Need itinerary help - 5 days in December with a 3 year old

Hi everyone! I’m a newbie here and I’m planning our first family trip to WDW. It will be myself, my husband, and our (just-turning) 3yo daughter. We’re booked for Dec 2 - Dec 6 2019 and staying at POR in a Royal Room. We have 3-day park passes (no hoppers) and tickets on one day for MVMCP. I’m struggling with our itinerary though and was hoping to get some opinions on our “rough draft” version. Our daughter still takes naps in the afternoons for about 2 hours, so our plan is to take a mid-day break and head back to the resort to give her time to rest. Ideally, I would love if she napped in the stroller, but she’s never been a stroller-napper so I don’t have high hopes for that. My biggest concerns with our itinerary is our first day - our flight lands in MCO at 10:25AM and we’ll be taking the ME to POR. We plan to get our own luggage off the carousel so that we don’t have to wait hours for it to be delivered to our room. I was hoping to be checked in by 12:30PM (assuming our room is ready), grab a quick lunch at the Riverside Mill, and unpack while our daughter takes her nap. Then head to HS when she wakes up for attractions, dinner, and Jingle Bell Jingle Bam! My question is: is this a reasonable plan? Would we be better off going to MK instead of HS on this first day? We plan to do another half day (more like 3/4 day) of MK later in the trip, but would we be better off making this first day the half day of MK and doing the half day of HS later in the week? Also our flight on Day 5 is at 5PM, so I’m trying to decide what to do that day. It’s not a park day for us, but should we skip DS the night before and do it on Day 5 before we leave instead?

Monday Dec 2nd (Day 1)
10:25AM - Arrive at MCO, take ME to POR
12:00PM - Arrive to check-in at POR
12:30PM - (assuming room is ready) Grab food to go at Riverside Mill, get to room, unpack, let daughter nap
3:00PM - Catch bus to Hollywood Studios
3:30PM - HS - not planning to cram too much here…Beauty & the beast live, mickey & minnie’s runaway railway, Frozen sing-along, Voyage of the little mermaid, disney junior dance party
6:00PM - ADR for dinner at Sci-Fi Dine In
7:00 - 8:00PM - finish attractions from before dinner & see Santa
8:30PM - Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! Show
9:00PM - bus back to POR

Tuesday Dec 3rd (Day 2) - this is our MVMCP day
9:00AM - Head to Poly or Contemporary
9:30AM - ADR for Chef Mickey’s or Kona Cafe for breakfast
11:00AM - head back to POR
11:30 - 1:00PM - Pool / relax time
1:30 - 3:00PM - Daughter naps (adults continue to relax and grab light snack in the room)
3:30PM - bus to MK
4:00PM - ADR for dinner at Tony’s Town Square or The Plaza Restaurant
4:45 - 8:15PM - MVMCP - Planning to spend 95% of the time doing character meets
8:15PM - A Frozen Holiday Wish
8:30PM - Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade
9:00PM - bus back to POR

Wednesday Dec 4th (Day 3)
8:00AM - bus to Epcot
8:30AM - ADR for breakfast at Akershus
9:45 - 1:00PM - World showcase attractions (FP frozen ever after)
1:00PM - bus to POR
1:30PM - 3:00PM - back to resort to nap
3:30 - bus back to Epcot
4:00 - 6:00PM - Future world at Epcot
6:00PM - ADR for dinner at Coral Reef
7:30PM - bus back to POR

Thursday Dec 5th (Day 4)
8:00AM - bus to MK
8:20 - 9AM - rope drop / shops on Main Street
9 - 11AM - MK attractions (FP Peter Pan’s Flight & Enchanted Tales w/Belle)
11:00AM - ADR for Crystal Palace breakfast
12:30 - 2PM - More MK attractions
2PM - Festival of Fantasy Parade
2:30PM - bus back to POR
3:00 - 5PM - pool, nap, relax
5:00PM - boat to DS
5:20 - 8:30PM - Shop, dinner, explore DS
8:30PM - boat back to POR

Friday Dec 6th (Day 5)
Sleep in
Pack up & check out
10:00AM - taxi to either Poly or Contemporary
10:30AM - ADR for breakfast at Chef Mickey’s or Kona (whichever we don’t do on Day 2)
12:00PM - taxi or bus back to POR
12:30PM - Pool? or Disney Springs again?
2:00PM - ME to MCO for 5PM flight

I was just at Disney with my just turning 3 yo and she really struggled with naps. Being very stimulated all morning and then being asked to sleep in a strange room was just too much. We fought to get her to sleep four hours and hours.

Even on the days when she did nap, we found that she was done by 7:30 PM. She was melting by 8 PM. The one day we stayed late for fireworks, she did a late nap from 3-6 PM and did okay until 9:30 PM, but the trip home was tough (lasting until 10:30 or so). Your plan looks like a lot of late nights to me.

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How does she nap at home? My kids are car mappers so my almost 3 yo did great napping in the stroller every day. Where are you staying? Keep in mind the travel time to and from the resort could be 90 minutes. Will she fall asleep on car/bus then not go back to sleep? You might be better off powering through it and leaving early. Even with naps, we left HS and AK by 3:30. The other days we left right after dinner around 6:30 except our first MK day when the kids had good naps in the stroller so we did a FPP for pirates at 6:40 and then left.

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Sorry I see you’re staying a POR. That will certainly be a long journey back and forth so keep that in mind.

She’s a great napper at home…goes down easily and will sleep for 2 hours at a clip. But I know Disney is a whole different animal, so I’m expecting naps might be difficult. She will nap in the car and if she wakes it’s a total cr@p-shoot as to whether she will fall back asleep. I’m really hoping she will nap in the stroller and we can power through and leave the parks early in the evenings.

I didn’t realize that the transportation time to and from the parks was so long! What would you say is “average”? I was planning 30 minutes from POR to MK but I’m assuming that’s wishful thinking?

I have had three kids go through the toddler years and they all do very well napping in strollers, but could never take naps at the hotel. Some days it is better to power through till early evening than have to face the round trip to the hotel in the afternoon. Other days, an afternoon break for a dip in the pool helps to keep everyone energized for an evening of touring.

That said, an evening at the parks is totally doable with a 3-year-old. She might be asleep in the stroller, but at least the adults can enjoy the fireworks, a parade, or a sit-down meal. You may want to test your stroller to make sure your daughter can nap in it.

You should allow up to 20 minutes to wait for the bus and the ride is about 20 minutes and I believe POR makes multiple stops so it could be closer to 30 just for the ride.

For MK and EP you could ride the monorail and hope for a nap. You don’t have food up the stroller.

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I don’t have kids (and never did) soI can’t comment oh how you plan would work with that regard, but here are a few general observations…

A general theme of my comments is that, as someone who has never been, you don’t appreciate the size, distance, and time elements of WDW.

  1. I think you’re being overly optimistic on your bus travel times at 30 min. Have you considered the time it takes to walk from the gate to the bus dock? And the wait for the bus to arrive? And the walk from the bus to your room at your resort? Most people plan an hour to get from gate to room (and vice versa), and if it comes in shorter, so much the better.

  2. I think 3 hours is very unrealistic for getting to DME, riding DME, checking in, unpacking, getting food, and a nap, and getting to DHS. It’s quite possible that your room may not be ready at all, and if your flight is delayed by even 30 min, this plan will disintegrate.

  3. Your “not too much” can actually be quite a lot. Definitely look at the show times (especially for BatB) to see how the pieces will fit together. Mickey and Minnie’s RR will not be open in Dec (it’s been pushed to 2020).

  4. I don’t know how early your day will start, but pushing to an 8:30 show, with only a 90 min (maybe) nap in the middle, may be asking too much of a 3 year old. JBJB is a projection show, with fairly loud music, laser effects, and if I remember correctly, some fireworks. Is this something a possibly overtired DD3 would enjoy? You list a 9:00 bus back to POR; with everyone leaving the park after the show, the line will be long; it could easily be 9:30 - or later - before you actually get on the bus. If the stars align correctly, you might be able to get your DD in bed by 10:00. If it’s that late, will you be able to get her up at 8:00 or so to make your planned 9:00 departure?

  5. Again, I think you underestimate the time it will take you to get back your room after the parade. Masses of people will be leaving at that point in time, and the bus line will be long. Again, you will be lucky to have DD in bed by 10:00. The next day you list an 8:00 bus for an 8:30 ADR. That is not enough time. Assuming no wait (yeah, right) the bus itself will be 15 minutes, then you have to walk to the gate, clear security, and walk the entire length of FW and part way around WS to get to Norway. I would plan on leaving POR by 7:30, which means getting out of your room no later than 7:15, which means getting up around 6:00 - after a 10:00PM (or later) end to your previous day.

  6. Hopefully you will have an FPP for FEA, if not, even early in the morning you are looking at at least a 30 min wait. You are planning a 1:00 bus back to POR. Depending on how far around WS you get, you could be looking at a 20-30 walk just to get back to the bus loading dock (Germany or America to the EP buses is probably the single longest point-to-point walk in WDW). The rest of your day seems reasonable, although, if you’re planning for your DD, Coral Reef may not be the best choice If you’re lucky enough to score a table right by the aquarium it’s pretty cool. If you’re in the back, it’s just a restaurant with a large fish tank 30 or 40 feet away…

  7. Day 4 looks pretty good. If you don’t have an FPP for PP, then you need to get there as quickly as possible at RD; the line builds very quickly, and it never goes down. I’ve seen ETwB range for a walk-on to a 60-plus minute wait; if this is important to you, I’d recommend an FFP.

As I said at the start of this “longer than expected” post, I have no first-hand experience with kids, but I’ve certainly read enough trip reports to get an idea. I have been enough times to understand the timing and distance issues, so I stand by those comments based on experience.


I was in WDW the week after Thanksgiving last year with a 3 y/o and a 1 y/o. Please don’t take this the wrong way (as I am just trying to help you and your family maximize your fun in WDW), but I think you have made 2 critical mistakes in your plans:

(1) You are way, way underestimating travel times, wait times for security and the gate at the entrance, and the walk to attractions at the park. For example, if you get on a bus at 8:00 am at POR, I don’t see how you are possibly going to be at your 8:30 am at Akershus … just the walk from getting off the bus, through security (even more time with a stroller) and the gate at Epcot and then the walk from the entrance to Akershus could take 30 minutes (or more depending on the wait at security and the entrace). You have this issue throughout your plans. Also, when leaving the parks at tonight, know that you may have wait times for a bus or monorail. You may get back to your room very late at night on Monday and Tuesday.

(2) The lowest lines at the theme parks are between Rope Drop and 10:30 am. Especially with a toddler, I think it is important to minimize wait times in line. With the increase in crowds due to the opening of SW:GE, I think this will be even more important this year. During 3 of your 4 mornings, you are at sit down breakfasts during the Rope Drop to 10:30 am time frame instead of in the parks. I would recommend revising your plans to schedule those times at the parks each day. I would move Chef Mickey’s to lunch (anytime 11 am or later) on one of the days and skip Kona all together.

My last suggestions, I wouldn’t consider critical, but I would think about these:

(A) I would skip Disney Springs and spend that time in the parks. With a short trip and afternoon naps, you are likely going to find that there is much more you want to see/do at the parks.

(B) At MVMCP, in general, the lines for characters are particularly long. If your 3 y/o can handle those lines, then it’s not a problem. I just wanted to make sure you understood what you may be getting yourself into.

© Your HS afternoon actually looks to me like a fair amount to cram in from 3:30 pm to 6:00 pm. Did you check the show times? Remember, SW:GE will likely mean that park is much more crowded than in the past. Also, Mickey/Minnie RR won’t be open yet when you go in December.

(D) Everything takes longer at WDW with a toddler. eg - Potty announcements at the worst times (like at Winnie the Pooh when we were next in line to ride); snacks; discussions at the entrance of attractions he/she decides might be scary; etc. Make sure to build in enough time for these “time wasting” events.

Really, really don’t want to burst your bubble, but I think your plans need some revision to maximize your fun on this WDW trip!

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Perhaps I am missing something but you mentioned 3 day park tickets, however your plans include 4 days in parks.
Also, on your Epcot day, the World Showcase is from 9:45 to 1 pm. Keep in mind that the WS opens at 11 pm, except Norway and Mexico, and 2 hours is very tight to explore the rest.
I agree that you should ‘budget’ at least an hour for travel, 1.5 hours if you have ADR, since you cannot be late for these.
We travelled with 4 and 9 year olds two years ago and had great time. Kids, however, could not last in the parks for more than half a day. They kept asking to go to the pool, which was one of highlights of our trip.

You’ve already gotten good advice! Don’t be too scared. Hopefully you’ll be better prepared

Have you already bought the MVMCP tickets? I would have recommended just doing a regular MK day then. Wait times at the parties for characters can be quite high and you’re having a late night and then an early morning. I don’t even expect that so work with my 8 year old.

Also world show case does not open until 11. You can ride FEA but there won’t be that much else to do right there. Honestly I’d do future world then WS at Epcot and just push through that one day and quit early.

I’d wait and see how GE goes. I’d consider skipping HS if that park is nuts. Might not be a good first Disney impression.

She said 3 day tickets plus an MVMCP ticket…

Personally we waited until the youngest was 6. The 3 year old will have fun playing in the playgrounds.

Slow way down, enjoy the excitement, eat the food and ice cream. Unless you are in super shape (think marathon runner) the walking, getting through the crowds with a stroller, and general stress can really tire you out.

Of course, you already have the tickets. Be positive. Let the stress melt away. Spend time playing. Don’t force anything.

The quality of your experiences will be driven by you!

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Agree with all of the above - especially touring from RD-10.30, and then eat. I took my 8 and 2.5 year old to DLR and we had a great time, but you do have to pare back what you can do in a day. We chose not to do the party and it was the best decision. First, party days are the best time to be in MK during the days b/c crowds are lower. Second, late nights are just too hard on my kiddos. We always returned to room for my 2.5 year old to nap if possible. However we always did one longish day where we powered through till 4 and returned to hotel for the night.

My only thoughts on ADRs…we were in WDW in 2015 with a 9 month old and 6 year old. I literally spent the trip canceling ADRs (we weren’t on DP). After one very long TS dinner (they are not fast experiences), I realized we’d be spending endless hours sitting in restaurants entertaining our kiddos, when the parks were right there …with entertainment galore.

Character meals were some of our favorite memories of the whole trip. I would forego other sit downs except maybe sci-fi though.

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But I wouldn’t do so many breakfast ms as that wastes precious morning hours. Lunches are good because it serves as a break.

All kids are different, but I know that for us, "late"nights (i.e. leaving the parks at 9pm) just wouldn’t have worked. DD would have been overtired and not pleasant to be around by then. I don’t think we ever left the parks later than 7pm when she was 3. By the time you get back to the resort and ready for bed, it will be at least 8pm - perhaps closer to 8:30pm. Leaving the parks at 9pm and being ready for the bus by 8am the next day feels very optimistic to me.

I would switch your Epcot and HS days. I went last Nov/dec with my 3 and 6 year old and found there was more to do at their ages at HS.

With all the shows your definitely underestimating the time you need at HS

Also it took us 2 hours at coral reef and we’re fast eaters. Any non buffet table service is at minimum 90 minutes

I d budget 90 minutes for all meals. Character meals including buffets are slow if you want to see all the characters.

First of all, I want to thank everyone for the responses. I’ve read each and every one and I truly appreciate all the detailed feedback - it’s been a HUGE help! I’ve taken a lot of the advice that was given and we actually ended up adding an extra day to our resort stay so that our arrival day can be just a pool/relax and explore (maybe hit Disney Springs) day and we can move Hollywood Studios to another day to devote more time to it. I’ve also adjusted our Epcot day so that we’re hitting Future World in the first part of the day and then World Showcase in the afternoon when (hopefully) our daughter is napping and we can actually have some fun exploring each country.

After reading all your comments and discussing with my husband, we created separate touring plans for each day in which we don’t do the trip back to the resort for naps and instead either build in shorter stroller naps or we power through and leave the parks on the early side (with the exception of the one day we’re doing MVMCP). I’ve also adjusted our meal times to give a full 90 minutes for each TS meal and moved our park days around a little so that the day after MVMCP (since that will be a later night) is a slower day where we are not rope-dropping or having to be at any breakfast reservation.

We also actually ended up switching from POR to a Deluxe Studio at Old Key West. My husband really wanted a balcony since our daughter goes to bed on the early side and we’re night owls. She’s not one to fall asleep if we’re sitting right there in the room, so we decided a room with the option to escape outside for a few hours while she sleeps was a better choice for us. I don’t know how that will effect travel times to and from the parks - it looks like it’s in the same general vicinity as POR, but I’ve read the bus stops tend to be less populated in general at OKW. Should I still be building in 60-90 minutes of travel time to or from a park?

I’ll post the new itinerary shortly …I’d love opinions on the new one.

Thanks again for everyone’s help. I’ve been a frequent poster on some of the WDW facebook groups for some time and I have to say, this board has been the most detailed and helpful responses :slight_smile: