Perfect 3-Day Walt Disney World Planning Guide and Itinerary
It’s time to plan your epic Disney trip, but how will you accomplish it in just 3 days?
Luckily for you, I am known as the Disney Solo Traveler, which means I’ve learned quite a few things when it comes to planning an amazing Walt Disney World guide and itinerary.
Whether you’re going solo, with friends, family, or as a couple, I’ve got you covered.
When most people think of Walt Disney World, they think of the Magic Kingdom Theme Park, but the Disney Resort has way more offerings than you think.
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO. Thank you!
Walt Disney World Resort is the biggest Disney-themed area in the world with four theme parks and two water parks.
Walt Disney World Resort Theme Parks
- Magic Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
- Animal Kingdom
Walt Disney World Water Parks
- Typhoon Lagoon
- Blizzard Beach
The Magic Kingdom was the first of the Walt Disney World parks built (opened in 1971) and continues to be the number one theme park in the world.
I know you’re probably thinking that this is way too much information than what you thought Disney had.
Disney can feel overwhelming even before you start making plans.
Choosing a ticket package, deciding if you should go with a Disney Planner, or if you should just plan the trip out yourself can all be too much to think about.
Not to mention knowing the difference between the parks and what days are best to go can be overwhelming as well.
But don’t worry…
I will make this 3-day Disney World planning guide and itinerary super easy to follow.
When you finish this article, you’ll feel so much more confident in planning the most AMAZING (in my Oprah voice) Walt Disney World vacation ever!
When to Visit Disney World
Avoiding the Disney Holiday crowd (especially in November and December) means shorter lines and less traffic. For parents, this can be a bit tricky. Taking your child(ren) to Disney World sounds like the best gift ever!
The only issue is every other mom and dad has the same exact idea.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t take your kids to Disney for Christmas season or any other holiday for that matter; it just means you’ll need to be prepared for a lot of company.
You’ll notice that April has crowd sizes ranging from low to moderate, while March has crowd sizes ranging from Moderate to High (mostly due to the influx of Spring Breakers).
While you’re planning that perfect day to go, don’t forget to download the official Disney Crowd Calendar to view the crowd level of each day!
Best Times to Visit Disney
These months are closely followed by March, May, September, and October as still pretty decent visiting times.
What to Pack for Walt Disney World
Now that you know what days to go to the Disney Parks, you’ll want to know what to pack. First off, you must have comfortable shoes!
And no not flip flops or Crocs.
You’ll want a good pair of sneakers. Have your go-to sneakers that you know are always dependable and are wonderful for walking MILES in, because your days will be filled with 8+ hours of walking each day.
Disney Day Bag Essentials
- Disposable Rain Ponchos or rain jackets
- Download ThemeParkHipster App
- Water-proof zipped bags
- Reusable water bottle
- Hand wipes
- Hat for sunny days
- Portable Phone Charger
- Water mist sprayer
- Theme Park Guide Books
Now what should you pack in your suitcase???
Here are a few more must haves when packing for your Disney vacation.
- Active, casual, and formal clothing
- Bathing suits
- Flip flops
- Formal shoes if needed
- Water shoes
- Sunglasses/Regular eye-wear
Get your complete printable Walt Disney World packing checklist below!
Should You Get a Disney Travel Agent or Do Your Own Planning
Planning an epic trip to Disney World can be stressful, but a cure for the stress is using an authorized Disney Planner or Travel Agent.
A Disney travel agent is a specialist in all things Disney. They stay up to date on all the upcoming attractions and customize your itinerary based on all the interests of you and your family.
Many agents even attend a special Disney “college” to make sure they know the best way to put your package together.
Most travel agencies like Destinations in Florida do not charge you to plan your vacation. Disney covers all agent fees themselves. So, whether you book through them or do it yourself, there’s no extra cost for the service!
A thorough conversation with your agent is usually all you’ll need to completely customize your vacation. If you’re traveling with family, just let your agent know, and they’ll be sure to include family-friendly events.
The reason I prefer Destinations in Florida is because they are an earmarked agency with Disney. This means Disney recognizes them as an official agency. As Laura explains in episode 27 of my ThemeParkHipster podcast, this also means Disney is more likely to honor special requests from them because of their legitimacy.
For a free service, I think that’s pretty cool.
Now if you love planning all the details of a vacation, I recommend doing the following steps below:
- Pick vacation dates
- Purchase park tickets
- Book flight
- Choose a place to stay
- Book FastPass reservations
- Make dinner reservations
- Have a Disney planning timeline
- Map out Disney itinerary
- Depart for your trip
- Have fun!
When your trip starts, you’re most likely to arrive at the Orlando International Airport in the morning.
Prior to your arrival, you’ll want your dinner and lunch reservations made months in advance. Disney allows you to make reservations 180 days before your departure date. So, if you’re trying to get that coveted seat at the Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest, you’ll want to book your spot ASAP.
FastPasses are also important to do right away.
The FastPass+ is essentially a way to reserve your rides before your Disney trip. FastPass+ is limited to select attractions and entertainment events but can be used across a few of the Disney Parks.
FastPass+ can reserve your time slot for select rides and other attractions for either 30 days or 60 days depending on whether or not you’re staying at a Disney Resort Hotel. If you’re a hotel guest, you can use your FastPass+ to make reservations up to 60 days in advance.
If you’re a ticket or Annual Passholder booked elsewhere for your stay, you can reserve your slot for up to 30 days before your trip.
The Good News: Reserving time slots early is FREE and you can reserve up to 3 attractions per day using FastPass+. And you’re not limited to just rides either. FastPass can be used on all sorts of select entertainment attractions. The full list is available online and in the My Disney Experience app.
The Not So Good News: You can only use your FastPass+ at one park per day. This means that on any given day, once you start reserving your FastPass+ at one of the following parks, you can only use it for 3 select rides, entertainment attractions, or other eligible experiences that day.
Where to Stay in Walt Disney World
The most convenient places are the resorts on Disney property. The Walt Disney World Resort has over twenty hotels, including Value, Moderate, Deluxe, Deluxe Villas, and a campsite, for theme park guests to choose from. If you’re vacationing on a budget then you’ll save money by booking a Disney Value Resort or an offsite Orlando vacation home averaging $150 per night.
Disney Resort Hotel Prices
- Deluxe Villas – From $318/Night
- Deluxe Resort Hotels – From $326/Night
- Moderate Resort Hotels – From $191/Night
- Value Resort Hotels – From $100/Night
- Campgrounds – From $53/Night
Remember that hotels are less expensive off-site. If you do stay on site you will get special perks such as free transportation within the property which can save on car rental or cabs.
A vacation home is another great option where you can get a wonderful deal on lodging for your Florida vacation. Top Villas is one of the best luxury villa rental specialists with more than 4,000 luxury villas in over 50 of the world’s finest vacation destinations.
I am a fan of vacation home rentals with resort amenities for families or friends traveling to Disney on an extended vacation.
Now that we’ve gotten the basic pre-planning Disney checklist done, let me show you how to conquer your vacation in 3 days.
But first, here’s a FREE Walt Disney World park guide for you to print out or save to your phone or computer.
3-Day Walt Disney World Planning Guide and Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive, Check-in, Head to EPCOT
Once you land at the Orlando International Airport (MCO), get your luggage and head to the Disney Magical Express. The Disney buses were made to make your trip much easier by dropping you off at your Disney hotel.
Once you’re checked in, freshen up and head over to Epcot.
EPCOT THEME PARK
Let’s talk about my absolute favorite theme park in the world.
Disney’s Epcot approach has been to take the present and create the future we want to have. This has been done through Future World highlighting technological advances of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Whereas World Showcase goal is to highlight learning and living with people of other cultures.
There aren’t many thrill rides here, but the rides at Epcot come with more of a purpose then what you will see in other Disney theme parks. The classic dark rides, the theatrical entertainment, and the seasonal events are great for a more mature audience.
This isn’t to say that kids won’t enjoy Epcot.
But a lot more adults truly love and enjoy it and I’m TOTALLY not being biased…
…well maybe I am.
Epcot Daytime Game Plan:
- Explore Future World Showcase
- Ride Soarin’ Around the World and Living with the Land.
- Ride Mission: SPACE and Test Track.
- Explore World Showcase.
- Have lunch at La Cantina de San Angel
- Ride the Three Caballeros
- Have a margarita at La Cava Del Tequila.
- Ride the Frozen Ever After Attraction.
- Do the Wine Walk.
- Watch Impressions de France.
- Walk through the shops of the United Kingdom Pavilion.
Epcot Nighttime Game Plan:
- Ride Spaceship Earth.
- Have early dinner at Spice Road Table in Morocco
- Book a dessert party
- Illuminations Reflections of Earth Show (will be closing soon)
FastPasses to Get at Epcot:
- Test Track
- Soarin Around the World
- Frozen Ever After
Best Food and Drink Places at Epcot:
- Les Chef de France
- Restaurant Marrakesh
- Garden Grill Restaurant
- Biergarten Restaurant
- La Cava del Tequila
Once your time at Epcot is over, head back to your resort and relax for the next day ahead.
Day 2 – MAGIC KINGDOM
The next morning you’re going to want to start early, because you must experience a character breakfast at Walt Disney World. Since you will be in the Magic Kingdom, you might as well meet a princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table.
Keep in mind that you must book your reservation for this experience ASAP.
If you can’t get this one, then here are a few character dining places:
- Beach Club Resort’s Cape May Café (reservations are required)
- Epcot’s Garden Grill
- Mickey’s Backyard BBQ at Fort Wilderness Lodge
- Animal Kingdom’s Tusker House
Recommended reading: Best Character Dining at Disney World
After breakfast, it’s time to spend a magical day inside the Magic Kingdom theme park.
The Magic Kingdom is thought to be the most magical place on earth.
This park is a wonderful starter for those interested in the classic Disney appeal. It gives a good variety of thrilling attractions on the milder side. You’re also in the thick of theme park entertainment with all the shows, parades, and fireworks in one place.
For the occasional theme park goer, the Magic Kingdom is a manageable and easy park to navigate.
The Magic Kingdom is divided into six lands:
- Main Street U.S.A.
- Liberty Square
The lands are centered around the hub, which is Cinderella Castle. This is especially important to note when planning and mapping out your trip.
When it comes to experiencing the attractions, if you’re a thrill ride junkie, then this may not be the park for you. If you’re an adult who likes to mix up moderate thrills with more relaxing moments, then you’re in the right place.
Magic Kingdom Daytime Game Plan:
- Head down Main Street, U.S.A.
- Start in Adventureland.
- Hike up the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.
- Ride Jungle Cruise.
- Experience the Magic Carpets of Aladdin.
- Ride Pirates of the Caribbean.
- Head to Frontierland and conquer Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain.
- Take a break and explore Tom Sawyer’s Island.
- Ride the Haunted Mansion.
- Have lunch at the Liberty Tree Tavern (make reservations prior to visit).
Magic Kingdom Nighttime Game Plan:
- Return to the park
- Head over to Fantasyland and ride Peter Pan’s Flight, “it’s a small world,” Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Under the Sea~ Journey of the Little Mermaid.
- Now step into the future in Tomorrowland and ride Space Mountain, the PeopleMover, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
- Experience the storytelling of Belle
- Check out the Hall of Presidents
- Watch the classic Country Bear Jamboree show.
- Experience Once Upon a Time projection show
- Participate in the Dessert Party – Happily Ever After
- End your night with the Happily Ever After Fireworks Show
Magic Kingdom FastPasses to Get:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Space Mountain
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Thunder Mountain
Best Food and Drink Places at the Magic Kingdom:
- Friar’s Nook
- Sleepy Hallow
- Be Our Guest
- Liberty Square Tavern
- Aloha Isle
Hipster Power Tip: If you want to meet characters in shorter lines, go during the 3 p.m. parade.
I recommend staying as late as possible at the Magic Kingdom, since the crowds get much smaller after the fireworks show.
Once your day comes to an end at the Magic Kingdom, it will be time for you to head back to your resort for your final day at Walt Disney World.
DAY 3: DISNEY HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS & ANIMAL KINGDOM
Sorry to let you know that this is your last day at the most amazing themed resort in the world. But don’t be sad.
You’ll end your 3-day trip with a fun theme park or two.
Start your day early and possibly order room service to bring you breakfast or just make your way to one of the onsite restaurants for a quick meal before the parks.
Start with Hollywood Studios first, then Animal Kingdom (if you want to do both in one day).
Hollywood Studios was once known as Disney-MGM Studios when it opened in 1989. It has always been a great half-day theme park for those visiting Walt Disney World solo; however, it is now a park that is spectacular to discover for over a whole day.
The addition of Toy Story Land and the coming addition of Star Wars Land, has made Hollywood Studios a competitive theme park.
Hollywood Studios Game Plan:
- Watch Beauty and the Beast, Sunset Boulevard
- Encounter Kylo Ren at Star Wars Launch Bay, Animation Courtyard
- Go on an adventure with the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, Echo Lake
- Experience the March of the First Order, Star Wars,
- Go fast on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Sunset Boulevard
- Watch the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular- Fireworks, Stage Show
- Star Wars Land…. Coming Soon!
- Scream on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Sunset Boulevard
- Explore Toy Story Land
- Have lunch at Tune-In Lounge, Lounge, American Food, Echo Lake
- Watch the Voyage of The Little Mermaid, Animation Courtyard
Hollywood Studios FastPasses to Get:
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
Best food and drink places:
- Tune-In Lounge, Lounge, American Food, Echo Lake
- The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge
- Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant
- Woody’s Lunch Box
- BaseLine Tap House
If you think Animal Kingdom is just a place to watch animals, then you’ll be surprised at all the rides, attractions, shows, and food you can partake in at this one-of-a-kind theme park.
A large chunk of the park is geared towards educating you about animals and their habitats, but another chunk is aimed at providing exquisite cuisines from around the world.
Here you can meet local singers, dodge a yeti, and go on a wild safari adventure. Animal Kingdom is a good park to end your Disney vacation as you relax and unwind on the many majestic natural walkways.
Animal Kingdom Game Plan
- Ride DINOSAUR, Primeval Whirl, and watch Finding Nemo.
- Ride Expedition Everest.
- If you want a big cool off, ride Kali River Rapids (you will get soaked).
- Watch Festival of the Lion King.
- Have dinner at Tusker House.
- Ride the Kilimanjaro Safaris.
- Journey to Avatar on The Flight of Passage
- Ride the Navi River Journey
- Explore Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
- Watch It’s Tough to be a Bug!
- Spend the rest of the day exploring the various wildlife throughout Animal Kingdom.
- Enjoy the Rivers of Light Dessert Party
- Watch Rivers of Light
Hipster Power Tip: If you are a big Star Wars fan, then you’ll want to head back to Hollywood Studios to watch the Star Wars Nighttime Spectacular.
Animal Kingdom FastPasses to Get:
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Expedition Everest
Best Food and Drink Places at Animal Kingdom:
- Mr. Kamal’s
- Eight Spoon Café
- Yak & Yeti
- Tiffins Restaurant
- Dawa Bar
Departure day for you may come on a late flight on your third day or an early morning flight on the fourth day. Either way, your 3-day Walt Disney World has come to a temporary end, but I know you’ll come back soon.
You are now armed with the most spectacular things to do at the Disney Parks in Florida.
I know this itinerary is a bit intense, so feel free to add more half-days at the parks, that way you can relax and enjoy your resort or spend a day shopping at Disney Springs.
What do you think about this itinerary?
Have you done Walt Disney World Resort in 3 days? If so, let me know in the comment section below.
If you enjoyed this article, then you’ll love these:
- Do’s and Don’ts of Drinking at Epcot
- Top 5 Snacks at Epcot’s Festival of the Arts
- Walt Disney World Free Dining
- Pot Roast Mac-n-Cheese and Cheeseburger Mac-n-Cheese at Magic Kingdom
- L’Artisian des Glaces at Epcot
- Dinner at Epcot’s Les Chef de France
- Tips for Doing Walt Disney World on a Budget
- Magic Kingdom for Adults the Complete Guide
- 18 Tips for Going to a Theme Park Alone
- Disney’s Victoria & Albert’s Review
- The Walt Disney World Dining Plan Explained Quick Tips and Tricks
- The Solo Theme Park Traveler’s Guide
- The Top Money Saving Websites for Theme Parks
Want more theme park tips? Check out the theme park tips page. If you’re thinking about going to Disney alone, then read the top 18 tips. Are you planning a Disney vacation soon? Read the Disney Vacation Planning Guide for your next dream trip!
Don’t forget to discover the new magical and mysterious Disney adventure of Pandora – The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom® Theme Park.
Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!