Planning Your Walt Disney World Trip- The Parks

Catch up on all of Brook’s Disney tips here.

There remains some urgency for those of you planning a Fall 2012 trip: we need to get your dining reservations made ASAP. However, we have some plans to make before we get to that point.

Our goal today is to chart your parks. Plotting your daily Disney World agenda is a real-life scavenger hunt where the prize is Disney Magic at every turn.

There are four parks at Disney World:

  1. Magic Kingdom (MK) –Cinderella’s castle, Dumbo, Space Mountain, Peter Pan, Splash Mountain
  2. Epcot (E) –World Showcase featuring 11 countries, Nemo, Figment, Soarin’, Test Track
  3. Animal Kingdom (AK) –Safari, Dinoland, Expedition Everest, Festival of Lion King
  4. Disney Hollywood Studios (DHS) –Toy Story Mania, Star Wars, Tower of Terror, Backlot Tour

You can find a wealth of information about the parks and what each has to offer here, here, and here. We always do Magic Kingdom on arrival and departure day, along with at least one or two full days mid-week. Epcot is my favorite park; the last couple years we have spent three full days touring Epcot. We can tour Animal Kingdom in a single day.  Disney Hollywood Studios is the only Disney park that I can’t navigate with my eyes closed, thus it causes me considerable anxiety (yes, I am a control freak). We have three daughters who couldn’t care less about Star Wars, Lightning McQueen, or Toy Story, so we have skipped this park altogether the past couple years. You know your family best, so it’s up to you to weigh your family’s interests in determining how to divvy up your days in WDW.

Today’s steps:

  1. Decide how many days you want to spend at each park. Spend some time researching what each park has to offer, and make note of the things you absolutely don’t want to miss.
  2. Chart the park hours for the days of your trip. You can find park hours, Extra Magic Hour dates, and parade and night/light show times for Magic Kingdom here. (Click on “parks” at the top and then “calendar” on the left for the other three parks’ information) Click on the first day of your trip to get the full schedule for that day. I start my excel charts each year by filling in this information first. Here is a snippet of the first step of my chart for 2011:
  3. Use your chart to determine which day will be best at each park for your family. If you are early risers and will be ready to go by 7am, then take advantage of early Extra Magic Hour (when the park will open an hour early ONLY for Disney World resort guests). Conversely, if you like to burn the midnight oil, then you will want to look for the evening Extra Magic Hours. Make note that not all parks have their night/light shows every day, nor will the closing time be the same for each day. If you want to see the fireworks (“Wishes”) at Magic Kingdom, then you need to make sure you plan an “MK” day when Wishes is showing. If your trip is soon, you can use this for estimated park attendance.

Whew! You have the tedious work of charting park hours and shows behind you –celebrate by making rice krispie treats with your children tonight…and make them in the shape of Mickey heads!

Next time we will delve into planning your table service meals!

Photo copyrights are retained by post author and photographer Brook Robinson of Brook Robinson Photography.

Brook Robinson About Brook Robinson

Brook and her Prince Charming have 3 little princesses, who make life extra sweet and often exciting, especially during their annual trips to Walt Disney World. Brook is living her fairytale dream and wishes she could freeze time and stay in this season of life forever. Until she figures out how to do that, she enjoys playing with and photographing her own daughters (and photographing lots of other children too: www.brookrobinsonphotography.com)

  • Jennifer

    How in the world you find the time to do this absolutely amazes me!! We haven’t been yet but will definitely be using your info when we do!! Hope you, Neal and the girls are doing great!!