One of the biggest dilemmas of any Walt Disney World trip is figuring out what you want to do. There are so many options to consider for your trip, including 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, Disney Springs, hundreds of restaurants and attractions, shows, tours, and more. With all of these options, and the understanding that you can’t possibly see and do everything in one trip (even a 7-day trip) here are some tips to figure out what to include in your itinerary.
I like to break up prioritization into a few buckets which get continuously more granular.
Step 1: Which of the theme parks do you want to visit?
- Animal Kingdom if you love animals and immersive nature theming.
- EPCOT if you love exploring other cultures and eating delicious food.
- Hollywood Studios if you love Star Wars, shows, and thrill rides
- Magic Kingdom if you love characters, dark rides, and the classic mountains
Yes, it is OK (and encouraged) to decide you want to do all the parks. In that case, decide which parks you want to do multiple times.
Step 2: What else do you want to do while you’re there?
- Play a few rounds of Golf?
- Go shopping?
- Relax at your hotel’s pool?
- Visit one of the water parks?
- Go bowling?
- Play mini-golf?
Again, it is OK to want to do all of this (though I’d not recommend that since you can do some of this back where you live).
Step 3: Where do you want to stay?
The reason this is step 3 is because your previous choices may heavily influence where the best hotel for you is. Disney Resort hotels (which are awesome) are spread across the entire property. Each resort is closer to some Theme Parks (or activities) than other. For example, if Animal Kingdom is top of your list, you’d consider Animal Kingdom Lodge. Or, if you really want to be within walking distance of both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, then you may want Beach Club or Yacht Club resorts.
Use my previous post, How to Properly Budget for a Walt Disney World Trip, to figure out your budget range, and then use this Walt Disney World map to locate the hotel that is near by your priorities.
Another thing to consider: how do you want to get between the parks and your resort?
- Will you have a car (rental or your own) and you want to drive?
- Do you want easy access to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT via the monorail?
- Would you enjoy taking a boat to some of the parks?
These are some additional variables you may want to consider when you pick what resort to stay at.
At this point, I’d try to map out how many days my stay will be and roughly what parks (and activities) align to each day. I usually break each day into two, for example:
- Day 1: Magic Kingdom in morning, EPCOT at night
- Day 2: Golf in the morning, Hollywood Studios at night
- Day 3: Animal Kingdom in morning, Typhoon Lagoon late afternoon, open evening
Step 4: What’s your dining style?
Delicious food is a huge part of any Walt Disney World trip – at least, it is for me. So knowing your dining style will help you narrow down your daily itineraries. Some questions to ask yourself:
- What do I value more: time spent on rides or time spent dining
- If the former, rely on quick service locations for quicker meals that require less planning.
- If the latter, then be sure to make some Advanced Dining Reservations (up to 180 days in advance) for the table service locations you want to try.
- What is my favorite type of cuisine?
- Do I want characters to be at my dinner?
- Do I want to dine in the parks or at the resort hotels? There are tons of restaurants at every facet of Walt Disney World.
Ultimately, you can use this site from Disney to help identify exactly where you’d like to eat by using all their filters (for cuisine, park, cost, etc.).
Step 5: What attractions are a must?
- Do you have young kids which might limit your riding of thrill rides?
- Did you know even with young kids you can do rider switch? It lets parents wait in line once, and then go one after the other, while the spare parent watches your child. True story.
- Do you love roller coasters? Hate roller coasters?
- Would you rather watch a parade than ride something again?
At this point, start identifying the attractions that you really need to do, the 3-4 per park. You can use this other Disney site to help you filter through all the attractions, rides, shows, etc. Once you have those identified, I’d highly recommend also making FastPass+ reservations for some of them.
By the end of these exercises you should have a pretty nice little itinerary of goals lined up. Based on your selections, it could look something like this:
- Disney’s Beach Club (goal: be close to EPCOT, Hollywood Studios)
- Day 1:
- AM: EPCOT
- Dining: quick service
- Attractions: Soarin’, Test Track, Frozen Ever After
- PM: Magic Kingdom
- Dining: Liberty Tree Tavern
- Attractions: Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Pirates
- Show: Wishes Fireworks (10pm)
- AM: EPCOT
- Day 2:
- AM: Hollywood Studios
- Dining: Hollywood Brown Derby (lunch)
- Attractions: Tower of Terror, Rockin’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours
- Event: Star Wars Jedi Training (f0r child)
- PM: Relax at Beach Club pool
- AM: Hollywood Studios
- Day 1:
Obviously, everyone’s itinerary will look very different since we’ve all got different priorities but hopefully this serves as a helpful blueprint to map out what is on your to-do list. If you have any specific questions, always feel free to leave a question in the comments or tweet at me (@DisneyDorkTom).