Seven Walt Disney World Travel Tips for First-Time Visitors

May 10, 2017

7 Tips for First Time Visitors to Walt Disney World

One of the things I get asked about most often beyond product questions is what to consider when planning a Walt Disney World vacation.

Disney travel tips are always in high demand and while I have shared my own fair share of Disney travel tips over the years, I thought it would be valuable to get a fresh perspective. To do that, I turned to Disney travel expert Francine Cochrane for some insights. Francine is a fellow Disney travel guru and founder of the popular Disney Travel Blog Pixie Dust Fan. If there's one thing she knows very well, it's Disney travel.

Below is Francine's guest post on the top seven tips for first time visitors to Walt Disney World.

Top 7 Tips for First-Time Visitors to Walt Disney World

Planning your first Walt Disney World vacation can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. With all of the options for resorts, dining and tickets, it’s hard to know what to choose.

Being an avid Disney fanatic who visits Walt Disney World regularly, I’m often asked if I have any tips for first time guests. Here are the top seven tips I recommend:

1. Know your budget and your lifestyle

It’s important that you have a realistic expectation of what you are comfortable spending. It’s also equally critical that you know what type of accommodations you will be happy with when you arrive. If you need to have a queen-sized bed, a water slide in the pool and access to valet parking – a value resort is not for you.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom

2. Pick the time of year that works for you

Choosing the time of year to travel should be based on many factors. You have the commitments at home such as work and school, but you also need to consider what the time of year means at Walt Disney World.

If Halloween is a big deal in your house, you might want to time your visit to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. If you like to sample food from different countries, the Food and Wine Festival is not to be missed. There are many different events throughout the year, it’s important to know what is scheduled before you book.

Travelling during peak times and US holidays will find the highest crowds, but also extended park hours. I was very thankful for late nights in the Magic Kingdom in July to keep me out of the sun. Don’t forget to consider the weather too!

3. Plan your meals (yes – in advance)

If dining with Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck is important to you, you can’t book last minute. Restaurants at Walt Disney World accept dining reservations beginning 180 days in advance. Getting dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table is serious business and the best shot is to book in the morning on the first day that reservations open. I have been lucky and found cancellations closer to my trip date, but it’s a chance first time visitors may not want to take.

Kilimanjaro Fastpass + Entrance, Disney's Animal Kingdom Park

4. Use Fastpasses

Fastpasses are an amazing tool to help maximize your day in the park. You are effectively scheduling an hour window where you will visit an attraction and wait in a shorter line. I have walked on the Seven Dwarfs Mine train in under five minutes thanks to my Fastpass when there was over an hour wait for standby

You can schedule 3 Fastpasses per day in advance of your visit. If you’re staying on Disney property, you can start booking them 60 days in advance of your trip (30 days if you’re not staying at a Disney resort). Once you have used your original 3 Fastpasses, you can get more.

5. Plan – but don’t over plan

I realize this contradicts my dining and Fastpass points, but too much planning can ruin a Disney vacation. I have witnessed many people in the parks trying to stick to a tight schedule and then stressing out that they are off track. If you experience an attraction you love – do it again. Walt Disney World is huge; you are not going to see everything on your first trip. I have been visiting for over 40 years and still find new things every time. Remember that you’re there to make memories, not to meet deadlines.

Pixie Dust Fan Logo

6. Book with an Authorized Disney vacation planner

A reputable Disney travel agent will not cost you any more than if you booked online with Disney yourself. The benefit is that a good agent will be aware of all of the construction, closures and events that might impact your vacation. They will help to get you the best value for your trip and will monitor any upcoming promotions that might save you money. There is a lot of value in their free service!

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, Festival of Fantasy Parade, Disney Magic Kingdom

7. Don’t fight it, be a kid again

When you get your first taste of Disney magic, you’ll know exactly what I mean. It might be seeing the castle for the first time, or watching your child run in to Mickey’s arms. When it hits you, embrace it. Wear those Mickey ears proudly, sing along to It’s a Small World and scream on Space Mountain. You deserve it!

by Francine Cochrane

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