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Here's How You Do ALL FOUR Walt Disney World Parks in ONE Day (Without Losing Your Mind!)

Fastpasses are important, but they aren’t everything

 Dakota Gardner

Image: Dakota Gardner

If you visit more than one park in a day, the Fastpass+ strategies get a bit complicated. You can try to front-load your reservations, getting all three out of the way as early as you can so that you can try to make day-of reservations later (assuming there’s availability). Alternatively, you can book headlining attractions in the parks you’ll visit later in the day, thereby ensuring you’ll get to experience those attractions, but at the cost of potentially using extra Fastpasses.

Because you can’t spread your reservations between parks, neither option is an obvious improvement over the other. I ultimately decided on the second option, booking three Fastpasses for the Magic Kingdom, which I planned to visit as my final park in the day. That meant that, aside from those three attractions, I wouldn’t be able to use Fastpass at any other point.

Admittedly, the lack of Fastpasses meant that I had to forgo a few major attractions like Soarin’ and Toy Story Mania. And, the attractions I didn’t skip — like the Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror and Test Track — had moderate wait times. Without a doubt, only having three Fastpasses while trying to visit all four parks was a challenge.

But, it wasn’t the back-breaker I expected. Even on a relatively busy day for the Disney Parks, the longest line I waited in was about an hour and a half (and that was the Tower of Terror). What I found was just as helpful was having a good touring plan, arriving for rope drop, and being willing to skip an attraction if I just felt like the wait would be too long.

Fastpasses are great, but it’s important not to let them determine your entire day. It’s OK to wait in some lines, really. 

Flexibility and a good attitude will make or break your day

 Dakota Gardner

Image: Dakota Gardner

When you attempt something like four parks in one day, you’ll likely put together a plan of attack. There are attractions you’ll want to do, attractions you’d like to do, and attractions you’re ready to skip. You’ll make reservations and schedule times you intend to hop from park to park, and you’ll have centerpiece events — like major rides, meals, or fireworks shows — that you’ll be sure to be on time for.

But here’s the thing: something will go wrong. It always does! And, when it does, it’s important to keep the golden rule of Disney vacations in mind: It’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you react to it. 

I intended to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris during my Animal Kingdom stop, but unfortunately it was closed. I wanted to ride Livin with the Land before leaving Epcot, but I ran out of time because I spontaneously decided to pop into the end of a Voices of Liberty performance. 

It’s great to have a plan, but it’s even greater to be willing to throw out that plan if the moment warrants it. Disney is about exploration and having fun, and sometimes, that means doing something impulsive and maybe a bit foolish. Things go wrong, things come up, but as long as you remember that you’re on vacation and you’re there to have fun, your day will still go well. The day isn’t a failure if you didn’t ride one attraction, but it definitely is a failure if you didn’t have fun. For the most part, that’s up to you. 

There really is nothing quite like the Magic Kingdom

 Dakota Gardner

Image: Dakota Gardner

Everyone has a favorite Disney theme park. In fact, for some of us, that favorite park changes by the day. But no matter whether you’re an Epcot fan or an Animal Kingdom maniac, one thing we can all agree on is that the Magic Kingdom really is something unto itself.

Rather intentionally, I made sure the Magic Kingdom would be my last stop on this trip. It’s the most classic park, it had the latest operating hours (until 10:00 PM that day!), and it has the most rides. After exploring Animal Kingdom, fighting my way through the crowds of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and enjoying the energy of the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, getting off the monorail and walking down Main Street USA felt like coming home for the first time in a long while. 

I left myself with plenty of time, which meant that I could really explore the Magic Kingdom as I saw fit — criss-crossing from side to side, stopping on occasion to take a photo or watch a show. As I wandered, I was reminded time and time again just how amazing this place truly is. The intricacy of the theming, the intention of the music, and the friendliness of the cast members all combine to create a place that feels like a warped reflection of the real world — not as it is, but as we want it to be. The colors are all brighter. The smiles are all more prevalent. The air is somehow fresher.

The Magic Kingdom doesn’t have the natural beauty of the Animal Kingdom. It lacks the period charm of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It doesn’t have the sprawling scale and staggering architecture of Epcot. But, what it does have is heart — tons and tons of heart. It’s the kind of place where you don’t feel self-conscious, whether you’re taking a picture in front of the famous purple wall, deciding whether or not you need a second Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream bar, or visiting on your own — as an adult — for the very first time.

I experienced over 20 attractions over 16 hours, spread between four theme parks. I walked close to 21 miles in total, and took buses, ferries, monorails, Lyfts, and even the Wildest Ride in the Wilderness. But the most important thing I learned that day had nothing to do with the number parks I visited or the number of attractions I rode. Rather, it was that Walt Disney World is special because it’s the rare place that exists just to make people happy. 

Happy ... and tired, admittedly. I definitely slept well that night.

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