So you’ve booked (or are thinking of booking) your first trip to Disney World and I am insanely jealous. That place, that oh so magical place is where I call home and I know you are going to love it.
As this is your first trip, you are going to want as many tips as you can possibly find to make this the ultimate first experience and who can blame you? Here are 10 tips to get you started.
Consider a Dining Plan
If you are staying at one of the Disney World Resort hotels (amazing choice if you are) you may want to consider purchasing a dining plan. There are 3 to choose from including:
Disney Quick-Service Dining plan – A great option for families on the go with over 50 locations to choose from. Each person will receive 2 self-service meals, 1 soft or alcoholic drink per meal, 2 snacks each day and 1 refillable mug for your stay.
According to Virgin Holiday prices are from £39 per adult and £16 per child a day.
Disney Dining Plan – This plan is ideal for families who want a mix of quick-service and waiter-served meals. There’s over 100 different locations to choose from so plenty of choice and each person will receive 1 self-service meal, 1 waiter service meal, one soft or alcoholic drink per meal, 2 snacks per day and 1 refillable mug for your entire stay.
Virgin Holiday prices start from £56 per adult and £19 per child a day.
Disney Deluxe Dining Plan – The most indulgent of all 3 dining plans and perfect for a first-trip treat. If waiter-service restaurants are more your thing, this is the plan for you.
Of course you can still dip into quick service locations too when you fancy it. Each person is entitled to 3 self-service or waiter-service meals, 1 soft or alcoholic drink per meal, 2 snacks per day and you guessed it 1 refillable mug for your trip duration.
Virgin Holiday prices start from £86 per adult and £30 per child a day. So it’s the priciest of the 3 but a real treat for any foodie.
So you may be thinking that it seems like a lot of money from the get-go but the savings and experience (in my opinion) are totally worth it. On previous trips I have saved hundreds of dollars on meals throughout each trip which meant I could invest my money in other places like shopping (of course).
The dining plan also means that you don’t have to stress on the day about what you can afford. All you have to do is turn up (although it is best to book for waiter-service restaurants). Booking can be done through the My Disney Experience app or you can call Disney directly.
And if this hasn’t sold you enough or your thinking quick-service sounds a bit bland, think again. Quick-service locations include your everyday meals from pasta and burgers to flavours of around the world. There’s a huge amount of options with buckets of healthy choices too.
As for snacks, these include bakery treats, ice-creams, fries, slushies.. the list goes on but I think you get it.
Honestly this could make a huge difference to your stress levels and your savings.
Make use of the Disney Memory Maker
Disney guests will usually find themselves with Memory Maker included within their *package deal and other guests may be able to add this themselves (but don’t quote me on that).
What is memory maker? It’s basically a system that allows you to take photos around Disney locations without even needing to take your camera.
As you wander around the parks you will notice multiple photographers ready to take a family snap for you in front of the best, most magical backdrops. This means families can all get in without having to ask a stranger to capture the shot for you.
It’s easy and all you have to do is line up and scan your Magic Band or pass to store the photos (a bit like a portable memory stick that you can view online).
My advice? Make use of every photographer because who doesn’t love looking back on some Disney memories?
And here’s something interesting. Even if you haven’t purchased the Memory Maker, you are welcome to ask the photographers to take a shot on your phone or own camera. As far as I’m aware (and again don’t quote me) the Disney photographers will never turn you down.
So go on and make some memories.
Know where to go
Let it be said that I am the worst when it comes to directions but at Disney World I know exactly where I am going. Strange right?
Knowing my whereabouts at the parks is a huge help because when you have Fastpasses to catch, it’s better to know which way is best to get there in time.
When you enter the parks make sure you grab a map or take a look at the My Disney Experience app so you get an idea of where you are and where you need to go.
Disney is pretty big and the last thing you want to be doing is sprinting from the Germany Pavilion to Soarin in the hot Florida sun.
Work out your route and take it slow, that way you don’t have to stress and you can take in all of your surroundings without needing to rush.
Make a list of must dos
Anyone else thinking of those old-school “Must Do Disney with Stacey” clips?
Everyone’s must-dos are different. Some guests love that adrenaline rush and want to hit all the thrill rides before lunch time.
Others, like myself are more into character meets and the firework shows, but whatever your preference, it’s a good idea to make a list because in all seriousness Disney World is so big, it’s basically impossible to do it all in one trip.
The last thing you want to feel when you get back home is “oh I wish we did that” and “it’s a shame when didn’t see this”. Instead make a list of your top 10 and tick them off, at least then you will go home knowing that you did the things that really mattered the most to you and the rest was just a bonus.
Check show times
Now call me biased but parades and shows are a must see for any trip let alone your first one. It’s a magical experience that you can’t describe especially when it comes to the fireworks. If you skip out on watching happily ever After, you are really missing out.
On the app or your park leaflet there will be a list of times for all these spectacular shows and events. Make a mental note of them before your dive into the rides because it’s no fun when you are trying to find a good spot 5 minutes before something starts.
Know the times and camp out an hour before. Yes, seriously an hour at least. It will be worth it in the end.
And if (I can’t believe I’m even saying this) for some reason you don’t fancy sobbing at the fireworks or waving to Mickey during the parade, make use of the short lines. Rides will be a lot easier to hop on because everyone else is at the shows.
Make the most of celebrations
If you are visiting Disney World during a celebration like a birthday, honeymoon or anniversary, make sure you pick up a free badge at guest relations or your hotel lobby.
These badges will show other guests, cast members and characters that you are here to celebrate and they will always try to make the day extra special.
I have had some of the best experiences from the whole of Tomorrowland singing happy birthday to Buzz re-enacting our wedding. It’s amazing what little magic just wearing a badge can do. Plus they are free so why not enjoy?
Pack a park bag
I’m all for just chucking some money and my phone in my pocket and going to the park but sometimes it’s better to be a little more prepared. Florida weather can be full of surprises and you are going to need some sun cream and a poncho.
I have a whole list of things I pack in my park bag and it’s all come in handy at least one. Take a look at what I pack for some organising tips.
Bring spare cash
Now there are loads of ways you can save the need for bringing cash into the park but it’s important to think about some of these otherwise you may find yourself in a tricky situation.
Sure you may be on a dining plan but do you still need to tip the server? Are you driving to Disney and need money for parking? Have you put aside some money to tip Mousekeeping (or just your regular housekeeping)?
It’s a lot to keep in mind but it’s better to be prepared and know exactly what money you have to splurge on yourself. You deserve it!
Invest in good shoes
If you look at peoples feet around the park (sounds a bit gross I know) you will notice that the majority of guest are wearing some trusty Nike trainers, some foam-padded sandals or Sketchers.
If anyone tells you that Disney World doesn’t involve a lot of walking, they are lying and you are going to want the comfiest shoes you can possibly find.
Want to start your trip with blisters? I don’t think so! Take my advice and invest in some good shoes and wear them in a little before you start to tackle the parks. Your feet will thank you later.
Consider some down time
Yes it’s your first trip and you want to see and do as much as you can but if you go overboard you my friend will burn out pretty quick.
Take some time to chill out and refuel before heading to the rides again. Lounge by the pool, take a shopping trip to Disney Springs or just take 30 minutes out and watch the world go by.
A little rest will be really beneficial throughout your stay and sometimes you just need a nap to recharge. You are not the only one!
One of my personal favourites is to chill out in one of the rocking chairs at the top of Mainstreet USA and just people watch. Jase (husband) and I did this for about an hour one evening and it was pure bliss before heading to dinner.
There’s nothing wrong with having some down time, it is your holiday after all.
Well I hope these tips are just what you are looking for and I hope even more that your excitement levels are now through the roof because you are about to experience more magic than ever before. Enjoy and say hi to the main mouse for me!