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
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
Wondering if it really makes a difference? Here is a list of stand-by times at Space Mountain at
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!
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, c
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!
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. Not only that, but there are also so many other fun things to do at Disney World other than rides!
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
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.
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.)
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
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
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:
- 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.
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,
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
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
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:
- 1-Day Magic Kingdom Itinerary: A Perfect Day At Disney
- 1-Day At Animal Kingdom Itinerary: The Perfect Family Touring Plan
- One Day Itinerary for Epcot: Family Touring Plan
Disney World Ride & FastPass+ Tips:
- ‘How-to’ Secrets and Tips for Booking Disney FastPasses+
- Top 5 Rides to FastPass+ at Magic Kingdom
- Disney World Magic Kingdom Wait Times (Longest and Shortest Lines)
- Top 5 Rides for Toddlers at Magic Kingdom
Disney World Planning Tips:
- The 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Our First Disney Vacation
- Disney Packing List: 9 Things You Can’t Forget
- 7 Things to do on a Disney World Non-Park Day
- Best Off-Site Hotel Near Disney World, Orlando
- Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue: Our Complete Guide
Disney World Cost:
- Disney World Cost Calculator: How Much Will it Cost?
- How to Save Money At Disney World: 15 Ways We Saved Big
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*