Let’s say you only have one day at Disney World. You want it to be perfect, but is one day at Disney enough?! No fear, friends, here is some info that might help you plan your perfect day!
A few years back I went to Orlando with my friend Ashley on a spring break trip. We road-tripped south and stopped along the way at the beach in North Carolina, and I wanted to be back in Baltimore for the weekend since Easter was coming up. We only had the budget and time to visit Disney for ONE day. I was really worried one day wouldn’t be enough to really see Walt Disney World, but it ended up working out really well and we got to see a lot. I still would have liked to see more, and if you have the time, try to spend more than one day. Here is an awesome guide to planning a Disney vacation on a budget to help you get started!
Thankfully, Ashley from Orlando and has been to Disney many times. Yessss! I told her I really wanted to ride the most popular rides, see a show, and experience classic Disney. She knew what pass to get, where to go, and how to make the most of one day. So, our day at Disney was really a success because of Ashley’s knowledge, which I am now gifting to you (THANKS ASHLEY!). So how should you spend one day at Disney? Here’s what I think.
1. My BIGGEST and MOST important tip for visiting Disney is to pick the right pass!
I’ve got a lot to say about this one, so bear with me here. Here is the DL on passes for Disney in a day:
Disney has a bunch of different pass options. You can get a pass for one or all of the parks. These passes range in price from $107 to $117 on peak days for a single park (Magic Kingdom is about $10 more) to $170 – $174 for a Park Hopper pass, which includes entry to all parks. The more days you buy, the more the price goes down. I’ve seen them for as low as $75 dollars per day on Disney’s website. With one day to spend, it made sense for us to buy a Park Hopper pass so we could see the most. Plus, with a Park Hopper pass, we got fast/scheduled entry into three different rides in every park. This was a HUGE plus because it saved us a ton of time.
If you are going to spend just one day at Disney, get a Park Hopper pass! You can see a little bit of everything and take advantage of everything Disney has to offer.
But can’t you buy tickets through a different site besides Disney? Well, not really. You can get them at a slight discount through some places like Costco or AAA. Honestly, though, it is really hard to find discounted tickets. They have your name on them and so you can’t buy tickets from someone else. Plus, the discounts I was able to find were not significant (maybe like $5, which is something but still…). Because of this, we bought directly through Disney’s website.
The other thing to note is that tickets are $10 – $20 cheaper in the off-season. If you can at all swing it, wait to go until the off-season. Especially if you are only there for a day! Florida is warm all through the year.
Park Hopper pass perks:
You can make dining reservations without having to decide beforehand which park you will be in. Most restaurants want a reservation for dinner at Disney.
It’s great for flexibility. One park is busy? Try going to another for a little bit, then head back.
You get to choose 3 rides in each park that you want to use a Fast Pass on, so you can easily get to all your must-do rides in all the parks faster.
You can ride all the major rides and see the major sites in one day.
So now that you have the pass, what about maximizing your time and have a blast? Here are my top tips!
2. Start your day early.
We started off in Hollywood Studios right when the park opened—this was huge! We went to the Tower of Terror, Rock n’ Roller Coaster, and The Great Movie Ride with basically no lines!
3. Even with a Park Hopper pass, a day is not enough time to see every park.
We knew we couldn’t make it to all the parks in Disney World. Don’t expect to in a day! Instead, pick two or three parks to explore (we went with three, which was perfect!).
4. Use the My Disney Experience app to leverage your time.
Disney has an app you can download and schedule things within the park. This was so helpful for us since our time was limited. We could save time by signing up for rides, shows, and restaurants at specific time slots. We explored other areas of the park until our reservation time and didn’t waste a single minute!
5. Pick shows wisely.
While there are tons of shows in Disney parks, all are themed a little differently, and many are geared toward small children (at Disney?! What?!). So, be careful, look up reviews for specific shows, and don’t waste time at the wrong ones. We went to one based on Pirates of the Caribbean it was pretty fun and interactive! There are so many shows though! Pick carefully so you don’t waste time in a show you aren’t interested in.
6. There are often really long lines to meet characters. If you really want to meet one, plan to wait for a few hours.
We thought about meeting some Disney princesses because it is part of the Disney experience! But, with just a day, there were so many more exciting things to see, and we didn’t want to wait in line for something that would take up a ton of our time. There are some other really great photos in Disney World you can take though.
We opted to wait in line for some rides we really wanted instead. It is definitely a trade-off. If you are wondering how to avoid these crowds, the time of year you visit Disney really does matter. The best time to go to Disney will depend on what you want out of the vacation. Consider going in the off-season (September and October tend to be the lowest for crowds!).
8. Disney World is in Florida, which is warm year-round and swampy. It could rain at any minute!
Seriously. It started raining in the middle of the day, which felt like it was out of nowhere! My friend who grew up in Orlando reassured me it was completely normal for this to happen. The funniest part about this is we were totally unprepared and stuck in a gift shop in Epcot. While in the shop, all of the workers just pull out giant boxes of ponchos and start selling plastic ponchos for like $10 a piece.
It didn’t seem worth it to me… So many people waited in line for one and my friend said we could buy them but the rain would probably stop within ten minutes. We ran to the next bar, grabbed a beer, and by the time we were done (and soaking wet by the way), the rain ended, and we were back in the park. Good thing we didn’t buy the ponchos! We did wish we had brought some with us though.
8. Take advantage of all the delicious food in the different parks, especially Epcot!
Start the day with a character breakfast at Tusker House—there are so many good options there. Get sweet treats between rides (they are everywhere!). We did Epcot midday specifically because of all the different countries’ foods to try! We tried food in different countries and walked with our frozen drinks right in the middle of the day, which was the perfect time to eat something and relax.
9. Magic Kingdom and Epcot always have a firework show.
This means you could end your day in either park and still see fireworks. However, I will say if you are only there for a day, the parade, fireworks, and castle are not to be missed in Magic Kingdom! They are gorgeous in the evening and there are a ton of good restaurants there as well. We also happened to be there when Magic Kingdom was open late.
10. Each night, Disney keeps one park open “after hours.” Stay late and enjoy the park a few extra hours!
You can use your My Disney Experience app to check which park will be open late the day you are visiting. We got lucky because the day we were there it was Magic Kingdom that was open late and got to do things there late after the parade. Although we were so tired—we didn’t stay much longer! Still worth knowing to potentially maximize your time there.
So, there you have it! Disney is such a blast and still worth visiting, even if you can only make it for a day. Harry Potter World in Universal is also the perfect way to spend a day in Orlando, too! If you can, try and celebrate the holidays at Disney. No matter when you go, I know you can have one perfect day at Disney, and hopefully, these tips will help.