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Now that you’ve picked the dates of your trip and hopefully have your hotel booked, it’s time to turn your attention towards picking your Disney World park days. This is a very important aspect of your Disney World itinerary.
This step is necessary before you book your Disney park passes. And trust me, you want to book your park passes as soon as you can. Why risk the parks hitting capacity. Make sure to read my Disney park pass guide if you haven’t heard about the new park pass system yet.
If you want to see an example of a solid Disney World itinerary, check out my ideal Disney World 7 day itinerary. It is full of additional tips for each of the days.
Once you’ve picked your Disney World itinerary, take a look at these park touring plans:
Table of Contents
Choosing Your Disney World Itinerary
Let’s take a look at the general factors you should consider when planning your Disney World itinerary. Taking all of these factors into consideration should give you a hand in picking your Disney World park days.
On the flip side, it’s important to note that you can choose to ignore all of these factors and simply pick the order of parks that seems best to you. If this is your first trip and you absolutely want to start everything off with a day at Magic Kingdom, then spend your first day at Magic Kingdom.
Honestly, if you have the right attitude and plan you can make any Disney World itinerary work.
When are you going?
The time of year you go to Disney has an effect on various aspects of your Disney World itinerary. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you learn about the best time of year to go to Disney World. This will help give you an idea of pros and cons about different times of the year.
The main way the time of year impacts your Disney itinerary will be via crowds and park hours. Different times of year offer different park hours, and ultimately controls the amount of time you can spend in each park.
Special events that are unique to different times of the year will also impact your park experiences. But more on all of the below!
What Kind of Disney Park Ticket Do You Have?
The type of park ticket you purchased (or will purchase) has a pretty significant impact on your itinerary. Obviously, the length of the ticket has the most apparent impact on your Disney World itinerary. From the get go, the length of your ticket determines how many days you have to spend in the parks themselves.
The type of park ticket you choose impacts whether or not you can visit more than one park a day. Only people with Park Hopper tickets or Annual Passes can hop from one park to the next in a single day. Anyone with Magic Your Way tickets are limited to visiting one park a day.
There is a pretty significant price difference between the ticket types, so you definitely pay extra for the added flexibility of a Park Hopper ticket.
Make sure you read my guide to the Disney World park tickets to make sure you understand your different options. Your choice will be important once you get to this stage of planning.
Park Crowd Levels
Now we get into the nitty gritty. Let’s face it, most of us are worried about the crowds. Maybe you chose your dates based on crowds in the first place, maybe not. Either way, taking a look at predicted crowds is a good way to choose your Disney World park days.
Undercover Tourist has a great crowd calendar you can use as you figure out your Disney World itinerary. They even recommend which park will be least crowded and most crowded on a given day.
What Are the Busiest Days of the Week at Disney World?
In general, there are some days that are recognized as the busiest days of the week at Disney World. I’ve ranked them here in order, but really, they aren’t terribly surprising.
- Sunday and Saturday
Clearly, the least crowded days of the week will be Tuesday through Thursday. However, it’s not really ideal to jam all of your park days into those three days. Unless you are taking a trip with only 3 park days, then I would absolutely schedule the whole trip around this premise.
What are the Best Days to Visit the Disney Parks?
- Magic Kingdom: Tuesdays and Thursdays
- Epcot: Wednesdays and Thursdays
- Hollywood Studios: Wednesdays and Fridays
- Animal Kingdom: Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays
There are certain special events throughout the year which impact the experience of a park during the day. This impact might be on crowds or on park hours.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
Any day that Magic Kingdom has one of it’s hallmark seasonal parties scheduled equals a 6:00pm closing time for that day.
This is a double edged sword. On one hand, if you go to Magic Kingdom on that day you miss out on Magic Kingdom at night, which is a major downside. However, crowd levels on party days are notoriously some of the lowest crowds you’ll find at Magic Kingdom during your trip.
If you are okay with missing out on the evening at Magic Kingdom, party days are great days to go to Magic Kingdom. However, if you only have one day at Magic Kingdom on your first ever Disney trip, I wouldn’t go there on a party day. There is too much you would miss out on.
Any of the Epcot Festivals are immensely popular with Orlando locals. Because of this, Friday nights and Saturdays tend to draw a big local crowd who want to enjoy themselves.
This leads to higher crowds during this time, and an increase in the odds of drunken revelry. The general rule of thumb is to avoid going to Epcot on Friday night and Saturday when there is a festival going on.
Epcot Festival Dates
As you can see below, there’s hardly a time of the year that DOES NOT have a special festival going on at Epcot. Summer is really the only time without one.
- Epcot International Festival of the Arts: Mid January to late February
- Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival: Early March to early June
- Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: End of August to mid November
- Epcot International Festival of the Holidays: Day after Thanksgiving to end of December
Disney Rest Days
With any Disney World touring plan that lasts for more than 5 nights, planning a rest day at Disney World is highly recommended. This is recommended for two reasons.
The first reason is because you will all simply need a slower paced day. Most people, my family included, tend to jam as much as they can into their park days. This is a lot of walking and long hours for little kids. Deliberately planning at least one rest day allows everyone to have a day that isn’t so hectic and exhausting.
The second reason to take a non-park day at Disney is simply because there is so much to do outside of the parks that shouldn’t be missed! From frolicking in the resort pools to checking out Disney Springs there is so much to do.
In fact, I have an entire post with over 70 things to do at Disney World besides the parks. Even better, quite a few of those things are free!
Disney Arrival and Departure Days
Depending on what time you arrive and depart from Disney World, your arrival and departure days are great opportunities to do some of these outside the park activities.
On shorter trips, or if you have unused park days on your ticket, these days can also be great opportunities to visit the parks for a few hours.
The Disney Journey’s Formula for a Good Disney World Itinerary
Now that we’ve looked at all of the different factors in play when picking your Disney World park days, what do we do with it? First off, I highly recommend that you have a visual tool to help you with this. Blocking things off visually can really help.
Also, while it’s not impossible to only pick your park days based on predicted low crowds, find a blend between doing that and what makes sense for the flow of your trip. Sometimes I choose the busier park on one day because it allows me to have a crazy low crowd day at a different park another day.
It’s a fluid process that really has no right or wrong way to do it.
Basic Tips for Picking Your Disney World Park Days
- Fly in and out mid-week: Flights are typically cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays
- Prioritize Park Order vs. Low Crowds: Hopefully the stars can align and you can get both, but figure out which is more important to you
- Magic Kingdom is #1: Not that it needs to go first, but Magic Kingdom should never be on the chopping block. It’s too important to the overall experience
- Park Days with a Split Stay: If you have a split stay scheduled (staying in more than one resort) plan your park days based on which parks are easiest to get to from each resort you stay at
- Don’t skip any parks: Try your hardest to at least spend some time in all 4 parks during your trip, especially if it’s your first or only trip. Each park has its own flavor and amazing experiences.
Sample 5-Day Disney World Itinerary
With a shorter trip like this, my priorities shift big time. I strategically chose these days of the week to take advantage of the fact that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the least crowded days of the week.
Also, room rates tend to be a little cheaper during the week so why not take advantage of that as well?
With a 5-day Disney World itinerary I highly recommend either park hopper passes OR a flight time that allows you to go to a park on either arrival or departure day.
Day 1 (Monday) – Arrival Day
Day 2 (Tuesday) – Magic Kingdom
Day 3 (Wednesday) – Hollywood Studios
Day 4 (Thursday) – Animal Kingdom then Epcot
Day 5 (Friday) – Departure Day
Really, you will want to choose which parks to split on that last day. However, the main parts of Animal Kingdom can be reasonably done in one morning, especially if you follow my Animal Kingdom rope drop strategy.
By using that strategy you can save your FastPasses for the afternoon park when there will be a bigger crowd.
Do not spend only half a day in Magic Kingdom. Of all the parks, Magic Kingdom is easily a 2 full day park.
There you have it, my thoughts on how to create your Disney World itinerary. Picking your Disney park days is such an important part of the trip.
In the end, pick the order that makes the most sense for you and your family. What works best for my family might not be what works best for yours. Though I think we can all agree that if we could manage lower crowds we’d do it in a heartbeat!
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Do you have any other factors that go into choosing your Disney park days? What is your golden rule for picking your park days? Let me know in the comments below.