Top Tips For First Time Visitors to Walt Disney World
We love helping anyone experience the magic of Disney – but for first time visitors – there are some bits of magic that you need to know so you don’t miss out!
Advanced Planning – We all know that a good vacation starts with planning, but a trip to Walt Disney World takes the planning up a notch. Disney has over 40 square miles of property in central Florida and it is full of activities for your vacation. It is no wonder that researching and narrowing down what you want to fit into your vacation is no small feat! There are several things to plan in advance but two things we want to highlight here are table service dining options and FASTPASS+ (aka Fast Passes).
Have you ever made a dining reservation 6 months in advance?! Well, for your trip to Walt Disney World, reservations for table service open up 180 days in advance, and the most popular reservations fill up fast (see below for some more information on the famous character dining options)! There are many counter service options throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, but depending on your dining plan, you may want to make reservations for some table service options as well.
60 days in advance (for those staying on property) and 30 days in advance (for those staying off property), you will want to book your Fast Passes. Fast Passes are digital tickets that allow you priority loading to certain attractions at Walt Disney World. Not familiar with how it works and all of the options? See our breakdown of Fast Passes here.
As you are planning out your day with Fast Passes and dining reservations, be sure to plan more time than you think you will need – you don’t want to be overbooked!
Character Dining – If meeting Mickey and Minnie or Cinderella is on your must do list, and your budget allows, be sure to experience character dining! Not only do you get to beat the heat and sit down for a meal, but you don’t have to wait in the individual lines to meet each character! The characters come directly to you at your table, with plenty of time for pictures and autographs! There are many different options from the Princesses at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall to Mickey, Minnie and Goofy at the Garden Grill. We broke it down here or we would be happy to help you narrow down what would be the best fit for you and your family - just ask your On The Road Travel Agent! Again, please remember that this is something that needs to be planned in advance, and reservations go fast at the popular restaurants. So it’s not likely that you’ll to be able to add them on the fly while you are at the parks.
Extra Magic Hours – On designated days, one of the four Walt Disney World theme parks will open an hour early or stay open two hours late for guests staying at a Disney Resort or Disney Springs Area Resort. This is a benefit to the guests staying at the participating resorts/hotels and allows you to pack in several rides in a short amount of time with less traffic! This can be a great time to catch must do attractions like Avatar: Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom if you weren't able to get a Fast Pass! HOWEVER, if you don’t think you will be able to get up early enough to enjoy (remember to factor in breakfast, transportation, and security lines getting into the park), or you don’t think the kiddos can make it that late at night, you may want to actually look at the Disney calendar to see what parks have Extra Magic Hours and AVOID that particular park when they have Extra Magic Hours. The reason being, the theme parks tend to be busier on the days they have Extra Magic Hours. So, if you can’t benefit from those Extra Magic Hours, you may want to avoid the crowds at that park entirely that day.
Rider Switch – Disney has an amazing option if your little one isn’t at the right height! It allows people with small children (or children that don’t want to ride) to take turns riding the larger rides (Space Mountain, for example) while the other adult waits with the child. Simply ask the Cast Member at the beginning of the line if Rider Switch is available. If so, go to the Cast Member with your entire party and let them know that you would like to have a Ride Switch pass. The first group stands in line for the ride and when they are finished, they give the Rider Switch pass to the other adult and they (plus one additional rider) are able to board without waiting through the entire queue again!
Clothing – I know this may seem like a no brainer, but the days at the parks can be long and hot! Add in the typical Florida afternoon shower and it can be downright difficult! Luckily, with a little pre-planning, it will be a walk in the park (see what I did there???)! Disney has a lot of indoor attractions, but be sure to always bring a poncho - even on sunny days! You will save yourself some money if you purchase one at home and bring to the park instead of buying one while at the park. We also can’t emphasize enough the importance of comfortable shoes that you have broken in. Nothing ruins a day at the parks like a big blister!
Spend a day at the pool – If you are staying on Disney property, especially a moderate or deluxe hotel, we highly encourage you to take a day in the middle of your trip, or a long afternoon away from the parks, to enjoy your resort pools! The pools range in size, amenities, and theming, but are definitely worth the time! Breaking up multiple days of theme park adventures with a relaxing day at the pool and an evening at Disney Springs is a great combination! You could even start your day with a character breakfast at one of the resorts!
And last but not least, be sure to take time to enjoy the magic! Disney does a great job immersing you into a fantasy world by paying attention to even the smallest of details. Oh, and the Disney Blues once you leave really is a “thing”. My cure is often planning my next trip!