Walt Disney World (FL)

The Morning Grind – How to Pick Where To Start Your Disney Day

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I’m on the edge of my seat over here. In less than a month, I will leave for a quick two-day Walt Disney World trip with my beautiful bride. Normally, I would be knee deep in spreadsheets, crowd calendars, and the like to plan out every instant of my trip, but right now, I’m letting things come as they may. Okay, not entirely. I’m trying to figure out where we will start our Disney days. Yes, the ever important morning decision. Where will we go and when will we get there?

Want to get this picture on Dumbo? Better get up early.

I’m sure many of you out there have faced this same dilemma. You know you’ll be at the World, you know you’ll want to get into a park, but you don’t know where to start. There are a few ways to make this decision. Do you want to get up early? Are you looking to fit in the most attractions, or is breakfast more important? Do you want to avoid crowds? Got your heart set on a particular park? The more I thought about it, the more things came to mind. So, as an exercise to help myself from going nuts and hopefully help some of the readers of this fine blog, I figured I would write down all the criteria as I thought of them, and then show how to use the TouringPlans.com tools to help solve the problem. So here we go:

  1. Sleep. How much of it do you want, and how important is it to you? After all, you know that we here at TouringPlans.com want you to get up and be at the park for rope drop. It’s the only way to experience most of the headliner attractions in one day. But you are on vacation. This might be your only chance to sleep in. So is a late morning acceptable to you? Do you accept missing a few attractions and starting mid-morning or even midday? Weigh those options before deciding which park to go to in the morning.
  2. Breakfast. Is a muffin and a cup of coffee acceptable? Or do you crave meatier fare? After all, if you’re staying on property, where you eat breakfast can make the decision for you. For example, if you want coffee and a muffin before you enter the park, you’re out of luck if you take Disney transportation to the Magic Kingdom. At the other three parks, you can grab coffee and pastries outside the main gate. But since the Disney bus pulls you up to the gates of the Magic Kingdom, you miss the coffee stand at the Transportation and Ticket Center. And if you want eggs or bacon, consider that you can’t get that anywhere outside of the parks or hotels.
  3. This is what I WANT for breakfast. But I might have to sacrifice it.
  4. Crowds. Not interested in fighting the crowds all day? Best be there at rope drop. Or maybe you don’t mind some crowds, but you’re not looking to fight against the flow. We are going the first weekend of Star Wars Weekends at Hollywood Studios. Do we get up first thing Friday morning and join the geek love at the Studios, or avoid the chaos and look elsewhere?
  5. Attractions. Dead set on Toy Story Mania? Better be at the Studios at rope drop. Have to see Soarin’ or the vacation is a bust? Epcot should see you bright and early. Not as interested in certain attractions but you would prefer to enjoy the atmosphere? Then you can sleep in. Enjoy. How many attractions you want to do in a day and whether or not there are favorites you have to hit can be big factors in when you need to arrive.

Okay, since we have those four things to look at, let’s try to solve my dilemma. If I want to answer the questions in order, I would say that sleep is relatively important, although I’m willing to get up for rope drop since the parks don’t open until 9 a.m. the first day we are there. I’m definitely a breakfast person, so I need coffee and something to make it through the first part of the morning. Preferably with eggs and bacon, but a good pastry will suffice, if necessary. Neither my wife or I is necessarily interested in maximizing attractions on this trip, but we have a few we want to hit: Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Expedition Everest, specifically. And, finally, we would like to avoid crowds where possible to give us the most flexibility.

So, let’s take these one by one. As I mentioned, by looking at the Crowd Calendar I can see that all the parks open at 9 a.m. both days that we are there. We normally don’t sleep much past 8 a.m. even on weekends at home, so if we shower the night before, we should be ready to go for rope drop presuming the buses will get us there in a timely fashion. So sleep is not a factor in this decision. All parks are still a go, since no park has Extra Magic Hours in the morning.

Is getting to Tower of Terror important enough to brave the Star Wars Weekends crowds?

Breakfast is definitely a consideration. As mentioned above, since we are relying on Disney transportation I can’t get coffee before going into the park at the Magic Kingdom. I could try to book a character breakfast in the Magic Kingdom to get in early, but that would violate my sleep protocol and my wallet. So Magic Kingdom is eliminated from the list, leaving us with the Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom.

Then there are crowds. The first day we have to deal with is Friday, May 18. As mentioned, this is the first day of Star Wars Weekends. As such, the Studios has an individual park level of 9.4 out of 10 on the Crowd Calendar. Animal Kingdom, meanwhile, is at 4.4, and is a best park for the day. Seems like my decision is almost made, but there’s one more item to go.

The three things we want to make sure we hit are located in the Studios and Animal Kingdom. If you look at the cheat sheets on the site, you’ll see that the best times to hit Tower and Coaster are 9-10 a.m., or use FASTPASS any time between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. For Everest, even on a low crowd day like the day we are going, the best times to visit are 9-10 a.m., or use FASTPASS between 10 a.m. and noon. Everest seems like it is more in demand.

So, after evaluating all the criteria, it seems our decision is made. Sleep in a bit, not too much, hop a bus to Animal Kingdom, grab some coffee and pastries outside the main gate, then enjoy the rest of the day. That’s just Friday, though, so we will use the same criteria to figure out what to do on Saturday.

Sound complex? It probably is, but it goes to show how you can use the site tools effectively to plan out your day, even if it’s only where to get started. What tips do you use to figure out where to start your Disney day?


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14 thoughts on “The Morning Grind – How to Pick Where To Start Your Disney Day

  • The problem you’ve not addressed: where are your ADR’s?

    • See, I try to plan ahead and make ADRs according to this plan. That’s where breakfast comes into it.

  • Kerry W.

    We’ll be there that same day, due to the help of the crowd calendar and planning. We do have ADRs for lunch at Yak & Yeti, and dinner ADR for Boma. Yippee!!!

  • On your Magic Kingdom morning, you could take the monorail to the Polynesian to grab coffee and breakfast to go from Kona Island. You might enjoy the coffee so much it becomes a new tradition for you.

    • Oh,believe me, if I were driving, I would park at TTC, walk over to the Poly and get coffee. That is a given. With taking the monorail, it’s just too much time and I have to get up too early. That’s where sleep factors in. 😉

  • I always, always, always start my trips off at Animal Kingsom because I love to see the animals and early morning is when most of them are out. Plus it seems to be the hottest park in the middle of the day.

  • Wonderful tips! This is exactly why I am a member on your site and why I HIGHLY recommend your services to all. :0)

  • Meredith McCutcheon

    We always start our first day off at Magic Kingdom. I know, so do most people. BUT, we have small kids (4 & 6) who LITERALLY NEVER sleep in past 6:30am. So, we try to arrive on a Wednesday afternoon, hang out at the hotel, and head out for an early dinner (this year, we’re staying at the Beach Club, so we’ll just walk to Epcot for a few hours). Then, Thursday mornings are MEMH at MK, and since we’re up super early anyway, we get there for MEMH rope drop. We get the headliners done by the time the general public arrives, take in a few less popular attractions, have an early lunch at MK, then head back to the hotel for a LONG nap!

  • Janet Sala

    We’ll be there that same weekend, but arriving mid-day Friday. We’re just going to make the most of our proximity to Epcot (staying at the Beach Club) and then head to the Studios on Sunday for some Star Wars merriment.

    I need both my breakfast and my sleep. My husband needs his coffee every morning. So we’ll stop by Whole Foods on the way from the airport and pick up some cheese, crackers, and coffee beans. Thanks to our Owner’s Locker contents, we will then grind said beans and prepare a press pot of dark and dreamy coffee each morning which we will sip while we nibble on some cheese and crackers. Makes for a nice morning with no panic-filled search for good coffee and protein for breakfast. It doesn’t really take any extra time either. Justs gives us something to do while the other one showers and primps.

    • Meredith McCutcheon

      Where is there a Whole Foods on the way from the airport? We’re not very familiar with the area, and I would LOVE to stop there on the way to our hotel.

  • I wasn’t aware there were breakfast options outside the park gates! Is there a way to find out more specific info about what is served, or is it all just coffee and pastry? (Not that those are bad things)


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