Our Ideal 1-Day Walt Disney World Itinerary for 2018
For many of us that have been to Disney time and time again, it seems a little strange and a bit weird to think about having one day to spend at Walt Disney World. Many of us spend a week or more touring the parks and resorts and still don’t mange to get done all that we hope to accomplish. It’s an inevitable reality that presents itself time after time, but I don’t say that to discourage you from taking a day to explore Disney World, even if you just have single day or even a few hours to explore a small portion of what there is to offer on property.
Many of you reading this will find yourself on a work trip in the Orlando area or on an extended layover at Orlando International Airport at some point and may just have one day to get away for a while and enjoy some time in the parks. Again, it’s weird for many of us who vacation to the parks year after year to think about, but there are tons of guests arriving at the gates of the parks each day that only have one day to spend at the happiest place on earth.
A majority of those guest come unprepared, don’t have tickets, and have no idea what they’re walking into, but they all have one thing in common, expectations. Disney World is one of the most sought after destinations in the United States and for fairly obvious reasons, but in today’s Disney planning scenario, it can be tough to set up one day and vastly enjoy all that even one park has to offer.
So, as a result we’re taking today to look at what we’d do if we had only one day to spend in one park. I will preface this with the fact that we’ve been in this situation before and while it isn’t ideal, you’ll be surprised at how amazing your day can be with the limited amount of time available to you. However, to make the most of the time, you have to arrive with a plan and this is the plan we’d go with.
What Park Do You Go To?
If I had never been to Walt Disney World I’d have to spend the time I had exploring Magic Kingdom in 2018. Now, I say in 2018 for one reason and largely one reason only. As the parks grow and new expansions are unveiled over the next 2 years, including Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge, my opinion on which park to visit could likely change. Honestly, I would even consider going to Epcot and originally that was my pick for this 1 day itinerary. As I thought about that decision, I took a step back. I redirected my thoughts and considered the scenario once again from a different perspective. If I was a first time guest, what park would leave a lasting impression on me?
The answer I came up with wasn’t ideal, because what came to mind was our 7 Day Itinerary. Then I realized one more thing and that was that the point of one day at Disney isn’t about doing everything but rather taking the time you have and making the most of it. It’s not going to be the perfect trip, but for one day you get the opportunity to escape the world for a few minutes and enter a place of pure happiness. So, the answer I came up with wasn’t my favorite park, Epcot (with our Our Tried and True “Epcot in a Day” Touring Plan), but rather a place described best as where you can “leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy,” the Magic Kingdom.
What Ticket Do You Buy?
All things considered, I’d go with a base one-day ticket *without* the park hopper option if you’re only doing one day in the parks. Truth be told, you won’t have time to park hop without wasting a lot of unnecessary time in this situation. This one tip alone goes against just about everything I talk about in our 2018 Disney World Vacation Planning Tips article when talking about tickets, but in this rare case I can genuinely say to avoid the park hopper (it kind of hurt me to say that lol). Save the money you would have spent on that add-on and see if you can find a table service dining reservation at any location in the Magic Kingdom on the My Disney Experience App. It can be tough to secure a reservation at the last second but use our last minute reservation tips and you should be able to come up with an excellent meal even on the day of your time in the park.
If you’re looking for meal suggestions, I highly recommend looking into:
–Crystal Palace – For a fun filled family character meal with Pooh and friends. There are a ton of great options on the buffet for both kids and adults and the atmosphere is quite elegant as you look out the glass windows towards Cinderella’s castle. At the same time, the dining location remains extremely kid friendly and is a place for the whole family to enjoy.
–The Plaza Restaurant – If you’re looking for a slightly more budget friendly offering without going to exclusively quick service locations, the Plaza offers a nice blend of classic cheeseburgers and sandwiches of different varieties while mixing things up with a Honey Barbecue Brisket Macaroni and Cheese. If you get the chance to talk with the chef, he’ll make your day and share a few culinary tips with you along the way. Ask about his secret to getting rid of that “Florida water” taste! It’ll blow your mind and he’ll likely remember your visit and you for years to come. We met with him years ago about an allergy some of our friends deal with and he remembered us literally 8+ years later!
–Liberty Tree Tavern – Liberty Tree tends to be a guest favorite of Magic Kingdom. If you’re looking for classic Thanksgiving-esque style food, this is an excellent option. Honestly, I haven’t been to this one in years, mostly because an extremely heavily meal rarely intrigues me on a sunny Florida day, but it’s definitely worth a look if you’ve never tried it before!
How to Make the Most of Your Time – Our Ideal Itinerary
If you clicked on this post or Google brought you here, you likely came for what I’m about to share. I appreciate you having confidence in our planning abilities that are based on experience, but I will say that you’ll likely have to modify our plan slightly to fit your needs. Everyone wants to do something different when they head to Magic Kingdom. We all want to see different attractions, eat at different locations, and honestly just see different things. With all of that under consideration, I can say with confidence that if you use this plan, I can nearly guarantee you’ll have an excellent day that will be memorable for years to come.
With that, we’ll dive right into it and share exactly what we would do and have done to make the most of a limited amount of time on Disney property.
First and foremost, if at all possible, get there when the gates open, if not a few minutes before they open. The Magic Kingdom welcomes guests before it’s official opening and allows the earliest of individuals to explore Main Street before the attractions and other areas of the park officially debut for the day and the welcome show is performed on the castle stage. If you get there early enough, you’ll have plenty of time to scout out some hidden gems of Main Street (like these below) or many others you may uncover on your own that can be found in the “history” section of this site:
- How Disney “Sets the Scene” On Main Street U.S.A – A Closer Look
- A Main Street Hidden Gem With An Interesting History – The Harmony Barber Shop
- The Windermere Fraternal Hall – A Main Street Window With an Overlooked Story
- An East Center Street Secret You May Have Overlooked
Ideally, after catching the opening show at the castle, you’ll head to one of your favorite attractions and begin the process we’ve used to Ride 6 or More Attractions in 90 Minutes or Less: With Only 1 Fastpass+! That detailed process is one that we’ve been using for years and it’s the key to taking full advantage of the first hour and a half to two hours after the park officially opens.
Once you get done with all of those attractions, we recommend trying to find a way to eat breakfast or lunch at Crystal Palace. It is a tough reservation to secure at the last minute, but if all else fails attempt to do a walk up and ask if you can wait for a table. They wont always let you wait, but it’s worked for us time and time again over the years.
I recommend Crystal Palace for a few reasons. First and foremost, we’ve had great experiences over the years there. Second, it offers a buffet that most guests can find something they’ll really enjoy eating. Lastly, it’s a great way to escape the heat of the summer months as it begins to build in the late morning and early afternoon. You’d be surprised how much of a difference an hour or two in the AC opposed to a few hours in the Florida summer heat can make. In the long run, it’ll give you more energy for the rest of the day and you get the chance to eat at our favorite Table Service Breakfast on Property.
After that meal, I’d recommend heading to a few attractions with shorter wait times (typically its a small world, The Peoplemover, or even the Magic Carpets of Aladdin for a quick set of attractions before the afternoon parade begins. (If you’re looking for spot for the parade, I highly recommend the center hub of the park near the Partners Statue or up near the Car Barn at the front of the park.
Once the parade ends, you’ll be well into the peak crowd level for the day and it’s a great time to head back to Main Street to do some shopping and cool off again in the air conditioned stores rather that spending that time in an attraction queue. As night starts to set in, catch a few more attractions like Haunted Mansion, or even visit Tom Sawyer Island before catching a quick service dinner or a snack. If you can manage it, try to set up your remaining fastpass+ selections for this point in the day.
I know, it may be very difficult to get exactly what you want if you buy your tickets last minute or if you didn’t plan on visiting the park originally. Either way, take what you can get when you can get it. If you can buy your ticket further ahead of time, do it and then immediately book your fastpass+ selections at the 30 day window for non-resort guests or 60 days for resort guests.
At the end of the day, you’ll want to catch one last thing before leaving the park and that’s the Happily Ever After Fireworks. It’s an excellent show and one I highly recommend so grab an ice cream sandwich at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and claim your spot about 30 minutes before the show (or an hour+ if you’re picky about your “spot”). When the performance in the sky is complete, don’t do what most guest do and head for the exits. Stick around the park and head back over to some attractions (if the park is remaining open) for a few last minute attractions. Once the park officially closes for the day, you’ll no longer be able to get in line for attractions, but continue to stick around until about 30 minutes to an hour after close for the Kiss Goodnight and to close down the park. The collaborative experience is something you wont want to miss and is truly the perfect way to end a one-day itinerary.
At the end of the day, you’ll likely have experienced nearly every attraction in the park, and if all worked out as planned you’ll be eager to return at some point in the future. Many guests will leave the Magic Kingdom with a series of memories, a positive outlook, and a greater appreciation for the place created by a man with a dream. It’s an empowering experience and one that encourages you to take a step and pursue that one thing you never thought could become a reality. I say this for a reason, but also as a motivation. Two years ago, I never thought I’d be where I am today and doing what I’m doing right this second. The theme park experience not only gave me a place to explore but a location that has brought so many people into my life that I never expected. Once you visit Disney, you become a part of this community that is so difficult to explain. It’s a wonderful group of people and a community like nothing else.
Walt said it best, it takes people to make a dream a reality. At the time when that was first shared, he likely didn’t know what that simple phrase would become to so many. He created a place not only for cast members to grow and learn, but also a place that fulfills dreams and creates an escape from reality for so many of us time and time again. I share all of this for one reason and that is to encourage you to take whatever amount of time you have to visit the park and to make the most of every minute. You may not have enough time for a full day at Magic Kingdom, but take the time you have and make the most of it. You never know when a simple experience may develop a new favorite aspect of your life and a place that you want to return to time and time again.
As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!