10 Walt Disney World Reality Checks For First Time Visitors

Disney Reality Check
Disney Reality Check

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For those planning your first Walt Disney World vacation chances are you’ve done the research, are keeping track of those important deadlines and are starting to hash out itineraries for your days at the parks.  However, even with the best-laid plans can often come a few Disney surprises that can frustrate organized Disney-goers.  With that in mind, we here at Disney Addicts have drafted up a list of some of the “reality checks” we received during our first few visits to Walt Disney World.  We believe that every Disney trip can be absolutely magical even with a hiccup or two but we also hope by anticipating a few of these in advance you’ll have a kinder, gentler visit to the Mouse.

1. Getting a 4th, 5th and 6th Fastpass can be tricky. One of the things that gets a lot of first time Disney-goers pretty excited is the Fastpass system that allows you to go to the front of the queues of some of your favorite attractions and avoid the long lines.  Disney allows guests to book 3 Fastpasses in advance for each day that you are visiting Disney World.  Once you are at the park and have used up your first three allocations you are allowed to book a 4th Fastpasses and once you have used that a 5th etc.   However, for those banking on getting 5+ Fastpasses it can be a tricky business. The later you get in the day the more sold out Fastpasses become with many of the headlining attractions showing up as unavailable. Also, times don’t offer a lot of flexibility later in the day. This means you may have to wait a few hours before using your 4th option etc.  So when you’re planning out your Disney days, don’t count on getting a ton of additional Fastpasses, rather see them as an added bonus.


2. Christmas and other Public Holidays are always busy.  There still seems to be a common misconception going around that Christmas is a much less busy time than Summer to visit Walt Disney World.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  The week of Christmas is likely to be the busiest that the theme parks (especially Magic Kingdom) will get all year. During this time you can expect capacity crowds, possible park closures and very long lines. The same can be said for Public Holidays.  Whether its Presidents Day Weekend, Easter or Memorial Day, people naturally book when they are able to take advantage of school holidays.  For many,  booking during these times is a necessity and you can still visit Disney World and have a wonderful time.  However, knowing crowd levels in advance means you can come up with strategies (like the ones found in this article) to help you plan out your days.

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3. Your resort room may not be ready before 3 o’clock. Disney’s online check-in system can really pamper guests and is a great way to let your resort know that you may be arriving early.  When they can Disney will always endeavour to have your accommodation ready for you when you arrive but this is NOT a given.  Disney does not guarantee that your room will be ready before 3:00 pm and I have had instances where I have had to wait for hours at the resort for my room to be ready to move in.  It doesn’t happen a lot but it does happen.  So pack your carry on bags sensibly and make sure that you have things to make your life easier in the event of a later check-in than you’d like.  I always pack a change of clothes for everyone in my family as well as towels and swim costumes. For those planning on hitting the parks. You can also check-in and leave your belongings with bell services and they’ll be moved up to your room when its ready.

Mother's Day

4. The Disney Resort buses are crazy busy between 7:30 – 8:30 each morning.  So you decide to leave your resort bright and early to get to the parks for opening or to make those early morning dining reservations only to have your plans thwarted by overcrowded or late buses.  I have seen this happen on every Disney vacation that I’ve taken.  The majority of families heading to the theme parks will usually hop the buses somewhere between 7:30- 8:30 each morning.  This can result in overcrowded buses, delays and if you’re staying at a resort with more than one bus stop can mean that your bus might already be full by the time you get there and simply passes you by. Situations like this may not always happen but they are pretty common.  A good way to avoid this is to hop the first bus to the parks each morning.  This is usually between 7:00- 7:15. It’s amazing what a big difference this can make with buses being much emptier. Sure you may have to wait around a bit longer at the parks but it’s well worth it for the relaxing start it will bring to your morning.

5. There will be long lines at the bus ranks right after the evening fireworks displays.  If you plan on leaving the theme park directly after the nighttime fireworks display then be prepared for some pretty hefty resort bus lines.  Leaving right after the fireworks means that you are essentially making your way out the gates at the exact same time as everyone else.  Therefore don’t be surprised to see lines for your resort bus so long that they’ll leave your mouth agape.  We recommend lingering in the parks a bit longer, letting the crowds go on their way and then taking a leisurely stroll to the buses.  If you’re at the Magic Kingdom we also recommend staying for The Kiss Goodnight.  Giving yourself a bit of downtime at the end of the day to grab that last ice cream or shop for souvenirs means that the crowds and wait times will be a lot shorter by the time you get to the buses.

Minnie Dine

6. Just because you have an Advanced Dining Reservation doesn’t mean your table will be ready straight away.  On nearly every trip, I’ve seen guests get really frustrated with Cast Members if their tables aren’t ready when they show up with an advanced dining reservation.  However, being able to go in and sit down straight away, especially later in the day when servers are starting to get a bit behind is not always a given.  I’ve had to wait as long as 30-minutes before even with a reservation.  Always try and give yourself a wide berth around dining reservations in planning our your park days so that you’re not missing FastPasses or other appointments.  Go into each reservation thinking that there may be a bit of a wait.  That way if you’re shown to your table straight away it will be a nice surprise!

Magical Express

7. It can take a few hours for your baggage to show up using Disney’s Magical Express Service.  Disneys Magical Express FREE airport transfer bus from Orlando International Airport makes it easy to get from the airport directly to your resort.  One of the biggest perks of the service is that Disney will collect your luggage for you so that you don’t have to wait at the baggage carousel and will deliver it to your resort room. However, a lot of first-time guests don’t realize that this process can take a bit of time.  On my recent stay, it took 3 hrs for my bags to turn up.  That’s why again, it pays to have a carry on bag packed with all of the essentials you think you may need during this period.

Memory Maker

8. Having your picture taken by a PhotoPass photographer typically means waiting in line.  I absolutely swear by Memory Maker and think it is a great way to have some amazing family photos snapped while you are at the park.  However, if you are going to spend the $169 on a Memory Maker package, you need to go into it prepared to wait in line for those photos.  Whether its a character meet and greet or a group photo in front of one of Disney’s amazing landmarks or vistas, it’s not uncommon for several families to already be lining up for photos.  You can expect waits at popular locations, especially during peak periods.  So prep the kids in advance and also be on the lookout for photographers early in the morning or later in the day when things are starting to wind down.

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9. You will be walking a lot more than you thought.   If you’ve never been to Walt Disney World, its a safe bet that you’ll be absolutely blown away by just how busy each of the theme parks are as well as how sprawling the resorts can be.  During your visit to Walt Disney World, you will walk a lot.  During my last trip to Magic Kingdom, I walked over seven miles in a day.  Now imagine doing that over four or five days! If you have mobility issues consider ECV or wheelchair rentals.  If you have children that can still fit into a stroller consider renting one or bringing one with you.  And most importantly pack sensible footwear.  Leave wedges, high heels or shoes that need broken it at home.  Your feet will thank you for it!


10. Competition for prime fireworks and parade viewing locations can get intense. The highlight of a Disney visit for many families centers around the dazzling evening fireworks displays or afternoon parades.  For this reason, many guests will choose to stake out their parade viewing spots over an hour in advance to be able to have those breathtaking views.  Imagine how you’d feel if you’ve been waiting for an hour and a family crowds in front of you at the last minute and obstructs your views.  I’ve seen a lot of unmagical Disney moments spring up around this.  So practice good Disney etiquette and give yourself plenty of time to find that perfect spot.  If crowds aren’t your thing, ask a cast member for advice on a spot along the route that might not be quite as busy as some of the main locations.  And be prepared for those inevitable frustrating moments whether its someone pushing in front of you to film or deciding to put their kids on their shoulders.  Is it how you envisioned this perfect moment? Probably not but don’t let it ruin your holiday.

We give you these 10 Disney reality checks not to be negative about Disney or your vacation plans.  We love Disney World and want every vacation to be magical.  Rather, these are a few of things we wish people would have told us in the lead in to our first Disney trip so that we could be prepared for what happens when things don’t exactly go your way. Remember you aren’t alone so don’t let it ruin your once-in-a-lifetime vacation!

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Find articles like this helpful? Then why not consider working with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner? As an agent with MickeyTravels, I would be on hand to help with everything from finding your perfect package to nabbing those hard to get dining and Fastpass bookings.  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.  

Image credit Disney.





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