Congratulations, you’re going to Walt Disney World – now what? If it’s your first visit, your head must be swirling questions. Questions about packing, dining, and FastPasses for sure. To help with your planning, here are nine insider tips for first Disney World visit.
I adore the first photo above. This is The Kid’s first photo of her first Disney World visit. Just look at that smile. After months of planning, we were ready for Disney transportation to whisk us away to Magic Kingdom.
I really wish I would have listened to the dozens of blogs I read and the friends I talked to about Walt Disney World before my family’s first trip. Stuck in my little Disney bubble at home, I checked and re-checked itineraries, planned dining reservations down to the minute, and packed and re-packed our suitcases.
With the time that it took to do all of that, I should have paid more attention to what they were telling me and took many of their tips to heart. So, I’m telling you. I did make mistakes on my family’s first trip to Walt Disney World.
Looking back I have to laugh at some of them, but Disney vacations are definitely a learning experience and we learn more about what and what not to do with every trip.
Here are my nine tips for first time vacationers to Walt Disney World:
1. Walking the Parks is Exhausting
Try and put this stat into perspective. Walt Disney World Resort is the size of San Francisco. I’m not kidding.
The parks span 40 square miles in total. That’s a lot of walking. We wanted to see everything, as I’m sure every first timer does, so we raced to rides and fast walked to dining reservations. It felt like we hit the ground running every morning, and I’m sure we did.
Factor in the humid, Central Florida heat which only added to our tiredness and you’ve got a perfect cocktail for a tired family.Tip: slow and steady wins the race.
2. Wear Comfortable Shoes and Break Them in Before You Hit the Parks
On our first Disney World visit, I was more concerned about looking cute than visiting for comfort. Remember that 80’s phrase, “It’s better to look good than to feel good?” Yep, that was me. Even The Kid wore flip flops to the parks- only to realize her feet were killing her after only a couple of hours.
There’s a reason why most Walt Disney World guests are dressed for comfort. After our third or fourth day straight in the parks, and even with really good walking shoes, our feet like to scream at us with each step.
So, do some research and find the best walking shoes- ones that will persevere and cushion. After all, it’s hard to have fun in a Disney park when you’re wincing with every step.
3. Take Advantage of the Walt Disney World Elusive Discount Codes
This one was a little under the radar when I began planning my family’s first Disney World vacation. By signing up for a free Disney vacation planning packet including a park DVD, you’ll be placed on the Disney lists- and may even score a pin code.
What’s a pin code? It’s an exclusive code attached to your name and address. I was able to score free dining (which saved us hundreds of dollars!) for our vacation. Sometimes they’re room discounts, sometimes they’re ticket discounts.
Either way, it’s an easy way to get on the Disney radar. If I’m even considering another Disney World vacation the first thing I do is check to see if there’s a pin code attached to my account.
4. Check Out Park Crowd Calendars for Low Crowd Park Days
This one’s a snap to do as well. There are several crowd calendars online (Undercover Tourist is my fave), and many of them are free. They run all of the stats, factor in peak times and special events, and come up with a calendar that lets you know which parks are expected to have high crowds and which have low ones.
We like to hit the park with the lowest crowd level each day- less crowds equals less time waiting for rides, transportation, and dining.
This photo was from a rainy day at Walt Disney World. In front of Cinderella Castle. Midday. We LOVE rainy days at Disney- another low crowd day!
Except for our first day at the parks. It always has to be Magic Kingdom. Don’t judge.
5. Take a Midday Break
There’s nothing wrong with admitting defeat in a Disney park and taking a midday break. Head back to the resort, swim at one of the resort pools or nap, and then head back to the parks refreshed and ready to rock.
Can’t bear to tear yourselves away? Find a bench or even a curb, grab a snack, and watch a show or parade.
6. Plan Fastpass+ Selections Before You Leave
If you have purchased theme park tickets before your first day of arrival, you can start making Fastpass+ selections 30 days out. Have a Walt Disney World resort reservation? That gives you even more time to begin making choices. If you book a resort stay and tickets, Walt Disney World allows its guests to begin choosing FastPass+ selections at 60 days out from their first day.
If you really want to ride the popular rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Toy Story Mania, make sure you start selection on the first day they’re available so you can have the best time option for your family.
7. If You’re Foodies, the Disney Dining Plan Can Save Some Serious Cash
If you ask Mr. Locke, one of the main reasons he loves to visit WDW is for the food. With more than 135 choices (no kidding), we could visit the parks for a month straight ordering three meals a day and not overlap on dining once!
If you really want to try sit down restaurants for three meals a day, the deluxe dining plan is the way to go to save some serious cash. Only plan on dining in one sit down a day? Go for the Disney dining plan. Light eaters? Disney Quick-Service is probably your best bet.
And don’t forget to check for pin codes!
8. There’s Plenty of Free Stuff- You Have to Know Where to Look!
After all of the money you spend on a Disney vacation, it’s nice to know that there are free things at Walt Disney World, right? Here’s my favorites:
- Free Cups of ice water
- Common medical supplies at First Aid Stations in each park
- Stickers and celebration buttons
- Balloons at resort desks
There are some pretty elusive freebies and you really have to know where to look for them. Here’s my list of secret Disney World free things.
9. Save Shopping Until the End of the Day if You Plan on Buying a Lot
Here’s what we’ve learned. Purchase all of your souvenirs right before you leave the park each day to avoid carrying them around. OR (and this is a great one), if you really must shop during the day and are staying on-property, Disney stores will send your items back to your resort for free.
Keep in mind that you may not receive them until the next day, but if you’re not in any hurry it’s a great alternative to carrying them around.
If you’re not staying on property and really want an item you think will sell out, you can ask to have your packages sent to the front of the park for pickup when you exit.
Ok, so did I miss any good first Disney World visit tips? Please let me know in the comment section!