Our first trip to Walt Disney World was back in 2007. It was such an exciting trip and we created memories that we will never forget. From the moment we got to our resort it was a whirlwind of fun and adventure. However, looking back on it now there are things I wish we’d known before we got there. We’ve now been to Disney World 11 times, so I wanted to share some of what we’ve learnt. Hopefully some of these things will help you plan your trip and enjoy your time at Disney World even more. Here are six tips for Disney World that first timers will find useful.
You will be tired on your first day (trust me!)
We live in the UK which means we have a 9-hour flight plus transfers to deal with. On our first trip we learnt the hard way just how exhausting travelling can be.
We got to our resort late in the evening and couldn’t wait to start soaking up the Disney atmosphere. The following morning our park of choice was Animal Kingdom. We had no idea just how much walking there would be or how sapping the Florida heat could be. We had an amazing day, but by the time we sat to watch the wonderful parade in the afternoon, we were all exhausted.
It made us rethink our plans next time, so now we go to a water park on our first day. My advice is to take it easy, drink plenty of water and eat regularly to keep energy levels up. If you are feeling the exhaustion, go back to your resort and relax. You don’t have to get everything done in a day.
Make use of the My Disney Experience Mobile App
On our first trip in 2007, this app didn’t exist. Ever since it launched in 2012, it has been an essential tool for holiday planning. I highly recommend you download it as soon as possible. Here are some of the features the app includes
- Buy theme park tickets wherever you are
- Book, amend or cancel dining reservations (cancellations require 24 hour’s notice to avoid being charged)
- Select and amend Fastpass+ experiences
- Share your itinerary with family & friends. This is a great tool if you are going as a large group, all with your own booking and Disney accounts.
- Manage resort reservations, tickets, MagicBands and cards.
Other useful features include being able to check attraction wait times on the go, find character greeting locations and times, search for firework and parade times, play a Disney Parks game to interact with your surroundings, browse restaurant menus and place mobile orders at select quick service restaurants. Disney have also recently added a Get Directions function, to help people to navigate the parks. This is a great useful feature. It will be especially useful for those who have never experienced the size of the parks. It really helps you to explore the parks.
Use the Memory Maker/Photopass photographers
I can’t say enough how much I wish we had taken advantage of the Disney photographers on our earlier trips. The Memory Maker is included in our holiday package when we book. However, even if it wasn’t I would definitely pay for it.
I don’t enjoy having my photo taken and prefer to be taking the photos instead, but it is nice to have family photos so as much as I dislike being in front of the camera, we decided last year that we would try to get as many photos as possible together on our holiday. Every time we walked in to a park, we would keep an eye out for the Photopass photographers.
It’s so easy with the MagicBands because the photographer just scans your band and the photo uploads to your My Disney Experience App. You can then view and download the photo at a convenient time. We have managed to get some wonderful family photos in our photo albums.
We have photos in front of Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, The Tree of Life and many other locations throughout the park. You can even get ‘Magic Shots’, which are cute, entertaining virtual shots featuring various Disney characters depending on the park and location. We have photos with Tinkerbell, Jack Jack from Incredibles and Figment, to name a few. You will end up with amazing photos, so make sure you use this.
Select your Fastpass+ experiences as soon as you possibly can
Disney World has loads of amazing rides to experience. Unfortunately some of them are extremely popular and the wait times are sometimes really long, especially new rides.
On the recent Toy Story Land opening, I heard wait times for Slinky Dog Dash were up to 3 hours! Queuing for long periods of time is just horrible and if you have children with you, it’s even more difficult because you must consider they may get hungry or need to use the bathroom. Therefore, Disney’s Fastpass+ is a great service to use. You can select up to 3 rides per person, per day and skip the long queues. Then during your time slot you go to the Fastpass+ entrance to the ride and join a much shorter queue. Sometimes you can even get straight on the ride if you’re lucky.
If you are staying on a Disney Resort, you will be able to select your Fastpass+ experiences up to 60 days before your arrival date. If you’re not staying on a Disney resort you will be able to select them up to 30 days before your arrival date. Just make sure you have your Disney account set up and your tickets are linked to your account. The Fastpass queues save us so much time & we always make sure we get ours booked asap, so that we have less time queuing and more time exploring the parks.
Book Dining reservations asap
If you’re not bothered about where you eat each night and are happy to wait for a table, then you probably don’t need to worry about booking dining reservations. But if you like to eat at a similar time each day and/or want to try a specific restaurant or character dining experience, then you need to book as soon as your reservation window opens, which is 180 days before your arrival date. Some of the restaurants and character dining experiences are so popular they get booked up as soon as the reservation window opens, so make sure you know your dates and get on the phone or on the Disney Experience app straight away.
Don’t go there thinking you will be able to see/do everything
We have been to WDW 11 times now and still find new things to see and do on every holiday.
We used to rush around the parks and resorts, wanting to try and get on every ride, go swimming every day, eat ice cream, see all the parades and fireworks shows and still find time to eat. Then we realised that by rushing around, we were tiring ourselves out and missing out on the smaller attractions around the parks. Things like the street performers, the attention to detail on the buildings, the photo opportunities and soaking up the atmosphere.
Now we take it slowly. We don’t let it bother us too much if we miss out on a ride or don’t get to see the parade that day. There is so much to do in WDW that you will never get bored. My tip is to take your time and enjoy every minute of your time there.
So that’s all the major things that I wish we knew on our first trip. It’s the six tips for Disney World I know we would have found useful. I do have some other tips I’d like to share that will hopefully help you to make the most of your holiday.
- Use the Disney transportation system. Just make sure you allow for extra travelling time in case of delays or busy periods.
- Use the baby swap on the rides if you want to experience rides but have small children.
- To enjoy slightly quieter crowds, get to the parks before they open so you’re among the first to get into the park.
- If you are staying on a Disney resort, make sure you get any Disney merchandise that you purchase sent straight to your resort, so you don’t have to carry it around with you all day.
- Have an itinerary from Day 1. Even if after Day 3 you start changing it around a bit, at least you have something to work from.
Disney World really is the most magical place and you will have an amazing time, but it really does help to follow some of the tips above to get the most out of your trip. I wish we had researched a bit more before our first trip, because I know our amazing holiday would have been even more magical if we knew some of the things that we now know.
Did any of you research before your first trip? Do you have any tips that you can share for first timers? Share your tips in the comments below.
If you know anybody travelling to Walt Disney World soon, please share our post so they can read our tips.