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Best Tips for Your 1st Trip to Disney
Think about this: no matter how many times you have gone to Disney World, you will only ever have ONE 1st visit. That goes for all of us. There’s always that very first time that you round the corner on Main Street and see Cinderella’s castle looming ahead. And because there are so many Disney tips and so much Disney information out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I have been to Disney World a bunch of times over the years and I can STILL get overwhelmed planning out everything from Fast Passes, hotel reservations, dining reservations, etc. Even though I know how the process works, I still have to decide where we are staying, where we are eating and what passes we want to get. Then, of course, there is no guarantee that we will get what we want! It’s all about booking as soon as the window opens for your trip and reserving as much in advance as possible.
I will say this: Yes, a lot of planning goes a long way when it comes to Disney. HOWEVER, if you are stressed and overwhelmed and completely wigging out over trip planning, remember that many things are flexible and that you can certainly just wing it when it comes to daily schedule, etc. It’s not worth making yourself miserable over!! The best part about a Disney trip is the experience. BE in the moment as much as you can. WATCH your children’s reactions to the magic. SEE the trip through their eyes. THESE are the reasons that people say Disney memories are amazing.
So now that I have said that. You know by know that I have written some pretty detailed Disney posts. I also happen to have some incredibly knowledgeable readers when it comes to Disney tips and tricks. Thank you to the many Facebook fans who helped me to build this collection of tips!
The question I asked them to answer:
What easy, simple piece of advice or tip would you give someone before their VERY VERY FIRST trip to Disney World? (Or, what tip do you wish YOU had known before YOUR first trip to WDW?)
Disney World Vacation Booking Tips (General)
- Use an authorized Disney Planner to book your trip. Their services are completely FREE when you book a qualifying vacation package. See more reasons why it’s awesome to use a Disney TA here.
- Be flexible. Take the time to make the plans before you arrive (fast passes, dinner reservations and park days) but let yourself enjoy the moments. Disney is full of things to see and do and you may come across something you didn’t know about and it may interfere with your plans but it may also be the most memorable moment of your trip.
- Planning a trip to Disney is like being a parent; everyone thinks they know how to do it “right” and everyone has their own opinion on the subject. Listen to suggestions, but ultimately do what you feel is best for your family.
- Research & plan ahead! The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World book is extremely helpful & informative. We also love Birnbaum’s Walt Disney Guides (and our kids LOVE the kid edition)!
- Take the time to watch your child’s reactions to walking down Main Street, seeing the castle, seeing his or her favorite character. That’s what you really want to remember. (For me, some of my fondest memories are watching Lily’s face when the princesses made their entrance on the stage during each castle show!)
- Rent DVC points and use them to book a deluxe resort stay at a significant discount. (We have done this twice – it really works!)
- Take your time and rent a car. You waste so much time waiting for Disney transportation. Rent a mid-size car for less than $300/week (on average).
- Study the average weather for Disney BEFORE you commit to travel dates. Summer in Disney is not only extremely hot and humid, it also gets frequent downpours. Think about how your family will hold up in the hot muggy summer air before you book a July trip. It’s also helpful to study crowd predictor calendars to see when crowds are expected to be at their highest. Higher crowds mean longer waits and sometimes mean park closures (as in, the park reaches capacity and no one else can get in).
- Try not to over-plan your days at the parks. Schedule downtime to rest or swim. Disney is intense and there is SO much to do. That being said, it’s impossible to do it all. It’s also impossible to do just about anything with exhausted, cranky kids. Don’t micromanage every minute of your Disney vacation, just book the highlights.
Disney World Resort Tips
- You can ship snacks and other supplies to your Disney Resort ahead of your arrival.
- We arrived early after traveling for 6 hours and attempted to do two parks (with hopper) and fireworks. Our 9 y/o was so exhausting he was melting down which was uncharacteristic for him. We learned an important lesson on that trip: it’s only the happiest place on earth with a full night’s sleep. Start your first day fresh.
- Strollers are a VERY good idea, even if your child no longer uses one at home for the day to day. Disney Parks are HUGE and you will likely log several MILES each day walking around. Most of the year is hot as well. Strollers can be a real life saver for exhausted kids! We highly recommend using Kingdom Strollers to rent a high-end quality stroller. Your rental includes FREE delivery and pickup from your resort!
- Plan some time to visit some of the other resorts! The theme-ing at each Disney resort is so unique. There are restaurants and other things to check out at every location.
- You can send purchases from park gift shops back to your Disney resort for FREE. No need to lug them around the park all day!
Disney World Dining and Dining Plan Tips
- Make dining reservations early or you won’t get what you want, especially character dining. (This tip is a good one, however, even during very busy days in the park, I have been able to pull up the My Disney Experience App and book us a meal reservation SOMEWHERE in the park. Might not be our most favorite restaurant, but always a place to sit, eat and take in some air conditioning for a bit and saves us time versus waiting in the stand-by line. On the days where we didn’t make dining plans and are starting to tire, I’ll pull up the app about and hour or two before we are ready to eat. I have always lucked out and found something somewhere thanks to inevitable cancellations.)
- If you are on the dining plan, do not fret over what snacks to get. Don’t “save” snack credits to “get your money’s worth.” If you want something, get it. If not, you’ll have 17 snack credits on your last day.
- Any size Starbucks is one snack credit.
- You can get FREE WATER from ANY quick service food spot (including Starbucks).
- If the restaurant you wanted to book was full, check back often. Slots DO open up as other people cancel.
- Free Dining is offered once or twice a year as a booking incentive. If your travel dates are flexible, you might want to wait to book until the next time this promo is offered.
- Certain quick service restaurants have self-serve soda fountains for refills (Be Our Guest, Backlot Express, Electric Umbrella, Restaurantosaurus).
Disney World Park Tips
- Tickets bought through an authorized ticket seller, for example Undercover Tourist, can be added to your “My Disney Experience” app, just like the park tickets you get when booking a whole vacation package.
- Use the child rider swap when you have kids who are too young or too scared to go on certain rides. We were able to ride Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom several times back to back thanks to the child swap with Landon.
- If you plan to hit the parks early in the morning for early morning extra magic hours, buy some dining plan breakfast grab-and-go items the night before (bananas, yogurts, etc) to have food on hand when you wake up and head out.
- Sometimes parks open a few minutes earlier than the posted time. Arrive early to be among the first visitors to the park and enjoy rides with little-to-no wait times!
- The photo booths in each of the parks are included with your Memory Maker package. Follow the instructions after the last photo and scan your magic band. This is also true for ride photos. Some rides require you to swipe your magic band after you ride to add the pics to your account.
- Bring your own snacks into the parks. Little snacks like granola bars go a long way when your kids are hungry and cranky in a long ride line!
- Get free Coke soda samples at Epcot Club Cool.
- You can secure additional Fast Pass reservations in your My Disney Experience App AFTER you have used up your first 3.
- You can avoid the Ticketing Transportation Center (monorail/boat) to Magic Kingdom by taking the bus transporation to MK. Buses drop you off right out front of the park. You can also take the Minnie Van Lyft Service (additional charge).
- On hot days, bring a cooling towel or Chill Pal to keep your body cooler.
- Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is a FREE interactive game. Stop by the fire house on Main Street to get your free pack of cards.
- Pirates Adventure is a FREE interactive game at Magic Kingdom. Finish 3 interactive games and get a Pirates of the Caribbean Fast Pass!
- If possible, bring a handwritten or typed itinerary for each day to avoid constantly scrolling for this info on your My Disney Experience App, which will drain your battery in no time!
- Bring at LEAST a phone charging cord into the parks, as there are several free charging stations you can use. Better yet, bring a rapid battery charger so you can re-charge anytime, anywhere.
- Prepare for sticker shock and budget accordingly. Yes, gift shops are around EVERY turn and food is pricey. There are many ways to save money in Disney. Plan ahead by bringing your own food. You can even pack your own souvenirs from home.
- If you plan to watch fireworks, consider taking a break during the afternoon back at your resort. Keeping your energy up from rope drop in the morning to fireworks is challenging to say the least.
- Character autographs make awesome (FREE) souvenirs. We have used picture mats to collect autographs at the parks, as well as pillowcases for autographs (take fabric markers) on the Disney Cruises and both make such unique items to bring home from vacation!
Do you have any tips to add to my list? Please share them in the comments!