How long does it take to see Walt Disney World?

How much time do I need to see Disney World

This is a question I get asked all the time from people who are planning their very first trip.

First timer:  How many days / how much time do I need to see all of Walt Disney World?

Me:  You will never have enough vacation days

Let me explain.

On average most first timers go for a week or ten days.  This is a good amount of time to have a great experience, enjoy the parks, sample the food and relax while enjoying the resort amenities.  They may or may not fit in a visit to one of the water parks and Disney Springs.  Please note – you will NOT see ‘everything’.

Walt Disney World Map

To put it in perspective, Walt Disney World Resort is about the size of San Francisco or Ottawa.  While you can plan to visit them for a week, you wouldn’t expect to see ‘everything’ in that time – and you should assume the same with Walt Disney World.  When you look at the maps of the property – those are highways you see that connect the 4 theme parks, they are not side-by-side like in Disneyland.

With each of the 4 parks you can spend a full day there and get through a LOT of stuff.  If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World resort, you can make use of the early entry perk to get a head start on the long lines for some of the attractions.  If you couple that with lightning lanes and using the My Disney Experience app to be flexible, your first time to any of these parks can be a good day.

Tron - how much time for Disney

What I don’t advocate for is pushing yourself and your family harder than you need to.  It breaks my heart when I’m in the parks and I see a family with hot, cranky kids who are being driven to “hurry up” and keep a schedule that was set in advance.  Things happen. Rain, upset tummies, unusual wait times and crowds can throw even the best laid plans out the window.  It is sad when I see people experience something fantastic and they RUSH through it because they are trying to get to the next thing.  You need to expect to take your time in some situations.  If the kids are having the best time at the splash pad or on the PeopleMover then do it again.  A family vacation shouldn’t be so stressful, you should enjoy the moments that are creating those memories.

So how do you see the most of Walt Disney World while still enjoying your time?

Here are some tips to help you find the balance between ‘seeing it all’ and enjoying your vacation

Time for a dole whip - how long to disney

There should always be time for Dole Whip!

1.  Plan for breaks

Going to the parks from open to close is exhausting.  I don’t care who you are, they are LONG days.  If the kids (or you!) are going to be super cranky by dinner time, plan a break in the early afternoon to rest and rejuvenate.  It might be worth skipping an attraction or two to save everyone some stress.

2.  Limit table service dining

If you’re a big foodie then make all the reservations you can.  If you’re not, table service dining can eat up a lot of time in your day.  Be selective about where you want to eat and make sure you give yourself enough time to enjoy the meal once you’re there.

Cindrella's Royal Table Sign

3.  Decide what is important

Do you have kids that want to do every roller coaster they can? Or do you have small children who won’t want those big rides but instead will prefer It’s a Small World?  Having a list of what attractions are a must do vs a nice to do can help you maximize your time in the parks.

4.  Rope drop IF it makes sense

You’ll hear lots of people talking about ‘rope drop’ at the parks. Essentially this means arriving before opening so that you’re there when they ‘drop the rope’ to let everyone in when the park opens.  It is a great strategy to get some of the most popular rides done first thing in the morning.  If you make use of the extra time for onsite guests it’s an added bonus.

Pixie Dust Fan on the Haunted Mansion

My caveat for this is that if your family aren’t ‘morning people’ then having them wake up at the crack of dawn might make them miserable for the day.  Know your family and what they’re capable of.  If they are more ‘night owls’ then stay in the parks as late as you can.

5. Get park hopper tickets

This is only valuable if you have the stamina to visit more than 1 park per day.  This can be useful for things like revisiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios to see Fantasmic after a day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park that closed earlier.  You can easily go back and visit something again that you enjoyed earlier without committing a full day to the same park.  It’s also helpful for going back to see nighttime shows as well.

Fireworks at the Magic Kingdom

6.  Make use of the tools available

Whether its Disney Genie, a virtual queue or an individual lightning lane, use the tools available to you.  There are always new things being changed and updated and understanding how to use them can be critical for saving time in long lines.

7.  Know before you go

Using a travel agent that specializes in Disney vacations is always recommended.  A good agent knows about recent changes in the Disney theme parks as well as the tools I reference above.  They keep an eye out for promotions to make sure you have the best deal possible.  While you’re saving some money, maybe you end up adding an extra day to the trip to be able to experience even more of your favorite park.

Journey of Water Moana at Epcot

Walt Disney World is my happy place, and I can’t tell you how many times I have made the trip from Toronto to Orlando (I have seriously lost count).  What I can tell you from my personal experience is that I still haven’t seen it all!  On a recent trip with my nephew we were walking through world showcase when he said “what’s in there?” as he pointed to this little structure in Norway.

Gods of the Vikings Epcot

I told him it was just a facade, but he ignored me and walked up, opened the door and went inside!  I was floored, I had no idea you could go IN and that there is an exhibit of Norwegian artifacts inside!  It was pretty cool and I mentioned to other Disney friends and they didn’t all know about it either!

So how long does it take to see all of Walt Disney World?  I’ll let you know once I have done it!

For a first timer I would plan for a week or two so that you can have a good time, not be rushed and see a good chunk of it.  Then once you get home and reflect on what a magical vacation it was – you’ll start planning the next trip.  There is always something new and exciting to experience at Walt Disney World, that’s how they get you to keep coming back.

Before you know it you’re a Disney addict and you’re planning trips to go back and see ‘what’s new’.

There’s always something new because just like Disneyland – Walt Disney World will never be complete.

Walt Disney Imagination Quote

Before you plan your vacation, read my blog on the top 5 myths about using a travel agent.

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