I personally can’t imagine a Florida vacation without Disney World – but I also know that there is a TON of great stuff to see and do outside of Disney – beaches, theme parks, shopping, restaurants – so much so that you can even spend a whole vacation in Florida without going to Disney (not something I personally would suggest of course, but hey, to each their own!). If you’re heading to Florida for vacation, I highly recommend you try and work in a day at Walt Disney World – it’s a fun experience, and while it can’t ALL be seen in one day, you can definitely see a lot and have a ton of fun doing it!
If you’re looking at spending just one day at WDW, then here are some tips and tricks to help you plan and prepare:
-Spring for the Park Hopper option – This is an additional cost on top of Theme Park admission, but it’s worth every penny – it allows you to visit multiple Parks in one day, and while I wouldn’t recommend attempting all 4 Parks in 1 day, I think that 2 or possibly even 3 is doable, and the Park Hopper option allows you to “hop” between the Parks with ease!
-Get there early, and plan to stay late – If you’ve only got one day to see WDW, you better make the best of it – arrive when the Park opens, and stay until it closes. I realize this isn’t always feasible depending on how far away you’re traveling from, or if you have young kids with you – but you want to get the most bang for your buck – plan to stay for the WHOLE day (or as much of it as you can manage!)
-Pack Wisely – Make sure you come with everything you need to get you through a long day of walking and being outside – Hoodies, sunscreen, snacks (granola bars, fruit, trail mix etc), water bottles, ponchos, and make sure everyone wears comfortable (aka broken in) sneakers and socks – your feet will thank you later! Of course, most of these items are also available to purchase at the various Disney souvenir shops – but it will cost you – and best to save your money for something you actually want, am I right?
-Do Your Homework – A little planning goes a long way – check out official Park Info and figure out which rides and attractions you might want to get fastpasses for, and if you’re going to eat at table service restaurants, you’ll want to make Advance Dining Reservations for those for sure
As part of your planning, you will want to have an itinerary in place so that you can make the most of your day. Here’s my suggested plan for a Day at Disney World:
-Arrive at the Magic Kingdom when the Park opens for the day, and spend the morning there. If you’re there right when it opens, you can hit some of the more popular attractions and rides without a long wait, and once the Park starts to fill up, you can head over to rides with quicker moving lines, like the Haunted
Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Carousel of Progress
-Bring breakfast with you or eat before you arrive, and then fuel up with lunch at the Crystal Palace – a character meal serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet style – and the best part is – your favorite 100 Acre Wood characters are there too! Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet all make their rounds for hugs, autographs, and pictures while you enjoy the fresh delicious buffet offerings – carved meats, an assortment of cold salads and hot sides, and some great desserts too! This not only gives you a chance to meet 4 characters in one place, but you can enjoy some delicious food and relax a bit before getting back out there!
-Once the afternoon hits, I recommend switching gears and heading to another Park – head over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where you can experience all the glitz and glamour of Old Hollywood! Stroll down Hollywood Boulevard and take it all in – the décor, the music, the sites, the entertainment – it’s a movie lovers dream! Here is where your planning will come in handy – you will want to plan to use your Fastpasses here – for popular rides like Aerosmith’s Rock’n Roller Coaster, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Midway Mania. You’ll definitely want to check out the Art of Disney Animation too – and the Muppets 3D show and the Great Movie Ride. There’s a lot to see here! Take your time and stroll through the “Streets”, and if you get a chance, grab a delicious treat (giant butterfinger cupcake perhaps?) at Starring Roles Cafe
-With all the walking you’ve been doing all day, you need a nice relaxing dinner, don’t you think? Head over to Downtown Disney for dinner and plenty of retail therapy! Downtown Disney is a shopping and entertainment mecca – with plenty of great stores, restaurants, clubs, bars, and they even have a movie theater and a bowling alley! Make plans to dine at my favorite spot – Raglan Road Irish Pub – where they have a huge bar with tons of beer options, plus a delicious menu featuring Irish classics (fish and chips, bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie to name a few), and live nightly entertainment – a band playing Irish tunes, plus Irish dancers too! Once you are full and ready for a stroll, do some shopping at some of Downtown Disney’s specialty shops, or grab a drink at the House of Blues
-Once you’re all shopped out, you can easily hop a bus back to the Magic Kingdom – where you can head on home, OR stay and enjoy the nightly fireworks (hey, if you’re only there for one day, might as well end that day with a BANG, right?)
Disney World is a place that’s best enjoyed over several days (several days, several times a year if I could afford it!), but it is possible to plan one day at Disney and have a great time – hope these tips help convince you to do a day at Disney on your next Florida vacation!