by Travis Allaway
(Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, USA)
Hi Dad, my wife and I are in our mid 40’s, neither of us have ever had the pleasure of visiting any Disney Park, and we have one beautiful 4 year old princess daughter! She has been dreaming of going to Disney World since she could dream. Unfortunately, she is barely 40″ tall on her best day, and we just don’t feel like she is ready yet for a long term 4-5 day visit, knowing that she wouldn’t meet the ride height requirements for most rides. However, we are planning a week long beach vacation in nearby Palm Coast Florida for the last week of June. We are thinking we may use one day to spend at Disney World just to try to break us all in on the experience. But, the idea of trying to condense all that is available in just one day scares us beyond belief!! So, my question to you is… If you could only spend one day at Disney World, and design it ALL around the magical experience of a wonderful 4 year old who still dreams of becoming a princess, or a fairy, or BOTH, how would you go about it?? I have been reading your pages for months now trying to get ideas on my on, but, your consistent theme is that you want to help. And I am begging for as much help as you would want to provide, from the smallest detail to the most obvious. We will definitely be coming for a long term visit at some point in the future, but we cold really use your help and experience to plan this one special day. Thank you so much for ALL your help!!
Dreams do come true at the Magic Kingdom – Photo by Laurie Sapp
Dad’s Focus, Focus, Focus Answer
Travis, when I saw this question come in, I knew I had to help right away! You don’t need to feel scared to death about a trip to Disney World – you should feel happy, magical, over the moon, but don’t panic! Dad’s here to help – and the way we are going to do that is to focus, focus, focus.
If you’re only planning to go one day, you are never going to fit everything in – don’t even try. You could been at WDW for weeks and not see and do it all. But here’s what I’d suggest for your family: use this as a chance to test the waters of the Disney experience and make a day filled with magic for your daughter.
Focus: Which Park, Which Day, Which Ticket?
If you’re going to WDW for one day only with a littler girl who’s all about princesses, choose the Magic Kingdom. Don’t bother with any other park, or fancy ticket options. Get your one-park base tickets and select them for the day that has the lowest crowds. Dad’s Crowd Calendar can help you narrow down the day that works best.
Get your tickets in advance, either from Disney or a trusted ticket re-seller like Dad’s friends at the Official Ticket Center, and get them SOON so you can make your FastPass+ reservations. More on that in a minute.
The Festival of Fantasy Parade is a hit with kids – Photo by Judd Helms
Focus: What to See and Do?
At 40”, your daughter will be tall enough to ride almost everything the Magic Kingdom has to offer – here is a complete list of what she’ll be able to ride. But that doesn’t mean she’ll be ready for everything. Some kids are scared of dark rides or fast rides – my advice is that if she’s scared of something, don’t make her do it – there is plenty to keep you buys and tear-free.
In addition to all the rides, shows and parades are a major draw for little ones. The Festival of Fantasy Parade is beautiful and a great way to see a bunch of princesses and Tinkerbell. The Main Street Electrical Parade will be like nothing you’ve ever seen. And unless she’s scared of fireworks, Wishes is a great way to cap off the day.
Character meet and greets are likely to be a big hit with your daughter. There are lots of princesses and other characters to meet – some are in special locations with FastPasses and queues, and others show up around the park and little lines form to meet them. Get the My Disney Experience app to see who is meeting where – and when – on the day you are there.
Focus: The PLAN
If you’re going for one day – you definitely need a good PLAN! Scratch that – a GREAT plan! First, figure out what rides/shows/characters are “must-do’s”, which would be good to do, and if there are any you will definitely avoid (because of height limitations, or because they may be too scary!). Plan your day around the things you HAVE to do and then fill in with all the “extras”. TouringPlans has a great tool to help you plan your day out, step by step. They even have pre-made plans for families with small kids!
Try to plan to see indoor shows like Mickey’s Philharmagic, Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, or Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor during the hottest part of the afternoon. Eat at “off” times (lunch at 11, or after 1:30, dinner at 4:30 or after 8) to avoid peak crowds and take advantage of shorter lines while folks are eating.
30 days in advance of your trip, you can make 3 FastPass+ reservations. Do that first thing in the morning – now what you want, and have some backups in mind in case specific experiences are gone. Dad suggests considering the following for your reservations because they have the longest lines: one or more meet and greet with her favorite characters, Peter Pan’s Flight, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Make these all for as early in the day as possible, starting at around noon (the first few hours have the lowest crowds and so you won’t need to use FastPass+). Once you’ve used up all 3, you can make more FastPass+ reservations one at a time for later in the day through the My Disney Experience app.
Wishes is a great way to cap off your night – Photo by Judd Helms
The most important thing for you will be to make sure you arrive at the park EARLY. Plan to arrive at the parking lot about an hour ahead of the park opening time – that will give you time to park, take the tram to the TTC, board a monorail or ferry to the Magic Kingdom, and get in line in time for the rope drop. The first 3 hours of the day are the most critical if you want to see and do the most as the crowds are at their lowest.
Now lets talk magical princess memories. I would love to recommend a reservation at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Cinderella’s Royal Table/Be our Guest – but those almost certainly have been booked up. If either interest you – call now and see if you can get a reservation! But if not, don’t despair. Plan your own makeover for your daughter if she wants to dress like a princess or fairy – and head to Castle Couture in Fantasyland, where you get get a free sprinkle of glittery fairy dust is you ask really nicely.
If you want to have a table-service meal, I think you’ll be out of luck booking the extremely popular Cinderella’s Royal Table or Be our Guest restaurants – they fill up at 180 days out. But there are loads of other great places. I’d suggest booking dinner or lunch at Crystal Palace if you can get an Advanced Dining Reservation at this point. It’s a buffet with Pooh and friends, and it’s very kid-friendly and fun. One sit-down meal should be plenty – or skip sit down meals altogether and dine at places like Cosmic Rays, Casey’s Corner, or Columbia Harbour House.
Let’s take a minute and talk about Anna and Elsa. They currently have a Magic Kingdom meet and greet, but will be moving to EPCOT sometime in June. If these are your daughter’s favorites, don’t mention meeting them – if they are still at the Magic Kingdom, the app will tell you – head there at park opening or at the end of the night as a surprise. But, they can be seen in the Festival of Fantasy Parade.
A bit more advice: bring a change of clothes incase of spills – and especially if you’re planning to dress her in a poufy princess gown for part of the day, many kids want out of there hot, itchy costumes after a while – or consider a princess t-shirt and accessory combo.
Also, bring a stroller or rent one – even if she’s not in s stroller at home she’ll need to rest because there is a lot of walking! She can even take a little nap in the stroller if needed, and it’s a great way to hold your stuff.
Bring a charger for your phone – between using it for the app, and if you take pictures with it – you’ll run out of juice and need a mid-day charge (the Tangled restrooms and the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. are your best bets to charge up.
Dad’s Bottom Line
Travis, it’s going to be fine. Just remember to focus, focus, focus. Take LOTS of pictures, and worry less about seeing it all, and more about soaking up the magic and making memories together!