Disney World

10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Planning My First Visit to Disney World

Whenever I think back to the first Walt Disney World trip that I planned for my family I go a bit red in the face.  There was so many things I thought I knew that I didn’t know, so many things that I got massively stressed out about that I shouldn’t have and certain things that I planned that I’d wished I done differently.  Now as a Travel Agent I know that the planning and the executing of a magical Disney getaway is different for everyone.  However, looking back now, with countless trips under my belt there are certain tips, tricks and tidbits that I wish someone had told me.

In the hopes that passing these on might make your first foray into Disney planning go that much smoother, here are my “10  Things I Wish I’d Known Before Planning My First Disney Getaway.”

1. Don’t schedule FastPasses first thing in the morning.  I was so gung-ho about the Fastpass system that I remember booking my first Passes of the day right at 9am.  There’s no need.   The mornings are hand’s down one of my favorite times to visit Walt Disney World. I always try to get to the park for opening.  During this time of the day, crowds will be minimal and so will the lines.  So that FastPass for Space Mountain first thing in the morning, when there’s only a 20-minute Standby Line, is probably better used at 12pm when the line for Space Mountain is 60 minutes.

2. Extra Magic Hours aren’t always the best time to visit the parks.  I remember the first time I visited Early Morning Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom and being blown away by how busy the park was.   I get asked all the time whether I think Extra Magic Hours are worth it.  These days I do still take advantage of them but mostly the ones in the evening. These tend to have the lower crowds and run for longer in the evenings meaning we can fit more into our day.  The morning ones tend to be busy and since that’s the park everyone chooses to visit on the morning, the crowds continue throughout the day. I tend to pick another park that morning where the crowds will be smaller.

3. There’s a lot to love about Disney’s Value Resorts – The first few times I went to Walt Disney World, I really felt the pressure to save enough to stay in the Moderate and Deluxe categories.  Even though I love every one of Disney’s onsite options, for me the Values are just perfect.  They’ve got the larger-than-life Disney characters that I’ve come to expect from a visit to the Mouse, massive central pool areas and clean and simple accommodation.  Its perfect for those who will be spending the majority of their time at the parks.  With rates between $100 – $200 a night it also means more money for souvenirs. I’ve learned over the years that a visit to Disney needn’t break the bank.

4. Disney Springs is a destination in itself.  Every time I go to Walt Disney World,  I feel like I don’t dedicate enough time to visiting Disney Springs and every time I regret it.  Disney’s downtown shopping district is going from strength to strength these days and there are some many amazing things to see, do and explore. From having a princess makeover at Bibbbidi Bobbidi Boutique, having lunch with the dinosaurs at T-Rex or checking out the fantastic merchandise at the Marketplace Co-Op, you can spend an entire day here and still feel like you’ve merely skimmed the surface.  If your at Walt Disney World for an extended stay, definitely pencil in a visit to Disney Springs.

5. Don’t stress if you don’t get the dining reservations you want straight away.  When it comes to making those coveted dining reservations we all know the drill. Most of us will wake up bright and early on the morning 180 days before our vacation to lock in our dining options.  Therefore, imagine the horror or the frustration if you can’t get that Be Our Guest Dinner or Cinderella’s Royal Table booking.  But trust me, I make dining reservations for clients all of the time and availability is constantly changing.  If you can’t find a reservation that you want right away then keep checking, you’ll be surprised at what becomes available.

6. Be on the lookout for discounts even after you’ve booked.  For those of us that visit Disney quite regularly, this can seem like a given.  But, I remember being new to Disney planning and having no idea that I could nab the latest discounts even after I’ve booked.  So if you have a reservation already locked in but see that Disney’s running a special offer, call Disney directly and see if you can nab it up.  For those working with a good travel agent, they should already be doing this for you.   Its great to feel like you’re getting some extra savings in the lead-in to your vacation.

7. Rent a stroller.  My daughter was four the first time we visited Disney with her and was excellent on her feet.  We tried to do a day at Magic Kingdom without a stroller and never again!   The poor blisters on her little feet were an ongoing concern the rest of our trip.   Even if your child hasn’t used a stroller for years if they can fit into one, consider it when you are at Walt Disney World.  I crammed my six year old into one during our last trip in December.  It just makes for a kinder gentler holiday.  You may not realize this but you cover a lot of distance at Disney.  During one day at Magic Kingdom, I walked 7 miles.  Now imagine what that does to little feet.  Get a stroller you’ll be glad you did in the long run.

8, Have souvenirs shipped to your resort room.   This is an on-site perk that tends to be a bit under-the-radar.  But trust me, I spent a miserable day lugging a monorail set around Epcot before someone told me that I could’ve just had it sent to my resort room and that it would arrive tomorrow.  Souvenir shopping has never been so easy.  Provided that you aren’t checking out the next day, any gift shop on Walt Disney World property will send your packages over to your resort for you.

9. Use Disney’s Magical Express and leave your rental car at home.  I decided to use a rental car during my first family visit to Walt Disney World and I never will again.  Magical Express makes it amazingly easy to get from the airport to your resort. They even pick up your baggage for you at the airport so that you don’t have to.  Disney transportation is also there to conveniently take you to each of the theme parks and Disney Springs.  Even if you’re one of those visitors that wants to pop over to Universal for the day or go do some outlet shopping, with the advent of Uber and reliable Florida taxi services, its often times easier and more affordable to use them for your one-off special trips.  So if you’re on the fence about whether or not to rent a car think about whether or not its worth the extra budget.

10. Don’t get so caught up in the planning that you forget to enjoy those Disney moments.  I’m guilty of this, during our first family trip I wanted everything to be so perfect that I had my family running from place to place with military-like precision.  Did we enjoy ourselves? No.  These days our approach is a bit more relaxed.  Will we do the dining reservations and FastPasses? Of course because it pays to be prepared.  However, we try to give ourselves a lot more downtime to just enjoy the little things. Even it if means needing to visit each park twice during our stay.  At the end of the trip, its not how much you crammed in that you’ll remember but those moments where you really enjoyed the magic.  Trust me.

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Find articles like this helpful? Then why not consider booking with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner? As an agent with MickeyTravels, I’ll be on hand to help you with everything from finding your perfect package to nabbing those hard-to-get dining and Fastpass reservations.  Best of all my services are absolutely FREE. Get in touch at 1.800.801.4025, via email at mroden@mickeytravels.com or follow along on Facebook

Images copyright Disney.


Melissa Roden
Follow Along

Melissa Roden

Agent Specializing in Disney Holidays at MickeyTravels
Melissa is a Disney-loving mom who can often be found at the parks with her six year old daughter.  When not euphorically eating a Dole Whip at Walt Disney World, Melissa enjoys helping others plan their magical vacations with MickeyTravels and sharing her Disney knowledge at Chip and Co. and Disney Addicts. Follow along on Facebook or Twitter.
Melissa Roden
Follow Along


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