If this is your first time visiting Walt Disney World, congratulations! Visiting Disney is exciting, whether it’s your first time or your tenth! However, going to Disney with kids for the first time can be stressful if you don’t have a plan. A few tips for your first visit to Disney can give you peace of mind and help make your family trip a memorable one.
8 important things to know before planning a first trip to Disney
1. Plan, plan, plan
There are four theme parks at Disney World: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, not to mention two water parks including Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Splitting your trip into one park per day is probably the only way to enjoy each park.
If you have any essential must-see attractions or specific rides that you must try, you need to plan your day in advance. Create an itinerary and understand that due to weather and lineups, things may not go as planned. Plan enough time between activities to compensate for waiting times and nervous breakdowns not only from tired children but also from stressed parents!
2. Use Plan Disney
If you’re in the early stages of planning a Disney vacation, you’ll find many great resources at Plan Disney. It’s a free forum where Disney “experts” share first-hand experience, advice, and answer user questions about hotels, rides, and attractions.
3. Get there early
The early bird catches the worm, especially when visiting Disney! Get to the parks as early as possible and be the first to get to the must-see attractions and rides. Guests staying at Disney Resort Hotels and select other hotels can take advantage of 30-minute early entry to Walt Disney World’s theme parks each day. Certain attractions, merchandise and food outlets are open during the early entry period. Learn more about early entry here.
4. Patience is the key
Traveling with children can be difficult, especially when you factor in their ages, different temperaments, special needs and stressed parents! Everyone will need many of breaks, and that’s okay. Plan breaks accordingly and try not to rush through. You don’t have to see everything in one day, so take your time and enjoy each attraction. You’ve planned a trip to Disney to make memories, right? Keep this in mind if your 3-year-old has her third meltdown before noon.
Need to decompress? No problem! Visit the Baby Care Center, a quiet place when you need to get away. There are changing tables, a care area, a kitchen and more.
5. Bring a stroller
When your kids are older it can be a hassle to lug around a stroller, but when they are of the age where they get tired and want to take a nap, a stroller is a must! Even 4 and 5 year olds can be tired enough to take a little nap in the stroller. The alternative is carrying a 40+ pound child, and that gets tiring quickly. In addition, a stroller can carry all bags!
6. Pack your own food
This is probably one of the most common questions asked about allowing guests to bring food into Disney. You can bring snacks or foods that don’t need to be heated, such as E.g. granola bars, muesli, fruit snacks etc. If you are traveling during the summer months remember to pack snacks that won’t melt!
7. Download the Disney app
Make the most of your time at Disney by downloading the free My Disney Experience app. This app helps you coordinate restaurant reservations, FastPass+, helps you with wait times, maps and finds out where Disney characters are hiding. Also, all your family members can use the same account and follow the same itinerary.
Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Park with boys!
8. Children are lost
Obviously, losing a child at Disney is a worst-case scenario, but wouldn’t you rather play it safe? If you’re traveling to Disney with kids, make sure you have a safety plan in place. Talk to your children about where to go and what to do if you get separated. Consider writing your phone number on the inside of your child’s arm with permanent marker (or using these phone number tattoos) so they can call you if they get lost and someone finds them. When the kids are older, make sure they remember your number and know who they should (and shouldn’t) go to for help if they’re trying to find you.
9. Make dinner reservations
If you wish to dine at any of the resort’s 300+ restaurants, you must reserve dinner in advance – even months in advance! Some visitors book their Disney vacation when they offer complimentary dining deals, which can include one quick meal, one table meal, and one snack per person per night of your stay. Waiting and planning your vacation when action comes up can save you money.
Fantasyland at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom
10th overnight stay
There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to stay at a Disney resort or a non-Disney hotel. You might think you’ll save a lot of money by not staying locally, but both options have pros and cons.
Most parents who have been to Disney will tell you that the on-site experience is well worth the extra expense. Once you factor in the added stress that staying off-site can bring, you might find that spending a little money is worth it. And if the little ones need a break in the middle of the day, you can walk into the room for a nap without leaving the property. Bonus: Request a wake-up call from a Disney character.
Disney hotels are likely to be more expensive but give you quicker access to the parks. Plus, staying at a Disney resort grants you other perks like extended park hours (known as “Extra Magic Hours”), the ability to book early dining reservations, and free transportation to the parks.
The Disney website has a filter option that allows guests to compare hotels on the property, an efficient tool for determining which resort is best for you and your family. For example, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort offer transportation to the parks with monorail access, while other properties like Disney’s Pop Century and Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort are cheaper but not as close to the action.
If you have young children, Magic Kingdom and the water parks are great attractions. Tweens and teens want to be closer to Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk and Epcot’s World Showcase.
There are also beautiful hotels in the Orlando area to consider, such as the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, as well as vacation homes.
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Luxury for the family
Remember, the most important part of your Disney trip is making memories! Take a break when the kids need it or when you need it and don’t overbook. Have fun!