Disney World, Magic Kingdom entrance
Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

There are vacations, then there are Disney vacations.

These fun-filled, action-packed, and sometimes overwhelming trips are in a category all their own. Fans from around the globe spend months preparing for a trip to the Mouse House, while families with small children map out their every move in the park so everyone gets a taste of what they want.

While every day on the vacation is important, there are two days not to be overlooked: Arrival and departure.

To make the most out of your trip to Disney World in Orlando, Heather Thomas, a writer for Walt Disney World Prep, a fan site dedicated to all things Disney, explained that it’s crucial to have a well thought out plan for both of these days. Here’s exactly what Thomas says you need to do to have the best time, from beginning to end, at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Short trips: 1-6 days

On shorter trips, Thomas recommends heading directly to the park in the morning on both your arrival and departure days. If you’ve purchased a Walt Disney World Vacation Package your check-in will be a bit easier as you can do so online, thus activating your tickets for the park. Disney even allows guests to drop their luggage with a bellman at any of its resorts, Thomas explained, so you can go straight to the park.

Longer trips: 7+ days

On longer trips, which Thomas noted are a week or longer, she recommends guests take part in a few non-park activities to help maximize the experience. This includes making a reservation for a character meal. “Probably our favorite choice is Chef Mickey's, because of the setting,” she wrote. “You can't get more ‘Disney World’ than sitting inside The Contemporary Resort with the monorail whizzing by while Mickey Mouse is walking around.”

Adding in something special

According to Thomas, the best way to catch Disney’s nightly fireworks show isn’t from inside Cinderella’s castle. Instead, she wrote, the best place to see them is from outside the park altogether. Try making a reservation at one of these Disney World restaurants and ask for a table with a view.

Take it all in

Perhaps Thomas’ best piece of advice was to not pack your schedule too tightly. It's time off, savor it. Make sure to build in free time to enjoy your resort, ride a new ride, or to simply sit and watch the magic of it all. Don’t rush, this is vacation. For more tips and advice on taking the ultimate Disney vacation read up on Travel+Leisure’s complete guide here.