Just this past November, I went on my very first trip to Disney World (certainly won’t be my last). It was such a whirlwind, and so much was going on, I was glad we had everything so well planned out. I have noticed though, many people think they can just go to Disney World on a whim and that’s all there is to it! In some ways you can, especially if you can go frequently. If you can’t though, you have to know what you’re doing and be ready for what to expect. So as a first timer, here are my top ten tips for other Disney World first timers!
NUMBER ONE: Have a plan Stan!
So the key is be planned out. An itinerary of daily activities is suggested. Disney World is huge! It is not a theme park; it is more like a city. If you don’t have a morsel of a schedule or a plan, you won’t see half the things you hope for. Every park has maps and a weekly schedule at your disposal. Use them! Those schedules tell you the times of character meet and greets, parade times and other event times. If you plan wisely, you may have a chance of seeing everything you want to.
NUMBER TWO: 180 days in advance
There are some things in Disney World that are about as exclusive as lounges in New York. You want a dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table or the new Be My Guest restaurants?? Well if you did not book them on the 180 day prior to arrival mark, you will not be eating there. Period. Having dinner with a princess needs to be taken very seriously. EVERYONE wants to dine with Cinderella. Don’t even get me started on Mickey! Book your trip in advance and start counting down the days! There are no cancellations, the best experience restaurants are always booked solid and there are no last minute reservations- you have a better shot at getting a last minute reservation at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant.
NUMBER THREE: My Experience
Something relatively new to Disney, however an absolute must-have, is the “Disney My Experience” app. This little app is available for most smart phones and is such a magical little tool. As all the parks have free Wi-Fi across the board, there is no reason not to use it. With this one stop app, you can make reservations, cancel reservations, and change reservations. You can also get fastpasses, change them, see when characters are out, and get a full schedule of events. Literally everything you may need is in the palm of your hand. Consider it a personal concierge. It is so easy and foolproof I can’t imagine not using it. As well, it can save you tons of time!
NUMBER FOUR: Make a list!
As much fun as Disney World is, it can also be incredibly overwhelming- especially when it is really busy. I suggest making a daily list of the things you want to do/see- and stick to it. If you want to go to Space Mountain, see Winnie the Pooh, go on “It’s a Small World”, meet Aladdin and eat a turkey leg, write those down, map them out, and go! You can get fast passes for most rides, characters are scheduled throughout the day and all restaurants are listed or you can find them on the app. You really can see and do everything you want to, you just need to know what it is. If you’re traveling with kids, turn it into a scavenger hunt and make it fun for everyone!
NUMBER FIVE: Timing is everything
Although Disney World really can be visited any time of year, timing is everything! Sometimes shifting the whole trip by just a few days will make the difference between waiting in lines for 5 minutes, and waiting in lines for an hour and 5 minutes. If you can, travel the week prior to any major holiday or better yet a month like May where nothing is really going on. Not only will you save yourself some money, but also some sanity! I went about a week before American Thanksgiving and it was more than pleasant! Crowds were low, met a lot of characters in no time and didn’t even have crazy lines for rides!
NUMBER SIX: Eat Everything!
I love food from around the world. A lot of people including myself thought food at Disney World would be just ok and overpriced. But for the most part, meals- including the quick service dining options are awesome! From the ice-cream, to the pretzels. The waffles at Sleepy Hollow are awesome, the Dole Whips are delicious, or my personal favourite- The Turkey Leg was the best! Try everything, snack food will fill you up for the day, maybe even turn it into a “find all the Mickey shaped foods” scavenger hunt!
NUMBER SEVEN: Shoes Wisely
After probably the third day of Disney World, I very dramatically compared the amount of walking to that of my Everest Base Camp trek. Ok, of course it wasn’t that bad- but the sore feet and blisters were comparable. The key is to bring some comfy shoes! You can really get quite a bit of mileage out of hunting down those characters. Running shoes, Toms, anything with some cushion or support! Flip flops are fine for a couple hours, but they get boring quick! Pack wisely, because if you regret your packing decision, you will have to go off the park or to Down Town Disney to find a quick fix.
NUMBER EIGHT: Don’t underestimate the crowds
Regardless of the seasonality you travel to Disney World, the crowds can be apparent, or it can be relatively tame. However the one time you will definitely notice how busy it really is will be during the two following on goings: Any parade and any fireworks.
If you want to get the best view possible you better plant your self down at least an hour before, otherwise all you may end up seeing are crowds of children on the shoulders of their tired parents.
NUMBER NINE: The Photopass
With every great photo opportunity, regardless if it is with an iconic backdrop, or with your favorite character. Nearby you will also find you friendly Disney Photographer snapping some great shots. Some places the lighting may not be fabulous, or you’re fumbling around with your kiddies, so that perfect shot may not be so easy to take. Although individual photos can be fairly pricey at about $15 per photo, if you pre-purchase the photo pass for around $130, you can take as many photos as you want and they’re pre-purchased. It didn’t even feel like we took that many photos, and at the end of it all we have over $100. Had we have pre-purchased this pass; we would have probably taken even more pictures! Take your camera, but get the pass to have a buffer, just in case your shots don’t come out quite as planned.
NUMBER TEN: Appreciate the little things
It is easy to get overwhelmed with excitement when going to Disney the first time. But stop and take a look around at all the little details. Around every corner you will see a little bit of magic. Take a look at your name on that Starbucks cup, try to find all of the hidden Mickey’s in the park- they are everywhere. My personal favourites are all theMickeyshaped food items! It is not just about what is right in front of you, so really take a minute to appreciate all the work and detail that goes into it, because it really is amazing.