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

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

Dakota Gardner

This March, I was fortunate enough to find myself on a business trip to Florida. I live in New York City, so an escape to the warm weather of the Southeast was certainly welcome, but the real reason I felt so lucky was that I managed to extend my trip to make a visit to Walt Disney World.

But, in a twist that would make the almighty Thanos happy, there was bad news to perfectly balance out that good news: I could only spend one day on the property.

Nevertheless, I was able to get a one-day park hopper, so I figured I’d set a challenge for myself. What if I could visit all four parks in one day? What if I tried to experience all of the headlining attractions that I could? Would that be possible? Would that even be fun?

Considering I was traveling alone, and I didn’t have anyone to object to such an obvious foolhardy mission, I decided to give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen?

And so, I fired up my touring plans and downloaded the MyDisneyExperience app and got to work planning my trip. A few days later, I found myself falling asleep in the Walt Disney World Swan, anxiously awaiting waking up and trying to tackle the whole World in one day.

I wound up being pretty darn successful — pulling off 20 or so attractions in total — and here are some things I learned along the way:

Rope dropping is the single most effective way to ride major rides

 Dakota Gardner

Image: Dakota Gardner

On the day I visited, Disney’s Animal Kingdom had Morning Extra Magic Hours, meaning I could access the park beginning at 8:00 AM as opposed to its normal opening time of 9:00 AM. Due to the last-minute nature of the trip, I was unable to score a Fastpass+ reservation for Flight of Passage in advance, so if I wanted to ride it, my only real chance would be to rope drop it — the practice of showing up early enough to be one of the first guests to gain entry into the park.

I left the Dolphin in a Lyft around 6:15 AM — earlier than even the Walt Disney World bus system operated — and arrived around 6:30. And, believe it or not, I was roughly the 8th or 9th guest there.

The strategy paid off. In fact, it paid off so well that I was walking off Flight of Passage right at 8:00 AM — with a major attraction already put in the books. It was so brisk that I was able to ride Na’vi River Journey with only a minimal wait.

I’ve never been someone who really felt compelled to experience Walt Disney World rope drop — everything from the early wake-up call to the human stampede just seemed like too much stress for something that’s supposed to be a vacation. But if there’s an attraction that you really must do or your trip will feel like a failure, the best way to experience it is right as the park opens.

Traveling solo is actually really fun

 Dakota Gardner

Image: Dakota Gardner

One of the things I was most apprehensive about before the trip was exploring the world on my own. It’s not that I didn’t like the idea of being alone or was worried that I might grow lonely, but it was more that I thought I might feel out of place — a solo traveler in a place built for families and friends.

Thankfully, my worries were put to bed almost immediately. I’d never been to Walt Disney World alone before, but what I realized was that being able to do things my way and on my schedule meant that I could finally see the resort as I’d always wanted to see it. If I wanted to stop for a minute to take pictures, I didn’t have to worry about slowing anyone else down. If I wanted to rush from attraction to attraction without taking a break, I could do that too.

And, I never once felt uncomfortable or alienated being on my own. In fact, the cast members were so friendly and so eager to brighten my day, it almost felt like being a VIP. Their attitude never felt condescending or infantilizing, but rather, they seemed genuinely excited to make my day better. That was pretty cool.

In all, visiting Walt Disney World alone is much like traveling anywhere else alone — setting your own schedule and doing whatever you want to do can lead to a fantastic vacation.

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.