Your Park Days
by Jennifer Marx, Author of PassPorter Travel Guides
"Which day should I go? Which day should I go?" This is a question I ask myself for every Walt Disney World trip. Even with bare-bones planning, determining which park(s) to visit on which day is incredibly helpful in determining what to do, where to eat, and even how long to stay. Park days may be the only thing I plan in advance (besides my airfare and hotel), but it makes a big difference in how I enjoy my trip.
Before I begin, let me say upfront that my method of determining park days relies more on preferences and pleasure than on commando-style touring. So this article focuses on you and your needs more than what everyone else is doing and how to avoid them.
OK, so how do you decide your park days? Here are several questions to ask yourself -- the answers will point you to your park days schedule.
1. How long is my trip? If you're visiting for just a day or two, you'll need to decide which park(s) you absolutely must visit. If you're lucky enough to have a week or more, you may visit one park over several days, or do a lot of park-hopping.
2. What is my favorite park, or the park I'm most looking forward to visiting? Write it down, then ask yourself this question: Do I want to start the vacation with a bang, or do I want to save the best for last?
3. Do I have young kids? Most little ones will like Magic Kingdom the best, and compare all other parks to it. If you suspect this is the case, save Magic Kingdom until later in your trip.
4. Do I want to take advantage of Extra Magic Hour? Every day, Disney resort guests can get into one park an hour earlier than everyone else. If this is important to you, the Extra Magic Hour schedule will be key in determining your park days (see page 32 of PassPorter Walt Disney World 2003). If you aren't an early riser, this schedule is also important because you'll want to avoid the parks that have Early Magic Hour on any given day (they'll be more crowded).
5. Do I want to take advantage of special shows (such as fireworks), special events, or longer park operating hours? If yes, check Disney's web site for dates, parks, and hours and schedule around these key days.
6. Do I want to plan an R&R (rest & relax) day into our trip? On longish trips (5+ days), one day to just bum around the hotel or visit a water park really makes a difference in how much you enjoy your vacation. Consider it if you have the time.
7. Do I really want to avoid the crowds? Stay away from the Magic Kingdom on Saturday if you can help it, avoid the park with Extra Magic Hour, and try to visit in the off-season. Beyond that, I personally don't find a huge difference in crowds.
By this point, you should have a good
handle on your park priorities and preferences. If you've got a copy of PassPorter Walt
Disney World 2003, you may have noticed the little chart at the bottom of page 197. This
is the park day calendar grid. Use this to sketch out your park days. When you're
satisfied with your choices, write the parks you plan to visit on the corresponding daily
PassPockets and on the Vacation At-A-Glance page. The rest of your vacation decisions
(where to eat, what to do) tend to fall neatly into place once your park schedule is
chosen... almost like magic!