Tips and Tricks to Making the Most of Your First Trip to Disney World!
By Karen Goldschmidt
One of the most exciting moments in life is planning your first trip to Disney World! However, with over 25 on-site resort hotels, 4 parks, a downtown entertainment district and countless restaurants, planning can be stressful and confusing. Here are some of my tips and tricks for your first trip to Disney World!
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
It's no secret that visiting a Disney park is going to cost you a pretty penny so you'll want to make sure you get the most out of your vacation! Knowing details beforehand like park times, the best rides for you and your family and which restaurants you will want to eat at will save you a lot of time once you're in the parks.
2. HAVE A PLAN
Once you have done your research and know the park hours (they vary from day to day), you can decide what days to visit which parks. If you are staying at an on-site resort hotel, you get access to Extra Magic Hours. This means one park each day is either open an hour early or up to 3 hours later than normal hours! (Keep in mind these parks will usually generate bigger crowds due to the extra hours.)
3. DOWNLOAD THE APP
The My Disney Experience app is an essential for your trip to the World. Through the app, you can make your FastPass+ selections, check wait times and even order your meals ahead of time at select Disney restaurants.
4. MAXIMIZE THE FASTPASS+
Waiting in lines is never fun, so having the option to skip the wait times to some of the most popular rides is a no brainer! Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance when staying in a Walt Disney World resort (30 days in advance when staying off-property), so you will want to make your selections as early as possible (FastPasses do run out!). Here are lists of the rides, by park, with historically long wait times:
Magic Kingdom - Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Peter Pan's Flight, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain
Epcot - Soarin' Around the World, Test Track, Mission: SPACE, Frozen Ever After
Hollywood Studios - Tower of Terror, Rock ’n' Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania, Slinky Dog Dash, Star Tours
Animal Kingdom - Avatar Flight of Passage, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids
5. LET DISNEY KNOW
Whether it's a birthday, anniversary or just your very first visit, Disney has a button for you to wear to showcase your celebrations! Make sure to visit the Guest Relations at the front of the parks, or the front desk of your resort hotel, and share with them what you’re celebrating. Typically when you wear one of these, you get a little extra attention from cast members!
6. MAKE EARLY BREAKFAST RESERVATIONS
Even if a park doesn't open till 9:00am, restaurants inside the parks will take breakfast reservations as early as 8:00am. This means you get to enter the park a little earlier than everyone else, which is pretty neat!
7. RIDER SWITCH
If you are traveling with your children that aren't old enough to ride some of the faster rides, Disney offers a very useful feature that allows one adult to ride while the other adult waits with the little ones. Once the riding adult returns, the waiting adult can then ride without having to wait in line again! Inform the cast members at the front of the ride and they will help you use this perk. Note that not all rides are included in the Rider Switch program. For a list of rides included in the Rider Switch program, click here.
8. KEEP OCCUPIED
Many of the rides have interesting artifacts to look at or an interactive queue while you wait. Pay attention to those and you might be in for some fun surprises! This works as a great way to keep your kids wandering eyes and minds occupied while you wait. You could also play a fun game with your phone (Heads Up) or keep an eye out for the famous "Hidden Mickeys" Disney World has scattered all over the parks.
9. WATCH THE FIREWORKS CROWD-FREE
The Fireworks at Magic Kingdom are a necessity for your trip! Because of this, however, the crowds can really build up in preparation for the show. If you are ready to leave the park, a great viewing location that will keep you away from the crowds is at the California Grill on top of Contemporary Resort. They will even dim the lights and play the music to the fireworks show! After a long day at the park, make your way over to the Contemporary and enjoy a nice relaxing meal with spectacular views of the fireworks. (There is even a viewing deck outside!). Reservations are required.
10. ENJOY EVERY MOMENT
As exciting and thrilling as Disney World can be, it is also exhausting. Mix that with hot temperatures and you can definitely expect some meltdowns (both kids and adults!). In the end however, there are so many amazing memories to be had that you will tell with your children for the rest of your lives. So take it all in and enjoy the ride!
Hey! My name is Karen and I'm from Texas (even though Disney World has always felt like my real home). My first trip to Walt Disney World was in June of 1989 when I was a mere 3 months old! Although I would love to say I remembered it all, that's obviously not the case. It did, however, engrain in me a love for all things Disney that would carry on for years to come. Whether I'm at home checking wait times or planning my next Disney vacation, Disney is just about always on my mind. I hope that through all of my experiences and what I've learned managing my way through the parks that I can spread a little knowledge and share some tricks of my own with others!