is worth the cost.
Book a Disney Restaurant Reservation at a Resort
A Disney World Arrival Day is usually so busy with travel that it’s easy to forget that you have to eat at some point. And while it may seem like a good idea to just grab a quick service meal anywhere you can find it. Plus, having a restaurant meal that requires you to sit down and eat for an hour, can often be a godsend. Especially on a busy day. If you’re staying at a Disney Resort with a table service restaurant, like Sebastian’s Bistro, Ale and Compass, or Kona Cafe you may not even need a reservation. Check the My Disney Experience App for availability.
Resort Hop the Disney Resorts
By far one of our favorite things to do at Walt Disney World is Resort Hopping. And Arrival Day at Walt Disney World is the perfect time to explore Disney Resorts. Ones at which you may or may not be staying. If you arrive at Walt Disney World early you can take time to explore resorts that may be near your own resort. Our favorite resorts for a Disney World Arrival Day are the Boardwalk Resorts, Monorail Resorts, Skyliner Resorts, and the Disney Resorts with Boat Transportation. All of these resorts offer great options for meals, gift shop browsing, and meandering the grounds.
Head to Disney Springs
One of the most popular things to do on Disney World Arrival Day is to visit Disney Springs. This Disney shopping center is filled with things to do, eat and see. From snack kiosks, like Aristocrepes, to some of the best Quick Service Dining at Walt Disney World, you don’t want to spend a potential park day shopping. So why not spend some time at Disney Springs on your arrival or departure days.
Go to the Disney Boardwalk
Walt Disney World’s Boardwalk is accessible by car, Disney bus, and Skyliner. If you’re staying at one of the Boardwalk Resorts, or the Swan and Dolphin Hotels you can simply walk outside the door. But if you’re elsewhere on Disney property, it’s worth the visit! You can head to the gift shops to browse. Or stop at The Market at Ale and Compass to grab snacks and coffee. But perhaps Beaches and Cream Soda Shop is more your style. And a meal at Trattoria al Forno is always a treat.
Play Miniature Golf
Walt Disney World is a mecca of sports and recreation. And if you’re arriving early at Walt Disney World on Arrival Day you may have some time to just play! Think about that. What a great way to start your vacation. Walt Disney World has two miniature golf courses, Winter Summerland and Fantasia Gardens. Winter Summerland is located at Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, and you simply grab a Disney bus from your resort to Blizzard Beach. And Fantasia Gardens is just next to the Disney Swan Hotel, and you can grab a bus there too. While you may not think of miniature golf as something that should be part of your Disney vacation, it’s a super fun way to start your trip. And one that automatically gets you in the mindset of rest and relaxation.
What’s the Best Time to Arrive at Walt Disney World?
After years of traveling To and From Walt Disney World from Ohio, we’re used to driving, flying, getting there early, getting there late, and getting there in the middle of the day. With so many options on when to arrive at Walt Disney World what will work best for you and your family?
If you’re on a shorter vacation arriving in the morning on your first day at Walt Disney World could help you reclaim some time. But keep in mind that arriving in the morning, also means that you may have been on an early flight. Or driving all night. Either way, you will be exhausted before dinner.
If you’re faced with the reality that an early flight or early arrival isn’t possible, then an afternoon arrival may be your best bet. And what’s great about arriving in the afternoon is that the resorts are typically empty at that time of day. So you can explore and discover things without crowds and chaos. Which is always nice!
By far our favorite time to arrive at Walt Disney World, there is an ease in knowing that you don’t have to fit anything into your day. You can simply arrive at your resort, find something to eat close by, unpack, and get a great night’s sleep. So you can start your first day at Walt Disney World refreshed and ready!
Disney World Arrival Day
No matter what you choose to do on your Disney World Arrival Day know that there are plenty of things you can do at Walt Disney World without a Park Ticket. And absolutely no need to shove it all into the day you arrive. By skipping the Disney park ticket on arrival and departure days you save money. And give yourself what you need on a vacation. Free time!
Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.