Best Disney World Tips For First Timers

Planning a Disney World trip for the first time left me overwhelmed and wishing I had a Disney World for Dummies to reference. After much research and with a few successful Disney trips under my belt, the process is no longer intimidating. Below are the first time Disney World tips I wish I knew when I began planning a trip.

The Best Disney World Tips For Beginners

disney world tips for first timers

Book Early

character dining experience Disney World Orlando Florida

My first trip to Disney World was a last-minute booking and I laugh at how naive I was thinking I could cobble it together like other last-minute trips. Eventually I lucked out because even though masks were no longer required Covid was still a thing and I managed to snag reservations people canceled.

How early can you book Disney? Disney World hotel rooms and packages can be booked about a year in advance and dining reservations and special activities 60 days in advance. Set a calendar reminder and be prepared to wake up extra early to book coveted experiences. The cancellation policy is reasonable so you are not stuck if you need to back out.

If Staying at a Disney Resort Hotel Take Advantage of Early Theme Park Entry

guide to Disney World Florida

Guests at participating Disney World Resort hotels can take advantage of a 30 minute early entry into the parks every day. The good news is that there are participating hotels for varying budgets. Many guests do take advantage of this perk to beat the crowds (and there will be crowds) and try squeeze in as many rides as they can.

Buy Park Tickets and Make a Park Reservation

Decide if you want a single park ticket or park hopper tickets. A single park ticket allows entry into one theme park and a park hopper allows you entry into multiple parks.

You may also need to to make a reservation for your chosen park.

As of January 9, 2024, Disney World theme park reservations are no longer required for date-based tickets. For other admission types, theme park reservations may be required. You can read more whether reservations are required here.

Download the My Disney Experience App

Download the My Disney Experience App and familiarize yourself before your first trip. The app will be your lifeline on vacation. You will be able to check out park opening/closing times, ride wait times, order quick service, navigate the park etc. This is where you will also be able to purchase Genie+ and Lightning Lane.

Use Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane

If you want to save time waiting in line at the parks consider Genie+ and Lightning Lane.

Guests may purchase Genie+ as early as midnight on the day they will be going to the parks. It needs to be purchased every day you plan to use it and cost varies from day to day but can be up to $35 per person. You may make your first selection at 7 am.

Individual Lightning Lane is available only on select rides and is purchased individually as the name says. Costs can go up to $22 per ride, per person.

Bring a Stroller

Navigating the parks can easily mean walking 10 miles per day. Needless to say, little ones can get tired and cranky pretty easily. Even though both my kids hadn’t used a stroller since they were 2 years old and are great walkers, we opted to rent one.

Depending on your needs, you can bring your own stroller, rent one with airport pickup or have a rental delivered to your hotel. You can always rent one at the parks but I am not a fan of the limited storage. We used our stroller as a rest spot for the kids but also to cart around drinks and snack so storage was key.

Load your Stroller with Drinks and Snacks

Sure you can and will purchase these at the theme parks but since outside snacks and drinks are allowed almost everyone loads up beforehand. This avoids extra stops and hanger tantrums.

Book a VIP Tour

Disney World private VIP tour pin

While this option is obviously not in everyone’s budget, if you are traveling with a large group or are limited on time, a private VIP tour is an incredible experience. For a hefty sum, a private tour guide grants your group behind the scenes access and front of the line privileges. While I personally loved our private VIP tour, I prefer that my family had already experienced Disney World the traditional way first.

Use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner

Authorized Disney vacation planners are free. They make their money off commissions they receive from Disney after you book and complete a trip. Initially, I hesitated to use one because I didn’t want someone else making decisions for me or trying to “upsell”. I had nothing to worry about. The planner I worked with was respectful of my budget and priorities and offered numerous appropriate options to choose from. There was no upselling, no inflated prices and no additional fees. They basically do all the work and you can be as involved as you want.

Planners will purchase your park tickets, make park reservations, recommend hotel options, help you navigate the Disney app, book character dining, book a stroller and more. Even though I no longer consider myself a Disney World novice I would still use a vacation planner just to avoid waking up early for bookings or taking time to sort through issues myself.

Pack Wisely

Comfortable shoes are key. Bring at least 2 pairs and alternate because your feet will get tired.

Check the weather because it can vary depending on when you’re visiting. One thing to definitely account for is an afternoon downpour. After a particularly strong one that surprised everyone and had us trapped under Cinderella’s castle for over an hour I always pack a rainjacket or poncho.

Costumes for the kids and Mickey ears for kids and adults are always a good way to get into the spirit.

Don’t Try to Do Everything

a boy and girl in front of a castle during their 1st trip to Disney World

While it is good to have a general plan, trying to tick things off a list can take away the magic. Kids will get tired and have meltdowns. You might need to call it early one day and take a nap or have some pool time at your hotel to regroup. Just roll with it and be flexible.


Pin It on Pinterest