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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Arrival Day Dilemmas--Walt Disney World

We’re going to Walt Disney World!  With all of the excitement and anticipation of a Disney vacation, guests can get caught with an arrival day dilemma. . . what to do the first day.

A first time visitor might be tempted to make Advanced Dining Reservations arrival day, or other plans that involve exact timing.

We were once in an airport waiting for our flights to discover folks from our hometown also waiting for flights to Orlando, but on a different carrier.  It was mid-morning, flights were delayed, and they had a meal reserved at Cinderella’s Castle for later in the day.  While we were headed to Orlando, it was a Universal/SeaWorld non-Disney trip for us, but we wished them well as our flight boarded.  I just kept thinking that being stressed out about making it somewhere on-time on your arrival day at Walt Disney World isn’t the best way to start a vacation.

The various Disney message boards are loaded with questions about timing. . . being able to make it somewhere in a certain amount of time, specifically on the day of arrival.  One person posed the following scenario:  If the flights were scheduled to land at Orlando International at 11:00 am and they were staying at Port Orleans Riverside, could they make it to Downtown Disney by 2:00 pm for a late lunch reservation?  (Sounds like a complicated math story problem, doesn’t it?)

This would be my response (and was my response):  It can take 20-30 minutes to make your way from your flight to Disney’s Magical Express counter.  There may be a short wait to board a bus to your resort and there may be even more wait for the bus to load and then get going from the airport.  Walt Disney World Resort is 45 minutes from the airport and Disney’s Magical Express buses can make stops at multiple resorts to drop off guests.  If you are checking in at your resort prior to 3:00 pm, your room may not be ready, although you can leave your with Luggage Services.  If your room is ready, traversing the resort to your room can add on another 10-15 minutes, and then double it to make your way back to the boat launch.  Mid-day, the Downtown Disney boats run every 20-30 minutes (they run more frequently in the evening), so there may be a wait for the boat.  The boats at Port Orleans Riverside come from Port Orleans French Quarter and make another stop there on the way to Downtown Disney.  The boat ride to Downtown Disney is 20-30 minutes.  Then, depending on where the restaurant you are dining at is located, can add more minutes for walking to the restaurant or taking another boat to Downtown Disney’s Westside.  My recommendation would be to grab a light lunch at the airport or Port Orleans Riverside Food Court and make plans for dinner later in the day.

I added a bit at the beginning of my reply about how being stressed out about late flights, etc. wasn’t the best way to start a vacation.

The person posting the question decided to take my advice and opted to make dinner plans instead.

This type of scenario/dilemma is common and the best advice is to go with the flow on arrival day. You can decide whether or not to have a park ticket for that day and whether or not to use a day of park entry on your arrival day.  If we are staying for more than 5 days we typically add a park day for our arrival day to our ticket package as the cost is minimal—the more days you stay and play, the less the cost per day (usually $4-5 per person to add the extra park day onto our tickets.)  If we have a short stay scheduled, then we don’t add the arrival day park ticket into our package—counterintuitive, I know, but the cost of adding the day to a shorter stay is more expensive and would be less of a value if we arrived late due to flights, etc.  And, you can always add a day to your park ticket package when you arrive, if you find yourself arriving in a timely manner and want to head to a theme park.

Making these types of decisions and plans can be difficult with all of the excitement of heading to the most magical place on earth for both first time and experienced guests.  And, we, too, have been caught up in the excitement and planning and haven’t always followed our own advice and have been very fortunate that most of our plans have worked out.


  1. Great timing on the article as we are putting in for our ADR's this week. We were thinking of having a Dinner Reservation on the day we arrive but now are leaning towards a CS. It would reduce the stress of any delays and help ease into the trip!

    By the way, thanks for the great blog! I just found it today...

  2. Mike,
    Congratulations on your upcoming Disney trip! Hope your arrival day is smooth and stress free and thanks for compliment. We are glad you found us!