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Disney Tips: 10 Things to Know Before Your First Disney World Vacation

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on
July 12, 2019

As you get ready for your long-awaited, much anticipated Disney World Vacation, you’re probably trying to prepare as best you can for this epic adventure.

This post will highlight my best Disney tips and 10 things to know before your first Disney World vacation.

Likewise, I’ll be honest and share all the things that no one told me (and would have been helpful knowing) before we experienced the parks for ourselves.

As you get ready to experience the magic and splendor of Disney World for the first time, this no-nonsense review of Disney tips and things to know before your first Disney World vacation is sure to provide you with some helpful insight.

*In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney World has initiated multiple (hopefully temporary) changes in their reservation and ticketing processes, as well as overall park experiences. Be sure to visit the Disney homepage for the most up-to-date information as you plan your Disney vacation.

Disney Tips to Know Before You Go

Things to know about planning your first Disney World Vacation, featured by top US family travel blog, Travel With a Plan
A walk through Magic Kingdom on a peak crowd day 30 minutes after opening – no crowds.

1. Get to the parks early, like really early.

As you may have heard, it is recommended to arrive at each of the 4 Disney World parks ‘early’.

In reference to Disney World arrival, ‘early’ means getting to the parks 30-60 minutes before the official park opening.

Early arrival is recommended in order to be at the front of the crowds for when guests are allowed into the ‘ride’ areas.

Likewise, the earlier your arrival, the closer to the front of the line you’ll be.

This means being some of the first riders on either your favorite ride, a ride you were unable to get a FastPass+ for, or a ride that will eventually accumulate long waits.

For some, early arrival to Magic Kingdom may mean securing a spot in the parking lot and making their way to the turnstiles at 8 AM for a 9 AM official park opening.

Wondering if it really makes a difference?   Here is a list of stand-by times at Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom for a day where, on a scale of 1-10, the crowds were a seven (7) which is moderately high but not peak level.

Because of these startling wait times, Space Mountain is on the list of the top 5 rides to Fastpass at Magic Kingdom.

Space Mountain Stand-by Times:

  • 9:00 AM (park opening): 16 minutes
  • 10:00 AM: 41 minutes
  • 11:00 AM: 70 minutes
  • 12:00 PM: 70 minutes
  • 3:00 PM: 86 minutes (longest lines of the day)
  • 4 PM to 9 PM: 74 – 82 minutes
  • 10:00 PM to Closing: 54 minutes
  • Source: TouringPlans.com

As you can see, wait times start out low, and get progressively longer throughout the day. This is typical of all rides.

Additional Disney tips: Yes, I love my sleep too, but I urge you to make your Disney World vacation the exception.

You’ve come all this way, and paid all this money, so trust me when I say that you will make the most of your time at Disney by scheduling an early arrival.  

Likewise, early arrivals will leave you with more time do to some of the more unique things at Disney World!

Magic Kingdom Adventureland Rope Drop
Adventureland Rope Drop

2. Watch the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show.

Magic Kingdom lets guests through the turnstiles and onto Main Street U.S.A. 60 minutes before park opening.

After passing into the park upon early arrival, people are held to the various activities on Main Street and the central plaza in front of the castle.

During this time, the majority of guests eventually begin lining up at the five different entrances into each of the Magic Kingdom lands.

Here, Disney cast members hold ropes preventing guests from entering the lands until the official opening.

Upon opening, cast members drop the ropes (hence the name “rope drop”), allowing you to walk briskly to whatever land/attraction you desire.

If you happen to be one of the hundreds of people who have chosen to stand in the ‘rope drop’ lines, you will miss seeing the Let the Magic Begin welcome show.

The Let the Magic Begin show takes place at the front of Cinderella’s Castle 5 minutes before park opening.

I remember thinking, “No big deal that we’ll miss the opening show!” when we decided to rope drop instead.

With it having been our kids’ first trip to Disney, I do regret, however, that at least my husband or I did not stay back with the kids in front of Cinderella’s castle for them to see Mickey and his friends appear upon the launch of our magical Disney vacation.

We heard the fireworks and cheering from the crowd as Mickey first appeared, but unfortunately, we never got to lay eyes on this iconic Disney character.

Additional Disney tips: For this reason, I do recommend that you watch the Magic Kingdom Let the Magic Begin welcome show, as well as the other awesome shows in Magic Kingdom!

They are the icing on the cake to your theme park visit!

Disney tips: Things to know about planning your first Disney World Vacation, featured by top US family travel blog, Travel With a Plan

3. Have a touring plan for your Disney World vacation.

I am a huge advocate for traveling with a plan, especially when it comes to Disney!

Likewise, if you are visiting Disney with toddlers, the importance of having a touring plan becomes even more essential.

Disney World itself is gigantic, and the 4 parks within it are both large, and very spread out.

If you have any expectations about wanting to get a certain number of rides done or to see a certain percentage of the park, this is why you absolutely need to have a park touring plan.

Lucky for you, I happen to have developed tell-all, 1-day itineraries for Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom. You can use these detailed itineraries to help plan your day in the parks and avoid wandering aimlessly.

Additional Disney tips: These 1-day itineraries are perfect for families as they involve getting to the parks early, spending very little time standing in lines, and saving money at Disney along the way.

Further, we ordered the rides and attractions in a manner that limits walking and prevents having to zig-zag throughout the parks.

Things to know about planning your first Disney World Vacation, featured by top US family travel blog, Travel With a Plan: image of Magic Kingdom Itinerary-prepare for rain
The importance of bringing rain ponchos to Disney World…

4. Be prepared for all types of weather on your Disney World vacation.

Despite the daily weather forecast, Orlando is known for unpredictable and sporadic changes in weather when you’re least expecting them.

I have heard (and seen) of many people who weren’t prepared for the extreme heat, humidity, and pop-up rain showers that frequent this area.

I absolutely suggest bringing a rain poncho (despite the forecast) for each member of your traveling party. Chances are you’ll need to use it, and you will be grateful to stay dry. (Even if it doesn’t end up raining, rain ponchos can be used to stay dry on water rides instead.)

I also recommend bringing a handheld mister fan, or fan necklace if you are traveling to Orlando when temperatures are hot. Always plan for the ‘extreme’ when it comes to summer weather.

Additional Disney tips: With a little advanced planning and in knowing which attractions to ride during the heat or rain, the weather doesn’t have to be anything more than a slight annoyance.

5. Bring your own snacks and essentials.

Walt Disney World has an extremely generous policy regarding which items can, and cannot, be brought inside the parks.

Familiarize yourself with the things that you are allowed to take in and pack a seriously stocked day bag full of food, snacks, and essentials.

Additional Disney tips: Though I was briefly aware of the carry-in policy, I have since developed a completed checklist of Disney World essentials to bring in your park bag.

By following these suggestions, you’ll be aware of everything that you need to bring for your first visit!

6. Disney tips: Ice water is free.

Did you know that Disney cast members will be happy to provide you with a cold, complimentary cup of water at any quick-service restaurant?

Since Florida is very hot and humid, it is extra important to stay hydrated while you work your way around the parks.

Another way to stay cool and hydrated is by stopping at a ‘hydration stations’ located throughout the parks.

These are the easiest places to refill a water bottle that you have brought from home. You will typically spot these water fountains at or near public restrooms.

Disney tips: When visiting Disney World on a budget, taking advantage of Disney freebies is an important strategy. You may not believe it, but something as simple as utilizing Disney’s free ice water can save you a ton of money.

Each bottle of water in the park costs $3.50, meaning that your savings will add up quickly.

The most convenient way to stay hydrated, however, is to bring your own water bottle and refill it as needed.

7. Having the right shoes matters at Disney World.

You should know that flip flops and other non-supportive shoes are just not going to cut it at Disney World.

Plenty of walking is required when touring any of the four Disney parks. It is absolutely essential to add a good pair of walking shoes to your Disney packing list!

Consider shoes that are:

  • Broken-in
  • Comfortable
  • Supportive
  • Light-weight
  • Breathable
  • Tennis shoes/sneakers
  • No heels
  • Closed-toe (if planning to walk briskly)

Disney tips: If you are prone to blisters after hours of walking, consider applying moleskin before you leave the hotel. Your heels will thank you.

Things to know about planning your first Disney World Vacation, featured by top US family travel blog, Travel With a Plan: Screenshot of Animal Kingdom 30-day FastPasses+

8. FastPasses+ are crucial.

There is no denying that on moderate to high crowd days at Disney, waiting in lines can become incredibly draining and time-consuming.

This can make for whiny kids and stressed-out parents.

For this reason, you absolutely need to utilize both a Disney park touring plan and FastPass+ strategy. Despite their best intentions, kids (and adults!) only have limited patience for waiting in long lines.

Consulting a round-up of Disney Fastpass secrets is absolutely crucial to getting the most out of your experience.

9. Ride closures will throw a wrench into your touring plan.

I wish I knew that the potential for at least one or more ride closures on a given day at any of the parks is a high probability.

Without realizing this, disappointment will set in when coming upon your favorite ride, only to find that it is closed down due to mechanical issues.

Scheduled ride closures and refurbishments are listed online on Disney’s interactive park hours calendar. The My Disney App is actively updated throughout the day with unexpected closures.

Additional Disney tips: At Magic Kingdom, Pirates of the Caribbean was unexpectedly shut-down for technical difficulties during our visit. This happened to be one of our three FastPass+ rides.

Because of this, we were issued a Multi-Experience FastPass+ that could be used at ANY TIME for most rides throughout the park. (This excluded Seven Dwarfs and Peter Pan.)

Though we were happy to have been issued the Multi-Experience FastPass+, we were undoubtedly disappointed to have to miss Pirates.

Save yourself the disappointment and know that ride closure is always a probability.

Things to know about planning your first Disney World Vacation, featured by top US family travel blog, Travel With a Plan
Lion King – The Musical

10. Disney tips: Don’t skip the shows on your Disney World vacation.

Members of your group may be simply focused on the rides, which is totally understandable.

But trust me is saying, don’t skip out on the shows.

Disney has some incredible shows, parades, and street performances that will not only blow your mind but will enhance your entire experience.

Both the long-running classic shows and newer, more technologically advanced shows, all have something fun and unique to offer.

For instance, the fact that Disney’s Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue has been entertaining guests since 1974 is a testament to its greatness!

Additional Disney tips: It’s a great idea to plan for a longer show in the afternoon after lunch. An air-conditioned show like Animal Kingdom’s “Finding Nemo – The Musical” will be a refreshing 40-minute break.

All Disney shows and entertainment have scheduled times and various durations to keep in mind. Pay close attention to this, especially if you have other reservations.

What are you still wondering about? Also, if you’ve been to Disney before, what do you wish you would have known before your first visit?

Jen

As a member of our Travel With A Plan family, click through the following articles for exclusive tips, checklists, and touring plans for your Disney World vacation!

Disney World Touring Plans:

Disney World Ride & FastPass+ Tips:

Disney World Planning Tips:

Disney World Cost:

*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*

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Disney tips: Things to know about planning your first Disney World Vacation, featured by top US family travel blog, Travel With a Plan
Find out the 10 Disney tips that I wish I would have known before our first Disney World vacation with kids! These helpful Disney tips will help to make your first time at Disney a success! #Disneytips #Dineyknowbeforeyougo #MagicKingdomtips #Disneytouringplans #DisneyWorldtips #Disneytipsandtricks2020 #Disneytipsandtricks2019
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15 Comments
  1. Reply

    Jeni

    August 2, 2019

    So many great tips! It is so important to have a plan when going to Disney World, especially for the first time!

    • Reply

      Jen

      August 2, 2019

      Thanks Jeni! I’m glad you found the post to be helpful!

  2. Reply

    Stacey Billingsley

    August 1, 2019

    I wish I’d known how addictive WDW is and how I’d want to go back regularly! Great tips! These will help any WDW trip go smoother.

    • Reply

      Jen

      August 2, 2019

      Yes, it is addictive…if done right 🙂 Glad you liked the post!

  3. Reply

    Harmony, Momma To Go

    July 17, 2019

    Great tips – I have to add, plan your trip so you dont visit a park that has magic hours if you don’t have them. We went to AK at rope drop and bc of MH pandora lines were already like a two hour wait 🙁

    • Reply

      Jen

      July 17, 2019

      I 100% agree! GREAT additional tip! Thanks!

  4. Reply

    Christina

    July 16, 2019

    I didn’t realize you get inside the turnstile before published opening hours! So many great tips here will come in handy when we go to Disney World for the first time.

    • Reply

      Jen

      July 16, 2019

      Yes, you actually do! Although each park has a ‘holding area’ once through the turnstiles. Magic Kingdom is awesome though because you can tour Main Street and take photos outside of Cinderella’s Castle for a whole hour before let through to the rides 🙂

  5. Reply

    Diana

    July 16, 2019

    I love to travel by the seat of my pants, leaving adventures to fate. BUT you are right…Disney vacations cost a lot of money, and in order to get the most out of your vacation (without long lines) you do have to pre-plan and arrive early. Thanks for the freat tips.

    • Reply

      Jen

      July 16, 2019

      You’re welcome! And yes, Disney definitely requires some planning for first timers 🙂

  6. Reply

    Maggie

    July 15, 2019

    Great tips! I haven’t been to WDW in a while, but I love the shows. I didn’t even know about the opening show! Thank you!

    • Reply

      admin

      July 15, 2019

      I didn’t know too much about the opening show either! It is one of their many recent changes 🙂

  7. Reply

    Julie

    July 14, 2019

    Great tips Jen!! Disney is definitely the destination you must plan in advance for!!

    • Reply

      admin

      July 15, 2019

      I agree…so much planning goes into a Disney vacation! Glad you liked the tips!

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    Hi, I’m Jen!  Welcome to Travel With A Plan!

    I’m an avid adventurer who is always planning the next family vacation for my husband and I, and our three boys!

    As an advocate for family travel with kids of all ages, I am a firm believer that traveling together helps keep families healthy and happy at home!

    Here is where I share our best family vacation itineraries, resort reviews, and family travel tips (incuding Disney!).

    Let’s go on an adventure! -Jen

    TMOM Travel Writer
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