Cover Photo by Iain A Wanless
Disclosure: On our recent trip to Orlando, Walt Disney World provided me with two free One Day Park Hopper tickets. There was no agreement as to what I was going to write about regarding my experiences. These words and ideas are my own.
Walt Disney World Four Parks in the Same Day
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World for the first time in many years. I had been to Walt Disney World before including on long trips, however this visit was to be for only one day. Ultimately I decided to try and visit my favorite attractions in each of the four theme parks all in that one day. Here are some of the lessons I learned doing it.
The new Fastpass+ system is not your friend.
Since you can only have Fastpasses selected for one park ahead of time, don’t expect to skip the lines like everyone else. After you use up your initial three fastpasses then you can get additional ones at different parks. My suggestion is to use your fastpasses early in the day at park #1 or park #2 so you can get more at the other parks later. Basically, you must now plan very well and if your fastpasses aren’t selected in the right order, then you can lose valuable time.
Disney’s Transportation is good, but not that good.
Switching parks takes time. Even the super convenient monorail between EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom is a time suck considering you need to wait for a train and switch at the Ticketing & Transportation Center. The buses are somewhat convenient, but they still take time and if you miss one, it could be 15-20 minutes before the next one comes.
There are of course other options such as taxis or even Uber. You need to weigh the cost of these transportation options against the value of your time. While Uber can be convenient, having to wait for a car to arrive can also eat away any time savings. Taxis are expensive, but they generally are sitting outside the parks so you can get in and go.
Pack light because security takes A LOT of time.
Walt Disney World has implemented very stringent security check which means very thorough bag checks and having to go through metal detectors. Since you will be doing this security check four times in the course of the day, it is important to pack light and avoid bags if possible. (They have a much faster line for people with no bags.) If you do need to bring a bag, make sure it is easy to search.
Lines tend to be worst at the beginning of the day. For example, on my recent visit my wife, baby and I were stuck in the security line at Animal Kingdom for 25 minutes. That was very valuable time lost in a day where we were trying to do as much as possible. While we needed a bag for the baby, perhaps we could have planned a bit better so that we didn’t arrive at the peak time.
One broken ride can ruin your plans.
After clearing the security lines at Animal Kingdom, I was excited to go ride Expedition Everest. This was the ride I most wanted to get on again, however it broke down. Unfortunately a park like Animal Kingdom only has a few big rides meaning that lines grew across the park to 90-120 minutes for most rides. We simply didn’t have that time so we had to skip a bunch of stuff. After riding only two rides in the Dinosaur area, we had to move on.
Extra Magic Hours are good but not great.
Disney has a ton of hotel rooms on property and everyone who stays in them gets Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours allow guests to either get into a park early or stay late depending on the day. We planned to use Extra Magic Hours to get a head start on our day with an 8am opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Unfortunately I arrived at 8:25am after oversleeping and the park was already packed with huge lines for some of the most popular rides. With only an hour of allotted time at this park, I had to ride the Tower of Terror and then move on.
Don’t Expect to Get a Huge Break.
We had planned to take a break at our hotel sometime in the afternoon, but that never happened. Luckily our 13 month old daughter was having a lot of fun, so she allowed us to keep going. Yes it seems like visiting four theme parks in one day is a lot, but the truth is the time flies by. I honestly don’t know where we could have found the time for a break. If you want to visit all of the parks, be prepared to go from morning until night. Fun, but tiring.
Planning is Essential.
Having been to Walt Disney World before, I knew which attractions I wanted to visit and sort of knew the order I wanted visit them in. Unfortunately I don’t think I planned enough. Between the new FastPass+ system and the fact that everyone else has their days planned down to a tee, you need to get on board with that. Trying to visit four parks in one day successfully involves a deeper understanding of the resort, how to visit and where to go. I don’t like traveling this way, but for one day at Walt Disney World, I would make sure to be super prepared.
Don’t Plan to Backtrack
You might think you can get back to another park later in the day, but this isn’t going to happen if you are visiting all of them in the same day. As I said before, the day will truly fly by and you won’t have much time to spare thus backtracking just isn’t a viable option. Make sure you ride what you want to ride when you visit a park and don’t plan for backtracking when selecting fastpasses either. Yes, the lines might be shorter later, but the time you lose backtracking negates that.
That Perfect Treat Will Give You a Burst of Energy.
For me, the two perfect treats at Disney are their awesome pickles and of course Dole Whips. I grew up near Disneyland and remember eating them inside of the Tiki Room. In Walt Disney World they don’t allow you to do that, but you can still get the delicious treat. Taking a 15 minute break and enjoying that Dole Whip gave me the energy to finish the day. Of course you can substitute in your favorite Disney treat. The most important thing to remember is that despite the hectic schedule, you are still on vacation!
Give yourself time to recover.
This goes with any theme park vacation, since you should always plan down time, but is important when visiting all of the parks in one day. A whirlwind four park day will wear you out. It doesn’t matter what shape you are in or how experienced you are, the combination of the rides, the people and the walking will have your body screaming the next morning.
On our recent trip we had a planned visit at Universal the day after Disney and we were simply exhausted. If you have any sort of flexibility in your schedule, make the day after your four park adventure a rest day. At the very least give yourself some time to rest in the morning before easing into activities. Believe me, your body will thank you.
You Probably Shouldn’t Try to Visit All Four of the Parks In One Day
My last lesson learned was that visiting every park in one day probably wasn’t the best idea. We did spend a good amount of time in the Magic Kingdom, but other than that we only experienced small slices of the other parks. There really is so much to do and see at Walt Disney World and I think focusing on one or two parks is a better way to go even if you only have a day.
In the end, my family and I had an amazing day at Walt Disney World. We walked just over 33,000 steps, experienced attractions at all four parks (my wife and daughter only did 3) and made the most of our one day at Disney. Of course no one is perfect and I learned all of these lessons along the way. Hopefully if you attempt a four park day, you can make it work even better than me. Have fun!