Planning your first Disney vacation can be a daunting process. Between Fastpasses, dining reservations, deadlines, touring plans and package offers its easy to lose your way. Here are 10 dos and don’ts to keep you on the straight and narrow.
1. DO arrive at the Theme Parks early. If there’s one thing Disney veterans generally agree on, it is that the theme parks are best enjoyed first thing in the morning when crowds, tempers and temperatures are at a minimum. You may not be an early riser but arriving at a Disney park at opening is definitely worth your while. You’ll be able to spend the first two hours visiting some of your favorite attractions, walk on with minimal lines and not have to push your way through the crowds. And lower wait times means you can save your Fastpasses until later in the afternoon when lines are at their peak.
2. DON’T visit a park during Morning Extra Magic Hours. These early morning openings may be a perk of being a resort guest but are sadly best avoided. Though it is beneficial to visit a park first thing in the morning, it is never beneficial to be at a park that boasts the largest crowds of the day and this is typically what happens with Morning Extra Magic Hours. So instead of choosing the park everyone else is going to, deliberately avoid it. You’ll find the other parks to be a lot less congested. And if you still want to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours perks, do so in the evenings, crowds are much more manageable.
3. DO get a stroller even if you think your child is too old. It is not uncommon for visitors to Disney World to walk at least 7 miles a day. Now imagine 3 or 4 days of this and the impact it would have on little feet. Even if your son or daughter has been stroller-less for a good year or two, renting a stroller at Walt Disney World is just a good idea. It means kids have a place to take a time out, rest their weary legs and stay out of the rain during those unpredictable Disney showers. Disney Stroller rental provides a nice option for kids that are slightly older with strollers that are lightweight, easy to move and long enough for kids to stretch out. Stroller rental kiosks can be found near the main gate of each park and are available at $15.00 a day for a single and $31.00 for a double with discounts if you book a multi-day rental pass. Moms and dads, don’t have “stroller shame” even if your child outgrew strollers years ago, if they can still fit in one its your best option. Imagine a whole day without hearing “I’m tired will you carry me?”
4. DON’T get Park Hopper unless you really need it. Park Hopper is still a ticket option that confuses a lot of first time visitors. If you have a valid ticket but you want to leave the park in the afternoon and come back in the evening, you do not need a Park Hopper. This can be done using your regular ticket. Park Hopper is only necessary if you plan on visiting more than one park each day. For first time visitors, especially those with small children, Park Hopper tickets aren’t always necessary. There are so many things to see, do and experience at each of the 4 theme parks that parents bringing their children for the first time may be better off just enjoying one park a day without feeling the pressure of having to jump to another park. Decide whether or not you think it’s really necessary for your family and if not, save yourself the $77.50 per person.
5. DO use a travel agent for your first few visits. Are you having trouble sifting through all the Disney details to plan your next vacation? Confused over deadlines, discounts, or dining reservations? Than go easy on yourself and find a TA that specializes in Disney holidays. Finding a Disney specialist is a guarantee that you’re working with someone that knows Disney inside and out and is eager to share their information with you. Most agents these days provide a concierge level service meaning they’ll help with all the little details like booking dining and Fastpass reservations, organizing special events, creating bespoke itineraries and coming up with little touches that will make your holiday truly unique. They also monitor for discounts so that you are always getting the best deal and are on-call if anything comes up while you’re on holiday. And what a lot of first time planners don’t realize is that there is no fee for booking with them. Your price would be the same as if you booked through Disney!
6. DON’T let other people’s opinions dictate your holiday plans. Nobody knows your family better than you, particularly when it comes to how you want to spend your time at Walt Disney World. If there’s a particular park that tickles your fancy, a resort you’ve always dreamed of staying in or a theme park you’ve never been to before but would like to check out then do it! With forums, Facebook pages, and countless blogs focused on Disney holiday planning, there will be conflicting options on just about everything. You wouldn’t ask a stranger on the street where you should stay on your next holiday but there are first-time Disney planners who will change resorts, cross a park off their list, or decide against a dining reservation based on other peoples opinions. Just remember, for every 5 people that hate Animal Kingdom, there will be 5 people that love it, Get some gentle guidance from others but don’t let that stop you from being Disney curious! Follow your gut and do what’s going to make your family happy.
7. DO stay onsite. Any trip to Walt Disney World is magical but add in a stay at one of Walt Disney World’s 25+ Resorts to take advantage of the whole Disney experience. A resort stay is filled with lots of nice Disney perks. You get free transportation to and from the parks, free parking, Extra Magic Hours, the ability to book the Disney Dining Plan and the use of Disney’s free airport shuttle service, Magical Express. The resorts also feature delightful theming, amazing pools, family friendly dining options and lots of Disney-based activities for the kids. And for families on a budget, Value Resorts provide a nice economical option. You may get a cheaper resort staying offsite- but always do the math. Often times if you factor in that you’ll need to pay for gas, parking etc., there’s not as much savings as you thought.
8. DON’T freak out if you can’t get a dining reservation. So you’ve planned out your days at the parks, you know exactly where you want to eat. You wake up at 6am at the 180 day mark to make your Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) and that restaurant is already fully booked! Is it hopeless?Should you abandon your dreams of eating at Cinderella’s Castle? Should you cancel your holiday? NO! The world of Disney Dining reservations is fickle with clients and agents making and cancelling reservations daily. If you didn’t get the dining experience that you wanted then check My Disney Experience regularly. You may be surprised by what pops up! Don’t give up hope. With a bit of persistence you will probably get the ADR that you want.
9. DO have a plan if your kids get lost. Ask any parent what their worst fear is when it comes to going to Disney World and they will probably say getting separated from wee ones. Children wandering away from their folks is a daily Disney occurrence but thankfully Cast Members are experts in reuniting little ones with their parents. By taking steps in advance you can make the whole process a lot easier should it happen. Discuss with your child what they should do if they get lost. Take a picture of what your child is wearing each morning in case you need to show a Cast Member. Introduce your child to a Cast Member and show them ways to identify one if they get lost. A cast member once said that the job of reuniting children with parents is made more difficult if both are wandering around looking for one another. Should you get separated, Stop. Look for the nearest CM and let them know. No wondering!
10. DONT pay for things at the park if you can get them cheaper at home. Anybody who visits Walt Disney World will want a hefty budget for souvenirs but with the inflated prices at the parks, there’s lots of little things that can eat away at your holiday stipend. A good way to avoid overspending is to bring items with you. Get ponchos at the dollar store rather than paying nearly 20 times that for Disney’s version. Don’t shell out for the stuff being sold during the evening fireworks and parades, instead stock up on glowsticks and neon bracelets at home for a fraction of the cost. Bring a spray bottle that you can fill with water to cool off rather than paying double digits for Disney’s version. Pack for those common eventualities (headache, sunburn, blisters) so that you don’t have to pay top dollar at Disney gift shops. A lot of first timers also don’t realize that you can bring food and water into the parks. Pack some cheap snacks with you and bring them to the parks each day- you’ll save a bundle.
If there’s one overarching them to all of the tips outlined above, it would be: DON’T wing it! A first time Disney experience will be much more enjoyable with a little bit of forward planning. Do the work now so that you don’t have to do it on your holiday.
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Are you thinking about making your first trip to Walt Disney World? Do you need a helping hand? Then get in touch at 1.800.801.4025, via email at [email protected]. or get in touch via Facebook. As an agent specializing in holidays to Disney destinations with MickeyTravels, I am always happy to help whether you need planning advice or would like me to book your next magical getaway.
Image copyright Disney.
Melissa is a Disney-loving mom who can often be found at the parks with her six year old daughter. When not euphorically eating a Dole Whip at Walt Disney World, Melissa enjoys helping others plan their magical vacations with MickeyTravels
and sharing her Disney knowledge at Chip and Co. and Disney Addicts. Follow along on Facebook
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