Disney World in One Day: Tips to Prepare

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If you only have one day at Disney World, you likely want to make the most of your day there for a fun and easy trip to Disney.  We’ve spent just one day in Disney World several times over the years, whether driving for a day trip to Disney World or looking for something fun to do while vacationing in Orlando. While the constantly changing reservation requirements and processes can make knowing how to do Disney World in one day a little overwhelming, we have you covered with these tips and tricks to make the most of it!

One Day in Disney World Magic Kingdom Parade Toddling Traveler

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1. Choose the Best Park(s) for Disney World in One Day

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

Most people who are new to Disney or are visiting Disney World with younger kids will usually start with 1 day in Magic Kingdom for their one day Disney Trip. 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. It’s also the iconic (and original) Disney World theme park as the home of Cinderella’s Castle and more.

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 leverage 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.

One our most trip to Disney World in one day with a toddler, we spent a day in Magic Kingdom for Disney at Christmas. Between the holiday decorations and availability of rides, it was the best choice for Disney with a toddler.

Tip: Don’t forget to check park availability and make your park reservation as soon as you decide which park you’re going to visit.

Donald Duck Magic Kingdom Character Greetings Toddling Traveler

2. Leverage Disney’s Genie to Make the Most of Your Day

With Disney officially retiring FastPass, the introduction of Genie and Genie+ brings on another layer to planning your day in Disney World. There are three primary offerings as part of the new Disney Genie app. This brand new offering for Disney officially rules out on October 21, 2021.

  1. Disney’s new Genie App is free to all Disney guests. It allows you to plan your day around rides, wait times, dining and other activities you want to do in Disney. One of the main advantages of this new Disney app is that it will allow you to maximize and prioritize your time for the best.
  2. Genie+ is a paid service for $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.)
  3. There will also be 2 preferred rides 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.

Stay tuned for our full review of Disney Genie with our next trip to Disney in October 2021!

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. You can search by theme park/ interest under attractions.

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 Sit-Down Restaurants in 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 is currently lower and it’s difficult to get a walk in reservation, we highly recommend booking dining well in advance. If you only have one day in Disney, consider just doing one sit down meal so that you can maximize your time doing rides and attractions. There are several great quick service dining options to choose from at each Disney World park.

Pro Tip: As an alternative to an onsite Disney character dining experience, we had an amazing character breakfast at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace in Disney Springs during our visit. (Pictured below.)

5. Download the DisneyGo App

The DisneyGo App makes your entire experience easier, both before and during your time at the parks. With the App, you can:

  • View real-time line waits
  • Check how tall your child needs to be to go on a certain ride
  • Access a map of the park
  • Find the closest bathroom or eatery
  • Manage restaurant reservations and experiences (both within and outside of the parks)
  • Pre-order food 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 = 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 in Disney World, February, and September/ October are some of our favorite times to visit.

7. Check the Park Hours for Disney 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. This is also important if there’s a specific parade or fireworks show you want to see.

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 opens around 8:00am on days that the rides start at 9:00am. (Although sometimes turnstiles will be open even before then.)  Getting to your Disney theme park early means parking is a breeze, you can see the Park’s opening ceremony and take advantage of shorter lines. Our son loved the Magic Kingdom opening ceremony show and the fireworks with Mickey and friends. While Magic Kingdom’s opening ceremony is supposed to the best, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios also do opening ceremonies.  

So Can You Do Disney World in One Day?

As a Disney travel advisor, 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 and are getting your “feet wet” with Disney, one day at Disney World can be perfect. As long as you’re flexible with your plans and use the planning tools available, 1 day at Disney World is very doable.

If this is your “once in a lifetime” trip to Disney World, however, it can be tough to really take it all in for 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 in one day? Please share in the comments!


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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.

    Reply
    • 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 : )

      Reply
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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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