There are a lot of first time Disney World tips but reading them all can be overwhelming! As a family who has visited many times, I have realized you only need to know a few things to have an amazing Disney World vacation. Here are our best first time Disney World tips for families.
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Are you so excited to be planning your first time to Disney World? A Disney vacation can be amazing but it can also be stressful, if you don’t plan ahead.
To be honest our first visit was a bust! We were hot, tired, and overwhelmed. I think I may have cried first because you put so much time and money into the trip and I wanted it to be great.
Of course our Disney trip ended up being awesome, but I wish someone had given me tips for our first Disney trip.
Your trip doesn’t have to be that way. With a little research ahead of time you can have an amazing first Disney trip!
Lets start with the basics. Walt Disney World is located in Orlando, Florida. It consists of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, a dining district and over 25 resorts. Check out our guide for all the Orlando theme parks to decide what parks you want to visit.
Ready to check Disney World ticket pricing? Click here.
Planning Your First Disney World Vacation
Planning a Disney World vacation is like planning a visit to a city, it is that big. It helps to know what to expect at Disney World, do your research and plan before you arrive. The more planning you do before you leave for your vacation, the easier it will be.
Disney Trip Planning Questions
- What parks do you want to visit?
- Decide how long you want to visit. How many days will you go to the parks? Rest Days? Disney Springs?
- Will you stay on-site or off-site for your visit? Read this to learn more about staying on-site at Disney World.
- What rides, attractions, and shows do you want to see? Check out my Disney World articles to start research.
- Book Dining reservations. This can be made up to 180 days in advance.
- Book FastPass in advance. Read this to learn the all about FastPass reservations at Disney World.
It may seem like a lot of planning ahead of time, and it is! Doing this ahead of time will help you see and do everything you want to experience during your visit.
If you prefer to visit without planning ahead you can, but you will wait in longer lines and may miss some attractions. This is not always a bad thing, we have missed attractions only to find something different and new.
I thought of making this list longer but I think these tips are the best Disney World tips for first timers and will help you feel excited, not overwhelmed for your Disney World vacation.
6 First Time Disney World Tips for Your Disney Vacation
1. Know your Travelers
Are you traveling with kids 5 and under? They may need a mid day nap.
Are you traveling with teenagers? Thrill rides may be their first choice for rides.
Grandparents? Understand what types of ride restrictions they may have. During the planning process talk to everyone and find out their expectations.
Some people in your group may want to sleep in while others want to be up before the sun. If you know what to expect from each other you will cut out a lot of confusion at the parks
If you are traveling with a large group expect that you may not be together all the time. Allow everyone an opportunity to do their own thing, and then meet for a meal, a show/parade, or at the pool.
When planning with a large group take time to research the best resorts for larger families. Walt Disney World offers many on-site options for groups of 5 or more and they are in different price ranges as well.
2. Plan a Non-Park Day to Rest
When planning your Disney World vacation you often spend a lot of time finding the perfect resort for your family. You want to enjoy the resort as well as the parks and it is important to plan a rest day.
On our first trip to Walt Disney World we made the mistake of not planning a rest day. We spent five straight days at the park.
The kids were all under 5 years old and we went to bed early and got up early so it worked. On our last visit we planned a day to sleep in a little and take a slower pace.
It was nice to relax and enjoy the resort. This “day off” gives you an opportunity to explore the resort. Check out the food options, pools, and playgrounds.
Need ideas for what to do on your day off? Check out: 12 Ways to Enjoy Walt Disney World on a Non-Park Day.
We used our day off to plan a character meal at the Polynesian Resort. Our ‘Ohana breakfast was awesome. I love exploring the hotels too. We were able to check out the Polynesian, enjoy a great brunch and be back for an afternoon at the pool.
Most resorts offer pool side activities. During our stay at Caribbean Beach Resort we participated in the pool side activities. The kids played a trivia game and won!! They also made Tie-Dye shirts($15 each at the time). These made a perfect and affordable souvenir.
Related Posts: Disney Value Resorts Overview and Disney Moderate Resorts Overview
3. Check Ride Requirements & Refurbishments Before You Leave Home
Always check the Walt Disney World website before arriving. You don’t want to promise a ride to your child to arrive and find it closed for Refurbishments or that your child is not tall enough.
On our last visit we changed the dates of our vacation, before we booked, because Big Thunder Mountain was closing for refurbishments. All the kids wanted to ride it and we were looking forward to it. Sometimes it is not possible to do this but at least you can prepare your kids for attractions that may be closed.
I have a great vacation planning tool I use to schedule out our vacation. You can find it here.
Of course, you can’t always change your dates but at least everyone will be prepared. Disney can change these at any time.
During one of our visits the Jungle Cruise was closed for one day-the one day we were at Magic Kingdom. This announcement came about a month before our trip.
At that point we had to just accept that we would miss it and add it to the list for next visit. Undercover Tourist offers an updated list of ride refurbishments that I like to reference when planning our visits.
4. Bring Your Own Snacks & Water
I know Disney has amazing snacks and food options but if you are on a budget or have small children bringing your own snacks can be really helpful.
We always pack a few refillable water bottles(click here for our favorites) and snacks in a backpack. Our family likes to try all the food options at the park, but we always have granola bars, goldfish, pretzels, etc. on hand for when someone starts to get hungry and it is not meal time.
Florida gets hot and it is very important to stay well hydrated. Any counter service restaurant will give you a glass of water and there are water fountains around the park to refill your water bottles. When you have little ones bring their cups from home and refill through out the park.
5. Have a Plan…but be Flexible
Can you go to Walt Disney World without a plan and have a great time? Of course! Should you? In my opinion-No.
A Disney World vacation is a big expense. You don’t want to get home and realize there is a Frozen Attraction in Epcot and you missed it because you did not do your research and have a plan.
I spend a lot of time planning and sometimes we stick to it and sometimes we don’t, but it’s always a guide if we are not sure what to do next. I like the planning part and it is part of the excitement of vacation.
When we walk in the parks we usually stick to the plan, but I also like the surprises and magic that a Disney vacation has to offer.
At Magic Kingdom we missed Celebrate the Magic(Projections on Cinderella’s Castle) before the fireworks because we stopped at the Incredible’s Dance Party. The kids got to dance with Mr. & Mrs. Incredible and Frozone from the Incredibles movie.
I couldn’t have planned it better!! I was bummed that we missed the show but we had so much fun dancing it didn’t really matter. Celebrate the Magic will just have to wait for our next visit because watching my kids dance with these characters was pure magic.
Check Disney On-Site Resort prices here.
6. Do your Homework
Plan out a basic itinerary well in advance of your arrival that involves what day you are going to each park. This crowd calendar can help you pick the best days based on your family schedule. You can view the expected crowd levels and plan your visit with what fits best for your family.
Check the park hours, show times and parade times for that day and begin planning your dining reservations. These can be booked up to 180 days in advance and some you absolutely have to book early! (Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Castle)
You should book early but don’t worry if you can’t. I changed our reservations a lot as we got closer to our date. If something is not available keep trying. Try different times or lunch instead of dinner.
Book your FastPasses 60 days in advance. Make sure to book attractions that actually need FastPasses. There are some that offer fast passes but are not worth it. You only can book 3 FastPasses before you arrive and you want them for the best/busiest attractions.
Related Posts: Everything You Need to Know About Disney World FastPass
Bonus: My BEST Disney World Vacation Tip
If you can…arrive early!! This is my biggest tip!! You will get more done in the park in the first few hours when the crowds are low. We once went on 7 rides before 11:00am on a visit to Magic Kingdom.
I know you want to sleep in on vacation but it is the best way to get on a lot of attractions in a short time. On our last visit to Magic Kingdom we arrived at 7:45 for “rope drop” (Rope drop is when they literally drop the ropes to allow guest into the park.)
When the park opened at 9:00am we were among the first guests into the park. We were able to ride Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train(FastPass), Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, The Barnstormer, Dumbo, Space Mountain(2x)-all before 11:00am! Check out Our Magic Kingdom Itinerary to help plan your day.
Your first time Disney World vacation will be full of fun surprises. Follow these Disney World vacation tips and you will be well on your way to an amazing and magical day at Walt Disney World.
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