Monday, 16 May 2016

Walt Disney World - How to do 3 parks in one day!

Got an extra day to spend in Florida and wondering if it's possible to visit Disney in a day? You can do it. Really! In fact, we survived visiting three different Disney parks in one day with three kids under the age of 12.

Here's how:

1. Decide which parks you want to visit. We chose Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.

2. Determine your top 3-4 "must-do" attractions for each park. You will be able to fit in more than this (on average, we did 5-6 rides at each park), but it is useful to prioritize your must-do attractions as it helps structure your visit.

3. Study the maps for each of your chosen parks and plan your routes. We used these: Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. By organizing your attractions by location, you save on walking time, which means more times for rides and less complaints about tired feet.  

4. Decide the best order to visit your parks. We chose to visit Animal Kingdom first because it had shorter hours (9 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.) and we chose to do Hollywood Studios third because there were a lot of indoor rides that wouldn't be affected by loss of daylight. Magic Kingdom was our park of choice selected for mid-day because A. The majority of our top rides were at this location and were recommended as FastPass+ attractions. We wanted to get the best bang for our buck when using FastPasses+ so we assigned them to mid day rides when Disney is at its peak capacity and B.. We were looking forward to Splash Mountain and wanted the sun to be out when we emerged soaking wet. Choose what works best for your family.

5. Use your FastPass+ selections strategically. The shortest lines for rides often occur in the morning or late at night. So it's best to save your FastPass+ selections for the middle of the day. Book these selections as soon as you're able. This is typically 30 days before your arrival or 60 days when staying at an official Walt Disney World Resort Hotel. 

If you see that distribution has ended for one of your chosen attractions, keep trying. Go ahead and book three choices, but periodically leading up to your visit, attempt to modify your reservations with the really in-demand attractions. Another trick is to try to obtain the in-demand reservation for just one party member and then copy over your selections to your other party members. 

Tip: As soon as you've used your first three FastPass+ selections (or the reservation window has passed), you can use your DisneyExperience app to book additional selections. Do this! We were able to reserve additional FastPasses+ while waiting in line for other attractions.

6. If you have small children, take advantage of the Child Swap option. If you have a little one with you who isn't tall enough for all the rides, you can do a child swap so that no one has to miss out. Ask the cast member at the attraction's entrance for a child swap pass. You'll be able to go on the ride and when you're done, you can pass the child swap pass to your spouse so s/he can skip the line.

Tip: You can also use the FastPass+ in combination with child swap, meaning only your first party riders need a FastPass+. Go to the FastPass+ entrance and tell the cast member you want to do a child swap. The first group uses the FastPass+ to ride while the other group waits behind. When the first group is done, the second group can use the Child Swap pass to skip the line, too --No FastPass+ needed! The child swap pass is good for up to three people and can be used at any point in the day.

Our 3-Parks-in-1-Day Schedule

Not much of a planner? Want to know exactly how we did it? Save time and take advantage of our pre-planned schedule:

8:30 a.m. - Arrive at Animal Kingdom. We chose this park first because it closed earliest and because we wanted to save our FastPasses+ for Magic Kingdom which had the highest density of rides predicting line-ups. Technically, this park doesn't open until 9 a.m. but our guidebook claimed the doors opened early so off we went. 

9:00 a.m. - First stop: Expedition Everest! This is a high-speed roller coaster that weaves around mountain landscapes. It's super popular (because it's super fun!) so we chose to hit this attraction first thing in the morning when the lines were the shortest. We moved really quickly through the queue and the child swap option allowed my husband to follow soon after, jumping straight to the front of the line.

9:30 a.m. - Next up - the nearby Asian attraction: Kali Rapids, which Disney describes as a rip-roaring, river raft ride through a lush jungle landscape ravaged by illegal logging. The attraction ride warned we might get wet and they weren't wrong ;)

10:00 a.m. - From Kali Rapids, we headed west to Africa to join the Kilimanjaro Safari, which is an open-sided safari ride through the savanna of East Africa. The 30-minute wait in line was well worth the safari tour which traversed a 100-acre savannah, during which our tourguide pointed out over different species of animals found throughout the game preserve (black rhinos, white rhinos, warthogs, ostrich, giraffes, zebras, elephants, crocodiles, hippos, baboons, white-bearded wildebeests and lions). 

11:30 a.m. - Passing by the engaging beats of the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe, we left Africa and headed south to Tree of Life, located on Discovery Island at the centre of Animal Kingdom. The beautifully engraved tree is an iconic symbol of Disney's Animal Kingdom park and also home to the 3D film  'It's Tough to be a Bug" which an all ages short that touts the benefits of inspects with the cast of A Bug’s Life. The timing didn't quite work out for us so after snapping some pics, we opted to instead grab something to eat before heading to DinoLand.

11:30 a.m. - After grabbing some fries, we headed straight to Dinosaur: the main attraction at DinoLand. This was by far the longest line and whenever we thought we had reached the front of the line, there would be another room or turn that lead us into yet another waiting area. It wasn't for my Dinosaur-loving 4-year old, I probably would have skipped this ride but it was his number one ride choice so we bit the bullet. To WDW's credit, the queue was fairly calm since (as I previously pointed out) you constantly believed you were reaching the end of the line. I bet Walt Disney has a whole team of researchers studying line psychology ;)

An hour or so later, we finally boarded the high-speed time rover which took us through through dark show scenes with Audio Animatronics dinosaurs trying to capture a particular dinosaur before the moment of extinction. My 4-year old left shell-shocked and near tears. He probably would have broken down if it wasn't for the kind lady at the souvenir store who gave him a free dinosaur button.


12:45 p.m. - Time to leave the park. To avoid the expensive food venues within the Disney compound, we decided instead to hit a quick McDonald's drive thru before heading to Disney Magic Kingdom.

1:15 p.m. - Arrival at Magic Kingdom. Since we knew the longest lines typically occur mid day, we had booked all of our FastPass+ selections for this park. We had a Space Mountain (a dark roller coaster through outer space) FastPass+ booked for the 1:50-2:50 time slot so after a long walk through the parking lot (we opted not to wait for the shuttle as we saw none in sight), we jumped on the Disney monorail and quickly oriented ourselves as we arrived at the park. 

From the main entrance, Space Mountain is on your right so we leisurely strolled down Main Street, taking in the sights and sounds. Upon arrival at Tomorrowland, my husband and son quickly entered the FastPass+ Space Mountain line, grabbing a Parent Swap pass from the Disney ride attendant when they entered the line. My son loved the ride and would have happily gone again but I noticed the Parent Swap pass was good until end of month and since time of day didn't really matter for this attraction, I decided to hold on to the pass for later in the night if we had time when we returned and instead head to attractions best enjoyed during the day.

1:45 p.m. - From Space Mountain, we headed next door to Liberty Square to visit the Haunted Mansion attraction. This is a slow-moving dark ride that is home to 999 happy haunts that are just dying to meet you. The ghosts are the more jovial, singing type so young kids can usually handle this, but it is dark. We had read that this was an attraction you could do whenever (since they move big groups through at the same time) and they were right. The wait time was minimal so I was glad we could do this one and save our passes for a busier attraction.

2:15 p.m. - From Haunted Mansion, we headed next to Adventureland where we managed to ride both Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise attractions. 

2:30 p.m. - The Jungle Cruise attraction is essentially a 10-minute boat ride through four different continents. After Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro safari, this animatronic version is not quite as exciting. But it's a nice break from the crowds and the corny tour guide will likely have you laughing at one or two of his jokes. 

3:30 p.m. - Pirates of the Caribbean is another boat-ride back in time to the days when pirates rules the Caribbean. The attraction features Audio Animatronics pirates, including Captain Jack Sparrow.

3:50 p.m. - We had the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad FastPass+ booked for the 3:50-4:50 time slot so after enjoying the leisurely Pirates of Caribbean attraction, we headed to Frontierland with the kids to attempt this runaway mine train through the barren landscape of the Old West. The kids loved this ride and if the lines weren't as long as they were, we would have done this one again!


4:50 p.m. - We had the Splash Mountain FastPass+ booked for the 4:50-5:50 time slot so we immediately headed next door to this attraction to enjoy a long flume ride through the briar patch. We knew we were about to get very wet --and we did!-- but the splash was a refreshing and welcome break from the midday sun. 

5:15 p.m. - After grabbing an ice cream treat from a vendor on the side of the road, we left Magic Kingdom to head north to Hollywood Studios. It was a long monorail ride followed by a shuttle through the parking lot so we arrived at the next park around 6 p.m.

6:15 p.m. - Being Star Wars fans (speaking for my husband and kids anyway), we immediately headed towards Echo Lake upon arrival to watch the interactive Jedi Training Academy. This is a small scale stage show that gives kids the opportunity to become Jedi. Your kids will absolutely love if they're into Star Wars and not shy. But it's not quite as much fun for passive audience members. So while my kids enjoyed the show, I popped into the nearby cafeteria to grab some food so we could sit down a refuel after the show.

7:15 p.m. - As soon as the Jedi Academy ended, the crowd all poured into the nearby Star Tours. We finished eating while the lined died down, then joined the calmer queue after finishing our meals. 

Star Tours, while not as intricately planned as traditional Disney attractions is still a fun, little attraction. It's a 3-D motion simulator montage ride through various locations in the Star Wars universe, including a scene from The Force Awakens. The montage changes so you can ride this attraction multiple times and experience it differently each time. Some people use a FastPass+ for this attraction but we didn't because it has a very high ride capacity and an pretty entertaining queue.

8:15 p.m. - Following Star Tours, my husband headed to Street of America to take our younger children (who were getting tired) to see the iconic Muppet Vision, which is a 3D show featuring the muppets. 

8:15 p.m. - While they went to the Muppets, my oldest and I headed towards Sunset Boulevard to try the Twilight Zone - Tower of Terror. Some folks won't ride this attraction because they don't like thrills, but that's a mistake. Yes, it's technically a thrill ride but it's so much more (and really, the dropping is the least important part of the experience). The mood, the atmosphere and the environments are all top-notch and the pinnacle of Walt Disney Imagineering. 

Unfortunately, we were sidetracked by Storm Troopers and ran out of time so we decided to hit up Star Tours one more time before meeting the rest of the family outside of the Muppets attraction.

9:15 p.m. -  Walking down Sunset boulevard, we headed back towards the entrance. Our visit to Hollywood Studios was short (and had the Star Wars fireworks been scheduled, we would have stayed longer) but we had FastPasses+ remaining for Magic Kingdom and decided to see the fireworks there as that park stayed open the latest.

9:45 p.m. - We had the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass+ booked for the 9:45-10:45 time slot so we immediately headed next door to this attraction to enjoy this rite-of-passage kiddie coaster. The details, show scenes, storytelling, pacing and scenic beauty of this attraction are all top notch, but on the downside, it's all over too quickly.

10:00 p.m. - At 10:00 p.m., Main Street was packed as people lined up to watch the end of day fireworks. We found a table near the shops and while our view was not the greatest, we were able to sit down with kids and enjoy a great finale to the day.

General Park Tips: 
  • Pay once for parking and use that receipt to park all day at the other parks.
  • Pay once for a stroller and use that receipt for strollers at other parks all day.
  • The “inner” Monorail that circles the three Monorail resorts is a great way to orient yourself and get a look at the resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian). You can get off and explore each resort, or just enjoy the ride and the view. Cost to ride the Monorail: FREE.
  • The Disney Boat Ride is enjoyable any time of day, but particularly beautiful and romantic at night. Cruise the loop around Crescent Lake (which visits Epcot, Boardwalk, Yacht/Beach Club, Swan/Dolphin, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios) without going into the parks. Take the boat that visits the Magic Kingdom, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness, or the boat that visits the Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom (you can get off at the Magic Kingdom and wander along the lake outside the gates, or hop on the monorail). Or, cruise from Port Orleans to Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney) and back, along the Sassagoula River.

Disclaimer: I received free Park Hopper passes from Walt Disney World in exchange for my honest review. Although writers are often provided with complimentary goods and services for the purpose of review, we at inCredible Canuck only recommend places we would stay ourselves and things we would use.


  1. I would love to see the new Star Wars section at Hollywood studios

  2. Wow!! What a great itinerary! You definitely hit all the best attractions! We've avoided Disney World because of its size, so it's so awesome to see that it can be done with a shorter time frame than I would have expected!! I would love to show my kids Animal Kingdom!!

  3. Also, what date/day of the week did you go? I would think timing would be important too!

  4. I would love to visit Animal Kingdom with my boys and see the new World of Avatar!

  5. We're a huge Disney family. We're little Disney obsessed
    We would love to win the give a way as we've never ever
    Been to Disney!! We actually just booked our first trip for
    This November and we can't wait.
    We would love to win the Lego land give a way as well as
    My son and daughter looooove Lego. They have a huge
    Table in the basement with over 10 sets each.
    I love your blog by the way!!! Thanks :)

  6. Hi, this review and itinerary is amazing! Thank you very much for the helpful tips. I would love to plan a trip and take my 2 children, my daughter has been saving up since she was 3 and is now six. Please pick us for the passes this would be the dream come true for our little family!

  7. Hi, this review and itinerary is amazing! Thank you very much for the helpful tips. I would love to plan a trip and take my 2 children, my daughter has been saving up since she was 3 and is now six. Please pick us for the passes this would be the dream come true for our little family!

  8. Rachelle Dillon30 March 2017 at 17:51

    Our boys would love to go (they've never been). My husband and I haven't been since we were teens and so much has changed since then!

  9. Our boys would love to go (they've never been). My husband and I haven't been since we were teens and so much has changed since then!

  10. I'd love to take my 2 girls to Disney! Bring on the sunshine!

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Wow, 3 in one day! Thanks for sharing your itinerary. Gotta try this!

  13. Thank you so much for posting this. My family is going on a cruise in December and we had one day to spend in Orlando but couldn't decide which one to do. We are going to follow this guide exactly to the tee!

  14. Love this! Sharing with my sister.