PlanningTrip Planning 101

8 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My First Trip to Disney World

Our first trip to Disney was incredible! That experience was like no other and still remains one of our favorite family trips. There were some things; however, that would have been helpful to know before the adventure to Disney World! Here are 8 things you might find helpful to know before your first trip to Disney.

Editor’s Note: We understand that with the phased reopening of Walt Disney World, some of the advice in this article may not apply if you visit while park hours are reduced, capacity limits and physical distancing are in place, and some of our favorite experiences—fireworks, parades, and character greetings—are temporarily suspended. (You can read everything you need to know about the phased reopening by clicking here). We will continue to share articles that give guidance on a “normal” vacation to Walt Disney World, along with any special changes or instructions you may need to be aware of during the phased reopening to provide the best tips we can regardless of when you are visiting. ~ Chad & Cindy


We Wish We Had Known…

1 – To Check Out Park Layouts and Attractions Details

The first thing we see people do when they arrive at a park is to grab a park map. While we too recommend this for 1st time visitors, we hope this isn’t the first time you’ve set eyes on the park map. At DisneyWorld.com (https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/maps/) there is an excellent map of Disney property for reviewing! You can zoom in and out as you please, right down to the specific name of a gift shop. With this map at your fingertips before your trip, you will be able to have a good idea of the general flow of the theme park, leaving out much of the headache of trying to find yourself once within the park! While you can see attractions on the map, we also recommend that you do your research on each attraction you are interested in. Check for the duration of the ride, height requirements, disability access, thrill level, and FastPass availability. This is great to do in advance because when the family decides to go on Sum of All Thrills at Epcot, for example, you’ll know exactly what to expect.

2 – FastPass and Dining Reservations Are Worth It

Editor’s Note: During the phased reopening of Walt Disney World, FastPass+ is temporarily suspended and the dining booking window has been reduced from 180 days to 60 days. 

We thought to ourselves, we rather not go crazy with all that planning but instead stick to a spontaneous route for our first trip. Unfortunately, this left us high and dry at times! When you are at Magic Kingdom in the heat and crowds of the summer, and all you want is a table service restaurant for lunch but can’t get in anywhere but quick service, you learn to appreciate dining reservations! Or maybe there is a restaurant you’ve been dreaming of dining at, but once again, they aren’t taking any more guests the night you need them too – you’ll be kicking yourself for not making a reservation in advance. The same goes for FastPass selections, as obtaining some select FastPasses is nearly impossible the day of arrival, or the only time available is too late for your family to take advantage of. We like to be spontaneous at times, but take our word for it – it’s worth planning these items ahead of time, especially for your first trip.

3 – That Researching Disney Resorts Goes a Long Way

With so many Disney Resorts to select from, we understand it can be challenging to choose one to stay at for your vacation of a lifetime! Checking for resort themes, rooms layouts, dining options, recreation, transportation, location, and of course, price is paramount to selecting the perfect place for you and your family. Do what’s best for the budget, while also focusing on the needs and desires of your family. This home away from home is key to keeping the magic going outside of the park walls! Read about Disney Resort categories to help get you started.

Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Contemporary Resort

4 – Character Meet and Greets Aren’t What You Might Expect

Editor’s Note: During the phased reopening of Walt Disney World, character greetings are temporarily suspended. You’ll see characters come through each park in short parades. Click here for more information on how to see characters during the phased reopening.

We’ve learned that many people have the memory or thought that the characters are walking around the park waiting to take a picture with you. Yes, years ago, you would spot a character out and about. No line needed – just a free for all on who can push forward to the character first. This (thankfully) has changed. While walking around the parks, you will spot characters, but they are in select areas, and there is a line ready for their meet and greet. This not only benefits the characters greatly, but it’s nice to know how long the wait is and who is really next. Many of the popular characters are indoors and typically have a FastPass option, as these wait times do get rather lengthy. If you want to see Birthday Mickey & Minnie at Magic Kingdom, that’s a wait in standby line or FastPass selection worth your time! On our first trip, we also missed out on several unique characters that we didn’t know where to look for or what times they were available for a meet and greet. Do your research in advance and get ready for some sweet hugs!


5 – Magical Moments Can Be Captured with PhotoPass Options

Little did we know on our first trip, but PhotoPass Cast Members are everywhere and ready to snap photos of you and your family in some of the most amazing locations at Disney! Check out your PhotoPass options such as browsing all of the photos, then purchasing individual ones, or getting all of your pictures to download with Memory Maker. Particularly for your first trip, PhotoPass is excellent to catch that family photo for your new Mickey picture frame, plus you’ll get to see your family’s expressions as they plummet down Splash Mountain with ride photos.

6 – To Check the Weather Daily

We did check the weather before our first big trip with one of those 10-day forecast views. We packed accordingly and were thrilled at our presumptuous weather plans! Well, guess what folks – it’s Florida! Just because it says a week from now it’s going to be bright and sunny, doesn’t mean that’s the case. While on vacation, check the weather daily as you never know when it will shift, and the chances of rain will increase. You might just need that rain gear after all! We’ve even gotten to the point now that if we see an ominous cloud, we start to look at our weather app for an idea of what might be headed our way and when even if the weather channel didn’t predict rain that morning.

7 – What Disney’s Offers Their Guests

Editor’s Note: During the phased reopening of Walt Disney World, package delivery is temporarily suspended. 

Disney hands out little freebies all the time, and first-timers either forget or don’t even know to take advantage of them. First of all, if you are a Disney Resort guest, you’ll want to take advantage of, merchandise package delivery back to the resort, and the free Disney transportation – among other things! For all guests visiting Disney, the MyDisneyExperience app can guide you through the park, help you make reservations, and do so much more – all while being a free app to anyone! Guests can also decrease their cell data spent and link to Disney’s Wi-Fi access. Celebrating something? Be sure to ask Guest Relations for a free button, such as a Happy Birthday button! Maybe you’re thirsty – no need to purchase a bottle of water, just ask for a free cup of water at a quick service location.

8 – That We’d Be Hooked for Life!

Ok, we expected to have a great time. We knew it would be a magical experience like everyone said it would be, but we never – ever – expected to enjoy and love Disney World as much as we do now! Once you’ve had that 1st taste of all the wonders Disney offers, it’s difficult to not begin planning for trip number two! Disney Vacation Club members, annual passholders, runDisney participants, and now sharing our tips with others… you just wait – it could very well happen to you!

For a no obligation, FREE Quote on a Disney vacation package, please contact our travel partner Magical Vacation Planner at 407-442-0227 (407-442-0215 for Spanish). You can also request a FREE quote online by Clicking HERE.


Mike & Jamie Sylvester

We are Disney nerds. Two kids at heart who love the magic and the memories of Walt Disney World! We follow all things Disney and have great experiences with being Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, and RunDisney participants. We enjoy the vacations, day trips, weekend getaways and geek out over the planning of such events. From lodging to dining to Fastpasses we have a spreadsheet for every occasion. Mike’s frivolous Disney goal is to acquire as many MagicBands as possible while Jamie’s goal is to experience as many Disney desserts as possible. Usually there isn’t a day that passes without some discussion of the master plan of our next trip to the happiest place on earth. Most people think we’re normal – until they travel to Disney with us. We have been married for 13 years and are blessed with two children - our 8-year-old daughter and soon to be 2-year-old son. As a family we thoroughly enjoy the magic and the memories at Walt Disney World and are here to help others experience the magic as well.
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