Let’s start off by stating that my family and I really love Disney. We’re letting our Disney flag fly, baby!
Here are a few tips that will make your first trip to Disney World easier.
Disney World has 4 theme parks, 2 water parks and Downtown Disney (an outdoor mall). There are hundreds and hundreds of experiences to be had. We’ve been there for at least 10 trips. We still haven’t seen it all. If you plan ahead a little you can have a pretty awesome vacation. We generally plan for at least 2 days at the Magic Kingdom, 1 day for Animal Kingdom, 1 day at Hollywood Studios, 1-2 days for Epcot and 1 down/resort day. Your mileage may vary. Check out our :sample schedule for interwebz. Granted, that’s a pretty specific schedule but it keeps all my dining reservations and tentative plans together in one place.
Advance Dining Reservations.
The theme parks all have sit down restaurants. Some have Character Dining. If you want to eat in air conditioned comfort or have your kids meet a specific Disney character, make a dining reservation. There really is nothing like seeing your kid light up when they see their favourite character. There are options for Character Dining at every park and most resorts. Princesses? Mickey and Friends? Winnie the Pooh and his lot? Lilo and Stitch? You can dine and take pictures with them! We don’t bother with the in-park line ups for Character pictures. We have a sit down meal. The characters come to you. If this appeals to you, you can make dining reservations 180 days before you arrive if you stay on property. Which leads me to the next thing.
Stay on property.
Really. Disney has a lot of resorts that are affordable. For a whole host of reasons, staying on property will maximize your ‘magical experience’. The resort staff work pretty hard at making your experience excellent. Staying on property also affords you early access to dining reservations, fast passes and the free disney transit system – a monorail, bus and ferry system that move you around from resort to park to park. If you’re renting a car, staying at a resort ensures your parking is free for the duration of your stay at any Disney theme park. Otherwise, if you stay off-property, parking at the parks is $15/day. Wah-wahn. It’s expensive enough already.
Make time for Wishes.
It’s the fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom. It’s just magical. Get a spot early where you can see the castle, maybe get a snack and revel in the magic of Wishes. At least once.
These passes put you into the ‘front of the line’ line for rides. If you’re staying onsite, you can book these ahead of time online. If you aren’t staying on property, you can book them in at Fastpass Kiosks when you arrive in the parks. This way if your kid *has* to ride Dumbo or Space Mountain, you know that you’ll definitely get onto it without a 2 hour wait. Use them!
It’s hot there for us Canadians. We usually pick up a case of water or two on our way in to Disney World or you can have water and a few groceries sent to your hotel room with Garden Grocer. Check them out at gardengrocer.com
I don’t know about your family but we get ‘hangry’. There’s a lot to see and do. We get excited and forget to eat regularly. Have snacks with you to keep your energy up. Snacks are kind of expensive at Disney. Along with our water, we usually bring clif bars, fishy crackers or some fruit. We have been known to have an excellent Dole Whip from time to time. A Dole Whip is a frozen desert that you can find in Adventureland. It tastes like heavenly pineapple and it is hands-down my favourite thing to eat at Disney World. I have been known to abandon my family, cross the park on my own just to pick one up.
See, I look pretty happy, non?
If your kids are still small enough (or even not), bring, borrow or rent a stroller. The parks are large and it’s a ridiculous amount of walking. You’ll see tons of big kids taking a break in their old strollers when it’s hot. It’s also nice to have a ‘home base’ for your stuff that no one really wants to carry – extra water, stuff you buy, hoodies for a cool evening. There’s stroller parking everywhere. We rented strollers in the past. We liked Kingdom Strollers and Orlando Stroller rentals. Both of these are reliable local companies that deal with Disney Resorts every day.
Avoid the peak times.
We plan to be in the park either early in the morning or late in the day. We avoid 12-4 generally. Usually, we go to a park early then go back to the resort for food, rest and a swim. Sometimes, we hit another park after dinner for rides, parades and fireworks.
Extra Magic Hours.
If you’re staying at a Disney resort, take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours. For resort guests, most days, selected Disney parks either open early or stay open a couple of hours later. It’s worth it. The lines are nearly non-existent. You can get on so many rides without much of a wait at all. As a rule, we generally never spend ANY more than 10-15 minutes on a line. To us, we’re on vacation. We don’t stand in lines if we can help it. We’d sooner be eating ice cream. 🙂
Yeah, yeah. I just spend the last 10 things telling you that planning ahead is your friend. It is. By the same token, go with the flow. Stuff is gonna happen. You’re gonna miss a dining reservation or a ride will be closed. Someone will be too tired/hot/fussy to go on. Relax. It’s Disney World. It’ll be here when you decide to come back.
This is a pretty general overview. Each one of these suggestions could be its own topic with sub-headings. Have you been to Disney? What do you think? What other tips am I missing here?
What more can I tell you about planning your first trip to Disney?
Make your comments below!