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One Day at Disney World: Park Hopping Tips & Itinerary

It may sound chaotic, but Disney World is one day is possible! With a few tricks up your sleeve, you can make your day a magical one without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.

To help you out, I’ve put together some tips to make the most out of your one-day adventure, plus a suggested itinerary that utilizes early entry, park hopping, lightning lanes, and Genie+.

Tips for tackling 1 day at Disney World

Before you jump into attempting to tackling Disney World in one day, there are a few key tips to consider.

Be prepared to pay more

Let’s cut to the chase: visiting Disney World for one day is not going to be cheap.

First, you’ll need a park ticket with a park hopper upgrade or an annual pass.

Park hopper tickets start at $188, but since ticket prices are date-based, they can run much higher. I’ve seen them as high as $254 for this year.

In addition, I recommend purchasing several individual lightning lanes and Genie+ to help minimize wait times so you can accomplish as much of your desired attractions as possible.

Genie+ can run anywhere from $15-40 per person. The busier the crowds are, the higher the price will be.

The same concept goes for individual lightning lanes. Below are average ranges per Thrill Data, but pricing can change at any time.

  • Avatar: Flight of Passage: $11-17
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind: $14-17
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: $10-12
  • Star Wars: Rise of Resistance: $15-25
  • TRON Lightcycle Run: $20

Go during low season

If you have control over when you can go, choose a time that isn’t expected to busy. Otherwise you’ll not be able to do much since you’re trying to sample four parks instead of one.

Check out my post about the best and worst times to go to Disney World, which includes a crowd calendar with anticipated crowd levels for the entire year.

Plus, if you sign up for my email list, you’ll get access to a free downloadable, printable calendar that includes the crowd level info, too!

Purchase individual lightning lanes

Photo of the starblaster space ship at night outside Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster at Epcot.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Purchasing individual lightning lanes, while an added cost, is a great way to help structure your day for this challenge and guarantee you won’t have to spend too much time in line.

Later in this post, I provide a suggested itinerary in which you’ll want to purchase the following lightning lanes:

My suggested itinerary also includes Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Flight of Passage, but we’ll position those in a way that you won’t need a lightning lane.

If you decide to tour the parks in a different order, you’ll want to switch up which individual lightning lanes you purchase.

Utilize Genie+

Photo of a scene in the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Ride.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

In addition to individual lightning lanes, Genie+ can also help you better manage your time and avoid long waits. If it’s a very slow day, you might be able to skip this added cost. But more often than not, you’ll need it.

Genie+ gives you access to lightning lanes for a larger group of rides, rather than just a single ride like we discussed in the previous section.

Just make sure to purchase the park hopper Genie+ so you can utilize it throughout the entire day.

Use internal transportation options

Photo of 2 Skyliner cars at Disney World going by.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Rather than deal with parking, traffic, and longer walks to the park entrance, utilize the internal transportation options, such as the buses, Skyliner, and monorail, as much as you can.

If you have a rental car or are a local, then you may want to add a little extra time at the beginning of your day to park at the Ticket & Transportation Center (TTC). Then make your way to the Contemporary Resort and use the bus to head to Animal Kingdom.

Alternatively, you can take a ride share to Animal Kingdom if you don’t mind spending the money to save you some time.

You could park at Animal Kingdom and then take a ride share from Magic Kingdom to Animal Kingdom at the end of the day.

However, this will end up costing you more in time and money, as hundreds of other people will be taking an Uber or Lyft from Magic Kingdom back to their hotel, vacation rental, or home, so you’ll have a long wait and there will likely be surge pricing.

Take advantage of early entry and rope drop

Photo of crowds at rope drop at Hollywood Studios.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Time is your friend when trying to see as much as you can across four massive theme parks.

If you’re a Disney resort guest, start your day off strong by taking advantage of early entry, which is typically 30 minutes ahead of the official park open time.

For example, if the park is set to open at 8 AM, then early entry will be at 7:30 AM. Since park hours change throughout the year, check Disney’s official calendar for park open and close hours for your desired day.

Some parks will let you enter even earlier than that unofficially. It’s not a guarantee that a park will let guests in earlier than scheduled, but it does happen often.

So basically you want to get there an hour ahead of early entry or at minimum, 30 minutes ahead.

This is known as ‘rope drop,’ as you’re there early enough to walk in as soon as they open the gates – even if it’s earlier than scheduled!

The idea is the closer you are to the front of the line, the better an advantage you’ll have knocking off a few attractions in your first hour!

Save time with mobile order

When you’re hungry, use the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to order food ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in line at the restaurant.

Not all restaurants are available, particularly snack carts, but it definitely is a time saver if you don’t mind sticking to mobile order spots!

Make a plan ahead of time

Photo of the World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot after Luminous, with lights and Spaceship Earth still lit up.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Above all else, make a rough plan ahead of time. You don’t want to be too rigid, but a little bit of structure will help make your day less chaotic and easier to relax while you’re in the moment.

First, decide which nighttime show you want to see, if any at all.

Personally, I like Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios the best, but at the same time, riding TRON at night is superior. Therefore, when I do this challenge, I typically end with Magic Kingdom if I’m aiming to ride TRON after dark.

Once you decide on your last park, pick an order for the remaining three.

I like to stack Epcot and Hollywood Studios next to each other because you can use the Skyliner between the two. And then I also like to stack Magic Kingdom and Epcot together because you can use the monorail between the two.

Once you have the order down, make note of which rides and attractions are your must-dos at each park. This will give you a rough idea of how much time you’ll need at each park. If you’ve got more than 3 rides on your list, make note of your top 3.

Be sure to factor in time to travel between each park. I usually plan an hour, but it’s almost never that much time. I just like to give myself a buffer in case there’s traffic or a delay of some type.

Finally, allow for flexibility. You might not get to everything on your list and chances are slim that you’ll get to do everything in the order you want to do them.

But if you go in with the simple goal of having fun sampling a bit of all four parks, you’re bound to have a great time visiting Disney World in one day!

Itinerary for one day at Disney World

Custom graphic with a suggested itinerary for one day at Disney World that includes all four parks.
Custom graphic by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Using all of the tips above, here’s my suggested itinerary for one day at Disney World.

Graphic with steps (pin sized).

For this itinerary, we’re going to use the following order:

  1. Animal Kingdom
  2. Hollywood Studios
  3. Epcot
  4. Magic Kingdom

Let’s assume Animal Kingdom opens at 8 AM and Magic Kingdom closes at 9 PM. Although hours vary throughout the year, these are pretty typical open/close times for each of those parks.

That gives us 13 hours to see all four parks in one day. If you break it up evenly, that gives you roughly 3 hours per park while factoring in time for transportation.

Purchase lightning lanes and Genie+

Photo of TRON Lightcycle Run roller coaster at night.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Genie+ can be purchased at midnight the day of your visit, but hopefully you’ll be sleeping so you have enough energy for the day!

But, as soon as you get up, make your purchase so it’s one less thing to do.

At 7 AM, purchase individual lightning lanes for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, TRON, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

For Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, aim for a lightning lane between 3 and 4:30 PM.

For TRON Lightcycle Run, aim for a lightning lane between 6 and 7 PM or after 8:30 PM. This assumes Happily Ever After is at 8 PM. If you want a good seat, aim for 6 PM.

If you just care about seeing a few fireworks and want a cool vantage point, you can get closer to 7 PM. Otherwise, try to get a pass for after Happily Ever After starts.

Lastly, for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, aim for a lightning lane between 11:30 and 1:30 PM.

Then, make your first Genie+ selection for an attraction at Animal Kingdom for as close to park open time as possible.

I recommend Na’vi River Journey for your first Genie+ selection. However, Kilimanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest, and Festival of the Lion King are also great options.

If you are traveling in a group, have each person with a phone, tablet, or laptop helping to make this happen by assigning a task to each person.

For example, if you’re a group of 4 or more, one person can purchase Genie+ and select the first ride, one person can snag the Cosmic Rewind lightning lane, another person grabs TRON, and so on.

This will increase your chances of getting the time frame you prefer for each ride, as each person can make their assign purchase right at 7 AM.

Animal Kingdom

Photo of a group of people riding Flight of Passage at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

At Animal Kingdom, my suggested rides and attractions for a short visit are:

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Kilimanjaro Safari
  • Expedition Everest
  • BONUS: Na’vi River Journey, Festival of the Lion King

As mentioned earlier in this post, to make this day a success, you want to rope drop your first park.

Plus, if you’re staying at a Disney World property, you also want to take advantage of early entry, which is typically 30 minutes before official park opening.

Arrive at least 30 minutes before early entry for resort guests, but more if you can. This will get you to the beginning of the entrance line, so you can speed walk toward your first attraction: Avatar Flight of Passage.

This is the most popular ride at Animal Kingdom and regularly sees lines of 1-2 hours, even during slow season. During busy season 3-5 hour waits are not unheard of!

You could purchase an individual lightning lane for this ride. However, by taking advantage of early entry and rope drop strategy, you can save yourself a little bit of money.

Trust me – when you’re traveling with family or a group of friends, the cost adds up real quick!

Once you’re done with Flight of Passage, head over to Na’vi River Journey. Ideally you’ll have selected this ride for Genie+ for around 30 minutes after park opening time and you’ll be able to head right to your first lightning lane.

Once you check in to your first Genie+ selection, make your next selection. If you’re traveling in a group, grab Expedition Everest for roughly 1-1.5 hours from now. But if you’re riding solo, grab your first pick at Hollywood Studios.

If you weren’t able to get this ride on Genie+ and there’s at least 20 minute wait, grab a stuffed pancake or lumpia from Pongu Pongu and have a quick breakfast while you wait in the standby line.

Now it’s time to make your way over to Africa to check out Kilimanjaro Safaris. If you didn’t grab breakfast at Pongu Pongu yet, do so now and eat it on the walk over.

Alternatively, if the wait time at Kilimanjaro Safaris is 30 minutes or less, you could also opt to get breakfast at Kusafiri Bakery or Creature Comforts (which is just a Starbucks in disguise).

Aim for something that’s easy to eat on the go, such as the stuffed pancake or a breakfast sandwich.

I often get a stuffed pancake at Pongu Pongu and then a coconut iced coffee at Kusafiri Bakery since they don’t have iced coffee at Pongu Pongu.

After the safari, make your way over to Asia to ride Expedition Everest.

If the lines are long and you don’t mind breaking up your group, make your way to the single rider line.

Don’t get in this line and expect to ride with your friends or family. You will get broken up and may not even make it on the ride at the same time.

So many time I’ve seen people try to game the system and fight with cast members about wanting to ride together even though they are in the single rider line.

Don’t be that person. You’re waisting your time and making a cast member’s day more stressful.

While you’re in line, make your next Genie+ selection at Hollywood Studios, if you haven’t already.

After riding Expedition Everest, double back through Discovery Island to snag a photo or two of the Tree of Life before leaving the park.

BONUS: If you’re ahead of schedule or want to spend more time at this park, I recommend adding on Festival of the Lion King.

Hands down, it’s the best show out of all four parks! Usually this show runs ever hour starting at 10 AM, so keep that in mind if you want to do it.

Park hop to Hollywood Studios

Photo of Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster in Toy Story Land at Disney World's Hollywood Studios.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

After hitting all the top rides at Animal Kingdom, hop on a park bus to Hollywood Studios.

On the ride over, check the wait times at Hollywood Studios to get a good idea of which rides you may want to snag on Genie+ and which ones have shorter lines.

At Hollywood Studios, my suggested rides and attractions for a short visit are:

Ideally you’ll have a Genie+ selection already set up for around the time you arrive. Keep in mind that Genie+ selections have an hour grace period, so even if you arrive after your window starts, that’s ok!

Once you get in line for your first Genie+ selection, make your next selection for early as possible.

Try to use your selections on rides with wait times that are longer than 30-45 minutes.

If you can’t grab anything during the timeframe you’ll be at Hollywood Studios, pick something at Epcot, such as Soarin’, Frozen Ever After, or Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.

TIP: The Skyliner takes you to the International Gateway entrance, which is right next to the France pavilion, where the Ratatouille ride is located, making it the best Genie+ selection for your first ride at Epcot.

I also recommend grabbing lunch here, ideally something you can eat quickly or can be taken on the go and eaten in line, such as a ronto wrap from Ronto Roasters in Galaxy’s Edge.

Lastly, given that there are a lot of big ticket items here, it’s likely that you won’t get to everything on your wish list for Hollywood Studios.

If I had to narrow it down, I’d do Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania, and if time permitted, a ride or show I haven’t done in a long time that also has a short line.

Take the Skyliner to Epcot

Photo of Te Fiti looking over a pond at Epcot's Journey of Water walk-through attraction.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Head to Epcot via the Skyliner. This will give you a little bit of R&R so you can recharge before hitting up your third park!

At Epcot, my suggested top attractions are:

  • Guardians of Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Journey of Water
  • Living with the Land
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure OR Frozen Ever After

I love Journey of Water for days like this because it’s a self-led attraction, meaning you can spend as little or as much time as you’d like.

Living with the Land is another good attraction because it usually isn’t more than a 10 minute wait and is a classic Epcot attraction.

Aside from attractions, take a moment to snag photos with Spaceship Earth, as well as around the World Showcase.

Lastly, be mindful of Genie+ and lightning lanes. Remember that once you check into a Genie+ selection, or 2 hours have passed since you last selected something, you can select another attraction.

The closer you get to the time you plan to leave for Magic Kingdom, think about switching your Genie+ selections to that park.

End the day at Magic Kingdom

Photo of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Magic Kingdom.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Once you’re ready to leave Epcot, hop on the monorail, which is located between the main park entrance and security.

On your way over, check the wait times at Magic Kingdom on the My Disney Experience app to get a good idea of which rides have long waits and which don’t.

Also review your next Genie+ selection. If it’s not for around the time you get to the park, try refreshing the app to see if an earlier time pops up.

At Magic Kingdom, my top attractions and rides include:

Once you get to the Magic Kingdom, head up the staircase at the train station to grab a photo of Cinderella Castle. You’ll have a clearer picture of the castle and crowds than if you simply take it while standing on Main Street!

If you’re hungry, head to Adventureland and grab some spring rolls – they’re one of my favorite snacks at this park and are hearty enough for a quick, small dinner. Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square is another of my favorite quick service spots here.

Otherwise, head to your first ride. If it’s a Genie+ selection, be sure to make your next selection in the app while you wait in line.

Then rinse and repeat as you hit up as many rides as possible!

You can get in line for any ride up until the park closes, so I recommend getting in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train just before park close. Of course, if you prefer a different ride, go for that!

Are you planning to do one day at Disney World?

Visiting Disney World in one day can feel daunting, but the key is to plan ahead, prioritize your top 2-3 must-do attractions at each park, and embrace the magic of the moment. Emphasis on that last part!

With these tips, you’ll be able to create unforgettable memories that’ll make you want to plan your next trip to Disney World ASAP.

Until next time, see you in the parks!

About the author

Photo of Meg Frost on Buzz Lightyear: Space Ranger Blast at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Meg Frost is the creator of The Park Pixie, where she covers Disney World, Disney+, and Disney fandom.

She holds an M.A. in Journalism from Northeastern University and B.S. in Communication & American Studies from University of Miami in Florida.

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