Disney World in One Day: Tips to Prepare

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Disney World is one of our absolute favorite places whether we’re spending a day or a week there. Over the years, we’ve done quite a few trips to Disney that only involved one day at the parks, whether it’s for a weekend trip to Disney World or we’re spending a week doing other things in Orlando, FL. While the constantly changing Disney World reservation and ticket processes can make Disney World in one day a little overwhelming, we have you covered!

Keep reading several tips and tricks to spending one day at Disney World.

One Day in Disney World Magic Kingdom Parade Toddling Traveler

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1. Choose the Best Disney Park for One Day

This is an obvious but important place to start if you just have a day to spend at the parks. So, if you only have one day in Disney World, which park should you choose?

Most people who are new to Disney or who are visiting Disney World with younger kids will usually start with 1 day in Magic Kingdom for their one-day Disney Trip. Magic Kingdom is the original park at Disney World. It has several nostalgic rides as well as Cinderella’s Castle that Disney is known for. You can find some of the best rides for toddlers at Magic Kingdom (or kids of any age) with so many rides that don’t have a height requirement.

Animal and adventure lovers might chose Animal Kingdom for their one day Disney itinerary. Those interested in learning about countries and sampling yummy food and drinks may choose Epcot. And the Star Wars or Toy Story lovers may choose Hollywood Studios for Disney World in one day. If you can’t make up your mind, you can always use a park hopper to visit more than one Disney World park in a day. Just be aware that you can currently only park hop after 2pm on the day of your visit.

If you’re visiting Disney World with toddlers, just spending a day at Magic Kingdom is a great, budget-friendly way to introduce them to the parks. We did one day at Magic Kingdom on our first trip to Orlando at Christmas as well as several subsequent trips when we just wanted a little Disney magic.

Tip: Don’t forget to check park availability as soon as you decide which park you’re going to visit. The new one day Disney ticket is park specific, so the one benefit is that you don’t need to make a separate park reservation since it’s booked as part of your ticket purchase.

Donald Duck Magic Kingdom Character Greetings Toddling Traveler

2. Leverage Genie+ to Make the Most of Your Day

The introduction Disney Genie+ definitely brings on another layer to planning your day in Disney World. If you learn how to use it, however you can more easily pack a lot into your day. There are three primary offerings as part of the new Disney Genie app.

  1. The new Disney Genie is free to all Disney guests. As part of the current My Disney Experience App, it allows you to plan your day around rides, wait times, dining and other activities you want to do in Disney.
  2. Genie+ is a paid service that starts at $15 per ticket per day. It allows guests to reserve preferred rides in advance to minimize wait time by leveraging the Lightning Lane (formerly the FastPass+ lanes.) You can purchase Genie+ in the My Disney Experience app any time after midnight on your park day. We recommend purchasing it before 7am when you can book your first Lightning Lane of the day.
  3. There is also an individual Lightning Lane ride at each Disney World Park that you can pay per ride to purchase. This is separate from Genie+. Prices for individual attraction selections will vary by day. Individual Lightning Lane rides include: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom, Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom, Guardians of the Galaxy at Epcot and Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios.

This review of Genie+ is a great place to get started if you’re not familiar with Disney’s skip-the-line passes. It also includes step by step instructions for using Genie+.

3. Research the Rides Before Your Day in Disney

Previewing the rides and shows at each of the Disney parks will help with your theme park and Genie+ selection to figure out which rides are best for your family’s ages and interests. Disney’s website has a ton of detailed information on every ride, and the guide maps in particular are great to check minimum height requirements. Below are links to the guide maps for each Walt Disney World theme park:

4. Make Reservations for Table Service Restaurants at Disney in Advance

Dining reservations at Disney World can currently be made 60 days in advance of your day in Disney. (That includes resorts, Disney Springs and restaurants at the parks.) Since dining availability walk-in reservations are limited and are only available for guests staying on Disney property, we recommend booking dining in advance if you want a specific reservation. If you’re booking a last minute Disney trip, you can also use Disney dining alerts like Mousekepros to get reservations.

If you only have one day in Disney, one table service meal is more than enough to ensure you can maximize your time doing rides and attractions. There are also several great quick service dining options to choose from at each Disney World park that do not require reservations.

5. Download the My Disney Experience App

The My Disney Experience (MDE) app makes your entire experience easier, both before and during your time at the parks. With MDE, you can:

  • Link your park tickets to access them digitally
  • View real-time line waits and park maps
  • Find the closest bathroom or restaurant
  • Manage restaurant reservations and experiences
  • Pre-order food using mobile order to avoid waiting in lines

6. Try to Visit Disney When the Crowds are Low

The reality is that Disney never really has a slow day. The best way to experience it if you only have one day at Disney, though, is to aim for a less crowded day. So how can you find the lowest crowds at Disney World? Disney’s daily priced ticket purchasing system offers some insight into the crowds. Just look for the days with the lower priced tickets. (Lower demand typically = lower price!) Weekdays from Monday- Thursday are ideal for visiting Disney World if your schedule allows. Saturdays in general tend to be the busiest days at Disney World during any time of year. Avoiding holidays is also another way to maximize your time with lower wait times.

Early December, January, February, and September/ October (excluding holiday weekends) are some of our favorite times to visit.

7. Check the Disney World Park Hours in Advance

The hours for Disney theme parks can vary slightly depending on the time of year and events going on that day. For the most up to date information on daily hours, go directly to Disney’s website here to check the times for the day you’re visiting.

Disney World is currently offering 30-minute early park entry for guests staying on property. It’s a great perk to staying at a Walt Disney World resort, and you can do this affordably by staying at a value resort like Art of Animation.

Main Street Magic Kingdom

8. Plan to Arrive at the Park Early

Many people don’t realize that the parks actually open to the public before the rides start operating. At Magic Kingdom, Main Street typically opens around 8:00am on days that the park officially opens at 9:00am.  Getting to the park early means parking is easier if you’re staying offsite.

You can also see the Park’s opening show and take advantage of shorter lines. The rope drop ceremony at Magic Kingdom is always a big hit, with fireworks and a quick hello from Mickey and friends.

You can also get some amazing pictures at the parks before the crowds set in.

Tree of Life Animal Kingdom for Toddlers Toddling Traveler

So Can You Do Disney World in One Day?

As a travel agent specializing in Disney, I’ve been asked this question several times. It really depends on what you’re trying to get from it. If you just want a little bit of Disney magic during a trip to Orlando or know that you’ll be back, one day at Disney World can be perfect. It’s especially great for a first trip to Disney World with younger kids if you want the trip to be a little more relaxing.

If this is your “once in a lifetime” trip to Disney World, however, it’s impossible take it all in for just one day. If that’s the case, spending at least 4 days at the parks is ideal to really experience all of them to the fullest.

What are some go-to tips you have for planning a trip to Disney World for one day? Please share in the comments!

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How to plan for one day in Disney

11 thoughts on “Disney World in One Day: Tips to Prepare”

  1. Oh boy …. Times have changed at Disney. My children are 28/30 so it’s been a long time since I’ve taken little ones. Back then it was fun to just “wing it” so to speak and that meant the only thing planned was plane tickets and accommodations of course. Although we’ve always had family in Orlando, we still stayed at the Disney resorts a few times. Today , that is a chunk of change ! Now that I have a grand baby, I appreciate knowing all that I can do to prepare a head for our Disney adventure. I’ve prepared a folder of the Toddling traveler as I am a busy GiGi and don’t have the time to research myself. I’m looking forward to the next adventure.

    • So true! While you can definitely still wing it, it’s a different experience if you do! I can see why so many people get Disney Vacation planners these days when they’re staying onsite and making an entire vacation out of it. And thanks for the kind words, glad to help : )

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  3. Ah this really brings back a lot of memories! I’ve been to Disney World once when I was muuuch younger. Been to Disney Land in Paris multiple times however, but it’s just not the same!

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