I don’t care if you were five years old or thirty-five years old…everyone remembers their first trip to Disney World. Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida is where dreams come true and fun lies literally around every corner. The characters, the rides, the hotels, the food, the people…everything is just as magical as you expect it to be. I’ve traveled to Disney World several times both with family and friends and each time everything just gets better and better. And so comes the problem…if you are going to Disney World for the first time, what do you need to know?
- Plan out your rides beforehand and use those fast passes!
If you are traveling to Disney World for the first time I’m sure you have already done your fair share of planning. However, if you want to really make the most of your time in the parks you need to schedule your fast passes and then plan the rest of your rides/shows around that. The way that your fast passes work is much different than at another theme park where you normally have to buy them. All of your Disney tickets come with two fast passes a day that you can use in one park. You can either activate them at one of the many kiosks located in the parks or you can download the app on your phone. Once you have your Disney Tickets connected you can go ahead and select your fast passes for that day or you can plan them out for whatever day you want them for! You will be shown all the available rides and shows that you can use your fast passes for and what times they have available. My advice to you is to know which rides are going to have the longest lines and book your fast passes for those. That way, you are getting to do those “must do” rides without having to wait in those ridiculous rides! A lot of the rides that have an hour-plus wait are going to be Tower of Terror and Rocking Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom, and Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom. These are just a few of the classic-most popular rides at Disney World that everyone wants to ride so be sure to use your fast passes on one of these rather than any old ride! If you’re not sure if the ride or show you want to do is going to have a long line or not no worries! Disney has created awesome apps for you to download that can really help you get a feel for what to expect. Once you have selected what to use your fast passes for and at what time you can begin to form your “game plan”. If you have a fast pass for 12:00 towards the middle of the park, I would use that to guide your morning and what rides and shows you have time for before that.
- Pack yourself a bag!
Without a doubt, someone in your group NEEDS to bring a bag. Unlike some other amusement parks (cough, cough SIX FLAGS) you don’t have to buy a locker for your bag. On all of the rides you are allowed to bring your bag with you and either keep it beneath your feet or they have special places for you to put your bags. With this opportunity you have to take an advantage and bring yourself a bag that will help you spend less money while in the park. I would definitely pack yourself a water bottle or a few in your bag. At any restaurant or stand in the parks water bottles are usually about $3 a pop and if you bring your own there are plenty of water fountains that you can refill it at. Another expensive item at the park is a poncho. While a waterproof poncho is not a normal part of my style, when at Disney you want to keep having fun-rain or shine. The parks do continue to run if it rains and you should too! A poncho or rain jacket is a must for your backpack, especially during the spring or summer seasons when showers can come on all of a sudden. A couple of other things I would pack in your bag: some chap stick, hand sanitizer, Band-Aids, a plastic bag (for when you ride those rides with a splash-you can protect your phone!), and some sunscreen.
- Souvenirs…yes or no?
I know I’m not the only who loves a good souvenir after a visit a visit to a new place. Having a souvenir to remember your trip is one my absolute favorite parts about traveling. Whether it is a picture, a keychain, or an ornament it is always nice to have something to remember your trip years afterwards. At Disney there are so many iconic rides, characters, and movies that you can choose from and in my opinion you should let an experience drive your purchase in the parks. Sometimes doing something extra special and having a picture to remember that is the best souvenir of all. If you are with kids there are many different special activities you can do like a character breakfast, princess tea, or a makeover at the Bippity Boppity Boutique. By investing your money in the experience, the pictures that you take can make the most amazing gift and memory to hold on to. Then you can dress it up with a picture frame to go along with the memory. Now if you are going to actually buy something from one of the park stores, I would definitely get something practical because it is going to be pricy! An ornament from the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, one of the ‘You Are Here’ Starbucks coffee mugs, or even a fun beach towel! That way your souvenir is more than just a spur of the moment purchase and you can use it all year round…or at least that’s how I rationalize it to my wallet! My last great souvenir shopping tip while at Disney is that Orlando has outlets, yes I repeat, THEY. HAVE. OUTLETS. Located about twenty minutes from the parks are the outlets and smack dab in the middle of the outlets is the Disney Outlet Store. Now while some of the stuff might not be exactly what is “hot” at the moment, the prices are not even comparable! The outlet stores have everything from glassware to clothes to toys for a fraction of the price you would pay in the parks. Some of my favorite finds from the Disney Outlet Store include a Starbucks Disney Parks ornament for a whopping $1.95 and a Mickey shaped chip and dip bowl for $9.95.
- What to eat?
All four Disney Parks open in the morning between 8 and 9am and some of the parks can be open as late as midnight. With that said, you are more than likely going to eat something in the park at some point. The good thing about Disney is that since you spend so much on park tickets, your food is not quite as jacked up. Most meals in the park are going to be between $8 and $15 for the average adult. They have everything from chicken fingers and fries, pizza, burgers, tacos, BBQ, fish and chips….you name it they probably have it. The thing to remember when eating at Disney is that in each of the four parks you tend to go in and out of different worlds. In the Magic Kingdom they have Gaston’s Tavern that has things like beef stew and pretzels, in Hollywood Studios they have Toy Story’s Pizza Planet where you can get…you guessed it…a variety of pizza, Animal Kingdom and Epcot are both made up of a variety of countries where you can get classic cuisine representative of the country you are in. So, when planning out your meals at Disney it is important that you think about where you want to be at about that time; if you have a Fast Pass planned at lunch you need to check out what type of food is served in that area and if that is something you and your crew are interested in. There is a pretty big variety of dining options in the parks; they have some quick service food stands that are going to be pretty similar to fast food and then they do have some more formal options available with waiters. The only real formal dining option at Disney World would be the Be Our Guest restaurant located inside Belle’s castle at the Magic Kingdom. Here you have not only a beautiful dining atmosphere but you also have a more advanced selection of food. Another special part of dining at the Be Our Guest restaurant is having the Beast come out and walk throughout the castle for everyone to see and enjoy. This has been hands down one of my absolute favorite experiences at Disney World as an adult, but I will say…reservations are usually required for dinner so check on your Disney Experience App to set up your reservation! Disney World does have meal plans available where you can get a minimum of two snacks, two quick-service meals, and a souvenir mug that you can refill. The meal plans range from $20-$40 a day for a child and $45-$105 a day for an adult. With these meal plans you have to select between quick services dining, regular dining, and deluxe dining and not all restaurants are a part of the meal plans. I personally have never done the meal plan route simply because I like to play it by ear, I might eat a big breakfast at the hotel and not need to eat as much in the park. One thing I would DEFINITELY make sure to eat while at Disney World is their signature Pineapple Dole Whip. This dole whip is the perfect combination of sweet and refreshing and since it is a Disney exclusive, I would definitely take the time and money to try it at least once…or twice! Disney World has also added alcohol to the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios parks (before it was just Epcot.) Everything from beer, wine and specialty cocktails are available and while after a long line it’s nice to have something to take the edge off I will warn you…you will be paying a pretty penny. I’m talking $8 for a Bud Light and $10-12 for a margarita so you might want to pace yourself.
- Transportation to and from the parks…
Transportation for the Disney Parks might be both the coolest and most confusing part of Disney World. You cannot park directly at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, you have to park at a joint parking lot where you can chose to either ride the monorail or the ferry. The monorail is Disney’s version of an above ground train that will take you to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and to three of Disney’s on-property hotels. The ferryboat will take you to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, or Hollywood Studios. When taking one of these it is very important that you pay attention to which one you are getting on and where it is going so that you can get exactly where you have planned to go! Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom do have their own parking lots where you can park and go in just like normal. Another tip to know about Disney World transportation are the amazing shuttles! Disney shuttles are your basic shuttle bus that will take you to and from any of the four parks, any of the water parks, Downtown Disney, and any of the hotels located inside Disney (doesn’t have to be an on property hotel!) These are great and quick, especially if you are park hopping or want to save yourself the struggle of parking and walking. Similar to the monorail and ferry boat, you just need to pay attention to the location flashing on the shuttle and that is the location the shuttle will be taking you to. Taking advantage of the Disney shuttles is crucial in my opinion since a daily parking pass for all the Disney parks is $35 a day. If you are staying outside of Disney but still want to avoid the parking struggles Uber and Lyft are both great options for getting you and your family to the entrance of the park.
Want to learn more about some of the things discussed in this article? Explore and plan on your on using this link: My Disney Experience