You’ve decided when you’re going to Disney World.
Congratulations! Have a magical time!
… now what?
After deciding what time of year you’ll go and how long you’ll stay, you can choose which Disney park you’ll visit each day of your trip. Knowing where you’ll be each day will allow you to schedule your dining and FastPass+ reservations. Make these decisions NOW to save yourself from a little vacation-time decision making fatigue!
Don’t know what time of year you should go to Disney World? Read The Best Time To Go To Disney World first!
So, how do you know which Disney World parks to visit on which day?
You can simply choose your park days arbitrarily. Maybe you’re most excited to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge so you want to go there first. Or maybe Cinderella Castle is the lasting memory you want from the trip so you want to culminate the trip at the Magic Kingdom.
By all means, schedule your trip however you want! But there are a few things to keep in mind when planning your Disney days if you want to do your best to avoid crowds, get the best reservations, and visit each park on an optimal day.
This post will discuss these factors when deciding which Disney parks to visit on which day:
- Dining Reservations
- FastPass+ availability
- Extra Magic Hours
- New attractions
- Crowd calendars
Let Your Dining Reservations Choose Your Disney World Park Days
If food is a priority and you MUST dine at certain restaurants, you should choose your park days based on dining reservation availability. This is highly recommended if you want to eat at the most popular restaurants like Cinderella’s Royal Table, Chef Mickey’s, or Akershus Royal Banquet Hall as those reservations can fill up as early as 180 days in advance when Disney dining reservations open.
Rather than scheduling your park days first only to discover that there are no reservations available at Cindy’s on the day you plan to be at Magic Kingdom, be flexible and search all days of your trip when you reach that 180 day mark for making dining reservations. Then, if you’re able to find ANY reservation for Cinderella’s Royal Table during your trip, grab that reservation and you have yourself a Magic Kingdom park day!
If you’re planning any reservations at Disney resort restaurants, especially lunch reservations right in the middle of the day, plan your park days nearby. Go to Epcot or Hollywood Studios if you’re starting your day at the Topolino’s Terrace character breakfast at Disney’s Riviera Resort as those parks are just a quick ride away on the SkyLiner. Plan a day at Magic Kingdom if you have lunch at Chef Mickey’s at the adjacent Contemporary Resort. Never underestimate transportation time between locations at Disney World and aim to keep your activities close to the park of the day.
Didn’t get the dining reservation you wanted?
Hope is not lost!
If you don’t get a desired reservation, wait until the night before. Many guests will modify their plans while they’re on vacation and dining reservations can be cancelled without penalty up until midnight the night before. You can often find coveted, difficult-to-get dining reservations for the following day if you search in the evening. If you can’t get a reservation in advance, last-minute reservations are often your best shot!
Choose Your Disney Park Days By FastPass+ Availability
Are rides and attractions your priority? Then you probably want to avoid long standby lines as much as you can!
You may want to let FastPass+ availability dictate your park days. If you are staying on-site at a Disney World resort hotel, you can make FastPass+ reservations for your entire trip 60 days before the first day of the hotel stay. Guests staying off-site can schedule FastPass+ 30 days out. However, only a limited number of FastPass+ reservations are available for every attraction each day so FastPass+ availability for popular attractions can (and often DO) run out.
Currently, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom have the most difficult-to-get FastPass+ reservations – Slinky Dog Dash and Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Hollywood Studios and Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom. So, if you schedule those park days later in the trip, you will have a greater opportunity for scoring FastPass+ reservations for those attractions.
Most times of the year, Flight of Passage will still have FastPass+ availability for day 3 of your trip or later when making reservations 60 days in advance. The Hollywood Studios rides may be even tougher to get so you might want to schedule Hollywood Studios on day 4 or 5 for ideal FastPass+ selection.
Why? FastPass+ selection is greater on later days in your trip because you’re “competing” with fewer people for those reservations. Only guests with trips as long as yours are able to make FastPass+ reservations on those later days. More guests will have shorter trips so more are vying for FastPass+ reservations on days 1-3.
Schedule Magic Kingdom and Epcot early in your trip if FastPass+ is a priority. While Epcot and Magic Kingdom certainly have popular attractions, none have FastPass+ availability issues as intense as the other two parks. Even Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which is typically the most difficult FastPass+ reservation to get at Magic Kingdom, will usually have availability 60 days out.
Like dining reservations, your best bet for getting FastPass+ reservations if you miss out either 60 or 30 days in advance is to wait until the night before when guests are tweaking and modifying their plans for the following day. FastPass+ reservations for the most popular attractions can open then as guests change their plans.
Use or Avoid Extra Magic Hours
Extra Magic Hours are one hour in the morning before opening or two hours in the evening after closing when one park each day is open just to Disney World hotel guests.
The perceived perk of Extra Magic Hours is that crowds will be lower during that additional time. This isn’t always true so don’t plan to use Extra Magic Hours solely to avoid crowds. Instead, use it for the additional park time.
Plan your trip by going to the park with Extra Magic Hours only if you fully plan on utilizing the extra park time that day. Since many guests use the Extra Magic Hours schedule as a guide to determine which parks they should visit every day of their trip, the park with Extra Magic Hours can have increased crowds for the entire day.
For this reason, if you are NOT going to utilize Extra Magic Hours (either because you are not staying at a Disney World hotel or you are, but don’t want to wake up early or stay out late for that extra park time), plan your park days by NOT going to the park that has Extra Magic Hours each day.
The Extra Magic Hours schedule is published 180 days in advance. Check the Walt Disney World Park Hours calendar for Extra Magic Hours during your trip dates.
Which Park on Which Day – Beyond the Basics
Weekends and Mondays at Magic Kingdom
Most guests will start their Disney World vacation on a weekend and many of them will want to visit Magic Kingdom first. Weekends and Mondays are usually busiest at Magic Kingdom because people start their trips there.
To avoid the most crowded Magic Kingdom days, visit Tuesday through Friday.
Holiday Parties at Magic Kingdom
From mid-August through December, Magic Kingdom closes early on select evenings for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Each guest must have an additional party ticket to attend these events. The park closes early at 6:00 PM to day guests.
If you are visiting Disney World this time of year, check the party schedules so you are aware of the dates with these early closing times for Magic Kingdom during your trip.
Many guests will avoid Magic Kingdom on party days due to the abbreviated time, so the park will often be less crowded during the day. That also means that Magic Kingdom is generally the most crowded on NON-party days because many guests want a full-day experience.
If the early park closing isn’t an issue for your family because you wouldn’t be staying out late anyway or if you have Park Hopper tickets that allow you to “hop” to a different park in the evening after Magic Kingdom closes to day guests, choosing to visit Magic Kingdom on a party day is an excellent choice.
However, if you want to stay at Magic Kingdom until well into the evening and enjoy the Happily Ever Fireworks show, you should choose to visit Magic Kingdom on days when there is not a party.
Unless your Disney World trip is during the summer or right after New Year’s, a festival will likely be underway at Epcot. These festivals transform Epcot with additional food, entertainment, and activities throughout the park.
Epcot will be most crowded on the first days of a festival when media, bloggers, and social media influencers descent upon the park to share the newest foods and sights from the festival.
Orlando locals will increase crowd levels during the first weekend of each festival and also the last weekend before the festival closes for the year.
To avoid Epcot crowds, stay away on the first days, first weekends, and last weekends of festivals. These are the current dates for upcoming Epcot festivals:
- 2020 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival – March 4 to June 1, 2020
- 2020 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – August to November, 2020
- 2020 Epcot International Festival of the Holidays – November to December, 2020
- 2021 Epcot International Festival of the Arts – January to February, 2021
Let a Crowd Calendar Choose Your Disney World Park Days
If everything mentioned here is simply too overwhelming, use a crowd calendar (such as Undercover Tourist or Touring Plans) to determine which Disney parks to go on which day of your trip.
Just remember that crowd calendars are predictions based on historical data and new park trends and developments. They can be extremely useful, especially if you want to quickly set your trip. However, they can also be stressful as crowd projections can change and crowd calendars can often contradict each other.
If you choose to solely use a crowd calendar to select your park days, promise yourself you won’t get stressed if crowd projections increase later on! Just stick with your original decisions and remember that crowd levels as a whole are more a reflection of the time of year than the specific day of the week. In most cases, there won’t be a huge difference in crowds day to day during your trip compared to crowd levels at entirely different times of the year.
Putting It Together: My Disney World Trip Plan
So, with all that in mind. This is my family’s February 2020 Disney World trip plan.
FastPass+ for rides and avoiding crowds are our priorities so we base our schedule on those factors.
- Arrival Day – Disney Springs
- Day 1 – Monday – Epcot – FastPass+ availability not an issue this early
- Day 2 – Tuesday – Magic Kingdom – FastPass+ availability not an issue and Magic Kingdom is typically less crowded on Tuesdays compared to Mondays
- Day 3 – Wednesday – Animal Kingdom – A little later now so Flight of Passage FastPass+ was available
- Day 4 – Thursday – Hollywood Studios – Even later in the trip for FastPass+ availability, but Slinky Dog Dash FastPasses were already gone 60 (+4) days out!
- Day 5 – Friday – Magic Kingdom – Use morning Extra Magic Hour with slightly lower crowd levels before the weekend
- Day 6 – Saturday – Epcot – No other reason than it’s my birthday and Epcot is my favorite park!
- Day 7 – Sunday – Hollywood Studios – Latest possible day of the trip so Slinky Dog Dash FastPass+ availability was ample!
What is your family’s greatest priority when choosing Disney World park days?