Touring Walt Disney World Like a Pro

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Touring Walt Disney World requires lots of research. Bob Sehlinger, coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, shares with us his tips and suggestions. Many visitors don’t have six days to devote to Disney. Some are en route to other destinations or may wish to sample additional Central Florida attractions. For these visitors, efficient touring is a must. Even the most time-effective touring plan won’t allow you to comprehensively cover two or more major theme parks in one day. Plan to allocate an entire day to each.

Touring Walt Disney World

A comprehensive one-day tour of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or Disney’s Hollywood Studios is possible, but it requires knowledge of the park, good planning, good navigation, and plenty of energy and endurance. One-day touring leaves little time for sit-down meals, prolonged browsing in shops, or lengthy breaks. Yes, it can be fun and rewarding, but allocating two days per park, especially for the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, is ideal.

Successfully touring the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, or Disney’s Hollywood Studios hinges on three rules:

1. Determine in Advance What You Really Want to See

Which attractions appeal to you most? Which ones would you like to experience if you have time left? What are you willing to forgo?

Finally, because Disney attractions range from midway-type rides and horse-drawn trolleys to high-tech extravaganzas, we’ve developed a hierarchy of categories to pinpoint an attraction’s magnitude:

SUPER-HEADLINERS The best attractions the theme park has to offer. Mind-boggling in size, scope, and imagination, they represent the cutting edge of attraction technology and design.

HEADLINERS Multimillion-dollar, full-scale, themed adventures and theater presentations. Modern in technology and design and employing a full range of special effects.

MAJOR ATTRACTIONS  More modestly themed adventures, but ones that incorporate state-of-the-art technologies. Or larger-scale attractions of older design.

Touring Walt Disney World

MINOR ATTRACTIONS Midway-type rides, small “dark” rides (cars on a track, zigzagging through the dark), small theater presentations, transportation rides, and elaborate walk-through attractions.

Touring Walt Disney World

DIVERSIONS Exhibits, both passive and interactive. These include playgrounds, video arcades, and
street theater.

Though not every attraction fits neatly into these descriptions, the categories provide a comparison of attraction size and scope. Remember that bigger and more elaborate doesn’t always mean better. Peter Pan’s Flight, a minor attraction in the Magic Kingdom, continues to be one of the park’s most beloved rides. Likewise, for many young children, no attraction, regardless of size, surpasses Dumbo.

     2. Arrive Early! Arrive Early! Arrive Early!

This is the single most important key to efficient touring and avoiding long lines. First thing in the morning, there are no lines and fewer people. The same four rides you experience in 1 hour in early morning can take as long as 3 hours after 10:30 a.m. Eat breakfast before you arrive; don’t waste prime touring time sitting in a restaurant.

The earlier a park opens, the greater your advantage. This is because most vacationers won’t make the effort to rise early and get to a park before it opens. Fewer people are willing to start touring Walt Disney World parks as of 8 a.m. versus 9 a.m. If you visit during midsummer, arrive at the turnstile 30–40 minutes before opening. During holiday periods, arrive 45–60 minutes early.

If getting the kids up earlier than usual makes for rough sailing, don’t despair: You’ll have a great time no matter when you get to the park. Many families with young children have found that it’s better to accept the relative inefficiencies of arriving at the park a bit late than to jar the children out of their routine. In our guide especially for families, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids, we provide a number of special touring plans (including touring plans for sleepyheads).

   3. Avoid Bottlenecks

Successfully touring Walt Disney World involves knowing when—and why—bottlenecks occur. Concentrations of hungry people create bottlenecks at restaurants during lunch and dinner; concentrations of people moving toward the exit near closing time cause gift shops en route to clog; concentrations of visitors at new and popular rides, and at rides slow to load and unload, create logjams and long lines.

For more information on touring Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa.

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