A journey of
a thousand miles
begins with a single step
We did something most annual passholders wouldn’t admit to doing.
We spent a whole day at Magic Kingdom.
As much traveling as we have done to all the other Disney parks, our eldest informed us we had never had done a FULL day at our park. And truthfully, it wasn't something we had necessarily planned to do because it's just so accessible.
As passholders, we're spoiled in getting to go whenever we want to. We make plans off of FastPass availability, do the allotted rides & maybe a few more with low wait times and leave. It's usually a pack-your-own-lunch, splurge-on-a-sweet-treat, we'll-be-home-in-a-few-hours kind of day. It's become easy to come & go to the parks and not fully immerse ourselves in the tourist experience.
But this particular end-of-summer Saturday. we brought their cousin & made our way over to Magic Kingdom for a fun-filled day of playing tourists in our home! And to see if we could do the majority of the park in a day.
The result may surprise most of you, as it did us, because we DID!
So I bet you’re asking, how’d we fair? And it would be selfish of us not to share how we made a magical day out of a HOT August day. Here’s our tried and true tricks that still to this day don’t fail us!
1. Download the Disney World app. Once you have tickets, you can upload them in the system and assign them to a park for FastPass selection at least 30 days before. And if you're lucky enough to be staying on property, you get an additional month and can plan 60 days ahead! The magic trick here and key time is 7am. The system uploads the new date at that time, so have your app open and thumbs ready to go to get the best availability.
We selected a few of the more popular attractions to do right at lunch time, so we could capitalize on the slower morning hours and because the popular rides we were aiming for weren’t available. But you could and should choose an earlier FastPass start time to get more done with minimal waits. Your goal is to get them as early as possible so you can add on more passes during your stay. You should also aim to book Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Peter Pan's Flight or Space Mountain in that order, as they're the most popular attractions.
The app will also come in handy during your stay. Starting a few days before you can check back in for changes and cancellations. Yes, they’ll always happen because plans change once people get here. The morning of is particularly important, because as people get their coveted FastPasses, they may be releasing YOUR coveted FastPass.
Also, you may have to break up your party to get the FastPasses you desire, but you can try for overlapping hours. And if not, you can always try the kindness of cast members. If all members of your party have a FastPass but at varying times, they can usually shift to match one rider’s time so you all can be together. Disney is about making magic happen, isn’t it, and cast members are usually empowered to do so!
2. Come early. They say the early bird gets the worm, right? In this case it's true ... but be prepared for a whole flock of early birds too.
If you skip breakfast & come hungry, there's plenty of quick service options in the park to satisfy your stomach before you get started. Our little gem is heading to Starbucks right when you get in and using the Starbucks app to get extra perks! We use the app rather than cash/card, and for those that don't know, IT IS ACCEPTED PAYMENT IN DISNEY STARBUCKS! You can't redeem reward stars for food/drink or capitalize on promotional offers in the park (those rules don't apply to Disney Springs though) - but you can use the app to pay and GET STARS for what you would purchase in real life anyways! And for those that are spending savvy (like me), use Raise to purchase discounted Starbucks gift cards so you're saving even more! We grab and go, while delighting in our goodness and making everyone else gawk in jealousy.
The parks opened at 8am the day we arrived and we got in a little past 830am. The parks are quiet first thing in the morning, so use the Disney World app to look at wait times and hit any attractions that seem unusually low. Try to ride any of the above that you didn't get a FastPass for early on, especially with wait times that look made up - more on that next!
3. Ride anything with little to no wait. That's pretty obvious, but really, it’s a must.
Once we arrived, the boys decided to head to Tomorrowland and conquer Space Mountain (1) because it only had a 15 minute wait! Fifteen, 1 - 5, I said that right. We didn't have a FastPass for the ride and this was the lowest wait it'd be all day, so the boys got in line. Which left me and Elle to find a ride in the area that she could get on and that they wouldn't care to miss. Astro Orbiters (2) it is!
Once we all finished on our respective rides we met to get on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (3) and hopped on after a 10 minute wait. The boys are finally at the age where they can ride non-thrill rides unaccompanied, so they had a blast experiencing this game together.
The rest of the morning we hit up rides according to wait times and tried to get through a slew of attractions without losing any precious time:
(4) Mad Tea Party - 5 minutes
(5)Dumbo the Flying Elephant - 10 minutes + play time under the big top
(6)The Barnstormer - 10 minutes
(7)Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid - 10 minutes
(8)Mickey's PhilharMagic - 10 minutes
We got to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (9) where Elle was itching to go, and it had a 30 minute wait. We decided to swallow our pride and line up, since we had been running hard and it gave us a chance to plan the rest of the day. Plus this attraction also has another play area, which was enough distraction to make the time go by fairly fast.
4. Recharge at lunch and Order Ahead. While in line, everyone agreed they were hungry, so we decided on Pinocchio Village Haus in Fantasyland for pizza and started to make lunch plans.
You can access quick service restaurant menus right on the app, and even better, you can Order Ahead on there - at no extra charge & once again saving you time. We accessed the app and picked out all our meals for lunch while we waited to board Pooh's honey pot. Once our order was complete, we paid, sent, and got back to our day.
The restaurant doesn't charge or prep your order until you hit the "I'm Here" button to advise them you're ready to eat! Once you get to the respective restaurant, go back into your app, advise them that "I'm Here" and wait for an alert that "Your Order is Ready" to head to the Order Ahead line to pick up your meal! It's that easy! This gave us time to find the perfect spot to eat, unwind, and also sit down rather than spend more time in line.
For us, we were able to grab prime seats for lunch - the windows that overlook the "its a small world" ride. Disney has action signs available to hold up to the unsuspecting guests as they sail by to do as you command (in our case, the YMCA and Chicken Dance were the most fun). The boys had a blast holding up markers that told them to do a random dance and applauded their audience for showing off!
Finished with lunch, it was time to start hitting up our first three FastPass attractions - so a little after 12p we headed towards Pirates of the Caribbean (10), followed by Splash Mountain (11), where I became unfortunate victim to get drenched on the way down.
5. Do something different. Since we used our first two FastPasses back to back, we had a little gap of time available before our last of the original three, Haunted Mansion. So we headed to do some shows we never slow down to see - Enchanted Tiki Room (12) and Country Bear Jamboree (13). Followed by something we hadn't before really ever done - Tom Sawyer Island (14). There we got to hide in caves, play on bridges and explore different passageways.
We also managed to find a quiet spot on the water that faced the parade route, so we got a view under shade and unobstructed (in its own right), for a unique way to see the Festival of Fantasy parade (15). It was definitely a hidden gem & welcome surprise! They have chairs and tables set up for picnicking and it would be the perfect spot to open a Mickey bar ice cream, to treat the kids after exploring!
6. Plan ahead. We head to our last Fast Pass after arriving on mainland, Haunted Mansion (16), which we used at the end of its allotted hour (you get an additional 15 minutes on the back end and 5 minutes on the front to access each FP). So while in line, I grabbed tickets for another FastPass. FastPass works in that after you're done with your original three for the day, you can grab more, one at time to use. We purposely put our 3 back-to-back so we could then fill in as we rode. So we got on the following rides and as FastPasses showed up for the ones available, I managed to grab.
7. Minimize spending with snacks. We try to keep our spending to a minimum when we're at the park, and today was no exception. We knew we were going to stop for lunch/dinner and made sure to order single meals big enough to share. We’ll also opt to order an entree and app to split if nothing else on the menu, and then a kids meal and a side for the kids to split as most come with more than enough food to get through the meal!
But since we were also going to spend all day here, we came well stocked with snacks. We love the option that Disney gives, in allowing us to bring snacks with no limitations, so we make sure to have an insulated backpack ready to go. With this we also make sure to bring reusable drinkware to refill with water; the insulated kind too!
If we do have to purchase, we try to make a stop in the stores for a quick bag of treats. A huge perk of being a passholder are the discounts they give in park and stores. That's no exception to food - so if you can find something to eat at a retail location, rather than a food stop - grab it here for less spent! Same goes for drink as some stores carry bottled beverages for convenience, but cheaper than at a quick service restaurant since you can apply your coveted discount to it!
8. Grab the perfect spot for fireworks. Since we had snacked all day, we opted for a very late, very light dinner. We once again used Order Ahead to stop at Casey's for hot dogs and created our dinner menu as we walked over. We found a table outside as patrons cleared their plates, and then waited for the alert that our meal was ready. Since we ate at the end of the dinner rush (around 9p, like we said VERY late), we were seated in the perfect spot for the Happily Ever After (26) fireworks display. We didn't have to worry about people standing in front of us or using our shoulders (and my case, tip toes) to get the kids to see. Everyone around us remained seated and we could peacefully enjoy the show in a contained area, content with our full bellies and rested feet. Perfect!
9. Make a game of it. We love that Disney introduces different ways to see the park, including the Sorcerer's Apprentice game which we always make a point to collect additional cards at the firehouse on Main Street before continuing our game. The game is time consuming though, as you have to hunt for portals and fight villains to unlock the next clue. It definitely is a distraction for the kids on a slow day, but since this was anything but, we skipped playing on this visit.
We did start using Play Disney on the Disney app and were collecting tokens for visiting attractions. Play Disney doesn't require any additional effort though. You just have your phone ready to go as you line up and then you've collected for just visiting. We got through most of the park, so after fireworks, we made it a point to get at least one more.
10. Finish strong. We had managed to squeeze in one last FastPass and really the second to last ride we could nab for the day - Peter Pan's Flight (27). We decided to call it after we had hit this Play Disney point and really our point of exhaustion. The park closed at midnight and we were content with our 10pm end time.
And though we missed doing one of the most popular attractions, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, we had a better than good run. We had four little feet run strong all day, smiling ear to ear and we hit up 27 attractions! We couldn't be happier with how we ALL faired on our day as tourists.
Planning your own day? Here’s the order to nab FastPasses to make your day worth while.
It was a perfectly magical day! The type that you don't typically bank on but end up becoming one of your favorite memories. We're glad we had a little coaxing from a well-behaved kid and allowed ourselves all to be kids again for the day!