Suppose you find yourself in the Orlando area with only one day to visit Disney World. Can you maximize your time well and get your money’s worth? Of course you can! Even one day at Walt Disney World is better than none, so in this article, I’m going to show you exactly how to do Disney World in one day. I’ll also provide a helpful Disney World checklist PDF that you can download or print out that will help you maximize your one day at Disney!
How to Do Disney World in One Day – Park Reservations
Unfortunately, a completely spontaneous trip to Disney World isn’t really possible these days. So the first step of your “one day at Disney plan” is going to be making sure park reservations are available for one day you’ll visiting.
To enter any of the Disney Parks, both a theme park reservation and valid admission for the same park on the same date are required for all guests ages 3 and up. You can check on the Disney World website to make sure reservations are available for the day you want to visit.
Admission: One Park or Two?
The first decision you’ll have to make for your Disney day is what park you want to visit, and if you want to park hop to a second one. A one-day admission ticket to any Disney World park is going to be more expensive than buying tickets for multiple days. There just isn’t any way to get around that. The price of that ticket can vary a little bit depending on the day and time of year.
Just how much are Disney World tickets per person for a one day experience as an adult? Well, here are average prices for a ticket in January (at the time of publication):
Magic Kingdom – $154.00
Epcot – $139.00
Hollywood Studios – $149.00
Animal Kingdom – $134.00
If you’re going to drive yourself, there is also a $25 parking fee.
If you want to attempt to visit two parks during your one Disney day, you can buy a Park Hopper option in addition to your regular admission ticket. This will add an average of $60-$70 to the price of each regular admission ticket. A Park Hopper allows you to visit a second park on the same day (subject to park capacity), anytime after 2:00 PM.
When considering if you want to visit one park or two, you should also factor in that hopping to a second park will cost you a little bit of time to get there. Walt Disney World has many excellent free transportation options to help guests get around the parks. Depending on which parks you’re traveling between, you can choose to travel by bus, monorail, boat, or the new Skyliner option.
While Disney’s free transportation options are fun and reliable, they might take up more time than you’d like. If you have your own car, it might be quicker to drive yourself to a second park. Another option is to take a taxi or ride-share service. While this option isn’t free, it can save you some valuable time.
Do You Need A Magic Band?
If you’ve been to Walt Disney World before, you probably have a Magic Band. In most cases, you can link your existing band to the My Disney Experience app. If you don’t have one, it really isn’t necessary to purchase one. You can use the Mobile Magic feature on the My Disney Experience app to gain park admission, check into Lightning Lanes, and utilize mobile food ordering. It might not be as convenient as having a Magic Band, but for just one day it’s probably a better choice.
The basic Magic Bands are selling for $15 to $20. That’s not a huge expense by itself, but it’s an unnecessary expense for a one-day visit. For a family of four, that’s a savings of $60, minimum. A better use of your money would be to purchase Genie+ for everyone in your group, which will save you valuable time during your Disney day.
Which Park(s) To Visit?
If this is your first visit to Walt Disney World, I would recommend visiting Magic Kingdom. You’ll be able to see Cinderella’s Castle, maybe catch a parade, ride many of the most iconic rides, and see the incomparable fireworks. Be aware that Magic Kingdom is always going to have slightly higher crowds than the other parks. If this isn’t your first Disney trip, go ahead and prioritize your favorite park!
It’s a good idea to check the website calendar to verify park hours on the day you plan to visit. Magic Kingdom is usually open the latest of any of the parks, with a closing time of 11 PM on most nights.
If you’re thinking of park hopping during your Disney day, a good strategy to maximize your park time might be to visit another park early in the day, then hop to Magic Kingdom and stay until it closes.
My Disney Experience App and Genie+
When you only have one day at Disney, anything you can do to make the most of your time is invaluable. One of the best time management tools you’ll have available is the My Disney Experience App. The app is free to download to your smartphone. With it, you can gain park admission, check wait times on any ride or attraction you’re interested in, and take advantage of mobile food ordering.
Download the app before your Disney day, and spend some time getting familiar with all its features. It’s pretty user-friendly, but you can find help online to learn more about it.
Let’s talk for a minute about Genie+. Yes, this will be another added expense (the price varies a bit, but begins at about $15). But if avoiding long lines at Disney World and riding as many rides as possible is your priority, you’ll need this service (and, as a result, you’ll need to often utilize your smartphone at Disney). You can buy Genie+ through the My Disney Experience app the day of your visit. Be sure to purchase it for everyone in your group.
With Genie+, you can book “Lightning Lanes” which will let you avoid waiting in overly long standby lines for popular rides and attractions. It’s very similar to the old FastPass system. You can make your first Lightning Lane selection at 7:00 AM on the day of your visit. After that, you can book another selection two hours after park opening, or two hours after you check in for your first Lightning Lane (whichever comes first).
With a little planning, you can “stack” your Lightning Lane choices to get as many as possible throughout your day. Basically, prioritize the most popular Lightning Lane choices for early in the day, and pay attention to that two-hour rule for when you can book your next one! Set your phone to remind you when it’s time to book the next Lightning Lane if it helps. If you consistently book your choices as soon as you can, you can maximize the number of rides you can experience in one day.
With Genie+ you can also purchase “Individual Lightning Lanes” (ILLs) for some of the newer, most popular rides. Rise of The Resistance in Hollywood Studios and Guardians of the Galaxy-Cosmic Rewind in Epcot are two of the most popular ILLs at this time. The prices will vary, but seem to average around $15 per person.
Planning Ahead – The Night Before
Okay, you’ve bought your tickets (and perhaps park hoppers), chosen what park(s) you want to visit, and downloaded the app to your smartphone. What now?
Now it’s time to plan your Disney Day Strategy!
The night before, be sure to charge up your phones, and a portable phone charger to take with you. You’ll be using your phone to utilize the My Disney Experience app as well as take lots of photos. Make sure that the tickets for everyone in your group are linked on the app.
Go ahead and pack your park bag ahead of time to save time in the morning. Here are some of the basics that you should have with you for a full Disney day:
- refillable water bottles
- non-perishable snacks (trail mix, crackers, protein bars, etc)
- portable charger for your phone(s)
- sunscreen (yes, even in Winter)
- ibuprofen, or your painkiller of choice
- extra pair of socks (if your feet get wet or you start to get blisters, changing socks will help)
- any childcare items for babies/small children
Set your alarm for 6:30-6:45 AM so you can purchase Genie+ and make your first Lightning Lane selection.
Lastly, take some time to look at the park map(s) online. You’ll want to plan your day so that you won’t waste time walking back and forth across the park needlessly. Try to arrange your ride plans to do as much as possible in one area of the park, then move on to another area.
For example: Let’s say you’re going to Magic Kingdom. You make your first Lightning Lane selection for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at 10:00 AM. It’s located in the Fantasyland section, so take a look and see what other rides or attractions might be close by. If you get to the park before opening (and you should make that your goal!), you can possibly ride The Mad Tea Party and Dumbo the Flying Elephant rides (both of these are fun and usually have short wait times early in the day) before your scheduled Lightning Lane.
The Voyage of the Little Mermaid is also in this section, and you can probably also ride it before moving on. Just remember to pick your next Lightning Lane as soon as you check in for your first one, then plan around that selection.
Now you should get a good night’s sleep because you’ll need to start your one day at Walt Disney World bright and early!
Beginning Your Disney Day
One of the first things you’ll want to do is get on the My Disney Experience App and (1) purchase Genie+ for everyone in your party, and (2) select your first Lightning Lane at 7:00 AM.
You should plan to arrive at the park approximately 30 to 45 minutes before the official opening. If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort you’ll be allowed in the park 30 minutes before opening anyway, but still plan to be there early.
If you’re staying on Disney property, you have the option of taking Disney transportation to the park. Be aware though that the buses and monorail are very crowded in the early morning. It might be a big timesaver to drive yourself or use a ride-share service.
Also allow time to go through the security line before being admitted to the park. Disney World has this system streamlined so the line moves very quickly, but mornings are crowded so it could take a little while.
Once you’re inside the park, grab a coffee and breakfast snack and start heading toward your first destination. Don’t rush so much that you don’t enjoy the magical scenery all around you!
Use Mobile Food Ordering To Save Time
Another time-saving strategy you should consider is mobile food ordering. This service is available through the My Disney Experience App for many of the quick-service food restaurants.
There are many great table service restaurants in all the Disney Parks. Unless you have your heart set on eating at one of them, consider sticking to quick-service meals instead. The table service meals – especially character meals – will take up a larger part of your day. The options for quick-service meals are just as delicious and you’ll still have a variety of choices.
When placing a mobile food order on the app, you can select a time window for when you want your food, place your order, then simply notify the restaurant when you’ve arrived so they prepare your meal fresh. Usually, you’ll have your food within minutes of letting them know you’ve arrived. You can still sit down and enjoy a nice meal during the day, but it won’t take up as much of your time as going to a table-service restaurant.
Disney World Checklist PDF (1 Day Itinerary)
You can download the 1 Day Disney World Checklist in PDF format that I recently created to help you properly plan and enjoy your one day visit to Disney World.
One Day At Disney World – You Can Do It!
Those are our basic tips for how to do Disney World in one day. It will take some planning, but it’s absolutely possible to have a magical time with just one day to spend at Walt Disney World! Does it seem a little overwhelming? No problem! We’ve also created a basic checklist to help keep you on track for your Disney Day.
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