If you have ever worn the “First Visit” button at Walt Disney World and had a strange woman approach you to ask you questions about your first time at Disney World, that strange woman was probably me! So, let me introduce myself, I’m Lauren…and I am fascinated with the experiences of people who have never been to Disney. I often wonder if it is all too overwhelming, confusing or hard to navigate. I already know that Disney is full of magic, wonder and fun, so I ask these first timers about things they wish they knew before coming to Disney World. Here are the top 8 from the people kind enough to answer!
1. My Disney Experience App is crucial
Planning has become a key element to traveling to Walt Disney World. There are mixed feelings on how much planning you must do for a vacation, but one thing is completely true about the app My Disney Experience, it will guarantee you will know much more about a Disney World Vacation before you even go there. So, before you come down to Florida, install the app! You can make your dining reservations, get park hours and learn more about attractions. When you get to Florida, connect your park tickets to the app to make fast passes and get real time wait times on attractions. Your itinerary will be accessible through the app for each day to keep track of your plans.
2. You probably want to stay on property
If you have a car, this is not as necessary, but staying in a Disney resort is full of perks! There are all kinds of options to fit your budget, ranging from the $100 range per night, depending on the season, for the value resorts to over $500+ per night for deluxe resorts. Disney resort reservations include a MagicBand upon arrival for each guest. The MagicBand serves as your key to the hotel room, is connected to your My Disney Experience App and also your credit card. Staying on property also allows you to use Disney transportation and you don’t have to pay to park at the parks. Keep in mind you will have a daily parking fee at the resort. Disney resorts also try to keep Disney magic going the entire time you are on property, including movies under the stars, pool parties, arts and crafts, babysitting services (in some locations) and incredible restaurants within steps!
3. Disney World is HUGE
Disney World is bigger than Manhattan and 1.6 million people live there. You can fit almost 60 Disneyland’s inside of Walt Disney World. Why am I saying this? Because many first time guests have no idea how gigantic Disney World is. So, first bring great shoes and know that you will be walking more than usual. Second, do your research. Know where your “must do” attractions are and hit them in order instead of circling the parks over and over! Third, you’ll probably have to experience it to understand, but let me say it again…HUGE.
4. Characters do not walk around the parks
When I was a little girl, characters used to wander around the park, especially Magic Kingdom, adding to the delight and wonder that they probably lived there. Now, to see characters, you will need to watch a show, a parade or meet them in special “meet and greet” locations. A great place to see characters is character meals, where you will have more time with them.
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5. Park hoppers are a great option
Park hoppers allow you to enter each of the 4 theme parks with the same ticket. If you have single park tickets, you will be limited on attending only that park for the entire day. So, if you are planning on attending all 4 parks during your stay, a park hopper allows you to attend multiple parks each day. So, let’s say you only had one day planned for Magic Kingdom, but your kids are not loving another park and really, really want to go back. Go for it, you can hop! This also allows you to also enjoy tip #6.
6. You can’t eat in a park restaurant without a ticket entry for the park
Make sure that when you are looking at the restaurants that you notice where they are. For restaurants located in the parks, you will need to use a ticket to enter, even if you are just having a meal and plan on leaving right after. So many people that I talked to at Disney World have told me that they have made this mistake, so just make sure that you plan to eat where you are spending your day or try out some awesome restaurants in the resorts or at Disney Springs, where you do not need ticket entry.
7. Timing really does matter
Although many people use vacations for relaxing and sleeping in, I promise you that you want to be there when the park opens. First, the temperature will usually be the nicest in the morning, especially in the summer. Florida is HOT. If you have never been to Florida, you will be exposed to sun more than you are used to at Disney World and the sun is unforgiving. So, the more you can get done before the middle of the day when the sun is scorching, the better! If you stay on property, you will also get the opportunity to engage in Magic Hours, when Disney adds extra hours to normal operating hours for resort guests only.
8. You are going to spend a lot of time in line
The number one thing that first timers told me about was that they never, ever imagined that they would have to stand on line for pretty much everything. Hopefully, you will skip some of the lines by making fast pass+ reservations with the My Disney Experience App and getting to the parks early or staying very late which will allow for shorter lines, but lines are a reality at Disney World. Some are very long lines for very short attractions, some will be to use the bathroom, some will be lines that eventually turn into a mad rush into a show, some will have children melting down in them. But, I promise that at the end of every line will be some magic!