First time WDW, but been to DLR many times

I booked my family’s first trip to WDW in December (traveling with 2 boys 12 and 13) I have LOTS of questions!

First, when choosing a park for a specific day, is it better to choose lower crowds or the EMH?

Second, we are DLR seasoned vets, anything we can/should skip? Any cannot miss attractions?

Third, We are flying in from CA and are supposed to arrive at 2:50 pm. We currently have park hopper tickets for our trip including our arrival Day. Was hoping to spend our first evening at Epcot, but not sure if I am pushing it. Is 2-3 hours reasonable estimate from the airport to settling into our hotel and then getting to the park? Should I keep my tickets for the first night or should I just have us relax and settle into our Hotel and hit it strong the first day?

I know I have several other questions, but I will start with those. TIA

I usually plan three hours from landing to a park if you are staying onsite and using Magical Express? I think you could easily book three FPs at Epcot and even if that is all you do (plus walk around) it would be a great day. I would skip Soarin.

I would not miss: Pandora (of course), Everest, Safari - ok- I would not miss AK!

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Thank you! I was thinking we would skip soaring (my husband gets sick on it anyway) and star tours.

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Are you saying that you would arrive at the park at 2:50, or your flight LANDS at 2:50?

How many days total will you be at DW?

Will this be the only chance to visit Epcot or are you planning on hitting it again while you are there?

Flight lands a 2:50. We are taking the Magic Express and going to CBR. I was figuring and hour to get to hotel, an hour to settle in and an hour to get to the park (I realize that this may be over zealous). I am open to taking Lyft to the park to maximize our time.

We have 4 full days at the parks and possible two partial days for arrival and departure. Arrival I was thinking we would snack around WS for dinner and catch a few rides like test track and then watch Illuminations. Just not sure if my time frame is realistic.

We plan on spending two of our days split between Epcot and HS later in the week.

That would only give you about 3 hours to do much of anything, but if you are already available and you have the tickets, I don’t see why not. It will give you a warm up to know what to expect if nothing else. We did the same thing at Disneyland two years ago. We had an evening that was open to us, so we went from 6pm to close, and then went back the very next morning and did EMM to close, and then another half day the day after.

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The longest wait will most definitely be Magical Express… that could take 2 hours, so if you’re really wanting to get some quality park time I’d get a Lyft from the airport. If you’re open to that then I’d say a 5:30 arrival at Epcot is reasonable. I personally would plan on 6:00, and consider anything earlier to be a bonus. Coming from the west coast I’m guessing you’re not likely to be really hungry until later, so I’d do the rides first for sure then grab your bites to eat on your way to your Illuminations viewing spot… I think all of the QS places will stay open until 9.

When it comes down to it, depending on how early your flight leaves CA, you might even want to skip the “getting settled in at CBR” part, and just drop your bags at the desk and head right to the park. You’re looking at being back to the resort by 7:30-8:00pm if you think of it in terms of west coast time, so unless you’re leaving CA at some ungodly hour then you might not even be ready for bed for a couple of hours, which would give you time to get settled in at your room.

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It never occurred to me to wait to settle into our hotel. I like that idea, thank you! Our plane leaves at 6:30 am PST, so we will be up pretty early, but I think we will still be fine. Getting to our room after the park.

I’m from the East Coast but lived in CA for a few years, and the long flight & airport navigation can be draining. Not to mention there will be time change issues. This won’t be a big deal your first day since you’ll feel like it’s 3 hours earlier, but if you are planning to RD the next AM after a long flight & time in a park, your body will feel it if you don’t get enough sleep. If you go to Epcot after your flight, just try to go to bed on East Coast time even if you don’t feel too tired, in order to make sure you get enough sleep to wake up early again for RD. Cut off caffeine, wear a sleep mask - whatever it takes. You don’t really want to be up til 2am EST (which would only feel like 11pm for you) if you have to wake up around 6am EST for your first full day with RD, you know?


I tend to forget all about the time change when I fly west to east… I don’t really get jet lag at all when flying west, but coming back east on anything other than a redeye it hits me because it’s too early to go to eat and go to bed!

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  1. I think EMH are worth it over crowd levels. Especially when you are talking average to high crowds anyway. 1 or 2 points of crowd level is really hard for me to feel and you can so much done in EMH both early and late.
  2. Personally, I hate park hopping in WDW but love it at US Orlando and Disneyland. It just takes forever to get anywhere at WDW (because you have to take a bus from the park to a hotel to another park) that I usually just plan on doing one park a day as it wastes less time and makes me feel more settled.
  3. As for your first night I would say it totally depends on what you plan to do the next day. If you are going to hit up an EMH morning somewhere on your first full day that’s at 7am, I’d just rest especially since you’ll be up at 3 or 4am your time to catch your 630am flight. I haven’t taken it myself but my kiddos(10 and 12) take melatonin to help them sleep and I’ve heard it’s good for adjusting to time zone travel. If on your first full day you are gonna hit a park with late EMH and want to arrive later in the day or a regular park opening at 9am I’d go for the evening touring of Epcot. It’ll really help with Epcot. It’s my favorite park, it’s huge and splitting your FP+'s will help tons. You cannot do this whole park in one day and really savor it.
  4. Rides I would not skip that are better or unique to WDW (BTW I prefer Disneyland overall):
    Hollywood Studios:
    Tower of Terror is much better at WDW (and now gone at DLR) (DO NOT MISS)
    Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
    Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
    Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
    Voyage of the Little Mermaid
    Star Wars A Galatic Spectacular (Fireworks)
    The Great Movie Ride

Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure
The American Adventure
Ellen’s Energy Adventure
Frozen Ever After (DO NOT MISS)
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
Impressions de France
Journey into Imagination with Figment
Living with the Land
Mission: SPACE (Orange) (DO NOT MISS)
The Seas with Nemo & Friends and the aquarium (DO NOT MISS)
Spaceship Earth (DO NOT MISS)
Test Track (DO NOT MISS)
and take as much time as you can to explore the World showcase live performances, and Morocco alleys and walkways especially but as many of the countries exhibits and galleries and walkways as possible. The Japanese drummers are great. Also let the kids do the interactive exhibits at the end of the Future World attractions like Project Tomorrow at the end of Spaceship Earth, and the game inside Mission: Space Advanced Training Lab. As a family go up to the front and try to move the pieces racing against another team. This was so much fun!

Magic Kingdom:
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (I prefer this version to DLR)
Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade
Enchanted Tales with Belle
The Hall of Presidents
The Haunted Mansion (the interactive outside line is worth travelling through)
Mickey’s PhilharMagic
Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor
Peter Pan’s Flight (this one is better than DLR in my opinion)
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
Splash Mountain (I like this one better than DLR)
Peoplemover for old time’s sake
Carousel of Progress for old time’s sake

I could skip the Space Mountain, Big Thunder and Pirates here as I prefer Disneyland’s but if you have time of course these are some of the better attractions in Magic Kingdom

Animal Kingdom:
Avatar Flight of Passage (I haven’t ridden it yet but I wouldn’t miss it)
Expedition Everest (DO NOT MISS)
Festival of the Lion King (DO NOT MISS)
Finding Nemo the Musical
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
Kilimanjaro Safaris (DO NOT MISS)
Maharajah Jungle Trek
Na’vi River Journey (I haven’t ridden it yet but I would not miss it)
Rivers of Light

BTW if you do go to Epcot that first night, stay on one side. Get a FP+ for Spaceship Earth at 530pm, Mission: SPACE at 630pm and Frozen or Test Track for 730pm. Then book a dinner at Hacienda de San Angel or grab at table Cantina de San Angel to watch IllumiNations from there.


There is the new Express Transportation option if you want to park hop quickly, that takes you directly from park to park. It picks you up and drops you off inside the parks, bypassing the gates and security. It’s $19 for one day or $29 for the whole trip.

True. I am not concerned about me, as I have traveled quite a bit, but my kids have not. This may be a shock to their system.

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Jennyturin, Thank you for such a detailed and helpful reply! Very good information!

I have not heard of this new express transportation! My interest is peaked. I would gladly pay extra for this.

Some pretty exhaustive lists already posted; I agree with pretty much what was said above. I have about an equal number of total days at DLR and WDW. As a general rule, rides that are “the same” at both, are generally “better” at DLR - or at least as good. I would say the biggest exception to this is ToT; the WDW version is the definitive version to ride. I like the original WDW TSI much better than the “Pirate” overlay that they did at DL. I think Splash is a bit better at WDW.

I’d be happy to answer any more specific questions that you might have.

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Thank you! That is good to hear. I will have to take all this info an assortment it and then create a plan of action.

Thank you all for the info and tips! The information you have given me has helped tremendously!