Reader Question: Tips for a Three-Day Trip

Pete,

My family is heading to Florida for a family reunion in mid August. We’ll be two hours away from Disney World and have been kicking around the idea of heading down a few days early for an abbreviated stay. We usually go every 2-3 years and plan on going in 2016, but we’ll only be 2 hours away and want to take advantage!! Normally our trips last 10 days, which gives us plenty of time to see and do everything. We would fly down and rent a car, and plan on staying on-site at the Contemporary. We really want to see Magic Kingdom and the new Fantasyland. We also love Illuminations and the firework shows. My family consists of me, my wife, and my two sons – 12 and 14. We love all the rides and will try and fit everything into the trip. Is it worth going to Disney, even if it’s only three days? Do you have any tips?

Thank you!

Brian, Minnesota

Hey Brian!

I totally understand where you’re coming from. The NFL schedule was released last week and my Giants play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 8th. My sister and I plan on visiting my grandma in Tampa and going to the game. Even though my family will be going to Disney a little over a month later, my sister and I still plan on swinging by for the Food and Wine Festival!

To answer your question – yes, a trip to Disney is always worth it, no matter how long you can stay. We went to a wedding in Disney for a family friend a few years ago. The trip was only four days. Like your family, our Disney trips usually last between 8-10 days. With the wedding, we only had three days to go to the parks. I grew anxious. How were we going to see and do everything? While unconventional, the trip wound up being one of the most memorable.

The crowds tend to die down a bit in late August. You may see a slight increase during Labor Day weekend, but for the most part, the parks are much more manageable than June or July. It’s still hot, though. Much, much hotter than Minnesota in August! While marathon days in the parks may sound like an awesome plan, I’d err on the side of caution. With the heat and humidity, it may be in your best interest to take a break in the afternoon. I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I’d bet that you’ll probably have an afternoon thunderstorm or two. Find a nice cool spot to relax until the storm passes. You’ll be glad you did!

When planning out your trip, I’d start by deciding what parks you’d like to see the most. You mentioned that you’d like to see Magic Kingdom. I’d spend at least a day and a half at Magic Kingdom – maybe even two days! When it comes to the other parks, it really is a matter of preference. Many feel that Hollywood Studios has become a half-day park or would not be worth it for your short trip. Others would argue that you can’t go to Disney and not ride Tower of Terror! If seeing all of the parks is important to you, I’d recommend purchasing a Park Hopper pass. If not, you can probably get away with a normal three-day ticket.

Make a list of your must-see and must-do attractions. This will help you begin to plan your day. You will want to reserve a FastPass+ for your favorite rides, especially those that usually have long wait times. Keep in mind that Animal Kingdom, EPCOT and Hollywood Studios have a tiering system intact. You’ll have to choose between the most popular rides in these parks.

I want to help you have the best and most efficient trip possible, so here’s the plan that I’d recommend:

I’m a huge advocate of the Park Hopper option. Not only will it help you see all of the parks, but it’s a bit of an “insurance policy.” Let’s say you head to EPCOT and it’s too crowded. With a normal ticket, you’d be stuck at EPCOT for the day. With the hopper, you could leave the park and head to Hollywood Studios, instead!

Try to get to Disney World as early as possible on your first day. Keep in mind that your room may not be available until 4pm, so you may need to leave your luggage in the car. Hop on the monorail or walk toward Magic Kingdom (it’s actually quicker to walk from the Contemporary!) Book your FP+ reservations for later in the day in case check-in takes longer than expected. For Magic Kingdom, you’ll want to target the following rides for a FP+:
Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster
Space Mountain
Thunder Mountain
Splash Mountain

These rides are the most popular at Magic Kingdom and will see the highest wait times. Family friendly rides like Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh may also see high wait times, but you can usually get on those during Extra Magic Hours.

In a perfect world, let’s say you get a FP+ for Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster, Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain. Keep up with the wait times for other attractions and plan the rest of your day accordingly. Being that you will be there already, try and catch the afternoon version of the parade. I’d call it an early night on your first day. Head back to your hotel and get some sleep – you’ve got two more days to tackle the parks.

The next day I’d wake up bright and early! Let’s start the day at Hollywood Studios. I would try and get a FP+ for Toy Story Midway Mania OR Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, AND Tower of Terror. Try and make the reservations for the morning, preferably before 1 or 2pm. Let’s assume you get Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at 11am and Tower of Terror at 12pm. Get to Hollywood Studios for rope drop. Immediately head to Toy Story Midway Mania. Everyone will probably have the same idea, but this is the best time to jump in line for the ride. You will probably wait around 45 minutes, at most. After riding, grab some breakfast if you haven’t already. Next I’d go on The Great Movie Ride, which presents a great chance to cool off. If it’s very hot outside, head over to the Animation Academy and learn how to draw your favorite character. Otherwise, I’d see a show until it’s time to redeem your first FP+. After redeeming your FP+ for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, I’d recommend heading back to the hotel to cool off and rest a bit.

Around 4 or 5pm, we’re going to “hop” over to EPCOT. Plan to eat dinner at EPCOT – at either a Quick Service or Table Service restaurant. After dinner, check out the wait time for Test Track and Soarin’. End your day by watching Illuminations and head back to your hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Wake up nice and early and head to Magic Kingdom. Check if the park has a morning Extra Magic Hour. If not, arrive for rope drop. Try and accomplish anything you missed out on your first day. Hit the big rides first thing in the morning – Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain. Unless the wait time is low, I wouldn’t waste time on line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, especially if you already redeemed your FP+.

Take a break in the afternoon and head back to Magic Kingdom in the evening. End your night by watching the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes. You can even use a FP+ for a VIP spot!

So there you have it, most of Walt Disney World condensed into three days. You won’t see everything and shouldn’t expect to; but with the right plan, you can tackle most of the attractions. Best of luck and keep me updated!

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