Planning a trip to Disney World for the first time is an incredibly daunting task. Do you know how much a trip to Disney usually costs? Do you know how far in advance to start planning? Do you know where you want to stay? It’s a lot of information to keep track of for a newbie!
If you are a Disney World newbie getting ready for your first trip, then here are our top tips for you!
1. Create a "Must-Do" List
Create a list of rides, shows, and food that you absolutely HAVE to experience before you end your trip. Unless you are going to Disney World for 10+ days, there is no way you can experience every ride, show, or character in each of the four main parks. Most newbies have no idea that there are over 400 places to eat and 30 places to stay on property.
If everyone in your party is a newbie, then having everyone make a list is a great start. If your 5-year old wants to see Winnie the Pooh and your 8-year old wants to meet the Little Mermaid, then that’s incredibly doable. But if one person wants to see the Festival of Fantasy Parade and you can only get reservations at Be Our Guest Restaurant at 2:15PM, then you have some hard choices to make.
Using your “must-do” list is definitely a must-do to ensure you get what you want out of your Disney World vacation.
2. Know Your FPs and ADRs
Disney pros use abbreviations everywhere. Big Castle Travel includes abbreviations in our articles to familiarize readers with the common terms. The two most important are your FPs (FastPass+ reservations) and your ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations).
FPs are reserved time slots for your party to ride a specific ride. You get to reserve 3 FPs in a single park per park day before you arrive at the park. If you are staying at a Disney property you can reserve FPs 60-days in advance, or 30-days in advance for all other ticket holders.
ADRs are your party’s dining reservations at certain restaurants. All Disney World visitors can book ADRs 180-days in advance.
Popular restaurants and rides are often reserved as soon as a guest’s booking window opens. That’s why it is important for you to know what restaurants and rides you want for your ADRs and FPs, so that you can get them as soon as your window opens!
3. Everything Takes Longer Than You Think
The reason our number 1 tip is to create a “must-do” list is because everything at Disney World is going to take longer than you think. Animal Kingdom is enormous. Epcot is enormous. Disney World is enormous. The travel time alone will torpedo a tight schedule.
Depending on which resort you stay in and which park you are headed to, it could take you over 45 minutes from leaving your room to getting into the park. FastPass+ reservations simply get you into the FastPass+ line, which may still be a 20-30 minute wait. And while most restaurants have incredible service, your “quick service” meal may still take an hour simply because of the the volume of people trying to eat.
Disney World does a great job with informing guests of transportation and ride wait times in the My Disney Experience app. Use that to help plan your daily activities and you won’t be surprised by the amount of time everything takes!
4. Use the My Disney Experience App
Disney provides a lot of assistance to guests to ensure they have a magical vacation. We have been particularly impressed with the My Disney Experience app (MDE) over the last few years. You can use the app as your ticket to the parks, your up-to-date park map, your room key, your daily scheduler, your restaurant menu, your park photo album, and much more!
When paired with Disney’s MagicBand system, MDE is an absolute essential in the parks these days. In our last two trips we:
- Purchased our Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party tickets on the app, and redeemed them at the gate with the app
- Constantly referenced the in-app map for ride wait times and restroom locations
- Double-checked our ADR and FP times
- Unlocked our hotel room when I accidentally left my MagicBand inside
- Downloaded our PhotoPass Memory Maker photos daily to share with family
- Ordered food from Satu’li Canteen, Casey’s Corner, and Aloha Isle so I could walk straight to the Mobile Order counter
Seriously, download it on your smartphone now. It does so much even when you are not at Disney World!
5. Use a Disney Travel Agent
I promise this is not a shameless plug. But… you are already on our website, right?
Before we became travel agents we scoffed at the idea of using a travel agent to help plan a vacation. All of the information is already on the internet. I can do research. Why do I need someone else to help? It will probably cost extra, so I might as well realize that discount, right?
If I could plan our first trip again, I wouldn’t. I would find a Disney Travel Agent who could help me with everything I mentioned in this article. There is simply so much Disney World-specific information to know about that it is impossible that a newbie will find it all. A Disney Travel Agent will guide you in the right direction, and ensure that you and your family have a magical trip!
These 5 tips are barely the tip of the iceberg (haha). What are your other favorite tips for Disney World newbies?