Flight Arrives in Morning: What to plan for day 1

Our flight arrives at 10:38 on Sunday 3/19, staying at Bay Lake Tower and trying to figure out the best plan for our first day. We don’t leave until Saturday afternoon, so we’re planning a day each at Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. The Magic Kingdom will be the other days, though with it so close, those can also be partial days with afternoon breaks.

We were originally thinking about starting with Animal Kingdom on Sunday to get that out of the way, but I’m having second thoughts that it’s too much to squeeze into an afternoon. I put a touring plan in, and everything seems to fit with a 1:30 arrival at Animal Kingdom. But am I allowing the correct amount of time to take the Magical Express to BLT and then the bus to AK?

After reading the Unofficial Guide, I’m now thinking that Hollywood Studios has the lesser quantity of attractions, though my kids would rank the top attractions at HS above the top attractions at AK. So I don’t want to cut our HS trip short. Furthermore, I already booked a Fantasmic dining package for Tuesday evening at Hollywood & Vine.

The Fantasmic package is still available for 4:45 pm (supposedly the last day of Minnie’s Silver Screen Dine) on Sunday 3/19, so that would work and would ensure that we get our character meal with the Mice in right away. I put together an HS touring plan (again starting at 1:30 pm) and everything seems to fit.

But I’m a little concerned about overdoing it day 1 at HS; we’re going to be up early to catch a plane, so I’m not sure I want to be out that late for Fantasmic. Plus, if anything goes haywire with our flights, I’d rather lose AK time than HS.

I could also just slide one of our Magic Kingdom days into the opening position… but my MK list looks to be close to triple the size of the other lists. So I don’t want to (a) cut it short and (b) endure the wrath of kids that want to go back to the MK. (Though I figure if I open a day at Animal KIngdom, we’ll finish up the day at the Magic Kingdom because I already bought the Park Hopper.)


If you are staying at BLT you will be able to see the MK and I think you should plan on starting your trip there. Does it take away from another day? Do you need another day to your tickets?

We’ll be in Orlando for 7 days and have 7 day tickets. The only question is where do we start?

I agree with @PrincipalTinker. Despite what the UG says about touring…MK is Disney…and its always been where I’ve started, with or without children. A 1ish arrival at he park gives time for a couple of rides and then the parade, and more rides…seems like a great way to start your trip. You can stay as long as your energy allows, and your return to your resort is just a short hop… :grinning:

You didn’t say how old kids are and how often you go to Disney. If you do not visit often, I’d start with a half-day @ AK. It’s a mellower one. You can FP some of the main attractions (I’ve heard Kili Safari is best last FP of day, animals most active), wait in line for some shows, not feel rushed like @ MK. Then could make a dinner reservation maybe Boma 7:45 (45 minutes after park closes). If you do visit more frequently, or if your kids are a little older and can manage expectations, patience, could start MK, then you get more FPs MK during your trip. You tell them something like: we’re just doing 4 rides, dinner, the parade and that’s it for this day, the BIG Magic Kingdom day is blah. You FP 3 and do one like Tiki without much wait. Maybe Tom Sawyer island if you have more time. But for littles, the MK may be TOO magical to not return very next morning.

I agree with @longwalk and @PrincipalTinker. I would start at MK since you are staying at BLT. For my upcoming trip, the first day is a 12:00 PM start and we are going to Epcot for a half day since the kids are smaller and it is the least important park to them. We are doing some attractions and then having dinner at Via Napoli and probably heading in early to rest for our first full day. I wouldn’t do AK in a half day to get it out of the way. I really enjoy being there and we take our time to see everything in the park.

Kids are 10 (daughter) and 7 (son). It is our first (and likely only) trip to DisneyWorld.

We’re least interested in Animal Kingdom because we have an award winning zoo in our hometown (one of the best in the USA) that we visit frequently. So we’re mostly interested in the shows at AK, though the safari is on our to-do list.

If we don’t do AK the first afternoon, then we’re probably doing it the second day (first full day). The issue could be if Rivers of Light finally gets going, because I doubt we’re going to stay at AK all day. That makes doing it the first afternoon attractive to us.

Current rough itinerary is:
S AK (perhaps HS or MK)
T Polynesian breakfast, then HS. (Hollywood & Vine/Fantasmic dinner with Minnie that evening)
W Epcot
T MK (Lunch at Cinderella’s)
F MK (Lunch at Crystal Palace)
S MK (leaving right after lunch)

I would definitely do MK on arrival day - that way you avoid any issues with travel delays cutting into your only day at AK. Additionally, since you are at BLT it makes for an easier time on a travel day as you can leave early if you are feeling tired.

Also, if I am planning on just spending a single day at a park I want to make sure that I am at it at RD to take advantage of the lower crowds.

“…to get that out of the way…” ??? You make going to AK sound like getting a flu shot :slight_smile:

I would switch your first two days. Travel days are very tiring, and I have yet to have one that didn’t have some sort of a glitch. If you’re staying at BLT, I think going to MK on arrival day is a “no-brainer” - especially as you’ve never been. Even with as many times as I’ve been, there is something about walking down MS and seeing the castle that just “is” Disney.

On the practical side, it’s a 10 min walk vice a 20 min bus ride (plus waiting on one end and walking on the other), so you’ll be at the park much faster, and if the travel day catches up with you, you can be back in the room in 20 min or so.

Don’t sell AK short. I lived in San Diego for may years and was a member of the Zoological Society; I spent MANY days at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal (now Safari) Park. AK is not like that; it doesn’t have nearly the number of animals, but what it does have is immersive experiences. And it has Kilimanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest, and Dinosaur - arguably 3 of the best rides in WDW. Nemo and Lion King are both excellent shows and Flights of Wonder is nice, but I’ve seen better “free flight” bird shows at other parks. If you look at the show schedules you’ll see that it takes a bit of work to fit all three in, along with rides and a lunch break, in less than 4 or 5 hours (and that doesn’t take into account the various trails, lesser attractions, street entertainment, etc. My “typical” day at AK id 8-9 hours, and I never run out of things to keep me interested. And if you’ve found that you’ve had enough, with hoppers, you could go to whichever other park you wanted to go to to end the day. FWIW, based on the info I’m hearing, ROL will probably NOT be running during your trip.


I agree completely with @bswan on all his points. I could have written that myself! AK has never been a half day park for us, it deserves a full day. And driving right to MK, and then going in the hotel and back out to get on a bus to another park would never work in my family. I need to see the castle as soon as we arrive, even if we don’t stay long. I kind of think you have too much MK in your schedule though, I personally would go to MK Sunday, AK Monday, and something else on Friday for at least some of the day, like Epcot since the tiers there make 2 days of FPP easier. You will have fun no matter what you decide, for me the planning is almost as fun as the trip!

As we continue to think about this, I’m warming to going to the Magic Kingdom on day one and then going to Animal Kingdom on Monday. That actually was my original plan, but as talk about Rivers of Light coming online this past fall grew, I thought that it made more sense to go later in the day to take advantage of it. I just don’t see us staying there all day and night. But now that we’re now in January with no news, that’s looking unlikely.

I’m not sure we can spend too much time at the Magic Kingdom - especially my son. That being said, with Park Hoppers, we can always cycle over to another park on Thursday afternoon or Friday if we feel like an audible. I’m still pushing my kids for their lists; it seems Christmas presents are taking priority for them right now. And this is supposed to be the kids trip.

After starting to play with my plan for Animal Kingdom and starting at 9 am, it gets almost everything we want to do in by 4:30 pm…even a bunch of “maybe” items. And that’s with no FastPasses used…and the FastPass recommendations are for the Safaris, Lion King and Nemo…and the Unofficial Guide says those are kind of wastes of a FastPass.

So it got me to thinking…do we just go through Animal Kingdom straight up with no FastPasses, and plan to head to Epcot for the evening for some strategic FastPass selections? That way, we could get Frozen Ever After or Test Track in one day, and then come back a couple of days later for a full day at Epcot for the other. Is that a crazy idea, or crazy like a fox?

I started to put together an Epcot plan, and it already looks like it’s overflowing. So spending part of another day at Epcot seems to make some sense.

We already bought the Park Hopper with this type of scenario in mind, though I always thought of just winging it at the second park in the evening. I just get the idea that Epcot FastPasses may be more valuable than Animal Kingdom Fast Passes.

That seems like a good idea to me - with your FPPs booked for EP you could get some attractions done, have a nice meal, and maybe take in Illuminations (if you make an ADR for La Hacienda and get a window table you can do the last two things at the same time). Just make sure that you are not going to burn your crew out - I’m all for packing as much as possible into each day, but my family likes to vacation that way.

BLT is considered an onsite, right? Are you incorporating the Magic Hours into your plans? March 20 currently has AK opening at 8am for emh. You are staying on site, and have hoppers. If you use EMH, you should be able to knock out the Safari and Everest a few times by 9am with no issues.

As far as the animal-ish things at AK, I’m kind of in your boat in that we go to a world class zoo only a few miles away. We ride our bikes there it’s so close, and purchase the year long membership, so we basically go whenever we’re bored and have a few hours to kill. So, I thought AK would be a “lesser” type of park for us. We didn’t go on any of the trails, or go seeking out any of the animals. We did the safari first thing in the am, and sorry, but, we don’t need to do it again. Kinda wished we skipped it. I will say this:
Lion King
The bird show
It’'s tough to be a bug
Flame Tree BBQ
Tamu Tamu (DOLE WHIPS!!!)
Tree Of lIfe
Monkeys climbing on the ropes overhead
Dinosaur (refurb when we were there)
River Rapids was fun, mostly because everyone in the raft was so tense from wondering if / how / when they were going to get soaked.
Primevil Whirl (grew on me the 2nd time)
Those are all EASILY worth a half day return trip for me. Actually, it would be a priority.
DO NOT MISS LION KING!!! If your kids are not shy, sit up front, and tell them to eagerly raise their hands at the end!

If I was you, my 3/20 would look like this:
8am emh at AK (arrive at 8am with an exclamation point)
Swim break at the hotel pool
Fastpasses and fireworks show at the park with the lowest crowd calendar prediction (or whichever park really works for your jigsaw puzzle plan.)

I’m a huge fan of am emh to help your TP fall into place. And, oh yeah, major attractions with less lines is a mild bonus as well. And, oh yeah, you are paying for the emh by staying at BLT, too. Your kids will probably be amped up in the am to see what awaits them at Disneyworld. You should be as well.

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I know the EMH are available that day, but I didn’t include them in my tentative plan. I’m not going to force that issue, but if we’re up, we’re up and charging ahead. I think we’ve got everything in the plan except for River Rapids; in March, I’m not sure we’re looking to get soaked. All told, it’s more than a half day…more like 2/3 of a day.

I hear you on this, but please consider emh as part of your plan - “early to bed, early to rise” and so forth. You get that time back if you are morning ppl. You get it in the form of relaxing while others are standing in lines for the main attractions that you’ve already done with little wait. It’s easy for me to say since we’re an AM family - I totally get that not every family is.

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It will feel like 110 degrees in March thanks to the terrible humidity…so you just might want to get soaked!

please consider emh as part of your plan - “early to bed, early to rise” and so forth.

My family isn’t huge on the planning side, so I’m not going to count on getting there in time for the early opening. Getting my kids up early has other consequences that are far worse. If we’re up, we’ll head to the park for the early opening…but I’m not waking them up early. Especially since I’m almost positive that the kids will insist on watching fireworks the night before.

Not rejecting the 8 am opening…just saying that I’m not sure we’re going to get there since that’s normally the time my wife usually tries (and fails) to get the kids up on school days.

But that’s school. This is Disney World!

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