Spending time in Disney World is a great time, but it can be overwhelming, both in planning your Disney World itinerary and in your visit.
Grant and I recently spent a week at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL with two of our nieces (ages seven and nine). We stayed at Fort Wilderness Campground in our travel trailer. From arrival to departure, we spent seven days at Disney, so we had five full days of fun. Here’s our Disney World itinerary for the week and tips to help you plan a successful trip for yourself!
Our Disney World Itinerary
- First Day – Arrived @ 5:00
- Second Day – Animal Kingdom and Epcot
- Third Day – Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom
- Fourth Day – Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom
- Fifth Day – “Rest Day” at the Campground and Disney Springs
- Sixth Day – Epcot and Hollywood Studios
- Seventh Day – Departure @ 11:00
This Disney World itinerary required having tickets with park hopper. We prefer having the ability to move between parks as needed/desired based on dining reservations, extra magic hours and non-daily scheduled shows. It is certainly possible to have a very similar itinerary without park hopping though, just spend one day at each park. Be sure to read up on planning a Disney World vacation here.
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Day One – Arrival
Once we got to the campground, we sent the kids over to the playground so we could get everything set up at the campsite. For dinner, we stayed at the resort and got pizza to go from Crockett’s Tavern.
Since we were all still awake as the Magic Kingdom fireworks started, we ran out to the street to watch. One thing I really like about Fort Wilderness is the proximity to Magic Kingdom. You can see the fireworks not only from the beach but from various places throughout the campground!
Day Two Morning – Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom was the fourth theme park opened at Walt Disney World. It is themed around nature and animal conservation, with the 145-foot tall Tree of Life as its iconic symbol.
We chose to start our visit to Disney World at Animal Kingdom because they had morning extra magic hours this day. This meant that we were able to get into the park an hour ahead of the regular opening time because we were staying at a Disney World resort.
We had a very early start to our day, but for us, that is the only way to visit Animal Kingdom. Simply said, you must begin your day as early as possible with a trip on the Kilimanjaro Safaris. This ride is one of the highlights of Animal Kingdom!
The ride is on open-air trucks through Disney’s version of the African savanna. Here you can spot rhinoceros, giraffe, elephants, ostrich and warthogs, among many other animals. The animals are typically most active in the morning, so we have found that making the safari your first stop is never a bad idea. Additionally, we had essentially no wait… always a plus!
Notice we did not use a FastPass for the safari – by going first thing in the morning, you eliminate the need for a FastPass for that ride. Instead, we used FastPass for Expedition Everest (mid-morning), Dinosaur (late-morning) and Primeval Whirl (early afternoon).
Other attractions visited included the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (more animals), Kali River Rapids, Maharajah Jungle Trek (even more animals!), and It’s Tough to Be a Bug (a 3-D movie attraction that is full of surprises). For lunch, we ate at Flame Tree BBQ, which had some tasty offerings for adults and kids.
We also saw the Flights of Wonder bird show and Festival of the Lion King. Be sure to check the times guide in the morning to schedule these shows. Tip: watching the shows during the afternoon provides a nice respite from the hot Florida temperature.
There are a few other shows, such as Finding Nemo, and attractions, such as Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which are good attractions. There are also additional animal exhibits scattered through the front part of the park. All-in-all, though, most visitors do not feel they need a full day at Animal Kingdom.
Indeed, we left about 3:30 and headed back to the campground for some rest and dinner!
Day Two Evening – Epcot
Epcot was the second park opened at Disney World. It is divided into two sections: Future World and World Showcase. Future World has a focus on technological innovation; World Showcase is themed into 11 countries. Epcot tends to be a favorite for adults, especially the food and (adult) beverages found throughout World Showcase.
Our first visit to Epcot started after dinner the first day. We rode Mission: Space (the “less intense” version, which has little to no spinning) and Soarin’. We also visited Mexico and did the ride there, Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros.
Our night ended by watching the evening show, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. This show includes fireworks, lasers, water fountains and fire! We have always thought it is one of the best nighttime shows at Disney World.
After a very long first day of Disney parks, we quickly fell into bed and enjoyed a good night’s sleep!
Day Three Morning – Magic Kingdom
When you think about Disney World, the Magic Kingdom is probably the first thing that comes to your mind. Many of the rides and attractions at this park are based on Disney movies, though not all.
While visitors of all ages will find something they enjoy at Magic Kingdom, this is the most “kid-friendly” park, especially for very young children. Even our seven- and nine-year-old nieces felt like they were “too old” for quite a few of the rides!
Most visitors will want/need a full day, or even more, to see and do everything in the Magic Kingdom. We spent a total of about 10 hours in the park and only rode one ride twice. There were LOTS of rides that we did not ride. Admittedly though, due to our FastPass times and other considerations, we did a lot of walking back-and-forth across the park, which does take a lot of time.
In the Magic Kingdom, we used FastPass for Peter Pan’s Flight, Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Our FastPasses saved us at least 45 minutes of waiting at both Peter Pan and Splash Mountain.
Unfortunately, just as we got in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the ride went down. Thankfully, Disney did their part to “make it right” and automatically changed the FastPass so that it could be used on any ride. That was great and saved us more than 30 minutes of waiting on Thunder Mountain Railroad. The “bummer” was that Seven Dwarfs typically has one of the longest wait times, with waits often two to three hours long.
Because we did not have a FastPass for Space Mountain, considered by many the “best” roller coaster at this park, we headed there first as soon as the park opened. We waited about 15-20 minutes. Not bad, considering wait times are often an hour or more later in the day.
The rest of our morning included Tomorrowland Speedway, Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan’s Flight and the Carousel. We had lunch at Be Our Guest restaurant, which can be one of the most difficult reservations to get. After lunch, we visited Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain (since Seven Dwarfs was shut down).
At that point, it was about 3 p.m. and we were all exhausted. We headed back to the camper for a nap and dinner.
Day Three Evening – Animal Kingdom
We chose to go back to Animal Kingdom this day because it was the only way to schedule it so that we could see the brand new Rivers of Light nighttime show. This is the first night show at Animal Kingdom and started just a couple weeks before our visit. We were extremely excited about this opportunity!
There were two showings of Rivers of Light the night we were there. We arrived about an hour before the first show and as we got in line, we were told that we were already lining up for the second show. That meant we were looking at about two hours of waiting in line. We were not looking forward to that, but we had already heard great things about Rivers of Light and did not want to miss it!
So, we warned the kids and made the best of it! Very unexpectedly, we actually did end up getting seats to the first show. And we had seats in just the third row of the “stadium!” Now, don’t expect that to happen to you. We were some of the very last people to get seats and I think it was just a fluke that there were seats so close to the front.
We thoroughly enjoyed this show featuring floating lanterns, lasers, water fountains and mist screens (projection onto a water mist). This show quickly became our favorite (sorry, IllumiNations) due to its innovation and outstanding technical demonstrations.
Another perk of getting into the earlier show? We had time to ride Expedition Everest again before the park closed! And we only had to wait about 10-15 minutes.
Day Four Morning – Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios opened as the third Disney World theme park under the name Disney-MGM Studios. Disney dedicated the park to all aspects of show business – film, television, music and theatre. While Hollywood Studios is home to what many say is the best roller coaster in all of Disney World (Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith), overall it can feel not as exciting as some of the other theme parks.
The fairly recent addition of Star Wars attractions is helping to revitalize the park. The upcoming Star Wars land, set to open in 2019, should help even more.
As we are big Star Wars fans, a lot of our day was focused on those attractions. Signing up for Jedi Training was one of our priorities for the day. This “show” allows kids (sorry parents, ages 4-12 only) to dress up in Jedi robes and face off against some of their favorite Star Wars villains.
To sign-up for this event, you must register first thing in the morning. We were there when the park opened, went straight to the line, waited close to an hour and the first available time was 4:00. All this to say, if this is something you are interested in, it absolutely must be your first priority. Spots are extremely limited!
The nice part about all of the waiting was the folks gave us an extra FastPass that we could use for our entire family (up to five) for any ride. This allowed us to visit Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster on a FastPass, in addition to our previously scheduled rides of Tower of Terror, Star Tours and Toy Story.
Other highlights of the day included Star Wars: Path of the Jedi, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, Beauty and the Beast Live and Star Wars Launch Bay, where the girls met Kylo Ren and a Jawa.
After completing their Jedi Training, we headed back to the campground for a quick change of clothes (it was a very rainy day) and then we were off to Magic Kingdom.
Day Four Evening – Magic Kingdom
For our second visit to the Magic Kingdom, it was pouring rain, which was a mess. But, the crowds were much lighter than they would have been otherwise, so there was something positive there.
We started with Pirates of the Caribbean. Fun fact: this is one of the rare (maybe the only) Disney World ride that came before the movie! We had a FastPass for this ride, but the wait was only about five minutes when we arrived. Sometimes, that happens.
Next stop: dinner! Grant got a turkey leg, one of his favorite Disney World eats! The rest of us got nachos at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. One of my favorite things about this quick-service restaurant is the toppings bar. Once you have your nachos, fajitas, or burger you can load it up with as many toppings as you want for free!
After dinner we sloshed through the rain and finally got to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, waiting only about 20 minutes. As I said earlier, this wait can often exceed two or even three hours, so this was definitely a win!
We attempted to watch the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular (fireworks), but all we really got was a few bursts of light and a lot of smoke. The rain wasn’t too bad at that point, but with all the clouds, the smoke just didn’t have anywhere to go.
We finished our evening with visits to Buzz Lightyear (one of my favorite rides), It’s a Small World and Splash Mountain. On our way out, we stopped at The Confectionary for late-night, sugar-filled treats. Even with a burst of sugar, we were all struggling to stay awake on the boat ride back to the campground.
Day Five – Rest and Shopping
We spent this day not going to theme parks. I think that any Disney World itinerary must include a day “off.” After several days of park-hopping, you will need some recovery time. Also, you want to actually be able to enjoy the resort you are staying at!
Our day included time riding bikes and swimming for the kids. We took a quick trip to Disney Springs, the massive shopping and dining destination right in the heart of the Disney World Resort. You can find anything you could ever imagine here!
We also enjoyed S’mores around the campfire back at the campground.
Grant and I would have liked a bit more restful rest day (I guess that’s always the case when you’ve got kids in tow). It did, however, provide a much-needed respite from the hustle of the last few days! We actually could have used a second “rest” day – something to note for next time.
Be on the lookout for a future article with more information about Fort Wilderness!
Day Six Morning – Epcot
Our FastPass selections for Epcot were Soarin’, Mission: Space, and Spaceship Earth. Since we did not have a FastPass for Test Track, we decided to start our day there. The best advice I can give is to schedule your first FastPass mid-morning and head right to another ride you wish you had a FastPass for. Wait times will be significantly lower first thing in the morning.
After riding Soarin’, we rode Living with the Land and Nemo and Friends. The kids were then brave enough to do Mission: Space (more intense). The more intense version has a lot of spinning, simulating G Forces and weightlessness. I chose to sit that one out, though I have ridden it in the past. However, the older I get, the less I like the intense spinning! Thankfully, the kids enjoyed it and no one got sick!
Following some play time in the mission control area at the end of Mission: Space, we had lunch at Sunshine Season in The Land, a cafeteria-style eatery with lots of various themes and offerings. Other activities for the day included visiting the Cool Club for a taste of Coca-Cola products around the world, followed by Journey Into Imagination.
Sadly, we did not visit the World Showcase. Grant did take a quick walk through for a couple of pictures and a souvenir/gift for a friend, while I stayed back with the kids. I think if it had been earlier in the trip, the girls would have enjoyed the various countries, despite thinking it sounded boring at the time. But, with the way this day was going, it just wasn’t in the cards.
As this was our final day at Disney World, we were all VERY tired and cranky. After several meltdowns by the kids, we left relatively early and headed back to the camper to rest. After several days of not wanting to nap, the girls fell asleep quickly and enjoyed a couple of hours of recharging!
Day Six Evening – Hollywood Studios
For our final night in the parks, we went back to Hollywood Studios. The girls chose this park because they wanted to ride the roller coaster again and so that we could see the evening show, Star Wars – A Galactic Spectacular.
The park presents the show on and over the buildings at the end of the main drag (Hollywood Boulevard). It consists of movie clips, lasers and fireworks. While we enjoyed the show, it certainly didn’t compare to Rivers of Light or IllumiNations.
After the show, we stayed to enjoy evening Extra Magic Hours. Even with access restricted to only to resort guests, there was a big crowd at Toy Story. It is such a fun ride, though, that it was worth the wait. We also did get to ride Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster again, ending our visit with a bang!
Day Seven – Pack & Depart
After a long week of park hopping, we enjoyed a fairly lazy morning. We let the kids ride bikes and play on the playground while we got everything cleaned, loaded and ready for the drive home. Having something for the kids to do is one of the main reasons we love staying at Fort Wilderness!
Our Week at Disney World
Overall, we had a great week at Disney World. This was our first big trip with our nieces and we all survived! We got to do just about everything we wanted to in all of the theme parks with reasonable wait times. The rain was the biggest negative, but there’s nothing we could do about it, so we just tried to focus on the positive side of having a smaller crowd.
I think we would have enjoyed having another day overall, but it didn’t work out with campground availability. That would have given us another day to rest and enjoy the campground.
Ultimately, though, everything worked out well and we really can’t complain too much!
Grant and I have visited Disney World several times together, but taking kids is a whole new aspect. We enjoyed seeing their joy and excitement and the thrill of doing new things! We would probably do it again, but it will be a while…it’s been over a month and we are still recovering from such a busy “vacation!”