With four theme parks, two water parks, hundreds of shopping and dining locations, and tons of recreational activities, there is so much to do at Walt Disney World! In fact, there may actually be too much to do!
For some people, WDW is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and for most others, like me, it’s only once a year or every few years, so you really want to make the most of your time, and try to experience as much as you can. Unfortunately, it is literally impossible to do all of WDW in one trip; even if you have 1-2 weeks for your vacation, you just won’t be able to do everything.
And that is really tough, especially when you can’t visit whenever you want. It’s hard to say, “we’ll do it next time” when you have no idea when “next time” might be.
So, how do you decide what to do when you can’t do it all? How do you prioritize within your limited amount of time? Here are some tips I hope will help you take some tough choices and turn them into an amazing trip!
Ideally, you will have time to visit all 4 theme parks, as each is wonderfully unique. However, that is just not possible for everyone due to a variety of factors.
So, if you find yourself having to prioritize which of the parks to visit, here is what I recommend:
- Read general info about each park: to get an understanding of the overall theme and feel of each park, and which sounds most interesting to you
- Research attractions/entertainment/dining available at each park: so you know what each park has to offer
- Make a list of the things you are most interested in experiencing: make sure each person you are traveling with gets to contribute to this list
- Select the parks to visit that have the most (or most important) “must do” activities for your group: for example, maybe Animal Kingdom has more “must do” rides, but your family is super into Star Wars, so you prioritize Hollywood Studios over it anyway
- Don’t forget water parks: if your group is into water parks, you may also decide you want to sacrifice a theme park so you get to experience one or both water parks instead
Even if you have an entire day to dedicate to one of the theme parks, you won’t be able to fit in every single ride and show that park has to offer (and there are some you probably aren’t interested in, anyway).
I like to take the list of attractions and entertainment at each park and separate them into 4 lists:
- Must Do: These are your highest priorities – the things you will be truly sad about if you don’t get to do. Try to keep this list short to avoid disappointment.
- Want to Do: These are the things that sound really fun and you’d definitely like to be able to experience, but it wouldn’t ruin your trip if you missed them.
- If There’s Time: These are the things you could kind of take or leave. It’d be cool to do them if you have the time, but if not, it’s no big deal.
- No: These are the things that you just have no interest in.
Once you have these lists, with input from your entire group, you can start to build your touring plans around them, prioritizing your Must Do attractions and then your Want to Do attractions. If you optimize your plan throughout the day via the Lines app, just make sure your Must Do’s continue to be kept in the plan.
There are amazing dining opportunities inside the parks, at the Disney resorts, and Disney Springs. With only so many meals you can eat in a day, it will be especially hard to narrow down which restaurants you want to try!
Here are some tips:
- Look at the restaurants at each park you are planning to visit. You can read about them and see reviews in the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World or the Touring Plans website, as well as checking menus through My Disney Experience. Highlight or jot down the ones that sound best to you and your group.
- Decide if you’ll want to focus on Quick/Counter Service meals, Table Service meals, or a combination of both. I recommend a combo so you get some restful meals at signature restaurants and some cheaper meals that won’t slow you down.
- Make Advanced Dining Reservations for all Table Service meals. These can be made 60 days in advance (plus the length of your trip for resort guests). It is also a good idea to choose a back-up option for each table service meal, in case you cannot get an ADR for your first choice.
- Look into restaurant options at the Disney resorts. Whether you are staying on property or not, if there are any you really want to experience, you may want to try them on your off days or take transportation from the park to a resort for your meal. Just keep in mind that can take a significant amount of time away from touring, so it all depends on your priorities!
- Don’t forget Disney Springs! They also have a ton of great options, both quick service and table service. If you are already planning to spend some time there shopping (see below), pick a restaurant (or two) you want to try while there, or see if you can fit them in another time on your trip.
Prioritizing Other Activities
Depending on the length of your trip, you will probably want one or more days away from the parks to rest, explore other recreational activities, or experience other area attractions. The general rule of thumb is that you’ll want one “off” day for every 2-3 park days.
So, what can you do on those days, besides sleep in and hit the pool? (Or maybe just do those, if that sounds good to you!)
- Research other activities available throughout WDW. These include golf (regular or mini), shopping at Disney Springs, spas, bike or boat rental, horseback riding, archery lessons, and more. Again, write down any Must Do activities for your group.
- Check out off-property offerings. Is your group interested in Universal Studios, Sea World, LEGOLAND, the Kennedy Space Center, or a trip to the beach? Keep in mind, if you want to visit another non-Disney theme park, that doesn’t really count as an “off” day, so you may have to sacrifice a different park day.
If you are traveling to WDW during their Halloween or Christmas celebrations, or one of the EPCOT festivals, this may affect how you want to prioritize your time. Since these only happen at certain times of year, this might be your only chance to experience them.
- Research the offerings: each celebration or festival may feature special after-hours events, live entertainment, food and beverage items, and more. Find out what interests you.
- Decide what’s most important. Will you sacrifice a Table Service meal at EPCOT to snack at festival booths? Would you rather enjoy short waits for rides or see all the special entertainment at an after-hours event? These are really difficult questions to answer, but only you can do so.
Walt Disney World is the most magical place on earth, and you will have a magical time, as long as you don’t get caught up in what you missed or didn’t get to do. Prioritizing ahead of time will help you create a plan for your vacation that everyone in your group feels good about, and hopefully allow you to experience the things that are most important to you.
Try to go in with the right attitude: knowing you won’t get to see and do everything, but that everything you see and do will be amazing!
How do you prioritize at WDW? Let us know in the comments!