Planning your first Walt Disney World visit can be overwhelming. There are so many decisions to be made and dates to remember. I actually love the planning part but it takes a lot of research. For me planning a Walt Disney World vacation is part of the fun of going on a Walt Disney World vacation. Even with all the planning there are always some surprises. Combine heat and exhausted family members, and it could be a disaster. Here are my 6 tips to avoid meltdowns and prepare for your first Walt Disney World visit.
Walt Disney World is located in Orlando, Florida. It consists of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, a dining district and over 25 resorts. With so many options it is easy to get overwhelmed. Before you arrive in Orlando you should go over these tips to help make the planning process easier and ensure that everyone has a great vacation.
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 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 and give 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. Walt Disney World offers many on-site options for groups of 5 or more.
Travelers spend a lot of time deciding where to stay. With all the on-site(Disney Property) and off site resorts it is worth spending a day at the resort and enjoying the amenities it has to offer. On our first trip to WDW(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.
We use 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. We stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort. The main pool had 3 waterslides, a preschool splash pad, and a hot tub. 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.
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 were looking forward to it.
Of course, you can’t always change your dates but at least everyone will be prepared. Disney can change these at any time. 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.
Disney allows you to bring in small coolers. We always pack a few water bottles 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! 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.
Can you go to Walt Disney World without a plan and have a great time? Of course! Should you? In my opinion-No.
Walt Disney World vacations are a big expense for most families. 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 doing it is just part of the excitement of vacation.
When we walk in the parks we usually stick to the plan but I also like the surprises that Disney has to offer. At Magic Kingdom we missed Celebrate the Magic(Projections on Cinderella’s Castle) before the fireworks because we stopped at the Incredibles 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.
Plan out a basic itinerary well in advance of your arrival that involves what day you are going to each park. The crowd calendar at Disney by Age can help you pick the best days based on your kids school 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) Try not to worry too much about this. 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 fast passes 60 days in advance. Make sure to book attractions that actually need fast passes. There are some that offer fast passes but are not worth it. You only can book 3 fast passes before you arrive and you want them for the best/busiest attractions.
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.
People don’t want to hear this 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!
Your first visit to Walt Disney World will be full of fun surprises. With these tips everyone in your group will have a great time! Do you have a great tip for visiting Walt Disney World? Share them in the comments.