Visiting Disney World has become a rite of passage for kids — and adults — everywhere. Who wouldn’t want to visit Disney World’s ever-evolving line up of rides, food, shopping, and activities catered to people of all ages and backgrounds?
For the first time visitors though, the sheer size of Walt Disney World Resort with its 4 theme parks and 2 water parks nestled on 40 square miles can seem daunting and overwhelming. Luckily, I’m here to help with my…
Top 12 First Time at Disney World Must Dos
So, you’re ready to make the life-changing decision to visit Disney World for the first time. The excitement you feel fills your tummy with butterflies. This is finally going to happen!
Only… Like anything new, you’ve never done this before and have so many unanswered questions on how you should plan, what you should bring, and what you should do once there and that anxiety can quickly trump the excitement. Well, I’m here to help with a list I’ve compiled from experience to help you make the most of your magical journey.
The first must-do on the list is to…
- Create a My Disney Experience Account
If you haven’t already, hop on over to the Disney website and create your own My Disney Experience account. Not only will My Disney Experience help you plan your trip, but the My Disney Experience App will also help you navigate the parks while keeping up with reservations, etc.
By signing up you can also receive special offers and even future discounts. This is definitely a must-do for a first time trip to Disney World as the maps are super useful to access from your phone whilst in the parks.
- Pick Your Park(s)
It’s important to research the different parks so you can select which ones you would like, or not like, to visit to make the most of your time. Disney World is huge and — say you’re only planning to spend 5 days there — impossible to experience everything at every park. By knowing the focus park(s) of your trip, you can plan your trip around what you’d like to experience there and buy tickets, or vacation packages, accordingly. (Please check out my Disney on a Budget 2019 guide to plan a Disney World trip on a budget for more tips and ways to save)
- Learn How to Utilize the Crowd Calendar
If you have kids, are impatient, both or just going for the first time and want to spend your time wisely it’s best to know peak park crowd and wait times to plan your trip. This will allow you to spend more of your time exploring, and less of it waiting.
Disney World is always busy, but at certain times it is busier than others with its vast array of festivities and ride openings taking place. By viewing the Crowd Calendar and planning your trip when it isn’t as crowded, you can save yourself some disappointment, sweat, and tears and even ride more rides. With so much to do and see you’re not going to want to waste one single moment!
- Dress Comfortably
Sure you’d like to look super chic on your first visit to Disney World, but those heels will leave you in pain after a few hours of walking. Dressing comfortably is an essential must-do on any visit to Disney World, especially your first time.
Comfortable shoes such as lightweight sneakers, pumps, or supportive sandals will be a lifesaver as your adventure through worlds of magic. The more comfortable you are on your feet, the more time you’ll want to keep exploring this magical place.
Pick clothes for the time of year you are visiting. For example, if you’re going in the Summer you’ll want light and airy clothes to keep you comfortable in the heat and humidity that Florida is known for. You’ll also want to factor in weather fluctuations by bringing a poncho or umbrella in case it rains. Forget to bring a poncho or umbrella? No worries, these items are sold in the parks for that reason.
Keep in mind that Disney World does have a dress code as it is a family-friendly environment.
- Costumes and masks are not allowed to be worn by anyone over the age of 14.
- No obscene language or graphic clothing is allowed.
- No excessively torn items of clothing are acceptable.
- Only family appropriate clothing. If you think your outfit will teeter the line of family appropriateness… It’s probably best to pick a different outfit.
- Visit Guest Services
Guest Services will give you a free button to commemorate your first magical visit to Disney World — even your birthday.
While this button is a great souvenir to commemorate your first time visiting, it also shows cast members at Disney that this is your first visit. Who knows, Donald Duck may come up and congratulate you personally — anything can happen in this magical world.
- Fast Passes
Whether you’re staying on-site, or off-site, fast passes should be your new best friend for life. Fast Passes allow you to enjoy specific rides or attractions at little to no wait time for free.
If you’re staying on-site, you can schedule your Fast Passes 60 days ahead of time, while if you’re staying off-site you can only schedule 30 days in advance. You get 3 Fast Passes a day, but can get more, once you use those up, through the My Disney Experience app and from the kiosks.
I’d definitely keep the Crowd Calendar in mind when scheduling Fast Passes in advance. Also, it’s important to note that some rides are so popular that their FastPass capacity could be booked up if you wait before scheduling. So check into the most popular rides and schedule accordingly — in advance — to ensure you get a turn.
- Plan Your Transportation
If you’re staying at a Disney Resort then transportation is complimentary — even from the airport. Part of Resort complimentary transportation includes shuttles, buses, and the Monorail.
The monorail has become an attraction in its own right by providing free transportation to and from the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. After a long day of exploring these parks what better way to ride back than on this air-conditioned ride with spectacular views. So if the Magic Kingdom or Epcot — or both — are on your list of parks to visit, put it on your list of must-dos for your first time at Disney World.
If you’re staying at a non-Disney hotel, you will need to keep in mind that the parks do charge a parking fee of 25$ per day. While you may save a few bucks staying at a non-Disney hotel, sometimes when you factor in parking and drive times, it could be worth it to pay the extra to have these privileges. Just a little food for thought.
- Plan Your Meals
While Disney World has an array of restaurants, you’ll need to make a reservation to ensure that they aren’t so booked up they don’t have a table for you. Many Disney restaurants are very popular so reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. Don’t be shocked if you walk into a restaurant with no reservation and aren’t able to eat there.
Depending on how much you decide to eat while there, you may be better off buying a Dining Plan. The Dining Plans are offered from 1 sit down meal, to three sit down meals a day all depending on your preferences.
Disney World does offer food and beverages throughout their parks with prices similar to sporting events and other theme parks. They also allow you to bring your own snacks and drinks into the park. Just pack lightly as carrying around too much will begin to weigh down on you.
Another important detail is that while you can buy bottled water in the parks, free ice water cups are available upon asking. This can save you money, so please keep it in mind.
- Meet Mickey Mouse
If you go to Disney World and don’t meet Mickey Mouse, did you really even go? Meeting Mickey Mouse is a staple on most people’s must-do list for their first time at Disney World — and it should be.
After all, it all started with a mouse, right? Let’s not forget about the nostalgia of meeting a childhood icon in a world forged from the magicalness of his creation. Of course, you can meet Mickey without meeting Minnie but I recommend meeting them both.
There are several places that you can meet up with Mickey like Garden Grill in Epcot, Adventurer’s Outpost in the Animal Kingdom, Red Carpet Dreams in Hollywood Studios, and Town Square Theatre in the Magical Kingdom just to name a few.
Definitely take advantage of this meeting to make memories that you and your family, or friends, can share for a lifetime.
- Explore Rides and Shows
Walt Disney World has an array of rides and shows for the whole family. For rides some of the most popular are Pirates of the Carribean, Tower of Terror, Haunted Mansion, and Splash Mountain just to name a few. However, Disney is always evolving and providing us with new thrills and new stories that we fall in love with so much that it makes us feel as if we are there.
but… Disney World isn’t just about the rides.
Throughout the parks, you can also find live stage performances, musicals, and even interactive animations from Festival of The Lion King, to Finding Nemo, to Fantasmic!
I can remember seeing a live performance of Beauty and the Beast at Disney World when I was 8 years old. To say it was beautiful and fun would be an understatement. Belle’s dress was a thing that only my dreams could fathom the beauty — no picture did it justice — and Beast looked just as he did the first time I had ever seen him on the original Disney film. Disney knows how to bring their performances to life in such a way that fills our inner child with glee and brings that nostalgia back from days gone by.
It seems as though the more Disney World grows so does the passion in the performers, developers, and animators. So please check out any rides and shows that interest you as a must-do for your first visit to Disney World.
- Take Your Time
While you may feel an overwhelming urge to cram every single thing you want to do in this first trip, it may just not be realistic. Walt Disney World is huge and can’t be conquered in 2 weeks, let alone 2-7 days. But that’s okay, there’s always the next time. Right?
Relax when you need to and find key things you’d like to do each day at a pace that isn’t going to leave you dead on your feet and wishing you had taken this advice. In a world of magic, it’s definitely easy to get carried away but — don’t worry — the parks will still be there on your next visit if you can’t get to everything on this one.
Just know that you’ll walk away from this trip with a better idea of what to expect and how to approach each day for your next Disney World visit. Because trust me, you’ll be visiting again.
- Have Fun
This is the most important must do to have on your list for your first time at Disney World and — also — the easiest. Being an adult is not always fun with all the responsibilities that we face each day, but Disney World is a place where we get a chance to be a kid again and visit our long lost childhood friends in various different characters from Goofy, to Cinderella, to Jack Sparrow, to Mickey and Minnie.
What better company to have a good time with?