One Day at Disney World and Universal

Short on time, and wondering if one day at Disney World and Universal is worth it? Find out our family’s experience, with the pros, cons, and if we’d do it again. Plus, tips that will make the most of your day at Disney and Universal!

We were spending a week at our favorite beach resort in Florida, and decided that since we were already down there, it might be worth it to head over to Orlando for a day or two before going home. Since we weren’t planning a separate Disney trip any time in the near future, we thought this could be a good chance to fit it in. We spent one day at Disney, and one day at Universal, because we are huge Harry Potter fans, and couldn’t miss it!

After experiencing both Disney and Universal in one day each, we have a definite list of pros and cons that might help you decide. Plus, a list of tips that will maximize your one day if you decide to go ahead and do it!

One Day at Disney is it worth it

Can you do one day at Disney World?

Yes, you can! You won’t be able to see and do everything, but there is time to enjoy some of the things you want to most see and do. There are definitely pros and cons about choosing to do it this way, in our experience.


  • You can fit in some of the best parts of the park in one day. If you know this is your chance to visit Disney, and won’t have another opportunity any time soon, you can plan your day to see your priorities, and enjoy the Disney experience!
  • It really forces you to prioritize, which means you’ll more than likely cut down on any wasted time.


  • It is a lot more expensive to go just for one day. The price per person is exponentially higher than going for multiple days, and the longer you’re there, the less the price per day ends up being. Be prepared to spend a good amount of money for your one day at Disney.
  • Even with buying the Park Hopper pass and Genie+, there will be things that are just not available to you within your limited time. It’s now required to get reservations for each park, in addition to your ticket. Every park is not available every day, so there is a chance you could miss out one or more.
  • You’ll need a very specific plan to maximize your time, and this could likely mean skipping out on the newest and most popular rides and attractions due to time spent in line. Even the Genie+ has limits, and we discovered it didn’t help us as much as we thought that it would.

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Best Tips for Spending One Day at Disney World

  • Make a game plan ahead of time!! You can visit all four parks in one day if you want to, and we did–it just took some real planning and prioritizing. Make a list of the rides and attractions you want to see most, and map everything out to see what you need to do to make it work. Is seeing more than one park important? Or would you rather focus on one park and see everything you can? Those are questions you must think over and decide. Both are possible, and will give you a different Disney experience. In addition, going to more than one park will be twice as much for tickets, so if you’re looking to do this more on a budget, consider going to your favorite park or your first pick.
  • Tickets + Reservations! IMPORTANT! Check and double check the day you’re going, and which theme parks are available to reserve on the day you’re planning to go. Reservations must be made in addition to buying your ticket, and this is a critical step. Not every park is open every day, and some are full, depending on how soon you’re looking at tickets. Look at this BEFORE you buy tickets, to be sure. If you’re buying your tickets from a third party, such as Costco or Sam’s, check to see what other steps must be done, such as activation. This could require extra steps or time when you arrive at the park. *As of January, 2024, reservations will no longer be necessary. Find all the current details on reserving parks and the park hopper here.
  • Backpacks are really nice to have with you throughout the day. You can carry all the necessities like bottled water, sunscreen, wipes, portable chargers, snacks, etc. We had several of them worn by family members, so even if we split up we’d have access to things we needed. A backpack cooler is especially nice, because you can pack in drinks and food to save money. If you don’t have small kids, and a stroller for all your stuff, this is a really great option.
  • Plan to spend all day there, from morning to late night, to maximize your time. Wear the most comfortable shoes you own! If you plan to go on a water ride, sandals like Tevas and Chacos can work well for both comfort and water wear. Look for ways to extend your time as long as possible, such as staying at a Disney hotel that offers extended evening hours on the day you’ll be there. If you make breakfast reservations inside the park, you’ll get in before everyone else!
  • Limit the time you spend on eating. I would discourage sitting down for a restaurant meal. It will eat up so much of your time if you do, and there are plenty of yummy places for grab and go food and snacks. If you see a shorter line, take advantage of it, and try to eat when everyone else isn’t. Try eating a bit earlier or later to avoid longer lines. Pack a meal, snacks, and drinks in a soft cooler to save both time and money.
  • Consider splitting up your party/family for different rides and/or parks. If you’re going with two adults, this is a great option to really maximize the experience for all ages and interests in your party. We have younger kids and older kids, both having different things they really wanted to see–like Disney princesses and Star Wars. So we split up for part of the day, even going to different parks, to make the most of our one day. We wouldn’t have had time to go to as many things we have stayed all together.

One Day at Universal Studios

We also spent one day at Universal, and most of the same tips apply for this park. The main difference would be that the ticket reservation and you don’t have to worry about that part of things as well as the few other details that are specific to Disney.

However, there are three different parks within Universal Studios, and so the same types of choices and planning must be made in order to spend one day there. If you love Harry Potter and want to experience the Wizarding World in completion, you’ll need to visit both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Hogsmeade is in one, and Diagon Alley is in the other. There is a train that goes back and forth between the two, but you’ll need a park-to-park ticket in order to do so. There is also a water park, but you wouldn’t have time to adequately do all there. Ultimately you’d need to choose between the water park, or the other two parks.

One Day at Universal is it worth it

We went specifically for Harry Potter, so that’s where we concentrated our time. Then we split up, so that some of our kids could go on a few of the thrill rides like the Hulk Coaster. Some of us stayed the whole time in Harry Potter, because that’s what we loved the most, and wanted to soak up as much as possible.

One Day at Universal is it worth it

There are Express Passes that will allow you to skip the line once, or as many times as you want, depending on the ticket. They are almost as much as the park ticket, so purchasing these really depends on your budget, and what you want to see during your visit. We did not purchase them. The only times I wished we had done so were a couple of the Harry Potter rides that we stood in line for for a long time, and it would have saved us a bunch of time.

It’s definitely possible to go in one day, and we loved it.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below, I’m happy to help where I can!

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