How Should You Spend Your Departure Day at Disney?

A few weeks ago, we discussed the best ways to spend your arrival day at Disney theme parks.

Today, we’ll talk about the back end of your trip. How should you spend your departure day? Well…

theme park

Photo: orlandoattractions.com

Let’s talk about the timing…

I’ll presume that you are flying out of Walt Disney World via Orlando International Airport. If you’re driving, the conversation gets much more straightforward.

When you take a plane out of town, you should arrive at the airport at least 120 minutes before your departure time.

COVID test

Photo: Videovo.net

You must go through a security check and then take a tram to your terminal.

I speak from experience when I say that nothing is more stressful than running late for a flight.

My wife gives me that withering “This is all your fault” look. And I hate it when she’s right.

airport

So, I wouldn’t suggest that you cut your flight close. But, yes, that means you may not get to do much – or anything – at the park.

Let’s say that you’re flying out at 10 am None of the parks will even open by that point.

MCO, Orlando International Airport

Photo: Orlando International Airport

If you’re leaving at 11:30, that at least cracks the window a bit. But we’ll get to that.

The point is that you shouldn’t bite off more than you can chew.

Orlando Airlines

Credit: Breeze Airways

Flying has been a nightmare during the pandemic. It’s that much worse when you get stuck at the airport for hours.

If you’re driving, the process works simply. First, you pack your luggage in your car at the hotel. Then, you do whatever you want at the parks.

Once you’ve finished, you take a bus back to the hotel and drive home.

The Early Morning Plan

I don’t have the best experiences with the early morning plan, and I’ll confess why. I get greedy.

Haunted Mansion

If I think I can ride something at the parks and still make my flight, I’m heading to the Haunted Mansion. Period. It’s insane, and I shouldn’t do it. I’m deeply flawed.

Please don’t be as dumb as me. Unless you have complete control of your transportation to the airport, you shouldn’t try to ride anything.

Cape May Cafe Character Dining at Walt Disney World

Photo: Disney

However, you can still do something magical at Walt Disney World! Many restaurants open quite early.

Several of them host character meals, allowing you to interact with Mickey and Minnie one last time before your dream vacation ends.

If you don’t have time for that, just head to your hotel’s store and do some last-minute shopping. Trinkets will remind you of your wonderful trip!

My family often schedules a morning breakfast and/or shopping spree on our departure day. It’s like the dessert after a perfect meal.

obstacles

Orlando International Airport is the best-run airport I’ve ever encountered.

Disney and Universal have somehow greased the wheels here to keep this place running optimally.

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Still, stuff happens when you’re at the airport. For example, we accidentally triggered a security check during a recent visit because we packed a protein powder.

That substance looked too much like a dangerous chemical, causing some VERY serious security people to pull us out of line and ask us some (reasonable) questions.

Orlando, MCO

Image: OrlandoAirports.net

My point is not even about us. Imagine the people who were waiting in line behind us as the security guards put on their gloves and tested our powder.

They did nothing wrong, but we delayed them by several minutes. You’d be cursing my name right now if that had been you.

Image Credit: Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

In short, the obstacle here is that Murphy’s Law is real. And it’s often your mortal enemy at an airport.

The Afternoon Plan

Here’s where your options open up dramatically. Let’s say that you have a 3 pm flight.

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Photo: Disney

That gives you the entire morning to run wild at Disney theme parks. You can do PLENTY in that timeframe.

With the afternoon plan, you can pack your luggage and then drop it off at Bell Services.

Leave at Home

Photo: Disney

I can assure you that Disney will happily hold your stuff while you spend more money at the parks.

What I’d suggest is that you pick the park closest to you unless it’s opening at the latest time.

For example, let’s say you’re staying in the EPCOT area. If EPCOT opens at 10 am while Magic Kingdom starts at 9 am, you should choose the latter.

empty magic kingdom hub

You’ll get to experience two or three more attractions this way. In fact, let’s extrapolate that a bit.

Experienced Disney guests – and people who read MickeyBlog daily – know enough about the parks to do approximately five attractions per two hours.

Splash Mountain Princess Frog

Credit: Disney

Obviously, we’re not talking about Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance here or even something like Splash Mountain.

You should choose attractions that feature modest wait times, preferably near walk-on size.

With four hours at a park, you could feasibly experience as many as ten attractions. At a minimum, you should get to do six.

You will smile your entire flight home if you can do that much!

Disney Vacation Club

Photo: Disney Vacation Club

obstacles

Some issues exist with the afternoon plan. The most significant one involves Disney transportation.

You never know when a bus, boat, or monorail will arrive. Monorails are thankfully more consistent than the other two, but it’s still a potential problem.

For this reason, if you’re serious about doing plenty at the parks, you might want to use ride-sharing for your final park visit.

That way, you’ll get back to the hotel in plenty of time. In fact, if you like your drive, you might even keep them for the airport trip!

via lyft

Creator: NWS04

The Evening Plan

If you want to get the most out of a Disney vacation, you should always schedule a later flight on your final date.

I recognize that this suggestion is not always possible. For example, you may need to work or have an appointment on the following date.

COVID test

Photo: Videovo.net

Still, I say this because a later flight gives you nearly a full park day. The (Walt Disney) World is your oyster, as you can do anything you like.

I don’t even need to be specific here. If you arrive at the park when it opens, you could feasibly get bored and be ready to go before it’s time.

Opening Day

Photo: Four Seasons

I’ve had this happen before. Admittedly, I had spent more than a week at Walt Disney World and felt like I’d accomplished everything there.

The point is that eight hours qualifies as a full park day for many people. If you visit a place that opens at 9 am, you’d be done by 5 pm anyway.

Photo: Disney

So, you’ll have no problem making a flight this way. Plus, it makes your vacation feel one day longer, as long as you don’t mind a red-eye flight.

obstacles

The primary obstacle here is the human body. Let’s say that you spend eight hours at the park before you head to the airport.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon

You’ll face another two hours there plus the flight time, and you may stink.

On a hot day, you could get super sweaty. You won’t have access to a hotel room for a shower, though.

You’ll find some options at the airport. They’re kinda big and expensive, though.

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Photo: OIA

So let’s be honest. A park day takes a toll on its own. Several hours in airports and on airplanes does as well.

When you combine the two, well, you may have regrets. It’s definitely something to keep in mind, especially if you’ll be in a middle seat, too.

Disney vacation

Photo: Disney

Oh, and there’s always the chance that the airline will cancel a late flight, leaving you stranded in Orlando for another night.

Then again, that gives you an excuse to go back to the park!

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