32 Magic Packed Hours in Walt Disney World

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Walt Disney World is huge. Packed into 40 square miles of magic you will find perfectly themed hotels, highly rated restaurants, theme parks bustling with vacationers and Disney characters alike, shops brimming with the Disney merch of your dreams, and so much more. Seriously - you could spend weeks exploring the many facets that create the wonderful world of Disney.

But what if you're short on time?

This past June, I was in such a dilemma. A work trip brought me to Orlando and I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get a few hours of magic in. Originally, I had planned to spend only a few hours there by myself on the day I was to fly home. However, my friends Sam & Lisa decided to join me and it made for one of the most action packed Disney adventures I've experienced to date!

Note: Sam is from California (AP at Disneyland!) and has only been to WDW one time previously, so I wanted to make sure she had a great experience!

Here is how we spent 36 Magic Packed Hours in Walt Disney World! 

Planning is Key
One of the great features of WDW vacations is that you are able to pre-plan so much in advance. From online check-in at your hotel, to dining reservations 180 days in advance and FastPass+ selections at 60 days in advance (when staying on Disney property), the skeleton of your days is mapped out well before your feet arrive at the resort.

Because we had only a short amount of time in the parks, we skipped making too many dining reservations. Knowing there are treats galore to be eaten, we knew we'd be well fed. The one reservation I made sure to make was for Be Our Guest. I felt this was an important reservation as it is the only way to see Beast's Castle (which is a must see!). Time in the parks was more important to us so we did not have any other reservations.

FastPasses were a bit of a challenge. With the FastPass+ system, you can only make selections in one park. I chose to make them at Magic Kingdom, since I figured it would be the most packed. Peter Pan's Flight, Haunted Mansion, and Seven Dwarves Mine Train were our selections. We ended up skipping Mine Train to head to a different park.

Hour One - Magic Kingdom
We arrived at our resort, Disney's Old Key West, bright and early at 6:30AM and were lucky enough
to be able to check in! Once we got sorted we headed over to the bus stop to board our bus for Magic Kingdom where we'd be taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours from 8AM-9AM.

Caffeine was DEFINITELY needed, so once we went through security, bag check and ticket check, we headed straight to Starbucks. Giant, sweet caffeinated drinks were purchases as well as a cupcake because, well, where else can you have a cupcake for breakfast if not at Magic Kingdom?

After dancing down Main Street USA and stopping for pictures at Cinderella's Castle and The Purple Wall, we went to our first ride in Tomorrowland: The People Mover (it was my first time!).

Lisa then went over to Space Mountain because of the short 10 minute wait time, but Sam and I skipped it. It gives me a headache! We did some shopping, got some mystery pin packs, and headed into New Fantasyland. Here we rode Peter Pan's flight, checked out the Tangled Bathrooms area, and then made our way to The Haunted Mansion for our FastPass.

After enjoying that ghostly retreat in our Doom Buggies, we went back to New Fantasyland enjoy our  reservation at Be Our Guest.

It was great to enjoy the air conditioned castle as June is hot, hot, hot in Orlando! We chose to sit in the West Wing room directly in front of the enchanted rose and enjoyed our delicious breakfast. I have to say, Be Our Guest really knocks it out of the park (sorry) when it comes to their food. A large portion of fruit along with a very savory quiche was my meal of choice for the day. They even bring out a tray of breakfast pastries! Yum!

Feeling very full, we explored the rest of New Fantasyland and then made our way to Adventureland and Frontierland. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean, I ate a Mickey Pretzel, and we did a little perusing of the merch that all these shops have to offer. We were nearing early afternoon at this point and decided we'd seen all we wanted to see in MK.

Hour 7 - Epcot
From MK, we headed to the monorail to go to Epcot however, it had been closed for what looked like a medical emergency. We were forced to reroute and eventually made it to Epcot by bus.

After getting through security, bags and ticket check again, we took the classic pics in front of the entrance with that grand and miraculous Space Ship Earth behind us. It is one of my most favorite sights in all of WDW!

Because we bypassed our Mine Train FastPass, I was able to secure us a ride on Soarin'. I sadly decided to skip my favorite ride, Mission: Space, because of the long wait time. We really wanted to enjoy our experience traveling the World Showcase so I was okay with that decision.

First we stopped at Mexico Pavilion where we shared one of my favorite foods in Epcot - cheese empanadas! I also had a marg (obvs). Our other stops included Germany Pavilion for their Grapefruit Beer, Morocco for the Vegetarian Platter, and a stop in France where I had a macaron ice cream sandwich and Sam and Lisa got crepes. We checked out the many worldly sites in each Pavilion as well as their unique merch before Soarin' Over the World.

On our way out of Epcot, we grabbed some more caffeine via Joffrey's and got on a bus to our last stop of the day - Animal Kingdom!

Hour 12 - Animal Kingdom
Again, we wanted to take advantage of the Magic Hours at AK from 11pm-1am. However - we didn't even end up staying at the park that long. We were able to secure FastPass for Expedition Everest later in the evening, so once we got to Animal Kingdom we headed straight to Pandora: World of Avatar.

It was a first visit for all of us and we spent a good amount of time exploring this new and amazing world. Luckily, the wait time for Flights of Passage was only 90 minutes which we took as a positive. The wait for the ride, though long, was filled with great detail and helped make the time go by a littttttle more quickly. Though long, the wait was SO WORTH IT. This ride is an incredible feat of creative vision and execution. I don't want to spoil it for those who have not yet had a chance to experience it - but WOW. Prepare to be amazing.

After Flights of Passage we LITERALLY RAN to Expedition Everest in order to make our FastPass. We ran right past Rivers of Light, which looked awesome at high speeds (just kidding we were probably very slow) but we made it! I love seeing Mr. Yeti on that coaster and we even got to sit front row. There was a group of rowdy teen boys that slightly tarnished our experience - they even had middle fingers in the PhotoPass Photo. It was super disappointing. But the cast member gave us another FastPass to ride again when we explained the situation. We ended up giving them away but it was still a good gesture.

Afterwards, we were hungry and tired and our feet hurt super bad. It must have been around 9:30pm and we decided to get some food in Pandora before returning to our hotel. I have written a post on my thoughts of the Pandora food which you can read here. (Spoiler alert: it was so very good.)

Hour 17 - Beauty Rest
Back at Old Key West, Lisa and Sam went on a hunt for water bottles and a hot tub to rest their aching feet. I chose to take a nice hot shower and get myself into bed. Getting rest and hydrating so SO IMPORTANT for quick trips when you're trying to make every moment of the day count. This is why we chose to not make early breakfast reservations - a little extra sleep and time to pack was important and we knew we'd be well fed either way.

Hour 24 - Back to Animal Kingdom
Up and at 'em! We awoke early to pack, check-out of the hotel, check our bags for our return, and get back to Animal Kingdom. Their Extra Magic Hours began at 8AM and we hadn't gotten a chance to ride Na'vi River Journey the day before in Pandora as it had been temporarily closed. Once in Animal Kingdom, we got some bright, sunshiny pics over at the Tree of Life before heading to Starbucks for, you guessed it, COFFEE. I got the most epic Mickey Shaped Cinnamon Bun and a cold brew. It was delish and I highly recommend you try one next time you need a sweet breakfast!

Sadly Na'Vi River Journey was still down and we never had a chance to ride it. We did, however, get to see the Pandora store (which there was a line to get into), I had a Night Blossom (SO GOOD), and we rode Dinosaur.

Hour 28 - Hollywood Studios
Our last hours were spent seeking the glitz and the glamour of a bustling movie town over in Hollywood Studios. We were able to see the Stormtroopers march down Hollywood Boulevard before heading to our FastPasses at Tower of Terror and then going to Star Tours.

Hollywood Studios is a park filled with so many great shops and unique pieces of memorabilia. It is another park that is great to just walk around and take in all the sights. Plus, all the palm trees really make you feel like you're on the West Coast even in Orlando! We dined on Churros and french fries and then had our last ride on Rockin' Rollercoaster where I ended up losing my ears. :(

Hour 32 - All Good Things Must Come to an End
At this point we were ready to get out of the sun and head back to the hotel to grab our bags and get to the airport. Little did we know, our flights would be delayed over and over again... but that is another story for another day.

Here are my pointers for getting as much in as possible in a quick trip to Walt Disney World:

  1. Plan ahead as much as possible. Disney gives you so many tools to plan ahead! Use these wisely to make a great outlay for your days to ensure you have loose schedule to follow. This enables you to make educated decisions as to what you can and cannot fit into the hours you have allotted. Also, it will ensure you get to ride your favorites with the FastPass option.
  2. Understand that not everything will go as planned. We never got a ride on the monorail because of it being shut down and that is okay. We also had to miss a few rides we would have liked to ride, but those decisions sometimes have to be made on the fly in order to make the most of the trip.
  3. Don't spend a lot of times on dining reservations during a short trip. There are plenty of delicious food and drink options in the park that you can eat on the go to ensure you get in all the rides and sights in that you want to see. However, if there is a special dining experience you'd like to experience, like we did for Be Our Guest, it is worth it to make the reservation! 
  4. Make sure you get enough rest and water, and take short breaks during the day. You can't enjoy anything Walt Disney World has to offer if you're not feeling good, and that is why it is so important to make sure you get sleep and are constantly drinking water. Know which rides are good to take a rest on - like The Peoplemover! Stay hydrated in those hot temps and make sure your body is well rested because...
  5. Your feet are gonna hurt and you are going to be tired. It doesn't matter if you wear the most comfy shoes in the world and if you get 15 hours of sleep the night before. Spending that many hours on your feet is going to be painful and being in the sun all day is going to take a lot out of you. 
  6. Soak it all in and enjoy every moment because it will fly by!

Here are a few more pics from that amazing, whirlwind trip. Enjoy!

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