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How to Plan Your First Disney World Trip

Everyone knows about the pre-Disney World vacation feeling. You can’t sleep the night before and all you want to do is head to the magical resort right away. Kids and adults alike get this feeling, especially before their first Disney World trip.

Along with this feeling comes the desire to do everything just right. One’s first Disney World trip is a big deal and requires planning, research, and know how. To get started, this guide will tell you everything you need to know for your first vacation in Walt Disney World.

First Disney World Trip
Image via Candace Lindeman / flickr

Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More

Ask any Disney World expert or fan and the first piece of advice they’ll give you is to plan. You don’t have to obsessively color code your travel itinerary in a 3-ring binder, but you have to have a plan. Use these planning tips to get started:

Know How Many Days You Need
Each theme park is packed with fun. It’s tempting to try and fit as much magic as possible into a short amount of time, but it’s not ideal. Typically, first-time visitors need the following amount of time in the Disney World parks to experience it all:

  • Magic Kingdom: 2 Days
  • Epcot: 1 Day
  • Animal Kingdom: 1 Day
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 1 Day

For good measure, add one day to your itinerary that can be used to go back to a park you want to see more of.

Do You Really Need A Rental Car?
Rental cars in Orlando can be expensive, especially if you’re only using it to get from the airport to Disney World. Seek alternative methods of transportation to save on your Disney World vacation. Disney even offers a shuttle service to and from the Orlando Airport, called Disney’s Magical Express.

If you plan to stay on Walt Disney World property, there are several transportation options onsite that will bring you to and from the theme parks.

Make Dining Reservations Well in Advance
If you’re embarking on your first Disney World trip, making dining reservations is a must. From a table in Cinderella’s Castle to Le Cellier Steakhouse, Walt Disney World is packed with exceptional dining experiences. Here’s the kicker – reservations fill up fast!

To secure your spot at one of the top restaurants, make your reservation up to 180 days prior to your trip. Otherwise, you’ll have a difficult time finding reservations.

If everything is booked, don’t worry. Once you’ve arrived at Disney World, call the restaurants to see if any reservations have been canceled. You never know when a table may open up!

Use the My Disney Experience App

Disney offers a wide range of tools to help those going on their first Disney World trip plan ahead. The My Disney Experience app is a vital tool for planning and enjoying your vacation. The app allows visitors to:

  • Plan and manage FastPass+ rides
  • Link tickets, hotel reservations, and dining reservations to the app
  • Plan out each day of your first Disney World trip
  • Link and manage your Magic Bands for entry into the park and more

This app has everything you need for your trip and more. Seriously! You’ll discover ten times more magic inside and outside of the parks when you use the My Disney Experience App.

Take Advantage of FastPass+

Within your My Disney Experience app, you can select and manage your FastPass+ reservations. FastPass+ reservations allow you to skip the line for rides, meet characters, and get great seats for parades throughout the parks.

Guests are allowed up to 3 FastPass+ reservations (in a single theme park) per day. You can plan and make these reservations before you enter the park and manage them as you go. However, there are a few tricks you can use to maximize your park time and rock your first Disney World trip with a FastPass+:

  • If possible, get to your selected FastPass+ ride reservation early. If the regular line has a short wait time, cancel your FastPass reservation and get in line. You now have another FastPass+ reservation to use.
  • Take a screenshot of your FastPass+ reservations and change your phone home screen to this photo. This allows you to know your reservation times even if cell service or Wi-Fi is limited. (Disney World has free Wi-Fi throughout its theme parks.)
  • As soon as you use your 3rd FastPass+ of the day, you’re granted another FastPass+. As a result, it’s best to quickly open your My Disney Experience app to reserve your next FastPass+ selection right away. (Note, once you use your 4th FastPass+ you’re granted another and so on.)
A first Disney World trip isn't complete without a character breakfast!
A first Disney World trip isn’t complete without a character breakfast!

Tips for a Child’s First Disney World Trip

There’s nothing more magical than watching a child experience the magic of Disney World the first time. To make your child’s first Disney World trip one for the record books, use these tips:

Plan Character Meet and Greets Ahead of Time
Disney character meet and greet lines can be especially daunting. All characters, regardless of popularity, have exceptionally long wait times.

One way to avoid long wait times is to plan ahead. If your child is more interested in the characters than the rides, schedule character meet and greets for first thing in the morning. Use your My Disney Experience app to reserve a time with particular characters.

On the other hand, you can also make reservations for a character breakfast or lunch throughout the resort and at one of the many dining options in Walt Disney World. A popular option is the Disney Junior character breakfast or lunch at Hollywood and Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Surprise Your Child with a Wake Up Call from a Character
The Walt Disney World team goes to extreme lengths to ensure that all guests have a truly magical vacation. To surprise your child, schedule a wake-up call from a Disney character. Cast members at the front desk of your Disney World resort can help you with this.

Bring Strollers and Take Breaks
Children will get tired from walking around the massive theme parks. While it can be daunting, a stroller can help ease their impending fatigue. However, on your first Disney World trip you’ll soon realize strollers are everywhere. Be sure to distinguish yours with a balloon, ribbon or any other colorful decoration so you don’t get lost in stroller parking trying to find your stroller out of the many.

Remember to take breaks throughout the day too. Whether you take a snack break or sit in the shade for a bit, this allows you and your little one(s) to regain their energy for more rides, characters, and fun.

People of all ages love going to Disney World for the first time.
Everyone loves going to Disney World, especially adults.

Tips for an Adult’s First Disney World Trip

Is it your first time visiting Disney World as an adult? Use these tips for a memorable first Disney World trip.

Take Advantage of Rider Switch
If you’re visiting Disney World with young children who might not meet all ride requirements, you’ll want to leverage the “Rider Switch”. Also known as “Child Swap”, this allows one parent to stay with the children who don’t meet ride requirements while the other parent waits in line with those who do.

Once the “riding parent” has completed the ride, the “waiting parent” can go on the ride by going in the FastPass+ line. This allows both parents to ride the attraction and not miss out on all the fun in the theme parks! Ask cast members at each ride or attraction about this pass to gain access.

Go on Rides During Off Peak Times
One of the best ways to experience the top rides and attractions is to do so during parades and fireworks. If you don’t mind missing a parade or fireworks show, plan to ride the top attractions during this time. You’ll experience shorter wait times, as everyone is waiting for the parade or fireworks show to begin.

No Park Admission Necessary
Looking to find Disney magic outside of the theme parks? During your first Disney World trip, head to Disney Springs and Disney’s Boardwalk for exceptional shopping, entertainment, and dining. Be on the lookout for the renowned hidden Mickeys and more Disney magic.

World Showcase Wine Walk
For just $20, you can sample six pre-selected wines in certain countries throughout Epcot. You’ll receive your Wine Walk Passport and get stamps while at each wine stop. Your passport is valid throughout your vacation. Who doesn’t enjoy drinking around the world?

Don't forget your smartphone! It's the key to a great Disney World trip.
Don’t forget your smartphone! It’s the key to a great Disney World trip.

First Disney World Trip Insider Tips

To make your first Disney World trip especially spectacular, take advantage of these insider tips:

Get Ready to Walk
The average Disney World visitor walks anywhere from 6 to 13 miles per day in the theme parks. With this in mind, choose your shoe selection carefully. Wear sturdy and comfortable shoes that you won’t mind walking and also standing in for an exceptionally long period of time. Your feet and legs will thank you.

Pack Appropriately
From sunscreen to a poncho, a Disney World vacation requires quite a lot. This packing list has everything you need for a perfect first Disney World trip.

Arrive at the Parks Before They Open
Arriving 15-30 minutes before the posted opening time for each theme park is advantageous. You might even find that the park is already open when you get there! If not, you’ll beat the crowds.

Have Your Smartphone Prepared
Your smartphone is your biggest vacation advocate while in Walt Disney World. From taking pictures to managing your trip, you’ll need a phone by your side at every moment. Make sure you have the following downloaded on and with your phone:

  • The My Disney Experience app, loaded and prepared
  • Memory space for pictures
  • Phone charger
  • External battery charger, if desired
  • Phone case

Bring a Cooler Inside the Park
Did you know you can bring your own cooler into the park? With this in mind, you can save money and time by bringing your own drinks and snacks with you. Keep in mind, though, the cooler must be smaller than 24″L x 15″W x 18″H (the size of the large lockers).

What are You Celebrating?
Is your first Disney World trip part of a bigger celebration such as a honeymoon or birthday? Disney Cast Members go out of their way to ensure that first-time visitors and those celebrating an occasion have an exceptional time at the parks and resorts. Inform a cast member that it’s your first time at Disney World so you can receive ongoing magic and surprises throughout the day.

Use these tips for a fantastic first Disney World trip.
Use these tips for a fantastic first Disney World trip.

Enjoy Your First Disney World Trip!

There’s nothing quite as exciting or memorable as the first vacation to Walt Disney World. For even more Disney World vacation tips and savings, book your first Disney World trip with Reserve Orlando.

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