How to Plan Your Days on a Disney World Trip

How to Plan Your Days on a Disney World Trip

Planning a Walt Disney World trip can be a lot! There’s deciding what type of resort to stay in. Choosing transportation options. Choosing dining reservations. You need to choose rides and decide if you’re going to utilize Disney Genie+. There’s a lot to do, and sometimes, not a lot of time to do it! But having a plan for your day at Disney is key to making the most of your time. Here’s how to plan your Disney Day Itinerary for a Day at Disney World.

Wondering what to do during each day at Disney World? Whether you’re grabbing a Disney day pass, a Disney Park Hopper Ticket, or staying for the week, the goals here remain the same; to make a plan for each day your in the park. While a Disney 3 day pass obviously gets you more time in the parks than a 2 day pass, what we really recommend is full week to really do and see all the parks. In fact, if you’re wondering how long to stay at Disney World, the 7-9 daymark usually works best. Here’s the breakdown of how one day at Disney should be planned.

Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom Park Disney

Making a Plan for One Day at Disney World 

Walt Disney World can be overwhelming. Disneyland is a little less so. Regardless of which Disney Park you’re visiting, having a plan for your Disney Days is essential.  Whether you’re a Disney newbie or a seasoned Disney traveler, it’s always good to have a plan at Disney. It doesn’t need to be broken down by the hour, but you should have some idea of what you’d like to do each day. And where you want to eat, even if you’re not eating at a table restaurant. We believe so much in the power of planning for your trip, that a few years ago we added printable Disney planners to our shop and they’re some of our best-selling items.

Disney Vacation Planning

As a general rule, you should be able to achieve 3 rides, one table service meal, a parade or a show, and one character meet and greet in a day at Disney. This will vary widely between times of the year and who’s traveling with you. And more often than not, you’re going to be able to do more than that. But who wants to be disappointed about not getting to do something on their list? Not us. And we don’t want to be responsible for your disappointment either. So we’re giving you realistic expectations, and you can decide if you want to dream bigger than that. Check out our post on How to Plan a Disney Trip in 12 steps for more info and our Disney Checklists for Each Disney Park for a quick look at your options each day.

EPCOT Spaceship Earth Ride

What is There to Do at Disney World? Set Priorities

Why are you going to Disney? Rides? Character Meet and Greets? Special Experiences? There’s no wrong answer, but it’s important to establish priorities for your trip. We’ve been to Walt Disney World multiple times per year over the last decade, and well, not as much at Disneyland, but still more than the average traveler. And we still have not seen and done everything we want to do. There’s just a lot to do!

Ask everyone in your party what their priorities are and try to create a plan that accommodates each person to at least have one of their top choices included. Check out the Top 10 things to Do at Disney Parks for a snapshot of what you can do each of your Disney Days.

Disney Ride Living With The Land

What Disney World Rides Should You Go On? Choose your Top 3

With the addition of Genie+, the ride situation has been…interesting. Genie+ will definitely help you cut down on wait times, but it’s not really necessary in all of the Parks if you have a strategy. You can use strategies like rope drop, riding during peak mealtimes, during nighttime shows, or in the case of Magic Kingdom, during the Festival of Fantasy Parade. If you’re staying at a deluxe resort, you can take advantage of Extended Evening Hours.

Check out the best Disney Rides in Each Park, and Disney Ride Strategies so you can make a plan. As a rule of thumb, you should try to pick your top 3 rides and do those first. Or come up with a plan to ensure that you can do them all during your day. Is it possible to ride more than 3 rides in a day? Of course! And most likely, you will. But if you prioritize your top 3, then everything else is just icing on the Mickey-shaped cake.  On average, guests end up getting 3 ride selections with Genie+. You can get more than that, but that’s the average. It’ll depend on when you start your day, how busy it is, and how many other guests have also purchased Genie+.

Peter Pans Flight Walt disney World

Planning Disney World Disney Genie+ Selections

Genie+ and Lightning Lane are controversial topics amongst Disney fans. What once used to be free no longer is. And it’s understandable that guests are resistant to the type of change that costs them more. Plus, it’s a slightly confusing feature to use. It has weird rules that aren’t often shared by Disney. And since it all has to be done on your phone, the person in charge of making ride reservations could very well be on their phone all day. You’ll definitely want to make sure you have a portable phone charger on hand.

But even though Genie+ is done in the moment, it’s important to plan ahead for your selections. Some sell out earlier in the day than others, and if your first ride reservation isn’t until 3 pm, it’s going to be difficult to get much more accomplished. Plan to start selecting rides early, and understand how Genie+ works to make the most of it.

D-Luxe Burger Disney Springs

Where Should You Eat at Disney World? Plan This Ahead of Time

Disney World is filled with restaurants. Sit down Restaurants, Quick Service Restaurants and Snacks are all part of your Disney day. Your meal strategy is going to change largely on where you’re staying. At Disneyland, most guests stay at Good Neighbor hotels off-property, while at Walt Disney World the opposite is true.  Regardless of which park you’re visiting, or whether or not you’re staying at a Disney resort or not, breakfast tends to be the most difficult meal for those hoping to get to the Parks early. This is again why it’s important to know your party’s priorities beforehand. If your number one objective is to get to the Parks as early as possible, you can grab something like a pastry from the food court on your way out or bring prepackaged foods like Kind Breakfast Bars or Belvita Biscuits.

But if that’s not your biggest concern, you should decide where you’ll eat at least by the day before. You should have an idea of which 3 places you want to eat at and around what time. Obviously, this can be a flexible plan. But during very busy times, if you wait too long to decide on a restaurant, it can impact the rest of the day. Mobile ordering sometimes gets closed at certain times. Lines can get very long. And sometimes, some quick service restaurants are actually closed for a short amount of time between traditional mealtimes and won’t be open at all until the next meal period begins. There’s nothing wrong with a little spontaneity at Walt Disney World. Just make sure it doesn’t affect your ability to find food! Being hangry at Disney is never fun, so try to avoid that when possible.

Disney World Dining Reservations

If you’re planning to have a table service meal, in general, you’ll want to allow at least an hour. Sometimes you have to wait for your reservation. Sometimes service is a little slow. And in the case of a Disney Restaurant with a Character Meal, sometimes you have to wait for characters. So be sure to allow plenty of time for sit-down restaurants. Either way, if you’re adding a good sit down restaurant to your Day at Disney World, then plan to make Disney Dining Reservations. This will be a huge time saver, and stress reliever later.

coffee at walt disney world

Where to Find Coffee at Walt Disney World

And of course, don’t forget about coffee! Every Walt Disney World Park has a Starbucks. And with the exception of Animal Kingdom’s location, Creature Comforts, they all tend to be pretty busy most of the time. So if you need your coffee fix and Starbucks is what you prefer, you’re going to want to plan for that extra wait time.  As silly as it might sound to plan a coffee stop into your day, it can sometimes take half an hour to get thru the line and get your Starbucks fix.  You can also try Joffrey’s for a shorter line.

If you’re not picky, however, just make coffee in your room. Or grab it from the food court on the way to the Parks.

Pop Century Resort Pools

Planning for Breaks at Disney World and Where to Take Them

Everyone relaxes a little differently and that’s ok! You just need to make sure you take some time for that. Even if it’s just during the Carousel of Progress Show or Muppets 3D. Disney is a lot! There is a lot of walking, a lot of overstimulation, and sometimes a bit of chaos. Making sure everyone gets a break in a way that helps them get refreshed is essential to enjoying your trip. We’ve seen so many families fight at Walt Disney World. It definitely makes you reconsider calling it the Happiest Place on Earth. Most of the time these fights are the result of someone just needing a break. So be sure to take them! And be sure to plan them in your day. Check out all the best places to Take Breaks at Disney World inside and outside of the parks.

This can look like finding a quiet spot to relax at Disney. Or have a full day in the middle of your vacation for a pool or resort day. For smaller travelers, maybe they need a nap midday. And during the hottest months of the year, taking a small break at midday is a good idea anyway to escape the heat.

Minnie Mouse Character Meet and Greet at Walt Disney World

What Disney Characters Can You Meet? Choose your Favorites

If your main goal of going to Walt Disney World is to meet the characters, then it’s important that you get very familiar with the My Disney Experience App; which includes the times to meet each one. While some characters are available almost all day, like the Princesses at Fairytale Hall, others are not so easily accessible. Checking the My Disney Experience account for characters will help you plan when to be ready to meet them. Some characters are also available as a Genie+ reservation, so if you’re looking to cut down wait times, you have that as an option as well. Check out where are Characters at Walt Disney World ahead of time so you can get your bearings, and make a plan.

Behind The Seeds Tour

Add Special Experiences to Your Day at Disney World

Do you have any special experiences you’re hoping to have while at Walt Disney World? Maybe a trip to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, or a Disney World Tour? We loved our Happily Ever After Dessert Party and Wild Africa Trek Tour. If you’re adding these be sure to plan meals around these activities, as they can take longer than expected.  And if you have to travel to get to any of these experiences, be sure to allow for extra travel time if using Disney transportation. We always recommend planning an hour for travel between locations. If you need to get somewhere quickly, you’ll want to either use Disney’s Minnie Van Service or Uber.

Disney Happily Ever After Fireworks

What Parades and Shows are at Disney World? 

Parades used to be a much bigger deal at Walt Disney World than they are now. With no nighttime parade, and Festival of Fantasy being the only active parade currently available, it’s a little easier to plan around than it once was. If you want to see Festival of Fantasy though, especially from a special location, like Main Street USA, you’ll need to plan to find a good spot about 20-30 minutes before the parade starts.  And then you’ll actually have to wait for the parade to arrive in that location.  If you don’t have any desire to see the parade, though, you can take advantage of lower ride wait times during the parade.

Other activities to consider include Disney Nighttime Spectacular Shows, like the fireworks at Epcot and Magic Kingdom. Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom is a must-see fireworks show. And you’ll need to allow extra time for securing a spot at these shows as well.  At Epcot, you’ll likely want to find a good spot 20-30 minutes before the evening show starts. And at Magic Kingdom, depending on where you want to view the fireworks from, you could need an hour, or sometimes more, to secure the right spot.  And again, this is an opportune time to take advantage of low wait times, as many people tend to want to see the fireworks.

Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Plans

How to plan your Day at Disney. 

If you follow the formula of 3 rides, 1 table service meal, 1 parade or show, and 1 character meet and greet, you’re almost certain to be able to accomplish everything on your Disney day. You can substitute things you want for things you don’t. And add in things as you see you’ll have time. Most people will be able to accomplish much more than those 6 things. But knowing your must-dos ahead of time and planning accordingly for them will make sure you’re able to see and do the things at the top of your Disney list. Having a plan for your Disney Days will make your trip less stressful. It will help you prioritize what’s right for your traveling party and hopefully contribute to a more magical trip!

How to plan your Days at Disney World to make the most of rides, yoru time and budget. Allt eh best planning tips for Disney World

Co-Founder and Director at Polka Dot Pixie Co LLC | Website

Melanie Renee is a photographer, writer, designer and mom. Visiting Disney destinations since 2010, she is also an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. When she's not creating her next coffee recipe, or designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's seeking beautiful sunsets and planning her next trip .

Related Posts