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Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide
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Brian Bennett

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The "Limited Time" Trip

I've had several requests over the years for some information on what to do at Walt Disney World if you have limited time.  This situation can come up for a variety of reasons.  For one, a business traveler may be fortunate enough to be able to extend a trip for a day to two, but not for a whole "vacation."  Another would be when a guest is actually in Florida for some other reason (to see family or for some other reason) and can only set aside a day or two.  A third would be when someone just needs a "fix," but can only afford a very short few days away from work and home.

Regardless of the reason, if you will only have a day or two to visit on your next trip, you really need to seriously plan what you're going to do.  In fact, all of the issues of planning a trip must be done just like they would be for a longer visit, but since the margin for error is so much smaller, you really do need to "sweat the details" more so than for a more casual vacation.

I'll go through the outline from the contents page covering issues related to "Planning Your Trip," "Getting There," "Accommodations," "Admission Media," and "Planning Your Day" -- as they related to the short-duration trip.  However, you really should take the time to read through those pages in detail, too, because they may include tidbits of information that may be really helpful to you as you decide what you're going to do.

Timing Issues

For a limited time trip, the issues of timing (when to go) may be less critical that for more typical vacations since the "when", more than likely, is dictated by some other factor (a business meeting, family reunion, or whatever).  Even so, if you can affect the timing at all so that you can avoid the busiest times of the year, you'll still be much better off.  Conventions and other business meetings are often held in the Fall and Winter, anyway, so you might just luck out.  If not, you're probably stuck and my suggestions about timing won't matter anyway.

Booking and Packages

If you're booking a trip on the spur-of-the-moment, I would strongly recommend that you use a travel agent to do so.  Using a travel agent costs you not a penny, and may pay off handsomely in real dollars savings.  Package deals are not likely to work well for you, though, because most packages are for a minimum of three nights and four days.  It may be worthwhile, though, to ask and see if a package can be shortened to accommodate your needs.

Planning Ahead

There isn't much that I can add to the ideas presented in the "Planning Ahead" pages that would be specific to a shorter trip.  Certainly, you'll want to do a good job of prioritizing which attractions and restaurants you want to visit, and it may be useful to make priority seating arrangements for those meals.  If you're on an expense account, you might enjoy some meals that you might skip on a personal vacation, but if you're alone and don't want to eat by yourself, that might not be a good option either (personally, I'd rather eat fast food when I'm by myself...I just hate sitting at a full-service restaurant alone.)

Getting There

Certainly if you're on a time budget, you'll want to fly (unless, of course, you live close to WDW and a drive isn't taxing).  The only words of wisdom I have here for a short duration trip is to plan ahead and try to catch a cheap airfare by booking early.  Knee-jerk trips are likely to cost you an arm and a leg, so plan ahead -- even for shorter trips.


All of the opinions that I've expressed about on-site accommodations go doubly strong if you have only a day or two to visit.  If you're on a business trip, your boss might frown on an expense report that claims a couple of nights at the "Grand Floridian Resort & Spa," but if you're on your own dime, staying on-site is a great idea!  The major reason why I would push on-site accommodations for a short trip is the time savings for park commuting versus an off-site resort.  The other reason, though, is just that you can enjoy your trip all the more if you're fully immersed in the "Disney Magic" from arrival to departure.

Admission Media

Here's where the rubber hits the road.  How much do you really want to spend on admission media for a short trip?  Buying one or two one-day one-park tickets maybe be expensive in the long run, but for a short trip it really is the least expensive option.  Of course, the drawback is that you will be limited to one park and not be able to hop from one to another.  If you're staying on-site, Unlimited Magic (length-of-stay) passes may be a good solution, since they offer full access to the parks but are priced per night.

Another possible solution can be found on the "Admissions Media from A to Z" page, which I quote here:

Also, if you're planning to come back to WDW within a year of another trip an "Annual Pass" can be a financial boon. On one occasion, for example, I was sent to WDW on business (believe it or not). When we were there in November, we decided to buy Annual Passes that we used for both the business trip and our already-planned-trip the following April. The Annual Passes would never have paid for themselves for either trip by themselves, but were a big savings when the trips were combined. Plus, it allowed us to visit the parks in the evening during the business trip which we otherwise wouldn't have been able to do. "

One thing you might really want to consider, if the cost or inconvenience of dealing with admission media is a problem, is skipping the parks altogether!  You can easily spend a day or two visiting the resorts, renting a boat for an hour or two, going parasailing (you have to be an early riser, but if you've always wanted to go...)  A whole list of possible options is on the Activities Reservations page.  Other ideas are:

  • Spending the day at Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, or River Country

  • Visiting the resorts

  • Spending some time at Wide World of Sports

  • Visiting Downtown Disney

  • Enjoying the evening at Pleasure Island

Each of these options would allow you to avoid the cost of a full day in the parks.

Planning Your Day

If you'll be in Central Florida during the hot Summer months, you'll still want to follow my advice on the Developing a Daily Gameplan page.  Spending all day in the parks, with the heat and crowds, is a bad idea no matter how many days you have to spend.

Well, that's my own thoughts on the matter.  If you have experiences to share or suggestions that I can pass on to other short-time visitors, drop me a line and I'll add it to the page!

Carli Entin (CEntin@Scholastic.com) sent me this note:


For a person who thinks 4 nights is a long vacation, let me offer this added advice to your new section:

  1. Take the earliest flight out and the latest flight back. Even if it's more money, think of the added value of being in the park for a longer amount of time.

  2. On my last trip (a Saturday-Thursday), MGM, for all intents and purposes, did not exist. I knew I'd drive myself nuts trying to see everything, so I made myself drop one park. For me, it was a no-brainer. There were only a few things I'd miss at MGM, and none of them were a huge deal. This works in the parks you're going to, also. You can have a much better time if you concentrate on seeing only the stuff you really love, and not even thinking about the stuff you're missing.

  3. A last minute trip can be done cheaply. I got a $138 (give or take $10) flight out of Newark four days before the trip! That was leaving at about 7am and coming back at around 10pm! It's not always the case, but it's certainly possible!

  4. Pack light. For a short trip, you should totally be able to bring luggage that does not need to be checked. I have a carry on roll-able suitcase that works well, in addition to my book bag.

  5. A short trip is a great way to use "leftover days" on any hopper pass you may have. In fact, if you only go on short trips, buy a 5, 6, or 7-day and spread its use out over 2 or 3 trips. (My last 7 day pass was split between a 5 day trip, with one day out of the parks, and a 3 day trip).

Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide

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