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10 Tips for Planning Your First Visit to Walt Disney World

Your first visit to Walt Disney World should be a magical, amazing experience. While there is a lot of work that goes into planning your first visit to Walt Disney World, the memories you make and the end result is always worth it! I have 10 Tips for Planning Your First Visit to Walt Disney World right here!

Planning your first visit to Walt Disney World….or your first trip in a LONG time, can be magical and also overwhelming.

As a first timer going to Walt Disney World, you can have so many questions, hopes, and expectations of your trip.  Will you cry when you see Cinderella’s Castle?  Does that Dole Whip REALLY take the place for best snack at Walt Disney World? Is it “worth” it to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort when you can just book a timeshare “down the street”?

 Planning Your First Visit to Walt Disney World

When you have children with you, those expectations may change.  How do I navigate a stroller onto the Disney buses? Will my room have a pack and play?  Will my little one run up and hug Mickey, or stay back and be shy?  These, and so many other aspects of planning your first Walt Disney World vacation with children, can be questions you may have.  Taking the kiddos to Disney can be magical fun for everyone, and you want to be prepared! I am excited to share my tips for planning your first visit to Walt Disney World.

Having Plans is SO Important for Your First Visit to Walt Disney World

Planning your first visit to Walt Disney World is simply a process. Planning your days and having an idea of what you would like to do is simply part of the process of going to Walt Disney World. Just showing up and hoping for the best will not only be stressful, but you may miss some of the things your family was REALLY looking forward to!

Book your trip as far in advance as you can. This allows your family to get the accommodations that are right for YOU!  Disney takes planning, and taking kids on vacation can be stressful ~ but fun!  So if you book far in advance, you have plenty of time to prepare yourself, and your children, for the awesome adventure ahead!  Walt Disney World only requires a $200 to book a package, and booking well in advance allows you to make payments ~ and maybe some changes ~ along the way.

Have a touring plan for the parks. This does not have to be a step by step plan.  But, when you are visiting a place that is about the size of Manhattan, do your research!  Plan two days at Magic Kingdom, planning to accomplish Fantasyland and Tomorrowland on one day, hit the parade, and then have a relaxing evening.  Then on the second day, plan on Frontierland, Adventureland, and staying late for the fireworks show.  From there, I recommend you plan one day for each of the other parks.

You want to have an idea of what you plan to see at each park, and plan DisneyGenie+ attractions accordingly.  That way you aren’t criss crossing all over the parks!  Also, being flexible in your plan allows you to stumble upon some of the magical, in the moment experiences in the Disney parks.

Watch YouTube videos ahead of time.  This is SO important if you have shy, or unsure kids, when it comes to attractions. Everything at Disney seems bigger in the parks than it does at home.  The sights, smells, sounds…..you want to prep your family.  Becuase your 5 year old is tall enough and LOVES dinosaurs does not mean that he/she will love DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom.  In fact, it’ll likely freak them out!  So do your research, watch the videos, and even involve your kids if you think that will help.

Choose a Walt Disney World Resort with a great pool.  An afternoon break, as well as a “down day” is a must for having happy kids and happy parents on vacation.  Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, and Disney’s Port Orleans all have amazing pools.  You want a fun pool, as well as a resort that is easy to navigate, so you can enjoy your time out of the parks.  

Manage the Expectations Accordingly

Be understanding if your children are shy.  Your 7 year old may sit entranced during an entire showing of Sleeping Beauty. But seeing Aurora up close?  That could bring their shy side out super quick!  Don’t force your child to get close to the characters, or even pose for a photo with them.  The characters see shy kids all the time, and they are prepared to help your child feel at ease during a meet and greet or character meal.  Character meals are GREAT for shy kids, or if you think they will be overwhelmed by a meet and greet.  There is food, the characters come to your table, and often they don’t stay too long, so the visit is short and sweet.

Planning Your first Visit to Walt Disney World

Keep your expectations minimal. You can expect that your family is going to have an awesome vacation, and come home with some pretty stellar memories.  However, as much as you intend to Rope Drop every park every day because your 9 year old is up and ready at 7AM at home on a daily basis…..doesn’t mean he/she is going to be up and at ‘em at 7AM on vacation.  Disney makes you tired!  Allow yourself to take your time on some days to get to the park.  Do you have visions of your freshly made over princess running up to Cinderella in a commercial-worthy moment….only to arrive at Cinderella’s Royal Table with her dress on backward and her lipstick faded?  It’s okay!  Don’t stress about the small things….remember that often what we notice as parents, our kids don’t even notice at all.

Keep things simple.   There is a lot of information out there, and pressure, to have the cutest autograph book or , matching DIY Disney shirts! While all those are awesome, simplicity is your friend when it comes to doing Disney with the kids for the first time.  The classic blue autograph books you can buy at the gift shop ~ even a Disney themed notebook from Target~ will suffice as an autograph book.  There are plenty of Disney shirts to choose from at local department stores, and if you don’t get every pressed penny and pin traded…it’s all going to be okay. 

General Best Practices for Planning Your First Visit to Walt Disney World

Pack a park bag the night before.  When the kids are winding down from your day at the pool, that is the time to start preparing for the next day. 

Charge your devices, make sure you have fresh bandaids and hand sanitizer, wipes, and an extra pair of clothes for the kids.  When your kids are little, you want to be sure you are taking a backpack into the parks, because those keep your hands free and allow you to take the necessities. 

Book your character dining mindfully.  Just because your 6 year old is obsessed with Minnie does not mean you have to book Cape May Cafe, Chef Mickey’s, AND Minnie’s Seasonal Dine at Hollywood and Vine.  Pick one, and it will be their FAVORITE!  Character dining is wonderful to save time, get a good meal, and see characters.  If you have a child who loves the princesses, then a meal like Akershus or Cinderella’s Royal Table is a good move on your part.  That beats waiting in line at the parks, and going from meet and greet to meet and greet.

Plan some down time. Keeping up with your family all day in the theme parks is exhausting. Consciously plan a day of JUST the resort, no theme parks. Work the shows in the theme parks into your park plans. This allows you a good 15-20 minutes of sitting and resting.  You will not be the only parent who nodded off during Mickey’s Philharmagic.

There is no question, planning is involved with a Walt Disney World vacation. While it is possible to book a “last minute” trip, the farther you can book ahead, the more it is to your advantage. I hope these tips, as well as your excitement for a magical Disney vacation, will help you plan your very first visit!

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Planning Your First Visit to Walt Disney World

Carrie Hurst

Not only do I love sharing all my vacation tips and ideas here on A Princess and Her Pirates, but I also work alongside families to create magical vacation memories year after year! Email me at carrie@destinationsinflorida.com to begin the planning process, and join hundreds of families on my current guest list.


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