Shelby's WDW Planning Series

Shelby’s WDW Planning Series: #3 Choosing Which Park to Visit Each Day

Planning It vs. Winging It:

“Winging It” Is More For Annual Passholders and FL Residents:

The phrase “I’m just going to wing it” is a bit out of style with Walt Disney World. Because there is so much planning involved (180 days ahead for your dining reservations, 30/60 days ahead for your fastpasses depending on if you’re staying on/off property), it is only realistic to “wing it” if you are an Annual Passholder or live close enough where you can just hit whatever you missed next time.

We are writing this post for the planners, because Disney costs a chunk of change and whenever your paying for time somewhere, it’s better to have your plans organized ahead of time. No one wants to spend their vacation deciding what they’re going to do next every few hours. Also, research helps you to discover really awesome restaurants that you might not know about until you put a little bit of work into planning ahead!

For Everybody Else, Just Take A Minute To Plan:

Choosing which park to visit each day is essential because Disney requires a lot of  reservations that are made in advance. This way, you’ll know area of the property you will be in (park, resort, etc.) so you can plan your dining reservations as conveniently as possible.

For example, if you are at Magic Kingdom and don’t want to eat inside of the park you’ll probably want to choose one of the restaurants at one of the resorts that is in the Magic Kingdom area. Perhaps eat at a resort that is off of the monorail loop (‘Ohana at the Polynesian is our favorite) instead of choosing Boatwright’s at Port Orleans (another favorite of ours) – maybe save that for a day where you’re closer to the Disney Springs area.

We strongly advise planning the locations for each day of your trip so you can at least get an idea of where you might want to eat and make fast passes for when it comes time to make reservations.


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One of our favorite floats from the Festival of Fantasy Parade. Don’t miss it! (Photo by: Anna Hall)


Park Hours Calendar & Crowd Calendar – Your Two Best Friends:

It’s simple. Print them out. Set them down at a nice big table. Pour yourself a nice cold beverage. You’re going to want to spend a good hour or so here in order to work out all the kinks that may arise when creating a loose schedule.

Two Quick Things to Consider:

  1. Check if there are any events/festivals/attraction refurbishments that are happening that you want to work into your schedule.
  2. Take a second to think about if your family can handle an open to close park day. If not, think about what portion of the day you’re going to do the parks. For example, really consider this if you have babies that get to bed super early or grumpy family members who are certainly not morning people.
  3. Are you planning on incorporating a relaxing free day? A day at the pool? A Disney Springs day? The parks get pretty tiring so I definitely recommend one day in the middle of your trip to recharge if the length of your trip allows it.

Step 1: Choose with Emotions – Your First and Last Day

Now you have your first two decisions to make:

  1. What is the first park you want to visit?
  2. What is the last park you want to visit?

This is always a good place to start because the first day is very exciting and the last day is always bittersweet. Sometimes it’s good to leave your last park day (or portion of the day) open to revisiting attractions or revisiting your favorite park from that vacation.

I personally like to visit Magic Kingdom on both my first and last day. Because these two days are pretty emotional, I don’t really bother with the crowd calendars unless I know it’s going to be insanely crowded.

Step 2: Choose with Logic – The Inbetween Days

Look at your calendars and see which park is going to be the least busy and have the best hours for your needs on each day. Sometimes it’s up to you to find the balance between the park hours and crowd levels when choosing which park to visit each day.


The Golden Break Plan:

This is a popular plan among seasoned guests who visit the parks often. We strongly recommend that you go to the park for rope drop (just before the park opens), ride the rides that usually have long waits, eat a light lunch, watch Festival of Fantasy Parade at 3PM and go back to your hotel to recharge. Heck, take a catnap. Go back to the park (or park hop) at around 5:30PM and stay until close. I think this is usually the golden plan because you can go back to the park after a bit of rest with enough energy to fully enjoy the fireworks. This plan is especially helpful when you hit the point where you’re realizing that you’re exhausted from doing the parks over the first few days of your trip.

Plus, sometimes the parks stay open super late in the summer and barely anyone is there during the last two hours. This means that you can (hopefully) ride all of the rides a million times with no wait!


Pirates of the Caribbean is one of those rides that never has a long wait past a point in the night!



Final Step of Choosing Parks for Each Day – Start Thinking About Dining Reservations:

Now that you have your park days picked out, start thinking about where you are planning to eat. Whether you choose to eat at Quick Service or Full Service restaurants, it’s always good to do research. There are so many restaurant options at Disney World.


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An actual photo of Rapunzel defending herself against all of the planning that goes into a Disney vacation. (Photo by: Anna Hall)


Keep in mind that you can start making your dining reservations up to 180 days (at midnight) in advance of your check in date. This means that popular restaurants like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table will probably be booked solid by 12:05am 180 days in advance of your trip.

Overwhelmed? Contact us for Complimentary Vacation Planning.

We get it. Disney vacations take a lot of time and energy to plan, especially because everything must be done so far in advance if you want to eat at highly desired restaurants or get fastpasses for new attractions.

Message us at our Facebook Page. We can help you choose the restaurants you want to eat at and make dining reservations for you. We can even assist you by making Fastpass reservations for you! If you’d like, we can even create an itinerary for you so you don’t have to sit down with crowd calendars and park hours.

We are happy to help you out! Whether you’re looking for advice or help with reservation making – we can’t wait to hear from you!


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