Will your next vacation be your first time at Disney World? Your first Disney trip is so exciting! Getting to experience all the magic for the first time is quite the experience. Being your first trip though means that you most likely don’t know the ins and outs that the veteran visitors know all so well. Here are my top tips for first time Disney World visitors that will help give you an advantage over all the other newbies:
Don’t Try To See It All
This is probably the biggest mistake that first timers make and it can often lead to disappointment with their vacation. You need to set realistic goals for what you can get done during your time at Disney. The entire Disney World property is about the same size as San Francisco, so it’s BIG! With 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, Disney Springs and over 20 hotels, there is a lot to see and do.
Deciding on which parks you want to visit and what your top attractions are is a great exercise to do before you go. Planning with a travel agent can be beneficial because they can help you with your itinerary and let you know what is possible to do with the amount of time you have. You most likely will not be able to see every single attraction in all the parks, or you will really exhaust yourself trying to do so.
If you go in to it with the mindset of what attractions are your top ones to see and do, you will most likely have a successful vacation and feel good about your time there.
Allow Extra Time for Disney Transport
If you are staying at a Disney resort, then you will have access to their complimentary transportation to and from the parks. While some parks may only be a 10 minute ride away, it is imperative that you always plan for extra time. Boats, buses and monorails will not always be there, ready to go when you show up. You may have to wait a bit, usually no longer than 20 minutes. If it is a really busy time, for example, going for rope drop to Magic Kingdom, you may even have to wait for 2 buses if the bus line is very long.
Once you arrive at the park, you will have to make your way over to the gates. The walk over from transport is usually a few minutes and you will have to factor in going through bag check. If you have a Fastpass or dining reservation, I would recommend leaving your hotel at least a good hour before you need to be at your reservation.
If you are taking the Magical Express from the airport, you should allow about 90 minutes from the time you land until the time you expect to be at the hotel. You may have some waiting time at the Magical Express line at the airport and the drive to Walt Disney World property is approximately 45 minutes.
Use the My Disney Experience App
Having the My Disney Experience app installed on your smartphone and using it while you are in the parks is essential! The app will provide you with great information as you tour the parks and it has some pretty cool tools. Here are some of the things you can do in the My Disney Experience app:
- View ride wait times
- Book additional Fastpasses
- Find restaurants and view their menus
- Use mobile food ordering to avoid waiting in lines
- View the daily entertainment schedule
- View where to find characters in the parks
- Find the restrooms
- View your Photopass pictures
Make Good Use of Fastpass +
Disney World is one of the top vacation destinations in the world, which means that there usually are a lot of people there. This translates to potentially long lines for attractions. With Fastpass +, you can reserve times for 3 rides per day before you even arrive. That means that you are at least guaranteed to have little to no wait for at least 3 rides. This counts for a lot since some of the most popular attractions can sometimes see wait times of 2 hours and up. By using Fastpass +, you are saving yourself some time, which means more time for other attractions.
If you schedule your Fastpasses early in the day, you can then try to get more after you have used your 3rd Fastpass. Getting more Fastpasses as you go will make your touring a lot easier and will hopefully help you avoid any long lines. Check out my Tips For How to Get the Best Fastpasses.
You Can Still Ride if Your Child Does Not Meet the Height Requirements
Who says Disney World is just for kids? Certainly not me, sometimes the parents want to have fun too! If you would like to enjoy a more thrilling ride that your child may not be big enough to ride yet, then there is a way!
Disney has a system called “Rider Switch”. When you enter the line for the ride, you let the cast member know that you would like to use rider switch. The cast member will provide you with one, a digital ticket on your Magic Band. One parent rides first, while the other parent stays back with the child. Then the parent that stayed back uses the rider switch pass to go through the Fastpass line and ride it with little wait for their turn.
Make Advanced Dining Reservations
If you plan on eating at any of the sit-down restaurants, then I highly recommend that you make reservations in advance. It is possible that you can sometimes get a table just by walking up, but it isn’t always a guarantee. If you have your heart set on a few specific restaurants, play it safe and make reservations.
Reservations can be made on the Disney World website up to 180 days before your check-in date. There are a few restaurants that are hard to get and should you plan on trying to eat there, you will want to book them as soon as your 180 day window opens. The reservations open up online at 6 am Eastern, so get up early on your 180 day mark and grab them first! Here are some of the popular ones that are harder to get:
- Be Our Guest
- Chef Mickey’s
- Cinderella’s Royal Table
- Le Cellier
- Victoria & Albert’s
- California Grill
Photopass Photographers Will Take Pics With Your Camera
You will see many Disney photographers throughout the park in picture perfect spots or with characters. You may think that this service is only for Photopass, but think again! If you prefer to have your own pictures taken, then you can ask them to snap with your own camera. They will happily oblige. They will still snap some pics with their camera, but just hand yours over and they will take some with your camera as well.
Plan the Basics
I realize not everyone may be a planner like myself, but planning just the basics will make a world of difference for your vacation. It will help you avoid some lines and make sure you eat where you want to. I would recommend planning at least these basics:
- Plan out which parks you will go to on which days
- Make and select your 3 Fastpasses per day
- Make advanced dining reservations
If this is out of your comfort zone, then I highly recommend getting a travel agent to help you with your planning. The agents at Click the Mouse specialize in Disney vacation planning and will help to make it a smooth process for you.
The First Hour is Always the Least Busy of the Day
If you don’t mind waking up early on vacation, then use that to your advantage and get to the parks at rope drop. Rope Drop refers to the time that the park opens. Actually, it is best to try and aim to be at the gates about 30 minutes prior to rope drop. Oftentimes, they start letting people through the gates before rope drop, so best to arrive early.
If you can be there for rope drop, then that first hour in the park will allow you to get a lot done. It is the least busiest time of the day and you can often knock out a few rides (even the popular ones) with little to no wait. That combined with using Fastpass + will be your best strategy to seeing and doing as much as you can in the parks.
You Can Bring in Your Own Food
Contrary to what a lot of people think, you are allowed to bring in your own food and snacks to Disney World. You will have your bags inspected at the gate, but food is allowed. It’s actually a great way to save money if you are up to packing your own meals. If you are looking for a grocery delivery service, then you can use this link to get $10 off your first order with Instacart.
It’s important to note that you are not allowed to bring in coolers, so your food will need to be packed in the bag you are carrying with you in the parks. Also not allowed – alcoholic beverages and glass containers (even baby food).
You may of done a lot of research to find out when is the least busiest time of year to visit Disney World, but expect crowds any time of the year. The fact of the matter is that Disney World is a top vacation destination, which means crowds. As long as you set your expectations for crowds, then you won’t be disappointed.
You Can Send Merchandise Back To Your Resort
If you are staying at a Disney hotel, then you will have the benefit of being able to send merchandise back to your hotel. If there is something you see in a park shop, you do not have to worry about lugging it around with you in the parks. Just let the cast member at the shop know you would like to have it sent back to the resort, and they will gladly take care of that for you.
When you send a package back, it is usually available for pick-up after 1 pm the following day. If your next day is your check-out day, then it is not recommended that you use this service. Alternatively, you could ask to send the package to the front of the park (Guest Relations). This service is available for anyone, even non-hotel guests. If you plan to still be in the parks for at least another 3 hours, you can have your package sent for pick-up at the front of the park. Then you just pass by and pick it up on your way out.
Disney is Food-Allergy Friendly
Travelling with someone that has a food allergy? I know this can be very stressful while on vacation since you are not in the comfort of your own controlled kitchen. Not to worry because Disney has you covered! They are very accommodating to guests with food allergies. Just let them know when you order that you have a specific allergy and they will make sure that your dish is customized for you. Sometimes the chef will even come out and talk to you! They really do take care when it comes to food allergies.
With these tips, you will be touring the parks like a veteran! Knowing these valuable tips will help to set you up for a successful, magical vacation. Do you have any tips that you like to give first-timers? If so, leave them in my comments below!
Laura is a mom of one adorable girl with a love of all things Disney. She traveled to Disney World with her family in 2010 and was hooked. They have since been a total of 9 times. With all her knowledge of planning Disney trips, she has now become a travel agent so that she can help other families plan magical vacations. She’ll not only help complete your booking, but she will also help with booking Fastpasses, making dining reservations, booking special experiences…. she helps with all aspects of your trip! You can request a no obligation quote from her today 🙂