Four Parks in One Day, A Touring Plan Odyssey

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This post comes to us from subscriber and WDW Today listener Fred Butler. He brings us the story of his own Ultimate Touring Plan….

After having listened to Episode 411: Four Parks in One Day of the WDW Today podcast too many times to count, my wife and I decided it was finally time to undertake the four parks in one day adventure for ourselves. We had a free day from the conference we were attending at the Boardwalk Inn in January 2012, giving us the perfect opportunity. Since we hadn’t rented a car during this visit, we had no choice but to meet the challenge using exclusively Disney transportation. What follows is a diary of our four parks in one day adventure.

6:00 AM – We woke up, ate a quick breakfast, and headed out to the bus stop. We only waited around 10 minutes for a bus from to Animal Kingdom, and we were on our way.

The early bird sees the lion on Kilimanjaro Safaris

7:00 AM – We entered Animal Kingdom with a crowd of maybe 100 or 150 people on this 40 degree Extra Magic Hour morning. I’ve never seen a park this empty in my life! Kilimanjaro Safaris didn’t open until 8:00, so first we rode Expedition Everest. We got into the queue corals at the front of the line, and noticed they were only running one train! We waited about 5 minutes before riding, but the people behind us probably waited much longer unless they added more trains. Next we rode DINOSAUR (also a walk-on), then queued up for the safari (which wasn’t quite open yet). We waited a few minutes, then were loaded into the first safari vehicle of the day. After waiting in the vehicle for a while (with our outstanding safari guide stalling us with lots of corny jokes), we were off on our safari. We had a great time – it was our first time riding the safari early in the morning. The animals were very active, and we even saw the lions up and about. After getting some coffee at the Royal Anandupur Tea Company, we went out to the bus stop for Hollywood Studios. This was the part of the day I was the most worried about. I wondered how many people would be travelling from Animal Kingdom to the Studios this early in the morning. I feared Disney would only be running this bus every hour. But my fears were unfounded – a bus showed up in 10 minutes and we were off to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (almost in time for rope drop!).

9:10 and already on the second park of the day!

9:10 AM – We arrived at the Studios and made a beeline for Toy Story Mania! The sign said the wait was 65 minutes, but we only waited around 30 minutes. The best part of the day: I beat my wife’s score on this ride for the first time ever. Then we got Fastpasses for the Tower of Terror, rode Star Tours (around a 10 minute wait) and grabbed a snack at Starring Rolls Café while waiting for our 10:45 AM Tower of Terror Fastpasses. After a delightful ride of the Tower of Terror, we headed to Epcot via the walkway connecting the two parks. By this time of the day, the temperature had warmed up to a beautiful 60 degrees.

11:45 AM – We arrived in Epcot, and I headed straight for the Land Pavilion to get Soarin’ Fastpasses. Unfortunately the Fastpass distribution times were for 6:20, which would interfere with our dinner plans at Kona Cafe (I should have checked the Tip Board). So we got Test Track Fastpasses instead (good for a more convenient 4:15), then decided to have a spur of the moment lunch at the San Angel Inn. I love the atmosphere and food at this restaurant – I just wish the prices were a little lower! After lunch, we hopped on Maelstrom (which had a 5 minute wait), then walked back to the Boardwalk.

2:00 PM – We hung out at the Boardwalk, getting some much needed afternoon rest.

3:45 PM – We walked back to Epcot. First we rode Spaceship Earth, then Test Track using our Fastpasses. We had some extra time, so we rode Living with the Land because he hadn’t done it in a while. Finishing up with Epcot, we were off to the Magic Kingdom area.

5:15 PM – We rode the monorail to the Ticket and Transportation Center, and then walked to the Polynesian. We had made a 6:30 reservation at Kona Café, but showed up closer to 5:30 and were seated right away. After dinner, we walked to the resort monorail stop at the Polynesian, then headed for our final park of the day: the Magic Kingdom.

Last park of the day!

7:00 PM – We arrived at the Magic Kingdom. Our plan had been to Fastpass Splash Mountain right away, but when we got to Splash there was literally no one waiting in line. It must have had something to do with the 45 degree evening weather. I’d never seen the queue so empty; it was kind of eerie. We rode Splash Mountain in the front seat (which may have been a mistake since we got a little wet). After that we went on the The Haunted Mansion (walk-on), then saw Mickey’s Philharmagic (the best 3D movie at WDW, and possibly the best attraction at the Magic Kingdom). At that point it was parade time, so we got on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh with only a 15 minute wait. We debated whether to stay longer, but decided to leave during the fireworks to beat the crowds. We waited 10 minutes for a bus back to the Boardwalk, then we were on our way home.

9:45 PM – Back in our hotel room, exhausted, we watched television and then went to bed.

All in all we had a great time doing four parks in one day. We did three attractions in each of Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, and four attractions in each of Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. The biggest surprise: Disney transportation was reliable and efficient throughout the entire day. We could have easily done more if we were willing to forgo the afternoon break or to stay later at the Magic Kingdom. We were using a 10 day no expiration park hopper ticket; four parks in one day is an excellent way to get the most out of this type of ticket.

The aftermath

Have you ever done four parks in one day? How did it go?

Fred first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 at age one. After a 29 year drought, he rekindled his love of the Disney parks with a trip to Disneyland in 2006. Now he visits Walt Disney World whenever he can. Depending on the day, his favorite ride is Soarin’, Expedition Everest, or the Tower of Terror.

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15 thoughts on “Four Parks in One Day, A Touring Plan Odyssey

  • January 23, 2012 at 10:57 am

    My wife and I have also done the 4 parks in one day trip. I was delighted to see that we did the same order (AK-DHS-EPCOT-MK) as the author. You generally have to be resigned to possibly miss TSM at DHS (if you don’t want to stand in line for 45 minutes or more and FP have a return time of 6 pm), and choose between Test Track or Soarin’ at EPCOT. My wife and I visit enough that anything 30-45 minutes or more in actual time (thanks Lines!) isn’t worth our wait.

    We’re generally pretty tired after doing a trek around the lake at Epcot, park 3, but hitting MK when it starts getting dark and the lights turn on is a good booster. I think we were out from 8 a.m. until 1 a.m. as a result of EMH and no stops at the hotel, and something like 12-13 miles on our legs. That was a few years ago only but doubt I could do that again.

    Great post! Would like to see others’ stories/tips on the 4 parks in one day plan.

    Also, when you’re leaving a park, please get a FP for a later time to a big ticket attraction and hand out to worthy guests just entering the park – it’s a lot of fun

  • January 23, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    The super headliners are obvious, but what qualifies as a major attractions (that isn’t a super headliner) and a mid-level attraction?

    • January 24, 2012 at 6:14 am

      I use the definitions found in the Unofficial Guide.

  • January 23, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I did this once a couple years ago. Started at EPCOT went straight to Soarin. Then off to the Magic Kingdom, don’t remember what I did but I’m sure The Haunted Mansion was on the list. Then since I was done at MK and planned on EMH at Hollywood Studios, I took a bus to AK. Did the Safari, Everest and Flights of Wonder. Finally to Hollywood Studios. I know I rode TSM a couple of times by the end of the night. In all the parks I just did my favorite things then left, that might not mean the big rides.

  • January 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Really interesting! Thanks for the recap, sounds like a great day.

  • January 23, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    My family of four adults did 4 parks in one day on the last day of our trip. We had planned to do DHS (so we could hit Toy Story), AK, MK, then Epcot since it was open til midnight with EMH.

    We were at DHS before rope drop, but that is when our plans went awry. Sadly, Toy Story, ToT and RnR were ALL down. So we got our Toy Story fast passes and quickly changed our plans. We jumped on a bus from DHS to AK (much like the author we were afraid there wouldn’t be a bus for AK at 9am, but there was!).

    We rode Everest and Dinosaur at AK. Then got fast passes for Everest and gave them to a family of 4 just entering the line.

    Since the rides at DHS were still down, we headed over to MK. We rode our favorites that also had low wait times/high capacities: Pirates, CoP, TTA, Haunted Mansion (maybe a few others I can’t recall). And of course grabbed one last Dole Whip! Then headed back over to DHS.

    Grabbed a quick lunch at Fairfax market (by far the worst meal we’d had all week. So sad that Starring Rolls closes early afternoon). Then headed to ToT, where we were the only ones in the car! We used our Toy Story fast passes and then headed to Epcot right as it was getting dark.

    At Epcot, we finished off our day with a ride on Test Track (single rider), Mission Space, and ended our fantastic trip with a ride on Spaceship Earth.

    We ended up leaving Epcot around 9pm because we were exhausted. We only used Disney transportation and had a great time, even with the DHS snafu. Would do it again in a heartbeat. Such a fun day!

    • January 24, 2012 at 6:17 am

      That’s great that everything worked out, even though it started off badly. I know we were lucky that things went so smoothly for us!

  • January 23, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    We did 4 parks in one day in 2005, but with an added degree of difficulty; we had a 8 year old, a 6 year old, and a 2 year old. You do stupid (but fun) stuff when you are young. I’m too tired now to tackle something like that.

    • January 24, 2012 at 6:17 am

      I don’t think we’re quite ready to try it with kids yet!

  • January 25, 2012 at 9:13 am

    My wife and I also did a 4-park day in 2009. Though we happened on it by accident. We’d done MGM in the morning/early afternoon, came home for a nap and at 3PM had the “what should we do now?” discussion.

    At that point we decided to try and ride every headliner in the other 3 parks helped by EMH at EPCOT. Below are the notes I took afterwards. Still worth noting that our day involved 5 WDW buses and 2 Monorail trips and we had no significant delays.

    (All that said, I can’t imagine trying this with young kids)

    >A very epic day on Sept 23:
    >We started the day at MGM where we did:
    >- Toy Story Mania
    >- Rockin Roller Coaster
    >- Tower of Terror
    >- Toy Story (again)
    >- RRC (again)
    >- Great Movie Ride
    >- Ate at Backlot Express
    >We then went back to our hotel for a nap, took the bus to Animal >Kingdom and rode:
    >- Expedition Everest
    >- Kilimanjaro Safari (twice in a row)
    >We then took a bus to MK and rode:
    >- Jungle Cruise
    >- Splash Mountain
    >- Big Thunder Mountain
    >- Jungle Cruise (again)
    >- Pirates of the Caribbean
    >- Jungle Cruise (my wife has an obsession with it)
    >Then we took the monorail to Epcot and had a nice dinner at Teppan >Edo followed by:
    >- Soarin
    >- Journey into Imagination
    >- Spaceship Earth
    >- Mission Space
    >To do all this (including a nap back at our room in All Star >movies) in a day (5 DTS buses and 2 monorail trips) must mean that >the DTS is at least a reasonable way to get around. And beyond this >day we never spent more than 10 minutes waiting for a bus except at >park closing.

  • January 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I didnt know there was a walk way connecting Hollywood studios and Epcot. Where is it?

    • January 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      Leave the Studios and head to the left. Go around the lake, to the opposite side from the boat launch. The path follows the shore of the lake, going past the Boardwalk and around to Epcot.

    • January 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm

      Be warned it is not a short walk! But on a pleasant day with some time to kill, it’s a very pleasant one.

  • January 26, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    I once found myself with annual passes for all 7 Orlando-area theme parks, so I visited them all in one day, as a sort of challenge for myself. I only did a few things in each park, but it was fun to see if it could be done! 🙂

  • January 28, 2012 at 9:15 am

    My husband and I did four parks in on day in December. Added level of difficulty: a lengthy dinner at Boatwright’s!! It was super, super fun. I’ll absolutely do it again sometime.

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