1-Day Magic Kingdom “Daily Trip Blueprint”


If we were looking for the perfect way to spend one day in the Magic Kingdom, these are the attractions we would do, the restaurants at which we’d dine, and the quiet moments we would stop to enjoy. This post continues our series of single-day itineraries designed to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do if you only had one day in ____ Disney park?” We call this series our “Daily Trip Blueprints,” or DTBs for short. Get it? It’s like the website name! (Yes, we are dangerously corny. But knowing you have a problem is the first step, right?)

This Daily Trip Blueprint isn’t a touring plan or strategy guide for efficiently experiencing every attraction in the Magic Kingdom. For our ride ratings and reviews of each attractions, read our comprehensive Best Magic Kingdom Attractions & Ride Guide post. This is only a 1-day “sample” itinerary of what we would (reasonably) accomplish in a day at the Magic Kingdom. If you’re for something more comprehensive to plan every aspect of your Walt Disney World vacation, from where to purchase discount tickets to when to visit and more, read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.

Instead, this is Daily Trip Blueprint is an itinerary of our favorite things to do during our “ideal day” in the Magic Kingdom with moderate crowds (on busier days, doing this all will be tough), and when you should do certain things for the ‘best experience,’ but not necessarily the most efficient experience. It’s a rough, subjective itinerary rather than an objective one. Emphasis on rough–the blocks of items below are not in any sort of concrete order, meaning that if you want to break up a block of rides with one of the snack times below, you can do it early. You can also skip the snacks, meals, etc., entirely.

We aren’t your mother (this much should be clear by the morning ice cream break!); we aren’t trying to tell you what to do or not to do. Just don’t you dare use the restroom unless that’s specifically called for in the plan. ;) You get two restroom breaks per day…use them wisely! If you’re looking for a statistically-efficient plan of attack, consult TouringPlans.com for Walt Disney World, which has been developing excellent plans exactly like that for years. Their structured plans might provide a nice compliment to what we have here.  

FastPass+ sort of throws a monkey wrench into this whole thing, and not every guest is going to have access to all FastPass+ selections based upon when they make their ride reservations (read more about FastPass+ in our MyMagic+ FAQ). In the interest of keeping this guide concise, we are going to assume no FastPass+. Obviously, it is in your best interest to get FastPass+ and use them as you can to get more out of the day. Our picks for the “objective” best FastPass+ choices are the Anna & Elsa Meet & Greet, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Peter Pan’s Flight. Other strong options include the Magic Kingdom Mountain Range (Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train). Personally, I also like the FastPass+ location for the Festival of Fantasy Parade, and I hate staking out parade spots way early, but as an objective pick, this one probably isn’t the best.

We’re going to start out each of these DTBs with a recommended hotel ideal for that park. Chances are, you won’t want to change hotels every night, so this is only meant to be mildly influential. Pick one hotel for your entire Walt Disney World stay based on your “most important” park. For the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort is the easy choice for its 10 minute walk to the Magic Kingdom, plus boat and monorail access. If you are willing to stay slightly farther away but still in the Magic Kingdom area, my top pick is Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. It has better theming and a lower price point, and is one of Disney’s coolest hotels. Plus, you still have boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom. (When searching for a Magic Kingdom-convenient hotel, the goal is to avoid having to take a bus or drive to the Magic Kingdom.) I’m not-so-secretly hoping you choose Wilderness Lodge.

Once you wake up from wherever it is that you are sleeping, here’s what to do… (more…)

Castaway Cay Guide & Tips

Castaway Cay is Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas, and is a common port of call for virtually all Disney Caribbean-bound cruise ships. This guide provides tips for visiting Castaway Cay, including things to do and not to do and how to make the most of your time on Castaway Cay.

For starters, some basics about Castaway Cay, and then we will get into some recommendations. It’s a 3-mile long, 1000-acre island used exclusively by Disney Cruise Line guests and Crew Members. The Disney Cruise Line ships dock right on the island, making for an easy on-off experience. You’ll want to take your Key to the World card with you when you exit the ship (to get back on!), but theoretically you could leave everything else. We don’t recommend that–packing a small day bag without any valuables in it to ‘guard’ your beach chairs is a good idea–but you could.

As soon as you get off the ship, you can pick up towels, and pass by the old gas station and post office (make sure to send something from here–they have a special Disney postmark) as you head towards the trams to get to the Family Beach and Serenity Bay, the adult-only beach. Alternatively, you can take the walking trail to fully explore Castaway Cay, which has its own touches of Disney details. We’ll start our guide with how to explore the island to see these details!

Exploring the Island

There are a couple of trams on the island, but one of our biggest pieces of advice for Castaway Cay is to not over-rely on these trams. Castaway Cay is not just a private island, it’s Disney’s private island. This means that it’s themed! Some of my best memories of the island are just its sense of place that I soaked up as I wandered around and explored the environments. It’s not as heavy on Imagineering as Typhoon Lagoon, likely because Disney wanted to strike a balance in making it appeal to Disney fans and ‘serious’ cruisers, but there is a ton to see, and plenty of Easter eggs.

I highly recommend walking out to Serenity Bay and taking the shuttle back at some point during your day at Castaway Cay, even if you don’t plan on enjoying the adult beach. This is because you’ll the Imagineered-highlights all the way there, and then get to see additional details on the ride back over the runway. The walk really isn’t that bad, and can actually be faster than the trams. (more…)

Tips for Buying Discount Disney World Tickets

Money-saving Tips for Buying Discount Walt Disney World Tickets (from authorized sellers!)

Walt Disney World offers a wide array of tickets. These tickets are expensive, but luckily, if you shop right, you can find good discounts on Disney tickets to save money. When it comes to a Disney vacation, the tickets are likely going to be your second-most expensive expenditure after your hotel room and perhaps airfare. For some people, they might actually be the most costly portion of the trip! Disney raises its ticket prices about once or twice per year with the last increase coming in February 2014, so it’s best to buy your tickets as early as possible, before your trip.

Given their cost, and the myriad of different ticket options, it’s important to know as much as you can about the different types of tickets, and what your family will probably need. Purchasing Walt Disney World tickets can be overwhelming, as there are many different choices and add-ons. If you’re willing to do a little homework, all of the options are a good thing, as you can buy exactly what you need and not waste money on unnecessary extras. In this article we sort through the different options and give you recommendations on what types of tickets are best, plus where you can save money on Walt Disney World tickets. (If you’ve come looking for info on discount Disneyland tickets, you’ve come to the wrong place–but we do have an article on that, too.)

If all you’re looking for is the best place to buy cheap, legitimate Walt Disney World tickets from an authorized reseller and don’t need to read this entire article, click here.

Ready to get started? Here are our tips for saving money on 2014 Disney World tickets! (more…)

Disneyland 2014 Trip Planning Guide

In this article, we cover what you absolutely must do to plan your 2014 visit to Disneyland Resort. We previously implored anyone who would listen that 2012 was the perfect time to visit Disneyland. Well, it was in many ways, and those who listened to our advice got to be among the first to visit Cars Land. Disneyland has been on a roll since then, and we’ve updated our Disneyland vacation advice numerous times since then, finally arriving at this version for 2014 trips. We have received messages from a lot of people who had amazing trips thanks to our recommendations, and this guide has been refined based upon our recent visits to Disneyland, including a visit last December for Christmas–our first Christmas in Disneyland since the overhaul to Disney California Adventure (the Christmas season is now, by far, our top pick for when you should visit Disneyland…such a beautiful time of year there!).

Disneyland Resort kept the ball rolling in 2014, expanding upon the success of its big recent addition, Cars Land, with the opening of Mickey and the Magical Map, plus World of Color – Winter Dreams, seasonal celebrations, and more! We highly recommend a visit to Disneyland to enjoy these additions. As long as Disneyland keeps doing new things and Cars Land keeps looking great, you may be hearing this same sentiment in 2014, 2015, 2016, and…you get the idea.

There are a lot of great times of year to visit Disneyland (read below for our recommendations of when to go to avoid crowds at Disneyland), but our favorite time of year is Christmas-time at Disneyland. The decorations are beautiful, the spirit is festive, and there are some fun attraction overlays and seasonal foods to enjoy.

Read our Guide to Disneyland at Christmas for additional information on visiting during the holiday season. If Christmas isn’t your thing, consider Halloween Time at Disneyland, and check out our Guide to Disneyland at Halloween for assistance planning a trip during that specific time of year. For tips applicable to trips anytime of year, consult the trip planning resources below.

Also, this vacation planning guide applies to the Disneyland Resort in California. If you are visiting Florida, please consult our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.
(more…)

How to Visit 3 Disney Destinations on 1 Airfare

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Except in this case. This post covers the concept of multi-stop airfare, including stopovers and open-jaw flights, and how these perfectly legitimate, but little understood tools can be used to book airfare to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Honolulu, and back for roughly the same price as a single round-trip flight to Hong Kong. That means visiting Tokyo Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa for roughly the same airfare cost as just one of those destinations. We are dubbing this incredible trip the “Disney Grand Circle Tour of the Pacific Rim.” Who needs Adventures by Disney when you have blog posts for Making Your Own Adventures…by the Brickers?! ;)

If the airfare terms above don’t make much sense now, fear not, as by the end of this post you will be a master (or at least an apprentice…I’m not sure how the whole ranking system works!) in advanced airfare bookings.

Over the last couple of years, we have become pretty big advocates of traveling to the international Disney theme parks. Understandably, a lot of Disney fans do not have much interest in this, citing legitimate concerns like the cost of the trip and the discomfort with international travel. Still, we have tried to encourage readers to step outside of their comfort zones and plan a once in a lifetime trip to the overseas parks. While we have received a number of positive comments and emails from many of you who are planning visits to Tokyo Disney Resort, we understand that, it’s not a possibility for everyone. We get that, and our goal with our posts on the international parks is not to boast about our travels or rub how great these places are in anyone’s face, but rather, to bring awareness of these parks that are seldom-visited by Americans, but are really worth experiencing for those who have the time and finances.

We have pointed out in the past that these international trips don’t have to be as expensive as many people assume they are, and depending upon your party size, a trip to Tokyo may cost about the same as a trip to Walt Disney World. In fairness, this is typically only true for those without multiple children, those who can travel during non-peak times, and live near a major international airport or can save miles for the trip (by the way–the sample multi-stop itinerary below can be booked with a standard number of miles for a flight to Asia!). To be very clear, we are in no way saying that a trip to Asia is “cheap” or even something that anyone can do. Unless you are a local Annual Passholder or live within driving distance, no trip to any Disney theme park is cheap. For many people, a trip to the Disney Parks in Asia is absolutely out of the question from a financial perspective–and we aren’t trying to say otherwise. Our only point is that it’s worth crunching the numbers before dismissing it out of hand.

With all of that said, the biggest obstacle many if not most readers have presented to us is the cost of airfare. This doesn’t really come as a surprise, as airfare is by far the most expensive aspect of visiting Tokyo Disney Resort or Hong Kong Disneyland, and airfare is a per-person cost that (obviously) increases as your party size increases. In comparing the cost of a Tokyo visit versus a Walt Disney World visit, airfare is also where the largest price difference lies. In fact, in terms of park tickets and nice hotel accommodations, Tokyo and Hong Kong are actually cheaper than Walt Disney World in most cases!

Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to decrease the cost of a flight to Asia, short of advising you to plan early, use available tools to your advantage, and be flexible on dates. Airfare to Asia is expensive, in most cases over $1,000 round-trip per person. However, what we can do is increase the perceived value of that single, expensive airfare with stopovers and open-jaw flights? Interested in visiting Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Honolulu to do the “Disney Grand Circle Tour of the Pacific Rim,” all for about the price of a round-trip flight to Hong Kong? Read on! (more…)

Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland

Halloween Time at Disneyland occurs in 2014 from September 12 until October 31, 2014. During HalloweenTime, the hard ticket Mickey’s Halloween Party will be held most Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays in October, and two dates in September. Mickey’s Halloween Party tickets range in price from $56 to $77, depending upon the night and whether you qualify for an Annual Passholder discount. Click here for the full party schedule for 2014. Entertainment during the Halloween Time at Disneyland season is included in the cost of regular theme park admission.

For those considering visiting during Halloween Time at Disneyland, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the standard offerings during the Halloween season in Disneyland are superior to those in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The decorations are better, the entertainment is superior, the seasonal snacks are more plentiful (and most are absolutely delicious), and there are two attractions at Disneyland that receive Halloween overlays (plus extra entertainment in Big Thunder Ranch), versus zero at Walt Disney World. The bad news is that hard ticket Disneyland’s Mickey’s Halloween Party is inferior to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, crowds are not light (still better than summer) during Halloween Time at Disneyland like they are in the fall at Walt Disney World, and there are no other fall offerings justifying a visit to Disneyland Resort specifically during the Halloween season, versus Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, which is also a big draw during the fall at Walt Disney World.

With all of that said, we think Halloween Time at Disneyland is an incredible time to visit Disneyland. In fact, after Christmas at Disneyland, Halloween Time at Disneyland is our absolute favorite time of the year to visit. The only reason Christmas gets the edge is because all of its entertainment is included with the normal cost of admission, and Disney California Adventure gets into the fun during the Christmas season, too. But Christmas is a separate topic for a future post!

For now, let’s get started with HalloweenTime at Disneyland, taking a look at its offerings and sharing some of our tips and reviews for Halloween Time at Disneyland. (more…)