Know BEFORE you go!
With having four separate theme park experiences, plus two water parks, Disney World is expansive and can be quite overwhelming for newcomers. Here are some first-timer mistakes and tips to help you prepare for a magical vacation!
MISTAKE: NOT HAVING A PLAN
Each park offers unique experiences, dining options, shops/souvenirs, and attractions. Take the time to research the parks, make a list of the “must-do” activities and the ones you would like to do if you have time. Use that must-do list to plan which parks you should go to, what rides/attractions you want to do there, make advanced dining reservations (more to come on that!) for restaurants that you would like to try. Having a plan can save you time and frustration in the parks. Just having an outline can help relieve the stress and pressure so you can thoroughly enjoy your vacation.
MISTAKE: NOT DOING YOUR RESEARCH
This goes hand in hand with not having a plan. My Disney Experience as well as the Disney World website, offer lots of information about rides, shows, dining options, tours, park maps, etc. But do not stop there! Social media is a great platform to see first-hand reviews, recommendations, and even videos. Not sure if a ride will be too extreme for your child? Go on YouTube and search the ride name. You will be able to watch someone going through the entire ride experience as they filmed it. Utilize other social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc, and ask your friends/family for their Disney recommendations. Anyone that has experienced a Disney vacation, will have tips/recommendations to share! Don’t be afraid to ask!
MISTAKE: TRYING TO DO TOO MUCH
Disney World is BIG! It is impossible to do everything in one trip!! Don’t even attempt it! Overbooking and overextending yourself can make the vacation experience stressful and much less desirable. You need to have a plan but not schedule every minute of your day. It’s best to leave the door open for some flexibility and spontaneity.
MISTAKE: NOT MAKING ADVANCED DINING RESERVATIONS
Disney World has over 300 restaurants on property - from snack stands to the highest quality signature restaurants. Table service restaurants do require advanced dining reservations. Through My Disney Experience, you can browse restaurants, view the menus, and read reviews. Make a list of the ones you would like to try - as all are unique experiences - and make some reservations. You can always cancel the reservation if you change your mind otherwise your credit card on file will be charged. I recommend reserving at least one table service restaurant, per day; however, you can book as many as you wish. Popular restaurants reserve quickly, so if there is a must-do you don’t want to miss, make a reservation as early as possible. You can normally make dining reservations up to 180 days in advance of your trip, however, during this pandemic, that number dropped to 60 days out. You can also book, modify times, and cancel reservations while you are in the midst of your vacation - so it doesn’t all have to be in advance. Feel free to make some last-minute changes!! (Do not overlook the restaurants are the resorts, some of Disney’s finest dining experiences are located there!)
MISTAKE: NOT MAKING FAST-PASS SELECTIONS
Wait times can fluctuate anywhere from a few minutes to hours. Before you even leave home, you can make Fast Pass selections for each day you visit a park. Through My Disney Experience, for each park day, you can choose three rides/attractions from your “must do” list and reserve them. This gains you entry to the ride/attraction faster without waiting in the standby lines. If you are staying on Disney property, you can make your Fast Pass reservations up to 60 days in advance. If you are not staying on property, you can make your reservations 30 days out. (Currently, due to the pandemic, this benefit is suspended; although we expect it to return as capacities increase.)
MISTAKE: NOT TAKING A REST DAY
With so much to do and see, it can be a tough decision to take a “rest” day. Most people are not used to the walking involved at Disney World, and doing that back-to-back days can become exhausting. For a change of pace, you can sleep in, spend time relaxing at the resort pool, take a nap, maybe visit a spa, and recharge your body. If a full day is too long to have “unplanned,” consider heading over to Disney Springs and enjoy amazing restaurants and shops.
MISTAKE: WRONG SHOES
This may be silly to bring up, but you would be surprised how many people will go to Disney in a brand-new pair of shoes! Those people soon find themselves miserable with blisters and sore feet. Make sure you are bringing a comfortable pair of shoes for you and your family. Wear them frequently before your trip. As large as Disney World is, you will be walking miles and miles throughout each day of your trip. Comfort is key!
MISTAKE: NOT BEING PREPARED FOR THE WEATHER
Florida weather can change by the minute! You can have beautiful, clear skies one minute and the next a quick passing thunderstorm. It could be warm during the day, but early mornings and late evenings can be quite chilly. Even on the cloudiest of days, the sun can still get to you. Make sure you are prepared with some essentials!! Bring an umbrella or ponchos, layers, and of course lots of sunscreen!
MISTAKE: PARK TIMES-GOING IN LATE, LEAVING EARLY
Sleeping in and going to the parks later, can place you there during the busiest times of the day - with the longest lines and crowds. The best time to arrive early! Opening ceremonies are fun to watch and get your day started. You can head over to rides you did not secure fast passes for and have shorter wait times for them than you would later in the day. On the flip side, don’t leave too early! Disney World entertains with the best fireworks displays closing out the evenings. (this is currently unavailable due to the pandemic but will hopefully be back soon!). It is a spectacle you would not want to miss out on! If a full day at the park is too much, consider going early, take a break after lunch and return late afternoon/early evening for the remainder of the night.
Plan a budget for souvenirs, food, experiences… and try to stick to it. It's so tempting to just open up your wallet and buy it all!! My biggest recommendation is to wait until later in the day on purchasing souvenirs - especially if you have children! The excitement of picking out something special can last all day - go to different shops, look at all the options, and towards the end of the day, buy that desired souvenir. Try not to impulse buy (trust me, it’s harder than it sounds!)
MISTAKE: NOT USING A TRAVEL AGENT
While you can plan every aspect of your Disney vacation completely on your own, going through an experienced agent can take away all the stress and make it even easier! They can guide you on a personalized timeline of when to make reservations and even secure them for you. Agents also stay up to date on Disney news, changes, and promotions (which could save you money!), they know all the ins and outs and can help make your first experience that much more magical.
No matter the experiences that you choose for you and your family, there is plenty of magic surrounding you at Disney World! Utilize the Disney resources, contact your travel agent, or reach out to Jocelyn directly, to help you plan and prepare your Disney World adventure!
If you need a quote, CLICK HERE
Jocelyn Rowe- My name is Jocelyn and I live in Kernersville NC with my husband and two children. I was born in Massachusetts and my family vacationed in Florida every year. We went to Disney numerous times, more than I can count! Fast forward to adulthood, my trips slowed until we decided to take our kids (ages 20 months and 3 years) in March 2016. I can tell you from experience, it is completely different experiencing the magic of Disney through your child’s eyes! It was an amazing trip - so much so - we were back that December and following April!! We have continued coming back to our ‘happy place’ regularly!
Learn more about Jocelyn Rowe HERE