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Disney World Vacation Planning - Arrival Day

A Disney World Vacation is a precious commodity that is not to be wasted.  Your time is limited while you are at the Walt Disney World Resort.  This is why it is important to have a plan to get the most out of your Arrival Day.

Disney World Vacation Arrival Day
There are many different strategies for arranging your arrival day at Disney World.  The most important detail is that you have one.

The time of day that you arrive at the Walt Disney World Resort will determine your Arrival Day Game Plan. If you have the option you want to arrive as early as possible.

If I am flying I try to arrive in the morning. If we are driving, we arrange our trip so that we drive most of the way the night before and get close enough that we can drive to Disney World and arrive before noon on our official arrival day.

The Magic Your Way park tickets are such that any day beyond the 4th day is virtually free on the multi day tickets, so it makes sense to arrive early enough so that you can spend at least part of the arrival day in the parks. Years ago it was not this way, so you hated to "waste" a day of your tickets for a few hours. Since this is no longer the case do not be afraid to go to the parks even for just a couple of hours on your Arrival Day.

Depending upon the Disney Resort that you are staying at your official check-in time is either 3:00 pm or 4:00 pm, but this does not mean that you want to wait until then to check-in. You can check in to your resort as soon as you arrive, no matter how early it is. Your room may not be available until the official check in time (although occasionally it is), but the important part is that you get access to the privileges that are given to Disney Resort Guests

There is a nice feature where Disney will contact you via Text Message or Voice Mail to let you know when your room is ready.  At this time you can go directly to your room at your leisure since you already have checked in and received your Room Keys.  The message will tell you your actual room number.

The early check in is also helpful if you are participating in the Disney Dining Plan, since your room key is used for that as well. Even if you don't have a room number yet, you are allowed to use the pool once you have checked in, so that can be an option if you pack your swimsuits in your carry-ons and use the locker rooms to change.

If you are flying, you can check your carry-on bags with the resort, so that you do not have to take them to the parks with you if your room is not ready. If you drove, just leave your car parked at your resort, and use the Disney Transportation.

Many people consider the travel day a wasted day, but I always look forward to it. I will usually plan on going to either Epcot which is always open until 9:00 pm or later, or a park that is open late on my arrival day. I usually will avoid the Animal Kingdom, since it is a park that works best if you arrive right at the opening.

Arrival Day Tips
So here are the tips in order to make the most of your Arrival Day:

  • Plan ahead so that you can try to arrive before noon if possible to maximize the day.
  • Travel wearing clothes that you will be comfortable wearing into the parks.
  • Check in to your hotel as soon as you arrive to get your room keys. (You may even get some Disney Magic and your room will be ready early). You get your final room key at this point, as well as, all Resort Guest Privileges.
  • Plan out the rest of your arrival day, which may include: swimming at the resort pool, visiting a park, and dining reservations.
  • Allow extra time in your plans in case you experience travel delays (no need to cause unneeded stress).
  • If you visit a park, pick one that is still enjoyable if you arrive later in the day. In my opinion Epcot would be the best choice, although if you have small children, the Magic Kingdom is what they have been waiting to see.
  • Enjoy the Day! You are at Disney World!
Feel free to leave comments with your favorite Arrival Day rituals.

3 comments to "Disney World Vacation Planning - Arrival Day"

  1. Anonymous says:

    I try to leave the arrival day as a non-park day. We might visit the resort pool, add in a round of 18 holes at Winter Summerland golf, enjoy dinner and a show at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue, go on a horse drawn wagon ride, then cook some marshmellows with Chip & Dale while watching a movie at the Campgrounds.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Where was the photo taken? I have only seen the main entrance sign that stretches over the street.

  3. This picture was taken at the intersection of Hotel Plaza Blvd and Apopka-Vineland Rd (aka 535). This is the back way into Disney World that takes you to Downtown Disney off of I-4.

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