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What to Do at Walt Disney World: Arrival Day Itinerary

What to Do at Walt Disney World: Arrival Day Itinerary

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Planning a trip to Walt Disney World with kids and looking for what to do as soon as you land? Keep scrolling to check out the best things to do on your Walt Disney World arrival day!
This list of things to do on your Disney World arrival day was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

We’ve been to Walt Disney World a few times and my kids are always begging to go back!

If your family is anything like mine, you probably want to get your Disney vacation started the minute you arrive at the resort.

Arrival day can be pretty hectic between travel, checking into your hotel, getting unpacked, and more.

As a family that has had many Disney visits, we have come to know what seems to flow best and what we have found works best as far as timing and arrival go.

Today we are going to share with you our experience, what you can expect, and what we find makes for a fun and productive arrival day for your Disney trip. 

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Walt Disney World blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Disney World with kids.

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Getting to Your Hotel/Resort

If you are flying, you are more than likely flying into the Orlando International Airport, commonly known as MCO.

There are a number of transportation options available on-site at the airport including shuttles, ride-sharing, and more that will get you to your hotel at an affordable rate. You can see details and pricing here.

Disney Minnie Van Service Connected by Lyft returns June 29, 2022, to Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Minnie Van Service is a convenient and personalized transportation option with quick, point-to-point mobility around Walt Disney World, at prices that vary by route. Guests can book by opening the Lyft mobile app and selecting a Minnie Van vehicle. Guests can also use the app to request an Accessible Minnie Van, as needed, and each Minnie Van comes equipped with two complimentary car seats for little travelers.
We love using the Minnie Van service. Photo credit: David Roark

Additionally at MCO you have the opportunity to rent a vehicle through a variety of companies if you prefer to drive yourself, you can find more information on car rentals at MCO here.

When is the Best Time to Arrive at Disney?

When traveling to Disney you may wonder what is the best time to make your arrival.

In my opinion and my favorite time to arrive is typically late afternoon/early evening.

Image of a Walt Disney World resort.
Check with your resort to see if you can check in early. Photo credit: Sees the Day Photography.

Keep in mind that the standard check-in time at most hotels, including Disney resorts, is 3:00 pm. So I prefer to wait until I am able to get checked in and ready to go rather than arriving in the area and waiting around with all of our luggage.

Arriving between 3:00 – 5:00 pm is ideal in my opinion. This allows you enough time to get checked in, unpack, and enjoy a nice and relaxing evening with the family before preparing to hit the parks the next day. 

Settle in at Your Hotel

Upon checking in at your hotel, whether that be a Disney resort or an off-site option, the first thing I always recommend doing is to get settled in and comfortable at your home for the next few days.

Get your luggage inside, unpack, and get to know your resort.

Image of a boy at the Art of Animation hotel at Walt Disney World
My kids always like to test out the beds! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

If you are staying at a Disney resort in particular, feel free to roam around and see what on-site activities they have available during your stay. Many of the resorts offer shopping, fun activities such as games and movies, and dining experiences.

If you have a room or suite that allows you to cook or prepare your own meals, you may want to visit a grocery store or order a grocery delivery that will have you stocked up and ready with meals, snacks, and drinks for the length of your vacation. 

Skip the Parks

One thing I always avoid on arrival day is going to one of the theme parks. Although you may be excited and want to get a jump on the parks, in my experience it has never been a good choice.

With the traveling you have done and the craziness of your arrival day, it just always seems that you are rushed and exhausted causing you not to have the most desirable experience to kick off your trip.

Image of a boy sitting in the Disney World Skyliner
My kids begged us to do a test run of the Skyliner when it first opened. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Additionally, visiting a park on your arrival tends to not be the best use of your funds as there is no discounted rate for a partial day at the parks so you will be paying the full ticket cost to only visit for a shortened amount of time.

Instead, you can find other fun activities and experiences that will be beneficial to your trip but may not be quite so expensive and hectic for just a partial day. 

Other Things to Do

If you are looking for something fun to do on your arrival day here are some ideas and activities that will make a great start to your vacation: 

1. Plan Your Trip

If you haven’t already made a game plan for how the remainder of your trip is going to go, now is it a great time to do so!

That’s not to say that you can’t go with the flow and enjoy your trip but creating at least a basic plan is always a good idea.

I personally like to grab a physical map of the parks and mark up on the map which rides and attractions I would like to do. Then I make a general plan of which park we will visit on each day and how we can expect the day to go. 

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    2. Make a Dining Reservation

    A dining reservation at one of the Disney resort restaurants is a great way to enjoy some Disney fun without visiting the theme parks. It’s always nice to relax and indulge in a nice dinner.

    Resort Dining

    You can choose to book a reservation at your resort specifically or if you are staying off-site or would like to visit another resort you can make a dining reservation without staying at that resort.

    A personal favorite of mine includes the Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, you can never go wrong with a fine steak (bonus: The Truffle Macaroni & Cheese is to die for!)

    Character Dining

    If you really want to amplify your evening, book a character dining experience for your arrival day.

    Keep in mind that character experiences have limited availability and it is required to make a reservation in advance.

    But I have found that this is always a fun and exciting way to start a Disney vacation, especially if you have little ones – they will love interacting with their favorite Disney characters! 

    3. Visit Disney Springs

    Disney Springs is a shopping and entertainment center located on Disney grounds and is an excellent choice for an arrival day activity.

    Kids dance alongside Afropop band, Wassalou Drum Circle, and to the high-energy beats played by DJ KD Queen at the launch of the Disney Springs Kids Club at Disney Springs in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on January 28, 2023. The new entertainment offering takes place every Saturday morning starting at 10:30am and is located in the heart of The Landing at Disney Springs, the scenic amphitheater known as Waterview Park. (Abigail Nillson, photographer)
    Disney Springs Kids Club. Photo credit: Abigail Nillson

    It is a one-stop shop for shopping, dining, and entertainment with nearly 200 shops, restaurants, and attractions to enjoy.

    Disney Springs Kids Club

    This new entertainment offering takes place every Saturday morning starting at 10:30 am and is located in the heart of The Landing at Disney Springs, the scenic amphitheater known as Waterview Park.

    Shopping

    Popular shops include Goofy’s Candy Company, The LEGO Store, Kate Spade, and more.

    Dining

    Enjoy delicious dining experiences including quick service options such as Chicken Guy and The Daily Poutine. There are table service restaurants including The Edison and the House of Blues Restaurant and Bar.

    And don’t miss the food trucks such as the 4 Rivers Cantina Barbacoa Food Truck.

    Entertainment

    Finally, have some fun with one of the many entertaining activities to do including the AMC Disney Springs 24 Dine-In Theatre or the House of Blues. 

    4. Play Mini Golf

    Another fun Disney-related activity to enjoy is mini golf. Disney properties have three mini golf courses that are so much fun and a great way to have a Disney evening without visiting the parks.

    You can enjoy Fantasia Gardens & Fairways, an 18-hole miniature golf course based on the classic Disney film, Fantasia.

    Additionally, there are two courses located at Disney’s Winter Summerland, one is Summer themed while the other is themed based on the Winter season.

    The cost to play at all three courses is $14 per adult or $12 per child ages 3-9 per round at each course. You can make reservations to play at 407-WDW-PLAY (407-939-7529) or walk up to the booth and purchase to play. 

    5. Lounge at the Pool

    Nearly all Disney resorts and many local hotels in Orlando have a pool to enjoy.

    After a long day of traveling and getting settled, a great way to spend the rest of your day is lounging at the pool soaking up that Florida sun.

    Check with your resort for pool availability and hours. 

    6. Disney Boardwalk

    The Disney Boardwalk is another great place to visit for entertainment and dining options.

    You can enjoy live entertainment on the boardwalk including jugglers, enjoy dining experiences such as Trattoria al Forno or an on-the-go treat from BoardWalk Ice Cream. 

    7. Visit Other Resorts

    There are several other Disney resorts on property, many of which have a variety of fun activities and things to do.

    Image of the Wheel Well motel and Cars characters at Disney's Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World
    This is one of the many cool photo spots at Disney’s Art of Animation. Photo credit: Sees the Day Photography

    Even if you are not staying at a Disney resort, it may be fun and a good idea for you to check out the Disney resorts.

    Feel free to use Disney transportation including the Skyliner or the Monorail to explore and see what the Disney property has to offer. 

    9. Explore International Drive in Orlando

    If you’re looking for more entertainment, you might consider checking out International Drive in Orlando.

    Here, you’ll find the Orlando Eye, Fun Spot America, I-Drive Nascar Kart racing, America’s Escape Game, and so much more!

    10. Simply Relax

    If you are one that would prefer to just spend your evening with nothing to do or worry about before you head into a crazy vacation, that is okay too!

    Spending the evening hanging out in your hotel room and maybe watching a movie with the family is a great way to spend your Disney arrival day as well. 

    What to do on Arrival Day at Disney World FAQs

    What is the earliest I can check in to my Disney World resort?

    Standard check-in time is 3:00 PM, but you may be able to check in earlier if your room is available. You can also ask to store your luggage if you arrive before your room is ready.

    What time does the Disney World theme park open and close?

    Theme park hours vary depending on the time of year and special events, but typically they open between 9:00 AM and 9:30 AM and close between 7:00 PM and 11:00 PM.

    Can I start using my Disney World tickets as soon as I arrive?

    Yes, you can use your Disney World tickets as soon as you arrive, even if you haven’t checked in to your resort yet.

    Are there any activities or events happening on my arrival day at Disney World?

    You can check the Disney World website or the My Disney Experience app for information on any events or activities happening on your arrival day.

    How do I get to the theme parks from my Disney World resort?

    There are several options for transportation to the theme parks, including complimentary bus service, monorail, ferry boats, and Minnie Van service.

    Can I make dining reservations for my arrival day at Disney World?

    Yes, you can make dining reservations for your arrival day by calling Disney Dining or using the My Disney Experience app.

    Can I pre-order MagicBands for my arrival day at Disney World?

    Yes, you can pre-order MagicBands for your arrival day by logging in to your My Disney Experience account.

    What to do on Arrival Day at Disney World Wrap Up

    Arrival day can be pretty crazy and ultimately it’s all about what works best for your family.

    If you are one that loves a lot of activity and wants to get going right away, finding a fun activity to do may be the best plan for you and if you are one that prefers a slow and relaxing arrival day, simply hanging out and enjoying the day might be best.

    I hope that this has provided you with some experience and knowledge in what has worked for my family’s Disney Arrival day and that it may have given you some good ideas if you are planning an upcoming Disney trip.

    Looking for more Walt Disney World content? Find out how to visit Walt Disney World with toddlers, biggest Disney World mistakes, and my summer Disney World packing list!

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