It has been a couple of months already since we visited Disney World and there is so much to share and pictures to post that I haven’t even found the time. Let me tell you- Disney can be overwhelming if it is not planned out in time. There is just so much to do! More than we imagined and if you are going for a short few days you will feel like you missed out on the whole experienced simply because you are on the go from the moment you wake up until you are heading back to the hotel to crash and do it all over again. These five tips are some of the things we learned and a few of the main ones you should know before heading to Disney with your family.
So today lets just start one post at a time. I had several friends and moms reach out to me asking me what do I recommend for a first time Disney trip for a family with young kids and here is what I learned in our first experienced trip so far.
1. Get a FastPass
If there is one thing you need on this trip is a FastPass to avoid long lines and save time. The popular rides at the park can have a nearly 2 hour wait for the most part. You can skip those long lines by getting access to 3 rides of your choice. You can book your rides 30 days in advanced with theme park tickets or an annual pass or up to 60 days in advance with a reservation at a select Walt Disney World Resort Hotel.
Something many don’t know is Disney also offers a pass to accommodate families with young children. Once you have accessed your FastPass for your selected ride show up to the gate, let them know your spouse is with a stroller and baby (they have to be nearby so they can verify this is true) and they will give you a badge that is a “riders switch” that gives you and up to 3 people the access to go back to the Fastpass line once you have completed the ride yourself so your spouse can switch with you and also have a chance to ride the selected attraction you picked without having to wait back in the long line all over again.
2. Get the Disney World App
Get the ‘My Disney World Experience’ App before coming here. This is your guide around the parks. It will be your best friend and will do most of the work for you. It is a map of all the parks on Disney that gives you an estimated time for each attraction. It will give you a list of showtimes, parades, nighttime spectaculars, fireworks, book dinning reservations, and making selections for your FastPass for each day of your visit. There is so much to do with the app, but overall it is a guide to save you time and plan tour rides accordingly.
3. Pack Your Lunch and You Will Save Money
I think many don’t know this but you are welcomed to bring your own food and drinks to the park. I remember when we got there day 1 with our big lunch cooler a family next to us asked me “Is food even allowed?” I told them “Yes” a friend totally recommended this since she did it on her Disney trip the whole week they were there. And when we decided to join them on this Disney Trip it was no different.
We packed lunch everyday with lots of water and snacks for the kids. So that meant we only dine at the parks for dinner and had had breakfast before arriving at Disney. Except day 1, I made reservations at the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom for their morning breakfast at 10 AM and ended with a $200 tab. After that lesson learned- eat breakfast before arriving at Disney. Plan a budget and stick to it is my best advice!
4. Make Dinner Reservations in Advance
We only planned out this trip 3 weeks in advanced. That is beyond crazy and not the right way to do it. Yes NOT THE RIGHT WAY to plan a Disney trip! So listen when I tell you that you must book your dinning reservations months in advance if you want to be guaranteed a spot in one of the top most popular restaurants there. (Mostly all the ones with dine in characters like Be our Guest and Cinderella’s Castle) You can start making reservations 180 days in advanced before your trip. Also keep in mind- if you cancel a reservation you must do it 24 hours ahead of time or you’ll be charged automatically $10 dollars per guest.
I was lucky to find 3 places (mainly because of our party size) to dine in and that was just three weeks prior to our trip. If you have time my best advice for this is to keep checking everyday. Sometimes cancellations happen and an open spot becomes available. Also once you are there you can always walk to the desk and ask if there is any open tables. And if the main purpose for these reservations you are making is for Character dining for your kids- best way to save money is booking for breakfast. They are much cheaper than lunch and dinner. And the bonus part of booking an early morning reservation is you get in early before the park hours are open.
5. Pros and Cons for Onsite vs. Offsite Resort
This is where you will fall back and forth on deciding. What should you pick? What’s the most convenient for you? I’ll say there is definitely big benefits on staying onsite while on vacation especially if it’s a long stay. You won’t have to worry about the transportation to get to the parks (especially Magic Kingdom) as they are much quicker than the ones who are offsite and have to pay for parking each day and then get on the shuttle and hop on a ferry that depending on the amount of people it can become long and overcrowded. Depending on which park you are visiting that day, we found out that Animal kingdom was the easiest to get to.
Not staying onsite? That’s okay! Our plans were to stay on Disney property but due to the short amount of time we had and the amount of people (9 total) we were not able to find a Resort that accommodate it our needs for example room size. However by booking outside of the Disney Property we were able to get the freedom to find places to eat around Orlando and found a Resort outside of Disney (that was still 5-10 min away)
We were lucky to find a place at Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa. This place provides all their guest full furnished rooms with kitchen, living room, washer & dryer, and a Master bedroom separated from the other rooms. All spacious arranging from studios to full on four bedroom villas with lots of amenities included.
Resorts in Disney Property that are affordable and well recommended are:
I hope these tips are helpful to you on your first Disney experience and make your trip the best it can possibly be!