I have been to Disney World countless number of times in the last 20 years since I live about an hour away from the magical kingdom. Whenever I have visitors that want to visit Disney World, we usually only have one day, so I figured out a system on how to visit all 4 parks in one day. It's an ambitious schedule, but if you have the will, it can easily be done.
Disney World consists of four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Before visiting the park, you want to buy a Park Hopper ticket to visit all 4 parks and then utilize Disney's FastPass+ system. You'll get to pre-select 3 rides for the day at one amusement park and bypass the standard line at the rides you choose. You can select your rides 30 days in advance or 60 days in advance if you are staying at a Disney World resort. I chose my 3 rides at Epcot since the popular rides like Test Track and Soarin are always at least an hour wait.
You will keep track of all of this through Disney's My Disney Experience app – this is your portal to your entire stay at Disney World including itinerary, reservations, tickets, FastPass and more. If you are staying at a Disney resort, you will get a MagicBand sent to you or you can pick it up at the resort. If you are not staying at a resort, you will receive a card. The MagicBand is the key to your hotel room, entry into theme parks and check in for FastPass+. You can also charge food and merchandise to your band after creating a PIN.
We also purchased the new Express Transportation service on this trip since it takes you from park to park on a bus without having to go in and out of the parks. The bus takes you directly to the next park inside the main gate. This was a HUGE time saver and I highly recommend it.
Sadly, Disney has canceled the Express Transportation system, but it is still possible to visit all 4 parks in one day using the Disney buses.
Now that we got all the technical stuff out of the way, let's get on to the fun parks!
PARK 1: Animal Kingdom (8:00AM)
I like to start at Animal Kingdom because the animals are more active and the wait times are short for the rides. We rode on the Expedition Everest roller coaster first (you can even ride on this a few times if you wanted to because the lines are so short) and then made our way to the Dinosaur ride. Afterwards, we walked around the park for a bit and explored the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and then headed to the express transportation bus for our next stop. If you have a little extra time, Kilimanjaro Safaris is a good one to check out here too.
PARK 2: Hollywood Studios (10:30AM)
At around 10AM, we headed to Hollywood Studios. This is personally my favorite Disney World park because it has my most favorite ride ever: Tower of Terror! I love it so much that I ride it at least twice. The other must-do ride is the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. This roller coaster ride usually has a long wait time, so if you didn't get a FastPass for this attraction, I would suggest trying the Single Rider Line. This line usually cuts the waiting time in half. For our third and final ride, we went on The Great Movie Ride. I really like this one because it takes you back through classic films and it's so nostalgic. Some other rides that are popular here are Star Tours and Toy Story Mania.
We also had lunch at Hollywood Studios as they have a nice shaded outdoor food court area that serves sandwiches, burgers, chicken tenders and more. The chicken tenders are our favorite!
PARK 3: Epcot (2:30PM)
Next up: Epcot. Since we booked FastPasses here, we were able to check out this park rather quickly. The front of the park has all the rides and the back of the park has all the restaurants from around the world, with a couple of rides like Frozen. If you want to get on the Frozen ride, be prepared for long lines. You can try scoring a FastPass, but people book 60 days in advance as it gets booked up fast. Test Track and Soarin are the most popular rides here. We were only able to choose one of these rides and then went on the classic Spaceship Earth inside the iconic Epcot ball. You will probably have time for one more ride like Mission: SPACE or The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
PARK 4: Magic Kingdom (5:30PM)
Finally, we arrived at our last stop: Magic Kingdom. I always end with this park because it stays open the latest and you can watch the famous fireworks and parades by Cinderella's castle. We had dinner here and rode several attractions with short wait times such as Small World, Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear and Pirates of the Caribbean. Some other great and popular rides with longer wait times are Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Under the Sea - Journey of The Little Mermaid and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. You can probably fit in 5-7 rides depending on wait times and your energy level. We're usually beat by 9:00pm and call it a day after we catch the fireworks over the castle.
If you want to avoid leaving with the crowd, get out while the fireworks are still going or right before the fireworks start. There is a massive crowd that leaves after the fireworks and it can get overwhelming especially when you are tired from walking all day.
Have a magical day at Disney!
***UPDATE - On August 23, 2017, the Express Transportation was discontinued.***