How Much Can You Do During a Disney Vacation?

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I’ve talked before about planning how long to make your Disney vacation. Once you’ve decided how long you can stay at Walt Disney World, a related question often arises … what can I actually accomplish during that amount of time? How much can I do in a day (or two, or three, or ten) at Disney? New guests, unfamiliar with the gigantic scope of Disney World, may be particularly confused by this topic.

Lunch and a lazy afternoon at the pool could count as a DALE.

Lunch and a lazy afternoon at the pool could count as a DALE.

To get a better handle on how much you can do/see in a trip to Walt Disney World, let’s think about Disney time in 4-6 hour units. That’s about the span most people can handle in vacation-related activities before needing a break or at least a change of scenery.

Because he’s my favorite chipmunk (and because I couldn’t think of a snappy acronym for DUCK), we’re going to call these 4-6 hour vacation units DALEs (Disney Activity Labor Elements). A family of WDW visitors with toddlers or an ECV-bound senior citizen might have a DALE close to the four hour mark. A Disney veteran 20-something unencumbered by children might have a 6-hour DALE.

I’ll assume that the average adult needs 8 hours of sleep and the average young child needs 10-12 hours of sleep. And I’ll give everyone 1-2 hours per day for personal care such as bathing yourself, bathing your kids, checking in with work, vegging out watching Stacey’s Top Seven, etc.

Doing the math, this means that, depending on your profile, you can fit 2 or 3 DALEs into a day.

So what can you do in a DALE? Here are just some of the MANY things available at Walt Disney World, broken into approximately 4-6 hour chunks:

  1. 8-12 attractions in the Magic Kingdom and a quick service meal
  2. A character meal and 6-10 attractions in the Magic Kingdom
  3. 12-16 attractions in the Magic Kingdom and a snack
  4. Meeting all the characters in the Magic Kingdom and a quick service meal
  5. The Family Magic Tour at the Magic Kingdom and a table service meal
  6. Most of the attractions in Epcot’s Future World
  7. A table service meal, all of Epcot’s Innoventions, and Agent P’s World Showcase Advenuture
  8. 2-3 attractions and moderate shopping at all of Epcot’s World Showcase countries
  9. A table service meal, Epcot’s Behind the Seeds tour, and 3-4 attractions
  10. A lap around Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival Booths
  11. A table service meal, Illuminations, and a stroll around the World Showcase
  12. A table service meal and all the headliner attractions at the Animal Kingdom
  13. A table service meal and the minor attractions at the Animal Kingdom
  14. 8-12 attractions at the Animal Kingdom and a snack
  15. A quick service meal and all the shows at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  16. A table service meal, Fantasmic, and 2-3 other attractions at DHS
  17. 8-10 attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  18. Table service dinner and shaking your stuff at the Boardwalk’s Atlantic Dance Hall
  19. The Wild Africa Trek backstage tour
  20. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Very Merry Christmas Party
  21. A round of golf
  22. Lunch and all the big slides at Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach
  23. Disney Quest
  24. Dinner and Cirque du Soleil La Nouba
  25. Lunch, nap, swim at your resort
  26. Bowling/dinner at Splitsville and light shopping some of Downtown Disney
  27. Lunch and heavy shopping and most of Downtown Disney
  28. A movie at the AMC theater and light shopping some of Downtown Disney
  29. Three treatment pampering package at Senses Spa the Grand Floridian or Saratoga Springs
  30. A Richard Petty Driving Experience
  31. The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue, the Chip & Dale Sing-Along and an outdoor movie at Fort Wilderness
  32. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Pirates League, a table service meal, and 4-6 Magic Kingdom attractions
  33. Epcot’s Dolphins in Depth tour and a table service meal
  34. Watching a sporting event at ESPN WIde
  35. Grand Tea at the Grand Floridian and a self-guided walking tour of the monorail-area resorts
  36. Dinner at Victoria & Albert’s Chef’s Table
  37. A character meal and the Pirates & Pals fireworks cruise
  38. Participate in a runDisney half-marathon or marathon
  39. Go off property to Universal Studios and visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  40. Drive to Port Canaveral and take a tour of NASA
  41. See most of SeaWorld
  42. Hit the Orlando outlet malls
  43. Segway tour, canoeing, and a swim at Fort Wilderness
  44. Table service dinner, surrey bike ride around the Boardwalk, drinks at Jellyrolls
  45. Keys to the Kingdom tour
  46. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique makeover and My Disney Girl Perfectly Princess Tea Party
  47. Half the Backstage Magic tour
  48. Magic Behind Our Steam Trains tour and character lunch
  49. Parasailing, SeaRayer rental, and character lunch
  50. Mini-golf, quick service lunch, 4-6 attractions at Blizzard Beach

To put this in a bit more perspective, depending on what you count, there are approximately 18 attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, 20 attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, 20 attractions (plus LOTS of shopping and dining) at Epcot, and 40 attractions at the Magic Kingdom. A single attraction might take anywhere from about 2 minutes (Dumbo) to about 45 minutes (Ellen’s Energy Adventure) to complete, plus you have to build in time for waiting in queues, walking between attractions, bathroom breaks, etc.

Since not every attraction will appeal equally to every guest, something like (for example) an allotment of two times #3 in the above list would allow most guests to see nearly everything of interest at the Magic Kingdom, with no repeats. Many people, particularly small children, will want to repeat their favorite attractions several times, so something like #1 would likely appear several times in a plan for guests traveling with little kids.

Obviously Touring Plan use, crowd levels, park hours, weather, personal stamina, transportation issues, and numerous other factors will impact what you can actually get done in a day, but using the DALE system you can make a reasonable estimate of how much of Walt Disney World you’ll be able to experience during your vacation.

For example, during a single day a Toddler/Senior Family could reasonably expect to do DALE #1 and #2. During a single day, an Active Adult Family could probably do DALE #1 twice with #24 in the middle.

To figure out how much you can do over the course of vacation, start adding up the DALEs.

In a four-day WDW visit, a Toddler/Senior Family DALE estimate might look like:

  • Day One: #1 and #2
  • Day Two: #1, #24, and dinner
  • Day Three: #16 and #30
  • Day Four: #6 and #7

During a six-day WDW visit, an Active Adult Family DALE estimate might look like:

  • Day One: #19, #1, and #20
  • Day Two: #6, #24, and #11
  • Day Three: #20, #24, and #35
  • Day Four: #12, #13, and #27
  • Day Five: #6, #8, and #25
  • Day Six: #1, #21, and #3

By following this process, it should be possible to estimate how much of Disney World you can experience in any given vacation. You can use your estimate as a check/balance for your “How Long To Stay” plan, to see whether your intended vacation duration will be enough time to see your highlights, or will leave you with too much time to fill with activities of little interest or too much expense.

If you’re a Disney veteran, how would you explain to a new guest how much they can accomplish during a Disney vacation? Do you find the above DALE estimates reasonable? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted on February 25, 2014

18 Responses to “How Much Can You Do During a Disney Vacation?”

  • What a cool article. As a Disney vet, I loved reading these. Even learned a thing or two (Segway tours at Fort Wilderness?!) Thanks!

  • Loved this!! Never thought of looking at it from that perspective. I am looking to change up my routines for this year’s trip and these are some great ideas.

    As for your question at the end, being a once a year visitor since 1997, your article is spot on when it comes to how to explain to a first timer how to spend their time. This is an excellent way of doing it. The only thing I would emphasize is the absolute need to schedule some downtime (i.e. the pool suggestion). Disney is the one vacation that bites back if you aren’t careful.

    Excellent article!!

  • Agree on the last post. Having been to WDW 4 times now with my kids, a break sometime during the day is the best advice I can offer. Jumping into that pool cools down the sore feet and provides for some much needed rest.

  • I LOVED this article. I am planning a trip for next fall (we are a every 5 years kind of family) to WDW with myself, my 70 year old parents, and two kids who will be almost 6 and almost 2. My mom and I have been sketching out potentially daily itineraries, and thinking about it in this sort of way is really helpful. I also think that there are major DALEs and Minor DALEs, depending on the intensity of the experience. For instance, numbers 1-3 would be an example of Majors, because there’s crowds, heat, etc. An afternoon at the pool might be a minor DALE. Thinking of it this way helps me think of both time and intensity of scheduled activities during the day. I really like this thought process!

  • Interesting way of looking at things! Love the DALE concept! “Activity Labor” sounds weird, though. What about Daily Activity/Leisure Element?

    This January was our first WDW visit as a family (kids are 7 & 9), and we found the 5/4/5 method to be optimal (5 hours in one of the parks; 4 hours for traveling back to our resort, resting, and traveling back to the same or other park; and 5 more park hours).

    Even then, doing two or more 5/4/5 days in a row can be exhausting, so a day doing one or two of the more relaxing DALEs (#s 23-29, for example) is a good idea as well. We packed a lot into our 5 full days at WDW, but we avoided any major meltdowns by taking a break during the afternoon, when the parks are at their busiest.

  • #38- Or in my case this past weekend- 3 DALEs! 1 for the race, and 2 for afterwards sitting on the floor of my hotel room afterwards to sore to move!

    In all seriousness though, completing a marathon in 1 DALE is probably pushing it, since you probably won’t start running for 2.5 hours after you leave your hotel room, then 3-6.5 hours for the race depending on speed, and 1-1.5 hours to get back to hotel after race. Even without any recovery time.

    Love the list overall. It is really useful to help with planning. I know I planned my trip with 1/2 day segments in mind, with minimum 10 hours of rest at night.

    • I did the 1/2 marathon in January, went back to the room and showered, and then put in five hours touring Epcot. Of course I went back to the room and passed out at 7:45, but I did get my afternoon of park touring in. But you make a good point that it would be a rare person indeed who could do the full marathon and then conquer the parks. And any of these items are certainly subject to individual variation.

  • “Disney Activity Labor Element”

    You people crack me up. I mean that in a totally nice way :-) — don’t know what I would have done without your hard work prior to my trip earlier this month.

  • by Heather Louise on February 25, 2014, at 7:15 pm EDT

    Wow, Erin. All I can say is Wow. You never cease to amaze me with your in depth posts. Thank you yet again. I will definitely be referring my clients to this article.

  • On a week long trio, we usually schedule a short Animal Kingdom day for Wed, then back to the Poly for the aloha luau dinner. It’s a nice midweek break from late nights at the parks. Although, ever since we started using Touring Plans, we find that our family of 4 can see everything on our lists without feeling rushed! And we have long lists! My best advice to anyone is to use Touring Plans to its full extent! Can’t wait to see how much better Lines works this year with improved wifi in the parks.

  • I did 2 week long trips with two toddlers in 2013 and would not recommend attempting 2 “major dales” in one day for anyone traveling with a toddler. On a good day in the low crowd off season with a touring plan we could accomplish an average of 7 rides and one character meal before going back to the hotel for nap. Our “major dale” for the day. Because of my toddlers’ early bedtimes the few times we tried to go back to a park in the pm after nap we’d only have 1-2 hrs at the park. It never seemed worth the equal amount of time we’d spend on packing up, getting them ready, and transportation. Their favorite part of the trips were the hotel and pool anyway so that’s usually what we did with our afternoons. Trips when they were infants were way easier and we did a lot more in the parks so it was a surprise to me how little we could “accomplish” now that they are toddlers.

  • Well, I’ve been trying to think of something either clever or funny to replace DALE (ideally with CHIP, the superior chipmunk) but my brain has abandoned me!

    Great article, and much more in line with how my Disney itinerary planning has evolved over the years. (Only I call the time bands ‘morning’, ‘afternoon’ and ‘evening’ – damn my lack of imagination! :) )

    Also useful is Dave’s comment about the sustainability of multiple 2+ busy DALE days. Glad it isn’t just me that can find the non-stop fun relentless.

  • Dear Erin,
    Thanks for yet another clever, inventive way to help newbies and seasoned pros plan their WDW vacation. You provide reality and common sense…and those of us who incorporate it consistently are rewarded with great vacations. :-)

  • Oh No! Wishes not included in the list??

    Only joking, we already did this last year! I have my 11 days sorted now. I do think 2 is more realistic

  • LOVE this analysis. We did/do something similar in our Excel-based trip planning. We break up each day into 5 blocks: 1. What do we do when we wake up (incl. breakfast); 2. What are our morning plans (hint: “rope drop”); 3. What do we do Mid-day, e.g. lunch and/or ParkHop; Where and how do we send our pm (lazing around resort after Parade is acceptable); and finally, How/Where do we spend our evening?

    I am favorable to allocating plenty of downtime.

  • Got it!

    P.O.D.5. (Pronounced pods)

    Pieces of Disney (5 hours ish).

    You are welcome :)