13 First Time Disney World Tips You Need to Know

Planning your first time at Disney World is exciting but it can feel overwhelming. These are the best and most helpful Disney World tips for first timers planning their Walt Disney World resort vacation.

There are a lot of tips for first timers visiting Disney World that it can feel like a lot! As a family who has visited many times, I have realized you only need to know a few basic things to have an amazing Disney World vacation.

We first visited Disney World when my kids were 5, 2, and 10 months. It was a busy trip and I left wishing I knew some of the basic planning tips before we went.

Since that first trip we have visited a few times a year and have learned what works and doesn’t work for us. We have figured out how to have the best family trip to Disney World and we are sharing our tips.

Best First Time Disney World Tips

  1. Purchase Park Tickets Before You Arrive
  2. Download the My Disney Experience App
  3. Spend Time Learning How Genie+ Works
  4. Stay On-Site at a Disney Property Resort
  5. Don’t Visit Other Orlando Theme Parks
  6. Research About the Disney Parks to Decide What you Need to Prioritize
  7. Know Your Travelers
  8. Plan a Non-Park Day
  9. Check out the Height Requirement for Rides and Attractions Before You Leave Home
  10. Bring Snacks & Refillable Water
  11. Don’t Worry About Doing It All
  12. Arrive Early
  13. Trust Yourself

Want more? Read on for detailed tips for first-time visitors Walt Disney World vacation.

magic kingdom itinerary for disney world
Cinderella’s Castle at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

First Time Trip to Disney World

Walt Disney World is located in Orlando, Florida. There are 4 Disney theme parks, 2 water parks, a dining and shopping district and over 25 Disney resorts.

The four theme parks are Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. The two water parks are Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. The dining and shopping district is called Disney Springs.

Purchase Park Tickets Before You Arrive

All guests need to have a park ticket to enter the park. If you would like to visit more than one park in one day a park hopper ticket is needed.

I suggest starting at the Walt Disney World website for ticket prices and then compare to other sites that offer discount Disney World tickets.

Always purchase your Disney tickets before you arrive at the Disney Resort. You do not want to waste any time sitting in the ticket line when you could be entering the park. (Park reservations are no longer needed.)

Download the My Disney Experience App

The My Disney Experience App has everything you need to help plan your visit. You can book dining, check wait times, and make Genie+ Reservations.

Once you make your Disney vacation reservations you can link tickets and room on the app to organize everything in one place.

Become Familiar with How Genie+ Works

Disney World has introduced Disney Genie to the My Disney Experience App. There are three different variations of how this works:

  • Disney Genie: This is free and shares an personalized itinerary for guests to help maximize their day. Honestly I don’t know anyone who finds this useful.
  • Disney Genie+: Paid add-on that allows guests to reserve ride times for certain attractions. Genie+ users skip the standby line and enter through the Lightning Lanes.
  • Individual Lightning Lane: These are attractions NOT included with Genie+. They require a one time payment to reserve your ride time. They are per-person and typically for the most popular attractions at the parks.

If you are visiting for the first time and want to play around with Genie on the app before you leave for your vacation, it will help you familiarize yourself with the most popular rides but most people do not find it useful to use at the theme park. For more details on Genie+ attractions and pricing click here.

Using Genie+ is a good idea when you are visiting on high crowd days especially at Magic Kingdom. On low crowd days at a park with less rides, like Animal Kingdom you may not need it.

Guests do not have to use Genie+ and can use the regular line to ride. This may result in longer wait times. This is also a good time to use the single rider line if it works for your family.

Disney also uses a virtual line for some of its most popular lines. When this happens only Individual Lightning Lane or Virtual Queue is available, no standby line. Ask a cast member if you are not sure which rides are doing this.

As of January 2024 Tron at Magic Kingdom and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot use virtual lines or guests can purchase an individual lightning lane. This can be booked on the app. Learn more here.

best rides at hollywood studios rise of the resistance
Star Wars Rise of the Resistance is a very popular ride at Hollywood Studios and offers an individual lightning lane for purchase.

Stay On-Site at a Disney Property Resort

For your first visit to Disney World I suggest staying on-site at a Disney hotel. There are Disney resorts available for all different budgets including value, moderate, and deluxe resorts.

There are pros and cons to staying on-site at Disney World. One of the pros is the access to free transportation from the resorts to the parks.

This includes bus transportation, boat transportation, monorail transportation, and the Disney Skyliner. All resorts offer early entry and deluxe resorts offer extended evening hours.

The magic of staying on-site is really special for first time visitors. Even after multiple trips we always prefer staying on-site when visiting Disney World.

Check out the reviews from Disney resorts we have stayed at:

disney riviera resort review outside
Disney’s Riviera Resort outdoor area.

Don’t Visit Other Orlando Theme Parks

I know when visiting Orlando you will want to experience everything the Orlando theme parks have to offer but I caution you for two reasons.

First it will save you money on tickets. Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World offer “more you play, less you pay” ticket pricing. This means you pay less per day the more days you visit. If you split up your trip you will not have this benefit.

Second there is a lot of planning that goes into a first visit to Disney World or a first visit to Universal and it will become overwhelming. There is so much to see and do, you might feel as if you are spending a lot of money and rushing through things.

One more issue that pops up is transportation to and from the theme parks. If you fly into Orlando International Airport you can easily uber or reserve a shuttle to your resort. If you are visiting multiple theme parks you may want to rent a car.

Disney offers on-site transportation within the resort to its guests but does not offer transportation from the airport. We love visiting Universal and Disney but even after multiple trips I prefer to do one or the other.

Research About the Disney Parks to Know What You Want to Do

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. Read this article, Disney World 7 Day Itinerary Planning Guide, it goes into all the details for planning tips.

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?
  • What rides, attractions, and shows do you want to see? Check out my Disney World articles to start research on each park.
  • Book Dining reservations. This can be made up to 60 days in advance.

It may seem like a lot of planning ahead of time, and it is! Doing this 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.

Know your Travelers

Are you traveling with kids 5 and under? They may need a mid day nap and will probably do more character meet and greets.

Are you visiting Disney with teens? Thrill rides may be their first choice for rides.

Grandparents? Understand what types of ride restrictions they may have. During the planning process it is a good idea to 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.

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. 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: How to Enjoy Walt Disney World on a Non-Park Day.

Most resorts also offer pool side activities. During our stay at Caribbean Beach Resort we participated in the pool side activities led by cast members.

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.

If you are staying at a Disney Skyliner Resort you can resort hop and take the skyliner to check out new resorts. There are always things going on at the resorts or just spend the day by the pool.

Tips for First Time Visit to Walt Disney World
Pool side activities at the resort are a fun way to spend a day off at Disney World.

Check Out Height Requirement for Rides & 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.

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.

You may also want to set expectations about long lines and wait times before you leave home. Pack some coloring books or fun apps on your phone for small children.

first walt disney world visit
All ages can ride Dumbo at the Magic Kingdom.

Bring Your Own Snacks & Water

If you are on a budget for Disney you can bring your own snacks and water into the park. Disney does have amazing snacks but you can balance purchased snacks with snacks you bring to ease the cost.

We always pack a few refillable water bottles and snacks in a backpack. Disney has great snacks, Epcot snacks are our favorite, but having a few snacks on hand can be a huge help.

Florida also 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.

Don’t Worry About Doing It All, Have a Plan but Keep it Flexible

Can you go to Walt Disney World without a plan and have a great time? Of course! Should you? Not for your first visit to Disney World.

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.

You will not be able to do everything so make a list of your top 3-5 priorities at each park and enjoy those!

Plan out a basic itinerary well in advance of your arrival that involves what day you are going to each park and a few of your must-do rides and attractions.

Check the park hours, show times and parade times for that day and begin planning your dining reservations. These can be booked 60 days in advance and some you absolutely have to book early! (Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Castle)

Check to see if there is a special event like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This will impact the park hours and you will have to leave early if you don’t have a ticket to the event.

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.

Arrive Early

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.

If you want to sleep in on vacation you can try to take advantage of evening crowds, but arriving early 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.) We were able to get a most of the Fantasyland attractions done.

We have done rope drop at all of the parks and it has always helped us get on our must-do attractions. Our typical day starts early at the park with attractions followed by lunch.

Then we head back to the resort for an afternoon break. After our break we will mobile order dinner from our room and head back to the parks for dinner and evening hours.

It is a great way to enjoy the parks at night without being exhausted from a full day.

Trust Yourself

The biggest tip for visiting Disney World is to plan the trip for you and your family. Don’t worry about what others have done on their trips if it doesn’t work for you. You know your family best and if they are not early risers don’t force it because you are at Disney World.

Take advice and then make it work for your family. What works for me might now work best for you.

Your first time Disney World vacation will be full of fun surprises. Enjoy it and have the best time! Check out this great post about the Best Quick Service Meals at Disney World to include in your trip.

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9 thoughts on “13 First Time Disney World Tips You Need to Know”

  1. These are awesome tips! I couldn’t agree more with being flexible, the only things we plan are our Fastpasses and dinners! Also, checking the crowd calendars is a good one and be sure to check the weather before you go to dress appropriately! Thanks for the great tips!

    • Hi! Thank you!! The Disney crowds seem to be increasing slowly year after year. I think with the opening of Star Wars we can expect larger crowds.

  2. Love these tips! Especially the one about being flexible. The best moments at Disney happen when you least expect. Thank you for the great post!


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