If you’ve never been to Disney World before, you may be surprised at just how much PLANNING goes into a vacation at the Most Magical Place on Earth!
While some visitors like to plan more than others, there are a few key pieces of information you should be aware of ahead of time. They can make all the difference when you book your first Disney World vacation! Here are SIX things that most first-timers get WRONG when they go to Disney World.
Making the Wrong Advance Dining Reservations
While some restaurants in Disney World accept walk-ups, it’s always a good idea to make Advance Dining Reservations, or ADRs, ahead of your visit to guarantee a place restaurant where you want to dine!
Disney typically accepts ADRs 180 in advance, but due to the limited capacity and new safety measures in place, Disney has recently shortened that window to just 60 days in advance. Once it comes time to make those reservations, there are a LOT of reasons why you want to make sure you are making the absolute best ADRs for your party.
For starters, it can be tempting to check out all of Disney World’s best restaurants. As a result, lots of folks will make multiple reservations for the same day! Not only does making too many Advance Dining Reservations in one day take valuable time away from the theme parks, it can also be WAY too much food for you to eat (and thus a waste of money if you can’t eat it all!).
It’s also important to do your research and really understand the pros and cons of the restaurants you’re considering. Read the menu and make sure it accommodates those in your party with any dietary restrictions or allergies (it’s important to note here that Disney does an excellent job catering to those with food allergies).
Understanding the vibe of a certain restaurant can be the difference between a stellar dining experience and something you may come to regret! Booking an ADR for Chef Mickey’s, for example, might seem like an obvious choice because so many people seem to talk about it. A LOT. (Note that, at this time, Chef Mickey’s is not hosting characters and is also being served as an all-you-care-to-eat breakfast only!) But if you’re looking for a quiet, romantic dinner, you’re better off taking the elevator up to California Grill instead!
The time of day that you book your dining reservation is also important. Breakfast is usually the least expensive meal, so if the restaurant itself is more important than the menu, go for breakfast to save some cash!
And remember that restaurants get most booked up during stereotypical meal times — 7-9AM for breakfast, 12-2PM for lunch, and 6-8PM for dinner. Choosing to dine outside of those timeframes will yield you more availability and a less crowded atmosphere at the restaurants.
Underestimating How Much You’ll Walk
Each of the four parks is huge in their own right! Without even trying, you will easily clock MILES of steps per day. Added up over a week, that can do a serious number on your feet.
Lots of first-timers underestimate how much walking is involved. Make sure you pack comfortable, broken-in shoes (we recommend packing a couple of options in case one gets drenched in the rain or you learn midway through your trip that your favorite kicks aren’t as comfy as you first thought!).
You’ll also want to be prepared in case the worst should happen and you wind up with blisters, so be sure to have band-aids in your bag. If you forget, just stop by any First Aid location (there’s one in each theme park!) and ask for bandaids (they’ll be happy to get you what you need!). Packing knee braces might be a good idea, too, if your knees are prone to injury or soreness.
Taking breaks in the middle of the day is a great idea, too! Actually leaving the park and heading back to your hotel room for a couple of hours can be the perfect way to recharge before tackling the parks again at night.
Taking an entire day off from the theme parks is a great tip, too! Check out these great non-park day ideas here!
Booking the WRONG FastPasses
FastPass+ is a complimentary service that any guest can utilize while visiting Disney World. It’s a great way to “skip the line” and enjoy the parks even more! But not all FastPasses are created equal. (Note: FastPass has been suspended currently, but is expected to return to the parks in the future.)
There are many rides at Disney offering FastPass+ that frankly don’t need to. You can usually catch a short standby wait time for these rides early in the morning or later at night (or even throughout the day if you aren’t there during peak season like summertime or right around the holidays).
If you don’t know the layout of the park, you could also end up doing a lot of unnecessary zig-zagging to make it to all of your FastPass reservations. Booking FastPass windows close to each other works great for rides like Tower of Terror and Rock N Roller Coaster in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (they’re neighbors, making it EASY to hit both!), but could be a disaster for Space Mountain and Splash Mountain in Magic Kingdom where these rides are on opposite ends of the park!
Underestimating How Much Time You’ll Spend Traveling
Disney World is HUGE. It’s the size of TWO Manhattan islands. You simply NEED to budget additional time in for traveling from place to place. This includes walking around the parks themselves (as we mentioned earlier with FastPass selections), but also getting from your hotel to the parks, getting from the parking lots to the parks, getting from one resort to another, etc.
If you’re staying at a larger resort like Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa or Disney’s Old Key West Resort, those internal bus loops (meaning alllll the stops around the resort before you head off to your destination) can add even MORE time to your travels.
Don’t wait until the last minute to get somewhere. Instead, you should OVERESTIMATE how much time you’ll need to get where you want to go! It’s way better to plan ahead and possibly be a bit early than show up late and potentially miss your reservation.
Trying to Do EVERYTHING
It is IMPOSSIBLE to do it all in one trip. It can take you YEARS and several trips to Disney World before you ride every ride, meet every character, and see every show. Plus they keep adding MORE! So, why would you even attempt to do it all in one trip? Trying to over-plan and cram everything into one week is only going to result in frustration, heartbreak, and straight-up exhaustion. And THAT’S not a fun vacation.
While there are plenty of things you can plan ahead for, there are some things you simply cannot control, like the weather! It will most likely rain at some point during your trip to Central Florida.
Also, expect to experience a ride being temporarily unavailable.
It’s OKAY! Our best tip to avoid total catastrophe is to pick your top five or so rides, characters, shows, and food items that you want to experience each day and prioritize them! Everything else you do can be gravy.
Not Using Mobile Order
This tip is for both first-timers and lots of seasoned veterans too. We don’t understand why so many people are STILL not using Mobile Order!
This is a big TIME-saving strategy, and in Disney World, your time is valuable! Remember, you’re spending LOTS of money to be in Disney World so don’t waste that precious time! Mobile Order is available at no additional cost to you, the guest, and allows you to order your food at a large number of fast-food locations around Disney World, pay for your order, then skip the line and grab your food when you arrive! No time wasted in a lengthy line!
Going to Disney World for the first time is an overwhelming experience in every sense of the word! Doing your research ahead of time and picking your top priorities for your family means you will be miles ahead of those who don’t prepare! We have an endless amount of resources here at DFB to make sure your first trip to Disney World is the best possible. Happy planning!
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What is YOUR number one tip for someone who is going to Disney World for the very first time? Leave your tips in the comments!