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Disney's Magic Kingdom Done Magically Well

Updated: Mar 5

Disney does the theme park production like nobody else. With emphasis on the production. This is a full-blown experience that can be magical or overwhelming depending on your mindset, expectations and preparation. I want this day to be a quality time memory that will be cherished for my family, and I will share with you how I plan for the outcome I want. Here are three points to focus on and a sample itinerary for your planning purposes.


We've made it to Disney World Orlando
On Main Street the Castle waits for your family photo shoot!

Magic Kingdom is a little kid's dream. As a Florida family my kids grew up visiting all of the theme parks, and admittedly Disney's Magic Kingdom is one of the harder parks to commit to with all of the extra extra factors to make this expense a really positive experience. So, let's get the nitty gritty out of the way: the crowd. Navigating the crowd is an art, and some of this is just going to involve patience, creativity and time to fully appreciate. The production of Disney is an art in and of itself. Keeping people in suspense while weaving from a line within a line is one method of their madness. They are masters of overexposing all of your senses to the fun house. There is always music playing, something to look at, good smells, and movement.


Baby having fun in Magic Kingsom waiting in line
Waiting for the raft to take us over to Tom Sawyer Island

Mouse ears, pixie dust and the iconic castle hold a place in our hearts collectively. Disney is known for creating the magical experience. If you're not strategic however, the tram, monorail and long lines can quickly define your first impression and turn your excitement to wondering if you have stepped into the twilight zone and pinching yourself to be sure you're really in a theme park having fun. Are we having fun yet?


Disney has changed over the years, but one thing stays true, they definitely create wonder and joy! But as a family who takes their budget very seriously, it is hard to put a dollar limit to the happiness How do you plan for Disney? Here's some planning to help make sure you get the most money out of your day, or better yet, days.


I am going to give you a brief 3 points to consider along with a solid1-day itinerary for your consideration rather than a whole long guide to study.

Underlined items link to the accompanying webpage for your convenience. I do not advertise or use affiliate marketing.


#1. Can Disney be done in one day? Absolutely not don't even try or set unrealistic expectations!


Take a few minutes to consider your family, the pace that works for you and your family. Have a realistic picture of the layout of the land. Be aware of a few things that will help your planning:

  • Driving in to the parking lot is the beginning of several checks before you've arrived. Plan at least an hour to be on Main Street from here. Check points include: **Parking booths, (pay apx. $30 for entry depending on your ticket type) ** The Tram (free shuttle from the parking lot to the monorail OR Ferry into the park) **The Ferry or the Monorail (which gets you to the ticket booths) ** The Ticket booths where you show your passes and enter Main Street.

  • This is not a park where you will have access to your car, plan to take everything you need when you lock it up and head in for the day!

  • Stroller? Bring it! This is a great place for your child to ride, nap, and also a way to keep your belongings as there is stroller parking throughout the park.

  • Items to Consider: Light weight backpack or under the stroller: small soft sided cooler to keep your waters/ snacks cool, sunscreen, portable charger, jackets, and any items you don't want to pay triple the typical cost of. Strollers are a great HOWEVER they will need to be closed to board the tram which comes very quickly and possibly the monorail, so don't pack it with more than you can realistically quickly pull in and out! I stress this as people are moving and waiting and hurrying up to wait, and you'll want to be ready to board. Keep getting into the park as simple as possible. Rainy day blues? Click here for more on what to do if it rains on your vacation.

  • Review the Park Map and have a favorites list of 3 - 4 must see/ must do items that you absolutely want to hit in this day.

Disney's Magic Kingdom map
Magic Kingdom Map example for reference

2. There is so much to see I don't know where to start!?

We are in! What Should We DO?

This question directly correlates with HOW MUCH TIME DO WE HAVE?


1 Day? 2 Days? 3 Days? 4 Days?

Consider the ages of your children - the good news is that even for the youngest babies this park is designed for including all of the family. Disney truly caters to everyone, having something for the entire audience. The more days you have the better, although you may want to park hop and visit other Disney locations such as Hollywood Studios for older kids and teens, Epcot for the young adult/ adult crowd or Animal Kingdom as another option for the whole family including youngest children. I guess this is a good place to share that my other absolute favorite option for the little and whole family, is Seaworld! Read more about that HERE.


My few items I prioritized were creating a magical adventure of a day for the baby (okay she's two), riding our favorites, sharing a good meal, and going with the flow.


Height and Rides Fun Facts:

** Disney has 30 rides without height requirements

** Riders at least 32 inches gain access to Tomorrowland Speedway

** At 35 inches, another Ride becomes available: The Barnstormer

** Once you reach 38 inches the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is ridable

**At 40 Inches Big Thunder Mountain is added to your list

** 44 inches opens the door for Space Mountain

**48 inches includes Tron - the biggest/ fastest ride in the park!

Shows:

On any given day there are up to 7 Shows (check daily schedule as times and shows vary), a parade, and several character meetings.

I did not plan to take advantage of these as our two-year-old does not have the attention span to enjoy a show.


These can ALL be found in the Disney Genie Service which is located in the App - You will need to Download this app for success with your day:

Disney World Experience for Apple Users


Lines: There are lines to the lines. Disney is a creative marketing genius. They have made us all believe the line is a part of the experience by winding us through visually stimulating mazes of people all waiting for the fun. On this note: What will you do while you wait? Bring a fidget toy or other hands on easy to stash item for younger kids who may have trouble in 90-minute lines. While many lines are approximately an hour, a few 90 minutes or more may occur in the middle of the day.


Pictured above: The infamous Disney arch, parking lot tram, and Ferry shuttle, all before getting IN to the theme park. You can choose to take the monorail rather than the ferry, however if you have a stroller the ferry is friendlier.


3. What can we eat?

This question depends on how much time and money do you want to spend on food?

There are two perfectly good approaches here:

A: Food is a part of the experience, feed me well and I want to soak up every savory flavor.

B: Food is a necessary part of the day, and I don't want it to slow me down from my adventuring.

**If you are somewhere in the middle, I also have a suggestion.


Whoever you are, look at your menu options here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/magic-kingdom/

You will have to reserve your lunch and or dinner if eating at a particular dining in place with quality food is important to you. There are options for fast food as well we will discuss below.

Everyone should bring in a water bottle, and a little snack to hold you over! I recommend eating before you enter as well to keep your morning off to a good start. It takes so long to get into the park that you don't want an empty belly, or to find yourself starving halfway through your first line. (True story, we've done this)


Disney World Eating in Liberty Tree Tavern
Waiting for our 11:45 Reservation at Libert Tree Tavern

For the "Food is Life" crew: You will want to get the full dining experience. Look at your options and reserve your table as soon as you've secured your ticket dates.

If you like characters, consider The Crystal Palace or Cinderella's Royal Castle.

If you can do without the characters and want an all you can eat family style Thanksgiving meal (which I recommend) enjoy the Liberty Tree Tavern.

At Liberty Tree, everyone eats the same menu. Butter-soaked dinner rolls and salads are served fresh to begin. Your per person cost includes your food and dessert. Pot roast, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, macaroni and cheese and cranberry with gravy boats are served. You take as much as you like! The dessert comes out looking and tasting soooo scrumptiously delicious and is named Ooey Gooey toffee cake with Chocolate Sauce and vanilla ice cream. I can't recommend enough. But also, do you want to stop your day for a fine sit-down meal (we chose lunch)? You may!


Points to consider: Getting out of the elements is nice. Heat/ rain/ and a subtropical climate can be a lot for an entire day out. Being in a controlled temperature is a great option. It can also allow for a baby nap time if needed. Keep your child in the stroller, get them comfy and enjoy your own down time with some all you can eat tasty food.


Eating waffles for breakfast at Disney
Eating a waffler on her way in to Disney!

For the "my Food is just a necessity" crew: If you are not sweating the small stuff, you have two options.

  1. Pack that soft sided cooler with some Publix subs or homemade sandwiches and skip purchasing lunch. Bring appropriate granola bar or fruit snacks and wait until dinner to eat in the park. Then for dinner, go with the mobile food order option in your My Disney Experience App (link above) and reserve your food in a setting close to where you are at the time, however order about 45 minutes before you plan to get in line to pick it up, as even the food times can be backed up. I don't want to be starving and still wait 45 minutes for the fast food!

  2. Bring in some basic snacks that will hold you over like a banana or a cliff bar. Plan to enjoy some kiosk options that include pretzels, turkey legs, popcorn, or ice cream (hey we are on vacation here). Stop at the Starlight Dinner for a light dinner (chicken tenders or burger) and really eat outside of the park. There are lots of pizza places in Orlando and food options for a fraction of the cost outside of the gates. Is it possible to NOT buy any food all day? If you're staying from open to close this is difficult. Even with some well packed yummies I would not be able to make this work. There are some less expensive options, I advise checking out the link above for menus and prices and planning your food budget accordingly.


If you are somewhere between these extremes: consider saving money by opting for one meal in the park of your choice and bringing in everything else you will need for the day. We were able to bring peanut butter n jelly sandwiches, fresh fruit, granola bars, mandarin oranges and our baby walked right in with a waffle she'd been eating the entire journey from the car! We had plenty to snack on throughout the day and still ate well at Liberty Tree Tavern, getting some Chero goodness, or other treats as we wished, and ending the day with some chicken tenders and fries.


Food Kiosks: Are not on the map as listed menu items. There is still a wait time involved. These are priced for convenience and not as fast-food choices! To me it's not worth the time unless I am already waiting and have some time to kill. (For example during a parent swap wait or while family uses the restroom)



Are posted wait times accurate?

Ummm no, not really. We found some to be way under and others to be way over the posted wait times in the app and at the ride. We saw a few people placing dollar bets on under/ over times and that was a fun way to pass the time.


Most importantly...

Parent Swap - Available on rides your little one is too small for - this feature allows a family to walk up to the line together, and some of the family ride now, and others ride after the first member(s) are done riding. The attendant swipes your card/ pass with the parent swap lighting lane permission, and you get in line on the lightning side once the other adults are done. Time saver!!! While the Lightning Lane is a faster option than the regular lane, it is not a walk on automatic option. Times vary from 15 minutes - 45 minutes typically.


*If the ride you are parent swapping is Thunder Mountain, consider taking your little one to Tom Sawyer Island to run, play, and climb while waiting. If you have at least an hour to kill this is a great option. The line for the boat over to the island and back is not usually more than 20 minutes. There are bathrooms there as well, but no food or concession items.


Tom Sawyer Island is a lot of fun for kids who need to just play. Catching the raft over is the "line" which you will have to do to get in and out. Climb the fort, explore the mines, spend a little nature time, and take a break from standing and waiting! This playground is an island of it's own separated by a draw bridge that children just love! This could be many hours place to stay, hang out, picnic and relax away from the sights and sounds of the theme park craze. Our little one wanted to climb the steps and rocks and loved swinging on the ropes. This tired her out and got us headed towards a good nap!




HAVE FUN!

Disney is set up as a place of wonder and joy. Don't let all the logistics bore you and drag you out of the mood. Stay positive. Remember if you really need something, chances are you can buy it inside the park. Of course, the convenience comes with a price but at the risk of not having a good time, some things can be better off bought than missed. Be a little flexible and put the people you are with above the things for the best possible memories. If you have children that need naps, allow for naps. If your typical routine follows a strict eating schedule, try to keep that as consistent as possible. Kids will follow your lead and as the leader set the tone you want!


The Genius of Disney is the stages of growth. Look how they have a people moving machine! They are experts as designing the matrix of events. As you grow taller you have to return, there is always a new thing to look forward to! Even moving through the lines, you go through lots of check points where you feel like you are there and you're still in line.


Yay! We made it to Magic Kingdom!
Do a little happy dance!

Our Favorites:

I think we can all agree on a few things that are classic iconic things Disney is known for.

*It's a Small World - this ride is a boat through the continents with diverse dolls from different cultures singing and dancing throughout the ride.

*Peter Pan Ride - While many of the rides occur in a boat riding along an invisible track, this one wooshes you into the air and whisks you through the sky to an overview of the Peter Pan story brought to life. In the line you can see your shadow play the bells, and experience other magical parts of the movie.

*Seeing Mickey and Minnie. Even if you're not true Disney fanatics, this is a cool thing to have in your rolodex of memories. Catch them at the end of the parade.

*Space Mountain is memorable. This used to be the biggest attraction (although now it seems Tron may be the coolest thing to do) and it will leave you wanting more. The original roller coaster in the dark, taking you through a star filled galaxy in which you can't see where you are going!

*The fireworks. WOW! My 19-year-olds favorite part of the day was the firework show. At the same time, our two-year-old did not like the loud noises and we were able to quickly bring her on the It's a Small World ride (which we had to ourselves) to get out of the noise.


Disney Realistically.... This is our 1 Day itinerary in February 2024. This will not be possible during Spring Break or Holiday busy times. This was a regular old Wednesday, while some schools in the north were on winter break but not a high traffic time. What we did:


One Day at Disney World ideas and itinerary
Magic Kingdom 1 Day itinerary example

Our 1 Day Itinerary Details...

-Arrive through the front gate at 9:30 AM

(Get through parking, the tram, ride the Ferry, go through the ticket booth and bathrooms!)

We actually left home at 7 am to make this happen.

-Take photos - regroup and GO!

-1st Ride of the Day: Pirates of the Carribean - a fun ride, probably not the best first ride for the baby who wasn't sure what was going on! A little serious in nature.

-2nd Ride: Jungle Cruise - would have been a better first ride for the baby we went with the shorter line choice. Fun animals, lighthearted mood, upbeat.

`The goal was to get through two rides before eating!

-Lunch - Liberty Tree Tavern for sit down good meal, quality family time. (Get out of the crazy, focus on food) Reservations booked a week prior for 11:45

-Big Thunder Mountain/ Tom Sawyer Island, we parent swapped and hung out on the Island while the boys rode the roller coaster.

-Disney Parade was at 3:00 and we just happened to catch it going by with a great spot. Micky and Minnie were at the end, and this made our little one especially happy!

-It's a Small World (our baby fell asleep while waiting, I was sad she missed it but we came back to ride again later during the fireworks show which scared her.

(Because she was asleep, we traded out the Haunted Mansion for Space Mountain. Deciding to go on a ride she couldn't while she was asleep. While we parent swapped, my daughter and I waited in the Starlight Cafe where we had some food and the baby rested in a quiet corner)

`-Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid - so fun!

-Peter Pan's Flight - so fun!

-Fireworks! (Baby scared so my daughter and I took her through It's a Small World while the boys watched the show)

-Back to Tomorrowland for the Space Mountain parent swap (since the baby woke up before both groups made it through earlier, we decided to wait on our rides and let the baby get in some rides before the firework show)

-We tried to get on Tron and learned about the virtual cue. The line for Tron is in the app and ride times are assigned twice a day at 7am and 1pm (in the app) as people must hit the link to ride as quickly as possible to get a ticket. No walk ons permitted.

-People Mover and or Astro Ride (parent swap or just split up depending on time and what the crew wants to do)

EXIT

Through the turn styles, through the monorail, onto the tram and back to the car. At the car by 10:30 pm. This took longer than anticipated!


** Do not try to leave right after the fireworks. You will wait an hour just to get on the monorail or ferry!!!!

**Ride lines are much shorter leading up to the firework show as many people are getting in their good spot to watch the show. Take advantage of this by riding without a long wait.

**Today was about the baby having a great first experience so we all worked around her needs. We are flexible like that. Remember you can only have one top priority and get your whole crew to agree.

**Our schedule did not include some of the really cool shows or the Haunted Mansion or other awesome attractions as we really had to choose what we could do and prioritize.

On our next trip we will plan for the ones we missed, the carousel, flying Dumbo, and the Walt Disney World Train ride. Those lines had long waits and I wanted to catch the biggest stuff today while the whole family attended. When I take just the baby back, we can do more of the smaller rides.


Great photo spot
Tomorrowland Side of the Castle

Tips:

*Stay hydrated! Florida is the sunshine State which impacts us all, Drink lots of water!

*Get to the park at least 30 minutes before the opening time advertised. Because of the distance from the parking lot to the entry turn styles, you can arrive up to an hour before the advertised opening time and still be with in the park - this also helps with getting the day going as crowds increase greatly after opening time

*Have a plan - it's easy to get in and get totally caught up in the moment of the rush! You'll want to make sure your wish list is fulfilled, have 3 - 4 things you stick to

*Check the weather that day and determine if layers, ponchos and hoods are going to be needed! Bring in any possibilities.

*Comfortable walking shoes. You'll walk at least 5 miles in this day!

*Take those early morning photos. Don't rush past the opportunity to frame those memories!

*While everyone is getting their castle photos on the front side of Main Street, the view on the Tommorrowland side is even more stunning.

*Your phone will not last the entire day. The battery life in a theme park is definitely stretched thin, bring a portable charger and cord.

*Have a meeting place in the event you get separated! Old school style, make a meeting place and time if going different ways!

*If it's hot, bring a portable fan, this goes a long way in the humidity.

*Parades start in Frontierland and end on Main Street, a great place to catch it is in front of Tony Town Square Restaurant.

*You may be able to spot Minnie at Pete's Silly Slide Show Storybook Circus. Character signings are a long wait and can be underwhelming unless your little one is really interested in this!


Saving on Souvenirs

Nearby to Disney are local Publix, Walgreens and Walmart stores which offer a variety of Disney everything! It you are in town and have some time, stop there to stock up on any gifts or souvenirs. Also, a good idea to go prior to attending the park to see the selection or items, and maybe grab a poncho if you suspect there will be rain on your day! Items outside the theme park are much more reasonably priced.



Riding It's a Small World at Magic Kingdom
Our first time through It's a Small World, baby asleep

Affordability meter: 2/10

On a scale of 1-10 how affordable is this trip?

When considering the value and quality of this day vs the cost, with 1 being nearly unaffordable and 10 being practically free, I rate this day at Disney's Magic Kingdom a 2. It's an expensive day due to entry, parking and not including extras, like food. Disney gets away with VERY costly tickets because people keep coming back willing to pay. Due to massive crowds, they almost can't even lower the price, they'd have even more people? I'd love them to have an educator discount like Sea World does! Ok, griping aside, the day lived up to the hype. Disney is an experience and they have perfected the art of the magical environment. It's definitely part of the "American Dream" to take your family to Disney World and there is something to be said for seeing to believe it. I would classify our family more as Universal type of people in general as Harry Potter was a huge impact on our family life and culture, and butter beer is amazing. To me - it's about getting my money's worth out of the day. I like to feel like the cost was of real value. How can you place a dollar amount on the memory? Disney is quite a luxury item, rather than the household name I feel it once was. However, all of that said, YES I'd still go again, and I'd still recommend the day especially for families with smaller children! It is worth the expense, and I encourage families to know what they are spending and budget appropriately.


I am glad I budgeted, and so glad we went. I appreciate all of our family quality time especially as the big kids get bigger and time is harder to make 💙💙


Saving on Tickets

Florida Residents can choose from multiple day tickets or annual passes which make visiting more affordable. US Military Members also enjoy specially priced tickets. Of course, the best deal is the staff member deals, which are the most affordable - to actually be on the cast and crew!



Wherever your travels take you, enjoy the journey and be blessed!

A little planning goes a long way!

I will help you build an itinerary.

Once you commit, decide to make the best of it!

Quality time with quality people always makes the journey better!

Thank you for visiting, please leave your own experiences below, I love to hear of your adventures!

What would you include in your 1-day itinerary?



If you are planning to go to Hollywood Studios, this will help you with your day!


If you prefer to visit Universal, or a water park, browse through these theme park blogs!


My four children have been my test subjects of how to plan a great family adventure for many years and now that my youngest is 19, many of my travels are work related, or grandma related! As time has changed, I've evolved but I still LOVE TO TRAVEL, explore, wander, visit, discover, learn and love. If nature is there, I can find my happy place. I use the term single not to emphasize my status but to signify that if I can manage some family fun on a limited teacher's salary with four children, anyone can do it. I am very intentional in how I spend my time and earnings. I typically seek out budget friendly ways to enjoy my time, but will occasionally splurge for the right reasons :-)


Happy Travels!! My goal is to make traveling easier for families and cut down on the planning process. 💜

~ Mz. Savvy


A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip.


Maybe you need some self-care or a trip dedicated to inner peace, creativity and finding your Zen? Then this retreat is for you: Art. Yoga. Soul. Join us!! This adventure will focus on the beauty with in and the beauty surrounding us. Affordably priced to fit your budget. National Park add on!













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