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Cover Photo by Iain A Wanless

Disclosure: On our recent trip to Orlando, Walt Disney World provided me with two free One Day Park Hopper tickets. There was no agreement as to what I was going to write about regarding my experiences. These words and ideas are my own.

Walt Disney World Four Parks in the Same Day

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World for the first time in many years. I had been to Walt Disney World before including on long trips, however this visit was to be for only one day.  Ultimately I decided to try and visit my favorite attractions in each of the four theme parks all in that one day. Here are some of the lessons I learned doing it.

The new Fastpass+ system is not your friend.

Since you can only have Fastpasses selected for one park ahead of time, don’t expect to skip the lines like everyone else. After you use up your initial three fastpasses then you can get additional ones at different parks. My suggestion is to use your fastpasses early in the day at park #1 or park #2 so you can get more at the other parks later. Basically, you must now plan very well and if your fastpasses aren’t selected in the right order, then you can lose valuable time.

Disney’s Transportation is good, but not that good.

disney world four parks in the same day
Disney Transport. Photo by Ashley.

Switching parks takes time. Even the super convenient monorail between EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom is a time suck considering you need to wait for a train and switch at the Ticketing & Transportation Center. The buses are somewhat convenient, but they still take time and if you miss one, it could be 15-20 minutes before the next one comes.

There are of course other options such as taxis or even Uber. You need to weigh the cost of these transportation options against the value of your time. While Uber can be convenient, having to wait for a car to arrive can also eat away any time savings. Taxis are expensive, but they generally are sitting outside the parks so you can get in and go.

Pack light because security takes A LOT of time.

Walt Disney World has implemented very stringent security check which means very thorough bag checks and having to go through metal detectors. Since you will be doing this security check four times in the course of the day, it is important to pack light and avoid bags if possible. (They have a much faster line for people with no bags.) If you do need to bring a bag, make sure it is easy to search.

Lines tend to be worst at the beginning of the day. For example, on my recent visit my wife, baby and I were stuck in the security line at Animal Kingdom for 25 minutes. That was very valuable time lost in a day where we were trying to do as much as possible. While we needed a bag for the baby, perhaps we could have planned a bit better so that we didn’t arrive at the peak time.

One broken ride can ruin your plans.

disney world four parks in the same day
Expedition Everest looked pretty but it breaking down cost us a lot of time.

After clearing the security lines at Animal Kingdom, I was excited to go ride Expedition Everest. This was the ride I most wanted to get on again, however it broke down. Unfortunately a park like Animal Kingdom only has a few big rides meaning that lines grew across the park to 90-120 minutes for most rides. We simply didn’t have that time so we had to skip a bunch of stuff. After riding only two rides in the Dinosaur area, we had to move on.

Extra Magic Hours are good but not great.

Disney has a ton of hotel rooms on property and everyone who stays in them gets Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours allow guests to either get into a park early or stay late depending on the day. We planned to use Extra Magic Hours to get a head start on our day with an 8am opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Unfortunately I arrived at 8:25am after oversleeping and the park was already packed with huge lines for some of the most popular rides. With only an hour of allotted time at this park, I had to ride the Tower of Terror and then move on.

Don’t Expect to Get a Huge Break.

disney world four parks in the same day
Thankfully babies can rest in their strollers!

We had planned to take a break at our hotel sometime in the afternoon, but that never happened. Luckily our 13 month old daughter was having a lot of fun, so she allowed us to keep going. Yes it seems like visiting four theme parks in one day is a lot, but the truth is the time flies by. I honestly don’t know where we could have found the time for a break. If you want to visit all of the parks, be prepared to go from morning until night. Fun, but tiring.

Planning is Essential.

Having been to Walt Disney World before, I knew which attractions I wanted to visit and sort of knew the order I wanted visit them in. Unfortunately I don’t think I planned enough. Between the new FastPass+ system and the fact that everyone else has their days planned down to a tee, you need to get on board with that. Trying to visit four parks in one day successfully involves a deeper understanding of the resort, how to visit and where to go. I don’t like traveling this way, but for one day at Walt Disney World, I would make sure to be super prepared.

Don’t Plan to Backtrack

disney world four parks in the same day
Try to plan your day in one direction. Forward.

You might think you can get back to another park later in the day, but this isn’t going to happen if you are visiting all of them in the same day. As I said before, the day will truly fly by and you won’t have much time to spare thus backtracking just isn’t a viable option. Make sure you ride what you want to ride when you visit a park and don’t plan for backtracking when selecting fastpasses either. Yes, the lines might be shorter later, but the time you lose backtracking negates that.

That Perfect Treat Will Give You a Burst of Energy.

For me, the two perfect treats at Disney are their awesome pickles and of course Dole Whips. I grew up near Disneyland and remember eating them inside of the Tiki Room. In Walt Disney World they don’t allow you to do that, but you can still get the delicious treat. Taking a 15 minute break and enjoying that Dole Whip gave me the energy to finish the day. Of course you can substitute in your favorite Disney treat. The most important thing to remember is that despite the hectic schedule, you are still on vacation!

Give yourself time to recover.

This goes with any theme park vacation, since you should always plan down time, but is important when visiting all of the parks in one day. A whirlwind four park day will wear you out. It doesn’t matter what shape you are in or how experienced you are, the combination of the rides, the people and the walking will have your body screaming the next morning.

On our recent trip we had a planned visit at Universal the day after Disney and we were simply exhausted. If you have any sort of flexibility in your schedule, make the day after your four park adventure a rest day. At the very least give yourself some time to rest in the morning before easing into activities. Believe me, your body will thank you.

Finally…..

You Probably Shouldn’t Try to Visit All Four of the Parks In One Day

disney world four parks in the same day
EPCOT had beautiful landscaping for the Flower & Garden Festival, but we really didn’t get to enjoy it since our time was so limited.

My last lesson learned was that visiting every park in one day probably wasn’t the best idea. We did spend a good amount of time in the Magic Kingdom, but other than that we only experienced small slices of the other parks. There really is so much to do and see at Walt Disney World and I think focusing on one or two parks is a better way to go even if you only have a day.

Final Thoughts

In the end, my family and I had an amazing day at Walt Disney World. We walked just over 33,000 steps, experienced attractions at all four parks (my wife and daughter only did 3) and made the most of our one day at Disney. Of course no one is perfect and I learned all of these lessons along the way. Hopefully if you attempt a four park day, you can make it work even better than me. Have fun!


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15 COMMENTS

  1. When planned well 4 parks can be done in 2 days. IF need be. 4 in 1 is hell for sure. If you told me I had dedicated transport park to park and it was the slowest day of the year, maybe for giggles, but even then it would be adults in running shoes only. Meaning only adults, not only wearing running shoes.

  2. This sounded like a crazily ambitious plan, bravo for doing it. Hearing about your experience reinforces that as much as I don’t want to give Disney extra money for extra days at the park, the remaining sanity afterwards may be worth it.

  3. I may have to do all 4 in 1 day just so I can say I have.

    I fairly regularly do 3: HS in the morning, Epcot in the afternoon, and EMH at MK after dinner. That might actually be my perfect Disney day.

    However we only do the big 3 attractions at HS and maybe 1 minor attraction and then we get out (or early lunch at Brown Derby) and only go to Epcot to hit a couple of food & wine booths and wander around the World Showcase. Also we stay at an Epcot resort so we can easily make it back to our room between parks. Dinner at California Grill or Kona and then pop into the MK for a nighttime ride on BTMRR and SP.

    PS- you have an awesome family!

    • Thanks Haley. My 12th lesson was going to be “You Need to Visit with Haley”, but I didn’t want to have people flooding your inbox with invites! 🙂 We had such a great time hanging out with you at Magic Kingdom.

  4. I did 4 parks in one day with my 3 teen sons back in December. We had it planned out and hit everything and the most we waited was 20 minutes one time. Some things we were able to hit 2-3 times.. Like Everest..
    It’s all about working the system. We stayed off site and drove to the park and found it to be not a problem at all.

  5. Last summer my daughter and I planned DW for four days. We did three parks a day including water parks.

    -Plan your fastpass’s well. You have three then you can start booking more in another park. We booked rides affected by the August lightening storms for the AM as they shut down in the afternoon
    -Travel light. Water, hats, poncho(rained a lot).
    -Use The storage lockers. Pay the cost at one park and keep the receipt. Use a locker at the next park for free, plus key deposit.
    -We brought lunch and snacks in a chiller bag and ate on the Disney transportation. Kept everything except light snacks in the storage locker.
    -Starbucks offers ice water if you ask.
    -The boat ride between Holly studios and Epcot is great for an afternoon picnic lunch.
    -Make smart use of the single rider line. We managed four quick rides on Expedition Everest before my body needed a break.
    -Had a light dinner around 8:30pm then headed back to the hotel around 9:30. Went to the Tutto Gusto wine cellar a couple of times as the menu is light, fast and tasty. Great place to cool down also after a hot day.

    This itinerary is not for everybody. We moved fairly fast and made changes depending on weather and crowds.
    We arrived around 8:30am and finished by 9:30pm. My daughters goal was to maximize the rides as much as possible. She had a blast. I was tired!

  6. Sounds stressful. I’d say unless you live locally or go very often that there is no reason to go to all four in one day. Interesting review though.

  7. I did the 4-in-1-day whirlwind a while back with several friends, 2 of whom grew up in Orlando and the 3rd who works at Disney World. I’ve done many much more relaxed tours of the parks since, but for that particular trip I was in town on business and had only the one free day.

    I asked my friends to show me what they considered the highlights, and, of course, they knew all the touring tricks to maximize our time. We started in Animal Kingdom, too – I loved Expedition Everest. But this was a group of 4 adults – kudos for trying it with a little one! I was *exhausted* by the end of our day.

    And, seriously, there’s something miraculous about the restorative powers of a Dole Whip.

  8. So funny, I thought dole whip was something you could only get at the farm in Hawaii. I’d never heard of it before our trip this winter. Now it seems like every Disney post has some kind of dole whip reference in it. 🙂
    I’m glad to know there’s somewhere I can get it without crossing the Pacific.

  9. I’ve done all four parks in one day before, but I don’t recommend it for newbies – or even most experienced Disney visitors. The key is to plan to experience only, say, 1-3 attractions per park. Plan an hour for travel time between parks. It will likely take less, but you’ll need the extra time somewhere during your day. Know what nighttime show you want to end with (ahem, Fantasmic) and get there last. You won’t do everything, but you can get a decent sample in. It is absolutely exhausting, however.

  10. I couldn’t do that. Sounds like way to much work and I live just north of disney. My SO wants to do Universal and Islands of Adventure in one day. I find that just exhausting, and my kids are teens.

  11. I had a breakup and decided to go by myself after all and the bad part was going to be doing it alone but the good part was being able to go at my pace. Went to animal first, did dinosaur first, expedition single rider, tough to be a bug(almost no line) Kali river with a fast pass and then left for epcot and did test track single rider and had lunch. Left for HS and did rock n roller coaster single rider, then the great movie ride, Indiana Jones and got a beer and left to go back to hotel. Was going to go to blizzard beach but was too tired so I got into the pool at the hotel and went to the room showered, ate and headed back to animal kingdom for my other fastpass at kilmanjaro which left me not using one and then went to wishes at magic kingdom. Was going to try to ride splash mountain there but i was beat. Went to bar by the pool and had a real nice conversation with a redhead. Bar closed and we hugged and went our separate ways but it was a fantastic day.

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