by: guide4wdw – Collin

Our Typical Epcot Plan – What Works for Us 

If you came across this article, chances are you’re diving into planning a Disney vacation or you’re looking for things/overlooked items that could improve your vacations in the future as a repeat guest. Another option is the fact that you may be falling into that “trap” of articles just to see what works for other people out of pure curiosity. Either way, you’re in the right place. It’s no secret that we approach Disney parks planning from a different perspective that most. We’re never going to tell you a “perfect plan to hit every attraction in a day” or a plan of “how to plan every fastpass at the perfect time.” Those articles are all fine and good if that’s your style of planning, but in my opinion they spend more time worrying about what’s next rather that concerning yourself with what’s really important… living in the moment and making the most of every single minute you have in the parks. 
If I could give one tip to any prospective guest it would be to plan the bare minimum. I know at times I sound like a broken record but I do believe the best thing you can do is to go into your vacation with the outlook of “whatever happens, happens.” If you’re ultimately flexible, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll have an incredible vacation. Next time you’re in the parks, take a moment and look around you. Chances are you’ll see four types of people: locals without a plan at all and simply wandering around enjoying the moment, the over-planned group running around with an itinerary, the group that literally just showed up that morning and planned nothing, and the guests that have obviously been there more times that they can count. As weird as it may sound, typically the ones having the most fun every time you walk past them are either the locals or, and perhaps more interestingly, the ones who planned absolutely nothing. You’ll overhear them in lines talking about how hard it was to get fastpass+ selections but at the same time they’re the ones that always have a huge smile on their faces no matter what the situation may be! 
 
I say this not to encourage prospective guests to “wing it” (please don’t do that), but rather to share that you can plan every detail in the world but what really matters is the outlook you bring with you to the experience. If you’re go with the flow and adaptable, chances are you’ll have an incredible vacation no matter how much or how little you plan. On the other hand, if you over plan your stay and book everything down to the minute you end up overloading yourself with stress and anxiety and it makes it quite difficult to enjoy the experiences. 

It may seem odd that I’m sharing this before an article about planning “Our Typical Day At Epcot” but it is important to note that so much of this is an aspect of our fairly vague and adaptable “plan.” We tour the parks a lot. More often that not these days it’s multiple weeks throughout the year, and while we’re not local, we have a similar perspective on how we spend our days in the parks as a result of how often we are blessed to enjoy the Disney experience. 

So, taking that into consideration, here’s how we approach a day at Epcot. 

Early Morning

Our mornings at Epcot typically start when the park opens for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, if you get there when the park opens you’ll face vastly shorter wait times until roughly the first two hours of the day come to a close. Also, if you get there early you can typically ride every attraction you intend to before the World Showcase opens for the day at 11:00.

If you can get there about 25 minutes before scheduled park opening you can usually get in the parks a few minutes early and they’ll move you on into the park to a roped off area to stage more guests and reallocate the crowds. When the park actually officially opens the rope is quite literally dropped and the crowds split off in three directions typically. One group will go to Soarin, another group will go to Test Track, and a third group (typically with kids) will go straight to Frozen Ever After. We always pick one attraction to head to first and reserve a fastpass+ selection for one of the other two. Before Frozen Ever After debuted you could typically get through Test Track or Soarin and then hit the other attraction with a Fastpass+ selection and avoid the lines entirely. 

Now, after the debut of that inevitable replacement of Maelstrom, you will typically have to wait around 45 minutes for one of the three attractions using this strategy simply because you cant get through all three fast enough to beat the crowds as they fill in for the day. Our recommendation tends to be to grab a fastpass+ for Test Track because it is the most likely to have technical difficulties and then you’ll be credited with an all day fastpass for the attraction when it reopens if it closes during your fastpass+ time allocation. 

The other fastpass+ selections are kind of a toss up in all honesty. We don’t do Mission Space and with the tiered fastpass system at Epcot your other options are Journey into Imagination with Figment, The Seas with Nemo, Spaceship Earth, Pixar Short Film Festival, Living With the Land, and the Character Spot. For the most part you wont need a fastpass for these attractions and offerings unless it’s a holiday weekend. Our go-to picks are typically Living with the Land and Figment. Both can back up as the day progresses but ultimately just take the earliest fastpasses in the day that you can get and you wont have much to worry about as far as wait times in this park.         

Mid Day “Shift”

As lunch time approaches and the World Showcase opens for the day at 11:00 typically we’ll do some shopping if we knock out the attractions we want to hit for the morning and then head straight to the World Showcase. A top pick for us in the World Showcase for lunch recently has been the table service offering Via Napoli. The food is great and fairly reasonably priced for what you get. Another great option if you don’t want to pay the prices for table service is the Mexico Pavilion’s outdoor quick service location La Cantina de San Angel. The food is great and super convenient and most of the menu items can be shared among two people if you’re like us and want to “taste” your way through the countries various quick service locations as you make your way around the World Showcase. 

In the afternoon we tend to take a leisurely stroll through the countries and hit the highlights of what we really enjoy and then wander and try to find some hidden details we may have missed on previous trips. Even after all these years, we still find new things to explore and try around the World Showcase.

A few highlights tend to the Mitsukoshi store in the Japan Pavilion, the French bakery in the back of the France pavilion, the Puffins Roost (now called The Fjording Shop) in Norway, and even typically a quick stop in the Mexico pavilion for a quick and typically “wait time free” ride on the Gran Fiesta Tour! All of these are great offerings but they only scratch the surface of all that is available. 

If it’s a festival season at Epcot like Flower and Garden Festival or even the famous Food and Wine Festival, be sure to stop by a vast variety of outdoor kitchens for incredible offerings at a pretty reasonable price while tasting the flavors of places all around the world. 

Combine the food with the special events the festivals encompass and you’re set for an incredible time in the park and one that requires very little time waiting in line!             

Breakfast or Lunch Table Service

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to some of you that I recommend eating your way through Epcot. I’m all about the food and really just the experience of Epcot more that anything else. I could literally spend hours just sitting on a bench taking in the atmosphere without exaggeration! 

Food is a huge part of the Epcot experience and to me it can start successfully at any point during the day, be it breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even the vast variety of snacks available! A few highlights that tend to make it into our days are a stop by Garden Grill in the Land for a reservation only Table Service breakfast (one of the best breakfasts on property), lunch at Via Napoli, or even dinner at Teppan Edo for some incredible Hibachi style offerings. If you want something simpler, consider checking out the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom Pavilion for excellent fish and chips at reasonable price. 

No matter what you choose, you really cant go wrong as long as you pick a culture and food variety that you are comfortable with and that the menu sounds good to you. We’re reasonably picky eaters and have never had any problems at Epcot. Every location is quite accommodating. My only recommended “skip” would be Tutto Italia. If you’re going for the food, like we often do, try and pick one or two reservations for the day and play the rest by ear. Typically we’ll select one lunch reservation and more often that not make it for the middle of the afternoon to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner to free ourselves up to head back to the resort for a break after lunch before retuning back to the park that night.             

Afternoon Break 

The afternoon break is something that really plays a role in our plans for the parks particularly in the hot summer months. In the spring and other months you can usually get by without it because park hours are shorter, the cooler temperatures don’t put as much strain on your energy, and ultimately it’s less needed. In the summer, you’ll need a mid day break to cool off in the peak of the day, and as the crowds really hit their stride and max out you can escape from it all for a couple hours, hit the resort pool and get ready for the night. This seems so simple but don’t underestimate the power of this break! Grab a water, hydrate all you can, take a nap, relax poolside, or do something to recharge in a way and it will turn your night around in a big way! It’s hard to leave the parks mid day but so so so worth it if you can pry yourself away. 

I know we do go at this from a different perspective that most because we’ve seen and done so much so many times in the parks, but trust us the time you spend away from the crowds will be made up for ten fold! Don’t worry about doing everything, and spend more time enjoying what you get to do and make the most of that time! That’s the key to it all. It’s not about what you do but instead what you do so incredibly well and enjoy so incredibly much that you remember it years later!         

Illuminations 

At the end of the night, after you’ve returned to the park, one of our go-to things of nearly every trip is to grab a snack or dessert somewhere in the World Showcase, wander around the showcase a bit more as the temperature falls and the lights start to come on as day transitions to night, and enjoy a nice sunset as we simply enjoy being there in the moment. 

Those moments of doing nothing or having no plan are often the moments that are the most enjoyable in an odd way. You can stroll the showcase without a worry in the world enjoying the sites and sounds of the experience as the crowds start to file in for Illuminations. 

One of the many unique joys of Illuminations is that you don’t have to stake out a spot an hour in advance. You can see the show from basically anywhere in the World Showcase, as long as you have an unobstructed view of a majority of the lagoon. If you want a specific spot, you may want to arrive about 45 minutes before the show, but if you’re not picky, it’s not out of the ordinary to find an incredible spot in the last few minutes. The kicker to it is that everyone crowds that “front” edge of the lagoon and it’s really not necessary. You can be anywhere on the main promenade and still see the show unless there’s something like a big tree in front of you. Some of the more unique views that are go to spots for us are the staircase leading up to Teppan Edo in the Japan Pavilion, a spot along the wall just up the stairs in the Canada pavilion near the shop, and on around near the Italy Pavilion in a big open area that tends to fill in as the show time approaches (sometimes used as reserved event seating). You really cant go wrong with viewing spots for this show!   

Stay Until After Closing Time  

This part of the plan isn’t going to be for everyone. If you have young kids this may be incredibly difficult, but if at all possible, hang around after Illuminations and don’t head straight for the exits. Within 30 minutes of the final burst of Illuminations, if the park closes at the end of the show, the park will clear out and clear out quite quickly. However, while you cant ride any attractions, the common areas and main stores stay open and you can wander a near empty park as guests finish up their late night dining reservations. It is a surreal feeling and one that you really can’t explain in words. Everything is quiet, the music feels louder, and the details really pop out at you. I didn’t start doing this until I really got into WDW photography and wanted those empty parks shots everyone wants to grab, but even if you’re not into taking photos, the quiet nature of the park after close makes for a truly incredible experience.

Your Thoughts

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 here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

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Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you’re starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You’ll probably even save money along the way!