If you’re planning your next Disney World vacation, you’ve probably run into this small conundrum: what to do on arrival day! I have a few ideas on making the most of your arrival day without exhausting yourself, wasting money or wasting time. These same tips can also be applied for departure day, although I will have other tips to share for departure day in another post!
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This is a given – spend your first day in Disney World in Disney Springs! These days, we usually don’t do this, because we like to hit Disney Springs during the week on a rest day to pick up souvenirs we maybe saw in the park but didn’t want to buy at the time.
But when I was younger, we always went to Downtown Disney and hit the highlights like Disney Quest (I miss you, Disney Quest!) or Rainforest Cafe (I was young, OK?). This is always a great way to start your trip, although whatever money you save on park tickets, you might spend on souvenirs.
If you only have an evening or half a day at Disney World and the weather is nice, spend your first day relaxing at your resort’s pool! (If you stay on-property, anyway.) The pools of Disney World resorts are truly mini parks in and of themselves, so it’s never a waste of time. Plus, you have a whole week, or a few days at least, to exhaust yourself on your vacation.
Dinner at a park.
If buying an extra park ticket isn’t a concern, schedule a dinner reservation at a park and spend just dinner and the rest of the evening there! You’ll get a little Disney magic without exhausting yourself, and you can usually fit this into any arrival time.
It’s most fun to do this at Epcot, in my personal opinion, although you could also do it at Magic Kingdom – both parks have great fireworks shows you can catch and are beautiful at night. I don’t think much of Hollywood Studios right now, and Animal Kingdom is more of a daytime park for me, so if I were doing this, I would choose one of the first two parks.
Take a bus from your hotel to the next park that sends a bus over, and then hop on a bus to any resort you’ve always wanted to check out! Get dinner there, explore and enjoy it.
My recommendations are Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Grand Floridian and the Boardwalk. All three are fun to explore for both residents and resort hoppers.
Full park day.
I do not believe that you can only do Disney World if you get there early, so if you’re a Rope Drop Truther, we may not agree on this. But if you’re getting to Disney World before 10 a.m., go ahead and make arrival day a real park day! Your resort will hang onto your bags – hop on the bus and get on your way.
This is not for the weak, mind you. Mom and I did this on our last trip and certainly regretted it a little bit by 3 p.m. … and for the rest of the week, too. But if you have the time and don’t mind being extra tired on Day 1, do it. This is ideal for shorter trips or first-time trips – you want to get as much Disney in as possible!
Other tips for arrival day:
- Usually, if you have already bought four or five days of park admission, a sixth day isn’t that much more – $30 or something like that, it’s pretty negligible compared to the whole cost. If you’re taking a large group, that might not be worth it, and if you’re trying to cut costs, you definitely don’t need to get that extra day just to spend the evening there.
- I recommend always trying to arrive as early in the morning on arrival day as possible, even if you aren’t going to go to the park that day. We usually drive at least half way on our first day of travel and then wake up early to make it the rest of the way and get to Disney World by 9 a.m. on arrival day, so we have the option to go to the parks if we want to. This year, we’re flying and getting there around 10 a.m. or 11 a.m.
- If you aren’t getting in until after dinnertime on arrival day, stay off-site and save the money on your resort for the next night. The benefits of staying at the resort won’t really apply to you until the next day.
Don’t forget my favorite planning resource…
If you have a trip coming up, make sure you have a copy of my Disney bible! I can’t recommend the Unofficial Guide enough. I get a new copy every year and read it cover to cover. This guides so many of my FastPass, dining and general planning decisions every year, and I recommend it to everyone.
Photos from www.MagicGuides.com.