Only One Day at Disney World? A Guide for Adults

Cinderella Castle Hub Fountain

So you’ve only got one day at Disney World – where to begin? I know what you’re thinking: you want to make the most of those blissful 24 hours. But where do you go, what do you do, and what do you eat, right? Then there’s FastPass+ selections to think about, characters to meet, and shows and parades to watch. All of that combined can make your head spin! Here’s my top tips and planning steps to take for a fun-filled, magical one day at Disney World for adults!

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom is gorgeous any time, any day!
There’s nothing more beautiful than Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World! Photo Credit: Steven Locke

Step One: Pick Your Park(s)

As soon as you’ve locked down your travel date, especially if it’s a last-minute visit, you need to decide which park or parks you want to visit. Considering the time it takes to park hop, even if you drive, you’re looking at an hour or more in travel time. That hour, in my opinion, is precious when on a time crunch.

If you’ve never been to WDW before, there’s plenty to consider before locking down a park. Happily, I’ve got a guide to choosing a Walt Disney World theme park. one day. It’s based on what you want to see most of during your visit and is definitely a fun guide to help you decide.

I really can’t stress this enough: do your research. There’s plenty of resources on this site including:


Taking an adult trip to Disney World? Here's the best tips and tricks for when you've only got one day in the theme parks!

Step Two: Buy your Tickets

If you have time to plan, you have time to buy your ticket. There’s two routes to go: the official WDW website or a reputable third party seller. Please, please, please only use these two methods. I trust the Disney World website completely. I also trust Undercover Tourist. Truth, though: at this time Undercover Tourist’s one day WDW park tickets cost more than the gate/WDW website prices. In the future, if you do decide to go on a visit and will be spending three days or longer in the parks, go with them. They can save you some serious cash.

FastPass+ Is Your Best Friend

Once you’ve narrowed down your choice, that’s when FastPass+ selections come into play.  Purchase your ticket before you arrive and you’ll be able to lock down three FP+ selections per person, per day to start. Once you’ve used all three you’ll be able to hop onto the My Disney Experience app or an in-park kiosk to select an additional one. After that’s used, you can repeat the process until you’ve finished your day or there are no more to choose from.

If you’ll be staying on property, your window for selecting FastPass+ is longer than if you’ll be staying offsite. Onsite, it’s 60 days from the day of your visit. Offsite, you can begin selecting at 30 days out.

Depending on which park you’ll be visiting first depends on what FastPass+ selections you’ll want to make. There’s hot rides and attractions where the selections get picked pretty quickly. At the time this post was written, here are the three most popular rides/attractions at each park:

  • Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Ride, Happily Ever After, and Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square
  • Epcot: Frozen Ever After, Test Track, Soarin’
  • Hollywood Studios: Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania!
  • Animal Kingdom: Avatar Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safaris

In every park BUT Magic Kingdom there’s FastPass tiers. What that means is that you’ll have to pick which of the popular rides you’d like to use your make-ahead selection on and wait standby for the others or wait until your first three have been used and hope there’s still a FP+ selection left.

If you haven’t created a My Disney Experience account, you’ll need to do that ASAP. It’s free to use and each adult in your party will have to create his/her own account. Once created, you can link accounts – and select FP+ selections for your entire party at the same time.

Bao Buns at Sat'uli Canteen in Disney's Animal Kingdom
Bao Buns at Satu’li Canteen in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Dining: Table or Counter Service?

There’s two choices for dining at WDW: Table Service and Quick (Counter) Service. With a table service reservation, you’ll have a leisurely meal and prices will definitely be more expensive. With Quick Service Restaurants, you’ll have to wait in a queue, order your food, then find a table and eat. There’s a great hack to saving time in line at Disney World counter service restaurants, howeverWe saved a ton of time on our last visit with it.

You can begin making table service reservations at 180 days out from the day of your visit via the WDW website or MDE app. Please keep in mind you’ll need a valid credit card to hold the reservation and, if you decide to not show up, it will be charged a $10 per person fee. You CAN, however, cancel the reservation 24 hours or more beforehand and save yourself the fees.

So here’s what you’ll need to decide: are you visiting for the food, the rides and attractions, or a little bit of both? If you’re all about getting in as many rides as possible, you’ll want to dine at Counter Service. If you want to indulge, start making those table service reservations. A bit of both? One meal a a table service restaurant will be at least an hour. Choose wisely.

Rope Drop at Magic Kingdom

Make Plans to Hit Rope Drop

Rope drop is that lovely time of the morning when the theme parks open. 99 times out of 100 it’s the least crowded time of day, too. If you want to accomplish the most in a single day, hitting rope drop is integral. Let’s take Magic Kingdom as an example for a minute. We recently visited during Halloween and were able to hop on the most rides and attractions in the first two hours of park opening than any other time of day window.

Mid-afternoon is generally the time of day when crowds are the highest. Translation? You’ll be spending the most time in standby queues. My tip is to keep checking the My Disney Experience app for attraction wait times and hitting the rides accordingly.

If you’ll be unable to hit rope drop, schedule out your FastPasses. That’s the easiest way to lock down the top three rides/shows/attractions you’ll want to check out.

Cocktail at Disney's Beach and Yacht Club
Ask any castmember where the closest cocktail spot is – they’re more than happy to help! Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

Where’s the Liquor?

Up until only a couple of years ago, Magic Kingdom was a “dry” park. Happily for my husband, this has changed. In each of the four parks (and Disney Springs), restaurants and kiosks offer beer and liquor. Not all of them do, but there’s plenty to choose from.

If you want to pick a park that has the most alcohol bang for your buck, my choice is Epcot. In Future World and the World Showcase you’ll find walk-up kiosks to get your fill. Visit during a festival (Flower & Garden or food & Wine) and you’ll have an even better selection. 

If there’s ever a time that you can’t find a place to grab a beer or cocktail, ask a castmember. They’ll be more than willing to offer suggestions. 

Disney Hollywood Studios

My Best Tip

You’ll be at Walt Disney World, the “most magical place on earth”. Yes, it will probably be crowded. Yes, it will probably be hot. But, you’ll be at Disney World! Even if you don’t get to ride all of the rides you wanted or try all of the awesome snacks, you’ll still be surrounded my Disney magic and pixie dust.

So, my best tip? Take a minute from the hustling around the parks to stop and take it all in. The time will go by in a whirlwind and you’ll want to make a conscious effort to remember your day. Stop. Smile. Breathe in the Disney air. 


I hope these tips and tricks were beneficial to planning a one day visit to Walt Disney World for adults. If you liked, them, please give me a shout in the comment section below!

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