Are you visiting Walt Disney World for the first time?
Let’s be honest, there are so many voices out there telling you what you should and shouldn’t do when you’re on vacation that the only place to really start is at the beginning.
Hi, I’m Dustin and I’m the editor of StepstoMagic.com, a trip planning website that provides ideas and concepts for you to consider when you’re planning a vacation to Central Florida.
Being that I’m a former cast member and someone who loves to visit Walt Disney World & Universal Orlando and travels from my home base in Toronto, first time travel this is a topic that I’m well versed on.
Here’s The Perfect Walt Disney World Itinerary for First Time Visitors
Starting out with a couple housekeeping things
- There isn’t a right or wrong way to vacation at Walt Disney World
- There also isn’t a general number of days that folks visit for, because that boils down to budget and time that you’ve got allocated to your vacation.
- Your arrival and departure day will be different than everyone else, so knowing that you’ll be creating a plan that is unique to your family…that’s a great starting point!
Walt Disney World Vacation Itinerary – The First Day
Okay, so this is a cop-out, because I’ve done an article for the Arrival Day at Disney World. Check it out…because it shouldn’t count towards anything due to the number of factors that could be either in your favor or going against you. Don’t stress about anything, because your real ‘First Day’ is actually Day Two!
Walt Disney World Vacation Itinerary – Day Two (Your Real First Day)
Location: The Magic Kingdom
Article: Magic Kingdom in One Day
My thoughts in two sentences:
Starting your vacation off at the Magic Kingdom is just the best way of stepping into the Disney Magic, and as cheesy as that sounds…it’s so awesome to walk through the turnstiles, under the train station and turn the corner on Main Street USA to see Cinderella’s Castle in front of you.
Any planning that you do should be spread out, because you’ll want to take everything in. Looking at an article or a YouTube video and doing it yourself is night and day.
Walt Disney World Vacation Itinerary – Day Three
After spending your first day at the Magic Kingdom, you’ll have two choices on your next day. It’ll either be Disney’s Animal Kingdom or EPCOT.
How do I choose? Honestly, it’ll depend on what FastPass+ attractions I can get in advance of the trip.
- EPCOT Day: One of your three FastPass+ should be Frozen Ever After
- Animal Kingdom Day: FastPass+ should be a Flight of Passage
If you can’t get either of these, then you’ve got flexibility, and I would base it on the park hours or your Advanced Dining Reservations. We’ve actually been known to plan for one day, and then the day before get a last minute dining reservation from our ADR’s to get ASAP list and then redo the plan….so don’t be afraid to change on the fly.
My thoughts in two sentences
Your second official day in the parks is still part of the exploration period. You’ll be seeing things that you’ve only seen through the lens of someone else, so take it all in and don’t stress about running from location to location.
If you’re doing a Park Hopper ticket, this may be a day where you’ll want to open the day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and then end the day at EPCOT. When you’re staying on property at a Disney Resort, you’ll be able to access Extra Magic Hours…so that may help with your decision.
Walt Disney World Vacation Itinerary – Day Four
Want a curve ball? This is usually the day that we’ll plan to head to Universal Orlando!
After a couple days in the Disney Bubble, it’s fun to see things like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Jurassic Park. Check out my article about 10 Things you should know about Universal Orlando before you go!
My Thoughts in Two Sentences
When folks are visiting Walt Disney World, they are actually visiting Central Florida…home to hundreds of things that fall within a $30 uber ride of your Disney Hotel Room.
Universal is growing in popularity among theme park fans because of their attention to detail with properties like Harry Potter, The Simpsons, Jurassic Park, Marvel and Dreamworks. It’s worth the trek over, if you’ve got time, budget and interest. Remember, many folks don’t visit Universal on their first vacation because they are overwhelmed with the options at Walt Disney World…so don’t feel like you have to.
Walt Disney World Vacation Itinerary – Day Five
Location: Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Article: Top 10 Things To Do at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- What FastPass+ Attractions you should book (Smuggler’s Run, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Toy Story Mania / Slinky Dog Coaster, Rock n Rollercoaster, etc)
- Shows and Activities
- Food Options and Ideas
My thoughts in two sentences:
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a theme park that’s reinventing itself, so knowing that before you visit will set expectations accordingly.
DHS is all about the details, so make sure to know what to look for…and also when you should call it a day. The current lineup is such that the park is a half-day experience, but depending on what FastPass+ you can get in advance, you may be able to stretch it. I’ve been known to do the Studios in the morning and walk to EPCOT for the afternoon/evening, but that’s up to you and your ticket options.
Walt Disney World Vacation Itinerary – Day Six
Let’s assume that you’re staying at Walt Disney World for longer than four or five days…maybe you’re there for a week. Maybe you’ll want to do a half & half day:
First half: A Theme Park or Water Park
Second half: Disney Springs
The idea behind this day is more of a bridge to get you to start thinking about what you would want to either see again or last minute plans. We’ve done this day as an Extra Magic Hours theme park morning, where we book our three FastPass+ attractions starting at 9am/10am/11am and then we head from the park to Disney Springs for the late afternoon and evening.
Remember, this is just an idea…because depending on where you’re staying…you could actually be ending your evenings at Disney Springs! When we did our stay at the Holiday Inn Disney Springs resort, we would take the bus from the parks to DS and then walk back to our hotel after we got some shopping done at World of Disney and the Coca Cola Store.
Be open to revisiting this day throughout the vacation, because a resort dining reservation may come up that you didn’t expect and this would be a great evening to do that!
Walt Disney World Vacation Itinerary – Day Seven
Whether or not this is actually your “Day Seven” or your “Last Full Day of your Vacation”, I think that it’s almost a given that you’ll want to end this day at the Magic Kingdom with a fireworks spectacular…so expect to close down the Magic Kingdom on your last full day!
I won’t tell you what to do on this day, because no matter what I share…it’s your call! If you want to start out the day at a park that you want to revisit OR if you want to do the full day at MK, you can’t go wrong. Don’t be afraid to try to book a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass+ for this day, as you can never experience this attraction too many times.
Thoughts on Dining for your Last Full Day
You’ll want to get an ADR for your dinner, but don’t be afraid to do a reservation at the Grand Floridian, Contemporary or the Polynesian Village Resorts. When you’re on the monorail line, it’s incredibly straight-forward to get back to the Magic Kingdom for the rest of the evening!
Walt Disney World Vacation Itinerary – Day Eight
This is your departure day, which means that you’ll be at the beck and call of your transportation home.
Article: What to do on your Disney Vacation Departure Day
I’ve had to leave at 4am for an 8am flight…but I’ve also had evening flights home. Each trip has a different option for the last day, so take into account that UBER and the Minnie Vans exists and that you paid for a vacation to Walt Disney World which goes until the moment that you step onto the plane.
Our usual flight home is an evening trip, so we’ll have the morning and lunch in the parks before UBER’ing to the hotel to leave for the airport in the mid-afternoon and eat dinner at the airport before heading home.
I hope that this gives you a starting point for your vacation to Walt Disney World! There is always more to go through, so feel free to bookmark StepstoMagic.com and visit again throughout your planning!
You can also visit us at Pinterest.com/stepstomagic for a bunch of articles that you may not have known that you want to know about…like The Stitch’s of Hollywood or What is the Sorcerers of Magic Kingdom