The best Disney World itinerary planning guide for families that don’t know where to start when planning a Walt Disney World vacation.
Visiting Disney World is like visiting a city. It is as big as the city of San Francisco and there are a lot of things to know before you arrive.
In this guide to planning the best Disney World itinerary we break down all the things you need to know to help you have an amazing Disney vacation.
We really love visiting Disney World and the last few years we have had amazing experiences at the parks and resorts. Visiting Disney World has become a family tradition for us and each visit holds a special memory.
We have done a 2 day Disney Itinerary, 5 day Disney World itinerary, and everything in between. No matter how many days you have for your Disney vacation this planning guide will help.
As you read through and plan your Disney World itinerary you can customize it for your family and priorities. You may want to skip a park or add an extra day at the parks. There is so much to do at Disney World you may not be able to fit everything in.
My big goal is to help you plan your best Disney vacation that is the right fit for you and your family!!
Things to Consider When Planning Your Itinerary for Disney World
What Parks do you Want to Visit at Walt Disney World?
A first time visit to Disney World would most likely include a day at each of the four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. There are two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. There is also a shopping and dining area called Disney Springs.
What is your budget for your Disney World trip?
The first thing you should do when planning your itinerary for Disney World is plan your budget. Check out this article where I have broken down the cost of a Disney vacation. The prices vary depending on the size of your family and your priorities.
After you purchase your tickets be sure to make reservations for the days you would like to visit the parks. Guests need a park ticket and a park reservation to visit the theme parks. Park reservations will no longer be needed after January 9, 2024.
How many days do you need for a Disney World Vacation?
If you want to visit all 4 theme parks and have a rest day you should plan around 7 days for your vacation. This will include travel days. I go into full details of our 7 day Disney World itinerary later in this post.
Should you stay on-site at Disney World?
A big decision when planning your Disney World vacation is to stay on-site or off-site. On-site will almost always cost more than off-site but you do have on-site perks like early entry and on-site transportation.
Check out this post to help you decide what is best for your family: 5 Benefits of Staying at a Disney Resort (+3 Reasons to Stay Off-Site During Your Disney Vacation)
7 Day Disney World Itinerary for Families
This itinerary is based on having a 4 day park ticket. No park hopper, no water park, and no dining plan. These items can be added to your 7 day Disney trip, but I wanted to start with the basics!
Overview of Disney World 7 Day Itinerary
- Day 1: Arrival/Check-In Day, Pool time, dinner at Resort or Disney Springs
- Day 2: Park Day
- Day 3: Park Day
- Day 4: Rest Day, Pool Time, Character Brunch, Laundry, Disney Springs
- Day 5: Park Day
- Day 6: Park Day
- Day 7: Depart/Check-Out
Day 1: Travel Day/Arrive at Walt Disney World
Depending on your arrival time I suggest getting settled into your resort. If this is your first time visit to Walt Disney World you should take your time to explore the resort and prepare for your first day at the parks tomorrow.
Often you can check-in early but there are also times where our room isn’t ready until the 4:00pm check-in. Once we arrive in Orlando we will go directly to our resort to check-in.
If our room is not ready we will check them at concierge and they will hold them while we explore. This service is available at all Disney World resorts.
From there you have two great options. Pack a day bag and head directly to the pool. The pools are quietest during the day when most people are at the parks. Another great option is to take the Disney bus transportation over to Disney Springs.
Disney Springs has shopping, dining, and entertainment all in one place. Check out our favorite things to do at Disney Springs.
After you spend your day at the pool or Disney Springs it’s time to get checked-in to your room. I usually take this time to get ready for the next day, pick up dinner at the on-site restaurant or order a pizza to your room, and rest up for an early day at the parks.
Day 2: Magic Kingdom Day
Magic Kingdom is the first park to open at Walt Disney World. It has Cinderella’s castle, the classic dark ride attractions, as well as Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Tron: Lightcycle. Tron is the latest new roller coaster at Magic Kingdom.
It is what most people think of when they visit Walt Disney World. A day at Magic Kingdom should be part of your Disney Itinerary and some people like to plan two days to explore the park.
Magic Kingdom has the most attractions and rides than the other three parks but you can do it in one day. Plan on arriving about an hour before rope drop. Rope drop is when the park officially opens.
Currently they let people into the park before the posted opening time to walk through Main Street U.S.A. Once you walk through you will line up at the land entrance you are starting your day at. We suggest Fantasyland.
This means you should plan to arrive at Magic Kingdom around 8:00am-8:15am when park opens at 9:00am. Be sure to plan travel time between your resort and the parks. You may have to leave your room around 7:30.
I get that it is early and you are on vacation, but you get up early for work everyday. Today you get to go to Disney World!
Magic Kingdom has a few different ways to approach the park depending on what age your kids are or what your interests are.
If you have older kids you may want to start with the thrill rides. If you have younger kids you may prioritize character meet and greets.
The most popular attractions at Magic Kingdom are Peter Pan, Tron, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. They will have the longest lines at most times of the day.
If you want to skip lines you will have to purchase Genie+ as an add-on to your tickets. FastPass is no longer available.
Magic Kingdom is a full day park. There is so much to do. We prefer arriving at park opening, stay through lunch, then head back to the resort for a few hours to rest or go in the pool.
The afternoon hours at Disney World are typically hot and crowded. To ensure the best time for our family we break up our day.
Around 4:00 we will get ready to go back to the parks. Often we will mobile order dinner from our resort and then arrive at the parks around dinner time to enjoy a meal and the evening hours at the park.
We use this schedule of breaking up our day for all of our park days.
Helpful Magic Kingdom Planning Articles:
- Magic Kingdom Itinerary for Families
- Magic Kingdom Characters to Meet and Greet
- Best Rides at Magic Kingdom for School Age Kids
You also want to plan some dining restaurants before you arrive at the park. Dining reservations can be made 60 days in advance. I highly recommend you make reservations for any sit-down dining.
Be Our Guest is a great option for lunch and Cinderella’s Royal Table lets guests dine with the princesses inside Cinderella’s castle. Both require reservations. We also like Columbia Harbour House and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn for quick service dining.
Magic Kingdom also has a nightly fireworks and castle show. This can’t be missed and is an awesome end to your first Disney itinerary day. Arrive about 30 minutes before show time to grab a spot.
Day 3: Epcot
Epcot is the second park at Walt Disney World and a good place for day two. At this time it is undergoing some huge renovations that are continuing through the 2023 year. There are two ways to approach Epcot.
Epcot is divided into four areas: World Nature, World Celebration, World Discovery and the World Showcase. There are rides and attractions in each area.
Epcot Option 1: Sleep In and Arrive Later in the Day
Option one allows you to sleep in and take your time arriving at the park. This means you should plan the most popular attractions in the late evening. You may also want to consider Genie+.
The most popular attractions are Frozen Ever After, Soarin’, Test Track, Guardians of the Galaxy (Virtual Queue or Paid Lightning Lane) and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
If you sleep in enjoy a slow morning with breakfast at the resort. Take your time to explore the resort and have some pool time. You may also want to check the resort daily activities to see what is going on at the resort.
If you are visiting Epcot and want to sleep in I would plan on arriving a bit later in the afternoon. There are so many incredible dining options at the World Showcase and I would book a dinner at one of them.
Be prepared for larger crowds at Epcot during the afternoon hours. If you are staying at a Deluxe resort and have extended evening hours this may be a good plan for your visit.
Helpful Epcot Planning Articles:
- Guide to Things to do in Epcot at Walt Disney World
- Epcot with Kids: Everything to Explore at the World Showcase
- Epcot vs. Magic Kingdom: Which Disney Park is Best?
- What Countries are in Epcot’s World Showcase Pavilion
- Best Snacks at Epcot
Epcot has a nightly show that takes place in the World Showcase Lagoon. If you are arriving late in the afternoon you may want to stay for the show.
Epcot Option 2: Arrive Early to the Park
If you have younger kids who naturally wake up early you may want to arrive at the park for rope drop and then go back to the resort in the afternoon.
Families with young children, especially those in strollers, will be able to navigate the park easily. Epcot is large park with a lot of walking, so be prepared, but during our visit when our kids were all under 5 we finished by 2:00pm.
You will not get to see and explore everything Epcot has to offer in one day. This plan allows you to see and do the most popular attractions and rides.
With the new attractions and the size of Epcot you may have to pick your priorities for your must see attractions.
On our most recent visit we found ourselves doing a lot of back and forth walking and it was not as easy to get everything done as it used to be. Hopefully once most of the construction is competed the park will be a bit easier to navigate.
Day 4: Take a Rest Day
Having a day mid-week to rest and relax is a must during vacation. When planning our Disney World itinerary I always plan breaks that work for our family.
Planning an entire day to sleep-in, relax and be spontaneous is a great way to recharge before more park days.
What you decide to do on your rest day will be really different for everyone.
We have booked character brunches at some of our favorite resort restaurants. Disney Springs is a great option if you haven’t visited yet. You may want to include a morning or afternoon at a Disney water park.
Another great way to spend the day is to sit at the pool, enjoy your resort, and do nothing at all! We’ve also used this day to do laundry if needed. This rest day is tailored to fit your family.
Helpful Disney World Itinerary Planning Articles:
- Meet the Mad Hatter: Our 1900 Park Fare Breakfast Review
- The Best Typhoon Lagoon Rides
- Visiting the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World
- Awesome Things to Do at Disney World for a Rest Day (7 are Free!)
Day 5: Disney Hollywood Studios
With these new lands and attractions, 6 rides in all, the park sees high crowds and long lines. If you want to ride Rise of the Resistance, the new Star Wars attraction, you need to arrive well before park opening and go directly to this attraction.
You can also purchase an individual lightning lane. This is a one time fee per person to ride the attraction. Learn more here.
My plan for Hollywood Studios with school age kids would include Toy Story Land, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and Galaxy’s Edge as top priorities.
Toy Story Land has one of the most popular rides: Slinky Dog Dash (roller coaster). It also has Toy Story Mania! and Alien Swirling Saucers.
If you have preschool age kids or are not interested in the newer attractions I would focus on meeting the Disney Junior characters, watching the shows, and taking a slower approach to the day.
There are also a few table service restaurants worth visiting. Sci-Fi Dine In and 50’s Prime Time Cafe are fun themed table service options for your visit.
Woody’s Roundup Rodeo BBQ opens in March 2023 and will be a great sit down Toy Story themed dining option.
Helpful Hollywood Studios Planning Articles:
- Hollywood Studios Itinerary for Families
- Toy Story Land Review, Tips, and Recommendations
- 12 Best Attractions at Hollywood Studios
- Guide to Star Wars Characters at Disney World
- Building a Droid at Galaxy’s Edge
Hollywood Studios has nightly shows. Check the My Disney Experience app to see what is being offered on your day of visit.
Day 6: Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom is a gorgeous park full of plants and wildlife, making this one of our favorite parks to visit. I love walking around and seeing the lush landscape throughout the park.
There are also some really amazing rides and attractions. The most popular area is Pandora: The World of Avatar. This has two attractions: Flight of Passage and Navi’ River Adventure.
Both will have long lines but Flight of Passage will be the busiest. Secure an individual lightning lane pass or ride at park open or park close.
After you experience Pandora you should ride Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest. Save the animal exhibits for after you have done the attractions to minimize your wait times.
Animal Kingdom not only has rides it also has animal exhibits, character meet and greets and some of the best shows on Disney property. One of our favorite activities is the Wilderness Explorer program.
This is a free scavenger hunt type activity that lets your kids earn patches at various locations throughout the park. We really enjoyed this and shared our experience in this article, What You Need to Know to Become a Wilderness Explorer.
Helpful Animal Kingdom Articles:
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Character Meet and Greets
- Best Rides at Animal Kingdom for Families
- Animal Kingdom One Day Itinerary
Starting at dusk Animal Kingdom comes to life with the Tree of Life Nighttime Awakening and bioluminescent lights through Pandora. Guests can also see the nightly Rivers of Light show.
Day 7: Travel Day/Depart Walt Disney World
Your last day will typically be used as a travel day and to check-out. If you have time you can visit Disney Springs again or spend your last day enjoying the resort.
This Disney World itinerary gives you a general idea of how you want to spend your Disney World vacation, but as with any vacation, plans can change. Allowing flexibility with your plans will help you plan the best Disney itinerary for your family.
Things that May Affect Your Disney World 7 Day Itinerary
- Crowds: Crowds can significantly impact your itinerary depending on the time of year you visit. Holidays, summer, and school breaks will be busier than other times but recently most days have been busy and the crowds are unpredictable.
- Genie+: If you purchased Genie+ to skip some of the lines you may get more done than if you do not. It depends on the crowd levels.
- Weather: Depending on the time of year of your visit the weather could affect your plans. Check out Visiting Disney World in Summer | Why You Should (or Shouldn’t) take a Summer Vacation to Disney World
- Restaurant Reservations: Restaurant availability may make you change your plans and switch park days.
- You want to spend more than one day at a park. If you want to spend more than one day at the parks you might consider skipping a park or purchasing a park hopper to visit multiple parks in one day. Park hopper pricing can be found here.
- You want to go to the water parks. You and your family may want to visit the water parks and may add another day, or add it to your rest day.
- Be sure to check the special events during your visit to see if a park is closing early. One example of this is during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Magic Kingdom closes early to guests that do not have an event ticket.
This Disney World itinerary is set-up to help you plan your week but it park days can be switched to different days depending on what you are wanting to do. Park hours and offerings may affect the days you want to visit.
I hope this Disney World 7 day itinerary helps you plan your best Disney vacation ever.