Itinerary planning for Disney can be stressful. There are a lot of considerations to make and even more research to be done. Regardless, I stand by my fervent belief that planning ahead is always the best way to go when it comes to a Walt Disney World trip. As you prepare to develop your own, consider my top 7 tips to make yours flawless!
1) Make FP as early and as close as possible
The deal with FP+ is that everyone gets three. Once you have used those three, or you’ve allowed them to expire, you can make one more at a time. While limitless FastPasses sound great, the reality is that they are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you schedule all of your original three FP+ for the afternoon or evening, the chances of anything else being available afterwards are slim to none. Unless you are hell-bent on reserving a spot for an evening show, I recommend scheduling everything as early and as closely as possible.
2) Consider walk time
If you’re like me, you might be the person who schedules everything down to the second. But even if you’re not, an important consideration is that walking from place to place can be surprisingly time-consuming, depending on the time of year and park attendance. My general rule of thumb is to assume that by the time everyone browses merchandise at the end of the ride and makes it through the crowd, it is going to take 10-15 minutes to move on to the next adventure. Of course it could be faster, and if it is, yay! But using that chunk of time as a guide could help you write a more realistic itinerary.
3) Consider geography
If you read my list for 5 Ways to Stay Stress Free at Disney, you know I am a big proponent for thinking geographically. Before making a detailed itinerary, you’ll want to study a park map so that you can schedule your FastPasses and standby attractions in an order that won’t exhaust everyone before lunch. Even if it means making more than one circle around the park over the course of the day, you will thank yourself for minimizing the distance between each experience. Plotting out your day geographically means you’re likely to spend more time in air conditioning than the heat, you’ll economize your steps for the day, and you’ll ultimately have the time to accomplish more.
4) Remember shows
This one is a two-part tip. On one hand, you want to study up on what times shows will be offered on the date you’ll be visiting if you intend to see them. Most entertainment times will be available on My Disney Experience even months out. Be sure to double check a little closer to vacation time, as they are subject to change. This one is especially important, because there are rare, but occasional nights that parks close early for special events (holiday parties, conventions, buy-outs, etc.) Double check park hours online, ensure shows will be running, and don’t forget that many are subject to weather.
The other side of this tip, is to remember that shows can hold hundreds of people at a time, meaning there could be a huge surge of people to the nearest attractions as they release. If you walk up to a FastPass line and it looks longer than you expected, you can bet a show just got out nearby. Furthermore, parades can tie up huge sections of the park at a time. If you’re not planning to watch the parades, check out their ride path on the map so you’re not around them while the streets are packed and at a standstill. At the moment, Magic Kingdom is the only park hosting parades, but all four parks have had one at some time or other.
5) Remember to eat
This one seems obvious, I know, but even I have worked out an entire itinerary before, only to realize at the finish that I hadn’t figured in meal times. When it comes to eating in the parks, you can be as frugal or as extravagant as you want. I’ve done full days without spending a dime, as outside food and drinks are allowed into the parks. But the parks have some amazing dining experiences to offer. If you’re making any reservations, you’ll again want to try to figure them in as geographically as possible. Otherwise, find some gaps in the day where activities are sparse and designate them as lunch and dinner breaks so you’re being economical with downtime.
Realistically, unless the parks are empty during your visit, you will not get through everything. The best way to make the most of your day, is to ensure everyone gets their number one must-do in before lunch. That is the simplest way to keep everyone happy so the rest can be bonus fun! Now, if that won’t make sense geographically, I wouldn’t stress. As long as you can find a place for each thing in your schedule, prioritize those things to be your FastPasses so that you know you have a guaranteed spot.
7) Be flexible
Now I know I’m the one who says, “Have a plan so you’re not flustered with decisions on park day!” But, when I make an itinerary, I do try to offer just a smidge of leeway. In my mind, I’m developing an itinerary that will allow me to accomplish the absolute maximum in my day, but that doesn’t mean that when the day comes, I will still feel the need to do it all. In fact, if you have a few rides that you’re just “meh” about experiencing, add a note with the maximum amount of time you’re willing to wait. This way, if you have extra time, there’s something to be enjoying, but if not, you can move on to the next thing without worrying that you’re missing out on something important.
For assistance making an itinerary for your next visit, check out my Vacation Planning page!
Until then, stay magical and ears up my friends!