I’ve heard exactly two things about Disney World in July: that it’s miserably hot and miserably crowded.
Well, I’ve also heard that it’s incredibly spread out and impossible to do all the parks in two days.
Given all these things, why on earth would my husband and I choose 4th of July weekend (the busiest time of the year) to go to Disney World for the first time? Well, like many people, Independence Day weekend was when we had some time off from work and didn’t have to request extra days to travel. Flights from LA to Orlando were fairly affordable. And let me tell you—with the right amounts of research, fast passes and meal reservations, even crowded Disney World in Florida heat is nothing short of magical.
HOW TO STRATEGIZE
PRIORITIZE: Let me start off by telling you that you certainly won’t be able to go on every ride or see every show at Disney World if you’re there just two days. The key to enjoying two days is prioritizing what you want to do most. I’m a bit of a Disney nut. I had already been to every other Disney theme park in the world at this point! Crazy, I know. But it also made me aware of the attractions that were unique to only Florida. For example, Seven Dwarves Mine Cart is one of the most popular rides in Magic Kingdom, but we opted to skip this as we had already gone on it at Shanghai Disneyland.
FAST PASSES: Fast Passes are unique in Orlando as you can make selections 30 days prior to arrival with ticket purchase (or 60 days prior to arrival with a Disney resort hotel booked). You can reserve up to 3 Fast Passes per park per day, but popularity tiers also come into play. I highly recommend doing research ahead of your trip to find out what 3-ish rides are most important to you in each park, and planning around those. Touring Plans was an enormously helpful resource for me. It helps you see average wait times, rankings, summaries and tiers of all the rides for each park. We decided to prioritize things like Space Mountain (different from Hyperspace Mountain in Anaheim and in Paris) in Magic Kingdom, Expedition Everest (Orlando-specific) in Animal Kingdom, Spaceship Earth (Orlando-specific) in EPCOT and Tower of Terror (different from Tokyo Disney Sea and Paris Walt Disney Studio Parks) in Hollywood Studios.
RESTAURANTS: If you’re going during the hot summer months of 90F (32C) weather and 40% humidity, it’s wise to plan sit-down meals in the middle of the day for rest, AC and hydration. You can reserve these as early as 180 days prior to your arrival, but if you’re like us and don’t know you’re going until a couple weeks before, you can still usually snag popular restaurants by leaving your computer monitor open and refreshing until an available reservation shows up (fair warning: this may take 2-3 days). This is how I managed to get us spots at Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom) and Le Cellier (EPCOT) for our two lunches. There are different blogs you can reference that rank the restaurants throughout the Disney World resort (Disney Tourist Blog and Travel and Leisure have some suggestions), but you can also always rely on Yelp and TripAdvisor for reviews. We were incredibly pleased with all our meal options, which included Be Our Guest, Jiko: The Cooking Place, Le Cellier and California Grill. More on these below!
ACCOMMODATIONS: We did lots of research and considered Airbnb, but ultimately stayed at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, which was cheaper than usual due to ongoing renovations at the hotel. If you can, I would HIGHLY recommend staying at a Disney Resort hotel. We loved the pool here, fashioned after the Lost City of Cibola. We enjoyed grabbing a margarita flight at the hotel lounge. Beyond the amenities, staying at a Disney hotel makes your trip more convenient. They will mail your magic bands (functionally your tickets/room key/Fast Pass/restaurant reservation-tracker) straight to your home address. And if you’re planning far enough in advance, you can lock in fast passes up to 60 days in advance instead of the normal 30.
You’ll also be able to take advantage of the free airport shuttle and the free buses to/from the theme parks and Disney Springs (the Downtown Disney shopping area). Not only that, but you’ll get “Extra Magic Hour” in the theme parks—for us, this meant two hours after closing (11pm-1am) in Animal Kingdom to explore Pandora: The World of Avatar. Check online to see what the Magic Hours are for which parks before booking. There are other little conveniences (e.g. checked luggage delivered straight to your room, return flight tickets printed and delivered to your room complete with check-in for your domestic flight, etc.) that made staying at a Disney resort completely worthwhile for us.
WEATHER/CLOTHING: Like I mentioned previously, Florida during the summer is very warm and humid, so pack accordingly! Another thing to note is that it rains almost every day for a short period of time. It might be common sense for many of you, but when I was checking weather before our trip, I naively thought “thunderstorms” in the forecast just meant storms with no rain. We ended up purchasing ponchos in the park—which was expensive, but worthwhile. I would recommend bringing shorts, tanks, sunscreen, sunglasses, comfortable walking shoes and a rain jacket/umbrella/poncho. Also, I brought multiple changes of clothes per day.
Now, without further ado, our crazy two days!!! Links below for each of the four parks:
And there you have it! All four Disney World parks in two days. It’s definitely possible to do it and have fun without getting heatstroke or feeling miserable. While we didn’t get to hit up everything, we felt rather satisfied with the amazing things we did get to do, and have no regrets.
And pardon the cheesiness, but I must share—when I asked my husband if he had any Disney World words of advice for this post, he sweetly said, “The most important thing to do is make sure you go with someone you love, because no matter where you are whether at a show or in a line, you will be having the time of your life.”