How To Plan Your Itinerary For Magic Kingdom In 10 Easy Steps
Congratulations! You’ve successfully booked your Disney trip and you can’t wait to get there and start your dream vacation! Now all you have to do is book your Fastpasses and your dining reservations and you’re good to go! But as we all know, this isn’t an easy task, is it? Disney World is larger than San Francisco, with 4 parks, 2 waterparks, the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment district that’s growing by the second, and all kinds of fabulous special experiences like character greetings, Cirque de Soleil, fireworks cruises, horseback riding, spas… You want to do it all, but you don’t even know where to start!
Well, whether you’re going to Disney World for a week or a weekend, chances are you’re going to Magic Kingdom, Disney’s most visited park, while you’re there. Here are 10 easy steps to help you book your Magic Kingdom itinerary and get your trip off on the right foot!
1. Set Up Your My Disney Experience Account/App:
In true Disney fashion, Disney has given you a tool to find everything you’ll ever need to know about Disney World, and keep track of your own itinerary, all in one place! You can create your “My Disney Experience” account online and download the app to your phone, so that it’s readily available at all times. This will include your resort and Magical Express reservations, dining and character greeting reservations and Fastpasses. All of these items can easily be modified online or on the app and can be shared with other people in your party so that you don’t have to be the only one who knows what’s going on! You can also access information about ride wait-times, height requirements and see restaurant menus. You’ll now use this as the platform for everything else that follows here.
2. Start with the Extra Magic Hours:
Are you staying at a Disney World resort? If so, you’re able to take advantage of Disney’s Extra Magic Hours, where one of the 4 theme parks either opens an hour early or stays open up to 2 hours later, exclusively for the enjoyment of resort guests. This is one of the top perks of staying at a Disney resort, as the parks are much less crowded than at other times of day and you can do so much without the long lines! Disney posts the Extra Magic Hours for all 4 parks a little more than 6 months out, so that guests are able to plan their reservations. Go to the Disney Parks webpage and click on the “Parks & Tickets” tab and you’ll see the Extra Magic Hours listed for today. If you click on “More Hours,” you can see the hours a little more than 6 months out by scrolling through the calendar.
If you’re not staying on property, consider doing so on your next trip. You’ll be able to do so much more in the time that you have!
3. Are You Spending One Day or More?
Magic Kingdom is Disney World’s original theme park and its’ most iconic, where so many of Disney’s traditional experiences can be found, like Cinderella’s Castle, the Wishes Nighttime fireworks display, Peter Pan, Dumbo, Pirates of the Caribbean… It goes on! So chances are, if you’re visiting for a week, you’ll devote more than one day to this park. If you do, then consider taking advantage of the early morning Extra Magic Hours one day and the evening Extra Magic Hours another day.
Some experiences are better at night, like Big Thunder Mountain, Aladdin’s Magic Carpets, or the People Mover which let you see the park in all its lit-up glory after dark. Some of the character lines are less busy too, although the characters may not appear right up to park closing, so check the schedules in advance. Nighttime is the only time to see the fireworks obviously, as well as the Main Street Electrical Parade, with floats that are covered in half a million lights, which flicker and shimmer to a carefully synchronized soundtrack. You can also only experience “The Kiss Goodnight” as the park is closing, when Cinderella’s Castle sparkles to the sound of soft music and a gentle voice wishes that all your dreams will come true as it bids you goodnight. It’s a very special way to end your day!
Now getting there in the morning before the park opens to other guests is an awfully good opportunity too! We were able to ride the Little Mermaid attraction multiple times when it was new during Extra Magic Hours, which meant that we avoided the 3 hour lines later in the day! Now that’s magical!
4. Make Dining Reservations:
Now that you know what days you’re going, it’s time to book your dining reservations, which you can do if you have a Disney resort reservation, up to 180 days before you travel. Magic Kingdom has some of the hottest dining reservations around, with Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest and Pooh Bear and Friends at the Crystal Palace. This is a great way to meet the characters, as it saves you having to find them later in the park and stand in long lines. Here they come right to your table! These character meals book up right away, so don’t wait – reserve them right away through your My Disney Experience account.
5. Book Fastpasses:
Now you know when you’re going and quite possibly where, when, and even what you’re going to eat – and you may not even be travelling for another 6 months! But don’t relax yet! It’s time to book your Fastpasses, which are a way of reserving a ride or experience at a certain time. This makes it easier for all guests to experience at least some of the most popular rides or activities. Guests of the Disney resorts are able to make a Fastpass reservation 60 days before the first day of travel. All other guests must wait until 30 days before their visit, which can leave many of the prime rides and experiences with limited availability. Fastpasses are available for many, but not all rides, some character greetings like Anna and Elsa, and certain experiences like the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular Fireworks.
6. Reserve Special Experiences:
Magic Kingdom has some very unique experiences that are worth reserving in advance, such as the princess or knight makeover for kids aged 3 to 12 at the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique in Cinderella’s Castle. Guests 3 and up can also be transformed into pirates or mermaids at the Pirates’ League, near the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Reservations can be made up to 180 days before travel at both locations.
If you’re interested in the history or behind-the-scenes workings of Magic Kingdom, there are a number of tours available at a range of prices. Some are for families, some are adults-only, but all are scheduled at particular times, so if you’re interested, it’s important to incorporate this into your itinerary.
8. Purchase Memory Maker:
Disney World has some prime picture-taking spots where Disney Photopass photographers are available to take your photos professionally. These photos can be purchased individually through the Disney Photopass website, or you can purchase the Memory Maker package, which provides you with all photos taken in the parks, at dining locations and on certain rides, like Splash Mountain. Certain special effects can also be added, like you holding Tinkerbell in the palm of your hand. With Memory Maker, all the photos are automatically synced to your Magic Band and stored in your My Disney Experience account until shortly after your vacation ends. Guests can then claim the digital images or order print items for additional cost. Memory Maker can be purchased in the parks as well, but you’ll save $20 if you purchase in advance.
Now you’ve reserved everything you can! This gives you a good structure for a magical day in the park! So, now it’s time to consider what’s missing. What do you really want to do that isn’t already in your itinerary? When you first arrive at your resort, go to your My Disney Experience App and check the wait-times for the various rides and then head for the busiest one early in the morning. Rides like Space Mountain, Peter Pan and Big Thunder Mountain are extremely popular and are great first rides to hit if you were unable to get a Fastpass.
Don’t forget to schedule in a break here too! The parks are busiest from 1 to 4, so this is a great time to head back to your resort hotel and swim, rest, or take in some of the resort’s fabulous features. Then come back to the park later with a second wind!
10. Re-evaluate the Day Of:
The time has finally come – you’ve arrived, your resort is perfect, your Fastpasses and dining reservations are all optimized for you, and then – it rains, or someone doesn’t feel well, or it’s sweltering hot and there’s no way you’re making it through everything you’ve got planned! Take the time to reevaluate and see if everything still makes sense. Certain rides that have outdoor portions, like Big Thunder Mountain, will close if it rains or if there is lightning in the area. All of your Fastpass and dining reservations can be modified through My Disney Experience, subject to availability, but pay attention to last minute cancellation fees for dining reservations. As well, look for things that you couldn’t get when you first planned your trip. I know people who’ve gotten into Cinderella’s Royal Table with a large party on the day of, because other people have cancelled. You never know how lucky you can get in the most magical place on earth!
BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best Walt Disney World deal, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!
Sandra Chu lives in the Midwest with her husband and two daughters. She is a Canadian lawyer, but became a stay-at-home Mom when she moved to the US in 2007. She fell in love with Disney World on her first trip in her late 20's and has since been back over 30 times. She loves helping people plan their Disney vacations and has been lucky enough to turn this into a career! She works as an independent agent with The Enchanted Traveler, helping people plan all types of magical dream vacations with Disney, including Disney cruises and Adventures By Disney vacations. She has been to Disney at all times of year, with kids of all ages, and has mastered the art of doing Disney with princesses! She is now exploring Disney with a tween. Every trip is a bit different, but always magical! You can find her on Facebook under The Enchanted Traveler.