Are you planning a first-time trip to Walt Disney World? It is so exciting and overwhelming to plan a Disney vacation. But don’t worry you’ll be ready with our expert Disney World tips & hacks for first-timers.
Everything you must know before you go to Disney World from a Disney Travel Agent. My friend Amy from Kingdom Destinations helped me plan our family vacation to Disney and her tips helped make our trip amazing.
The key to a great Disney World vacation is to being prepared. So don’t leave home without these clever Disney World tips from Amy and you’ll be ready for an unforgettable Disney experience.
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Top Disney World Tips & Hacks for First-Timers
Are you ready to start planning your Disney Vacation? These simple Disney World tips & tricks will have you ready for the vacation you’ve been dreaming about.
Walt Disney World Has Four Parks
Many people don’t know that Walt Disney World has four theme parks and each park deserves at least a day of your time. The four parks are Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.
Some common misconceptions about the parks are Epcot is just a park just for Adults, Hollywood Studios is a half-day park, and Animal Kingdom is a zoo. These all are false and let me tell you why.
Epcot has several rides, scavenger hunts, and activities for little ones. Plus lots of fun food to try for the whole family. With the addition of the Frozen ride, it has become a huge hit with kids.
Hollywood Studios is now a full day park with the new Toy Story Land and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. Here you’ll find rides for a mix of ages. It has become a very popular park with teens and pre-teens due to the larger rides.
Animal Kingdom does have lots of animals to see but it is not quite a zoo. You’ll find cool rollercoasters and an awesome virtual reality ride based on the Avatar movie and the Festival of Lion King Show.
Magic Kingdom hosts all the classic Disney rides visitors have come to love. It also has the most rides out of all the parks and takes the longest time to explore.
One of the things I recommend most to my clients is Rope Drop. Rope Drop refers to when Cast Members first let guests into the park. If you are standing at the entrance at this time you can get into the park early and be the first on the rides.
All 4 parks usually open the front part of the park 30-45 mins before the official opening times to let guests spread out, shop, and get food and drinks.
In 2021 they have unofficially been opening most of the parks a 1/2 hour early. To get there in time for rope drop check what time the buses from your hotel begin to run and how long it takes to get to the park.
Keep in mind you may have to wait 20-30 minutes for a bus to come to your resort stop especially at beginning of the day. You can check the bus arrival times on your My Disney Experience App under your Hotel tab.
If you plan to drive to the park keep in mind the parking lots only open 30 minutes before the park opens. This means people staying at Disney properties can get there earlier by taking a park bus. Also if you stay at a Disney Resort you can park for free at all the Disney World Parks.
No matter what time you get there, the first 2 hours each park is open is a great time to enjoy rides before everyone that wanted to sleep in on their vacation makes it to the parks. So don’t stress if you don’t make the rope drop.
Tip: It is also easier to get on rides the last hour the parks are open at night but more on that below.
Be Prepared for the Weather
This is Florida. Plan on sun and rain, all on the same day. Bring your sunscreen in your bag, and also bring a poncho, raincoat, or umbrella. It can go from hot to a sudden downpour, too hot again in less than an hour.
An umbrella can do double duty using it for rain storms and to keep the sun off while waiting in lines that aren’t shaded.
Use our Free Printable Disney Backpack Checklist to make sure you have everything you need in the park. It’s a comprehensive list to make packing for a day at the parks stress-free. Just follow the checklist.
Disney World Food
Theme park food is not just burgers and fries – The food at Disney World has come a long way since I first started visiting the parks. Now there are many dishes that I crave.
Go on the My Disney Experience website or App and look at the different menus to find what might be interesting to you. Try and plan out before you go where you might want to eat so that you aren’t stressing while at the park with starving kids.
Take advantage of Mobile Food Ordering on the Disney App and order your food at Quick Service restaurants ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in line. You can do this the day of while you’re waiting in ride lines and just add in the time you want to pick it up. This is a game-changer in fast food at Disney.
If you plan to go to one of the many delicious sit-down restaurants you can book these reservations starting 60 days in advance on the My Disney Experience app. Also, character meals can be booked 60 days in advance.
If your not sure which restaurants to pick send me a message on my FB page or email me at email@example.com. I have a long list of favorites!
Tip: The quick-service restaurants will always give you free cups of ice water for your family. Ask for this to fill up your water bottles when you go to eat.
Standing in Ride Lines
The ride lines can be long and boring for younger kids. Disney has tried to make them more exciting by adding pictures and themed decorations for families to look at while waiting, but if your waiting an hour in line this is not enough.
A fun line game Disney has started is trivia games that you can only access while waiting in line on your My Disney Experience App. Both kids and adults will enjoy playing this together.
Make sure to have a few line game ideas ready before you go. Here are some easy games to play in line at Disney with Kids. No more hearing them say “I’m Bored” while waiting in line.
Take a Mid-Day break
One of the advantages of staying at a Disney resort is that you can easily hop back to your hotel for a mid-day nap, swim, or just a break from the crowds. Then head back to the parks later in the afternoon. It will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to see more.
You can also hop on a bus to one of the Disney Resorts your not staying at and have lunch at one of their restaurants. It would be a fun time to ride the Monorail or Skyliner to a Disney Resort for a meal too.
Take your time and enjoy seeing what the other resorts are like. Then go back in the late afternoon or evening which is one of my favorite times in the parks with lower ride times.
Check out the Newly Refurbished Saratoga Springs Resort at Disney – Spacious rooms perfect for families at Disney.
Have a Plan But Be Flexible
It’s good to have a plan each day for rides that are important to your family and are must-dos. You also want to factor in lines with the longest wait times.
Start the day with a list and possibly an order of how you want to do things. But don’t get flustered if your day doesn’t go as planned, stay flexible!
Sometimes rides break down temporarily or it rains, or your kids are really into something you didn’t plan for, or they’re just tired and done for the day. It’s supposed to be a fun day so don’t get too rigid in your plans.
Last Ride of the Day Tip
Don’t save the big rides for the end of the night, but this is a great time for one more ride. What I mean is with ride times going down at the end of the day it’s the perfect time to hop on your favorite ride one more time. Or hit up that ride that had long lines all day.
Tip: If you are in line for a ride one minute before the park closes, you will be able to ride that ride.
Stay After the Park Closes
While each park does have an official closing time you can usually shop at the stores and take pictures after the park closes. Take your time leaving the parks and get that last picture with only a few people in it.
Bus service back to the Disney Resorts usually runs for 1 hour after the park closes. So you have time to get in that last ride or picture in the park.
Just keep in mind to be respectful of the Cast Members and their time as well.
Take a Rest Day
This is an unpopular opinion. Many guests like to pack as much as they can into a Walt Disney World vacation. But walking 10-12 miles a day is exhausting to even those in the best of shape.
Taking a day to sleep in, swim, shop, or even just get a later start and not head to the parks until late in the day can make a world of difference in your trip.
This would be a great day to visit Disney Springs too!
Disney World Tips for Saving Money
Although Disney can be expensive you can find lots of easy ways to save money too. Here are a few ideas:
T-Shirts – Buy Disney T-shirts for the family to wear before you go. This way you aren’t paying more for them at Disney parks.
Souvenirs – You can also buy these ahead and pack them in your suitcase. Then surprise your kids with the items in the hotel before you go.
Breakfast – Have breakfast in your room. You can bring food or order grocery store delivery to your hotel room.
Pack a Lunch – Bring your own lunch and snacks to eat and just buy dinner at the park.
Popcorn Bucket – The popcorn bucket is the best deal for snacks if you plan to be at the parks for more than one day. Once you buy the bucket it is only $1 to refill it.
Ticket Savings – Ticket prices at Disney cost more during busier times of year. Try and go at an off season time to save money on ticket prices. Disney Crowd Calendar
Bring What You Need to the Park – Don’t end up spending money buy things you could bring from home like, ponchos, medication, Disney Ears, water, snacks, extra clothes.
Use our Free Printable Disney Packing list to remember everything you’ll need in your park bag.
The Memory Maker is Disney’s photo pass with pictures taken in the park by Disney Cast Members. These photos can then be downloaded to your computer or phone. You will be able to see the pictures the day you take them on your My Disney Experience App.
The choice to buy the Memory Maker depends on how many pictures you will want to have taken by Cast Members at the park. With Covid, the Cast members will not take pictures with your camera anymore. A nice feature of the pass is you will get pictures taken on the rides too.
It does cost less to buy the Memory Maker before your trip than once you are at the park so keep that in mind. If you only want one or two pictures it is cheaper to individually buy the pictures.
However, if you’ll want more pictures with all your memories at the park is cheaper to buy the Memory Maker package.
First Time to Disney Buttons
If you are celebrating birthdays, anniversary or your first trip to Disney pick up a free pin at Guest Services. Kids will love all the happy birthdays they hear all day from staff and other guests at the park.
Bring a Portable Phone Charger
You will use a lot of your cell phone battery power on the My Disney Experience App. The app is great to look at maps, ride times, tracking your photos, and ordering food.
To make sure you don’t run out of batteries bring a small cell phone charger in your park bag. The cell phone charger pictured above from Anker was what we used on our last trip and it worked great.
Seeing All the Attractions
Don’t get stressed if you don’t get to see everything. There is so much to see especially at the Magic Kingdom that you might not fit it all in on your first trip.
Figure out what is most important to see and visit those attractions first. After that everything you see will be a bonus.
Use a Travel Agent for Your Trip!
Travel Agents are a free resource for you. You do not pay any extra to use a Travel Agent (Disney pays them for you). And you get their expertise and knowledge for free! They can also look for special promotions for your travel dates.
If you have more questions or need any help planning your upcoming trip please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
Thanks to Amy for giving us her helpful Walt Disney World Tips for first-timers. Amy was an amazing resource in planning our vacation so don’t hesitate to reach out to her for help in planning your Disney vacation.
More Walt Disney World Tips & Hacks
12 Games to Play in Ride Lines at Disney – Keep your kids busy while waiting in long lines with these simple & fun games.
What to Pack in Your Disney Backpack – Free Printable Checklist with everything you need to bring in your Disney park bag for a successful day at the parks.
Disney Saratoga Springs Resort Review – This newly Refurbished Disney property offers lots of cool new upgrades for families.
Dollar Tree Road Trip Games – Keep kids busy & happy on road trips to Disney with cheap travel games from Dollar Tree. They have Disney figures too!
How Much Will Your Trip Cost? – Use our free trip cost calculator to create a budget for your Disney Vacation.
I hope these Disney World Tips for First-Timers have helped you get ready for your Disney World Vacation. Our trip planned by Amy was amazing and we felt so prepared for hitting the parks each day.
If you have questions or Disney Hacks you’d like to share feel free to leave them in the comments. So we can all help each other.
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