As magical as Disney can be, it can also be just as overwhelming. You have no idea how many people I’ve heard say that Disney was not fun, in fact, they found it was actually extremely overwhelming and not what they expected. I remember the first year that we went like it was yesterday. We waisted so much time trying to figure out where to go, what to do etc and were extremely overwhelmed. So on this blog post I wanted to share with you all a few things to know before visiting the park for the first time.
This was our very first Disney Trip with my oldest who is now almost 5!
1. FAST PASSES
Every guest has 3 fast passes available (included in price of ticket). You can go to the fast pass booths and schedule your three rides using your tickets (which are really cards that look like play credit cards so don’t throw them away). However, if you purchase your tickets in advance, you can actually schedule your three fast pass rides 180 days in advance using My Disney Experience account either via an app or on the Disney World website. Scheduling them in advance will get you the best selections as well as allow you time to plan.
Before going to the parks I always google the best rides to use my fast passes on and schedule fast passes based on what we are most interested in. The rest of the day is pretty much scheduled around the three fast passes. I download a map of the park and check out show times, parades fireworks and locations and schedule our day that way so we aren’t running from one side of the park to the other. This is also a great way to ensure you get on as many attractions as possible. So definitely take the time to plan an itinerary before going, but leave some wiggle room for last-minute changes. Also, do not plan to see the entire park in one visit because most likely it will not happen. I usually leave a side of the park I am least interested in for the end in case I run out of time (which I usually do).
2. CHARACTERS ARE NOT OUT IN THE WALKWAYS
I watched many shows with Disney specials growing up and they all showed the characters in TV interacting with Disney characters that were walking around the park. The first year I went, I looked and looked and saw very few characters and they were definitely not the popular characters either. I was a little disappointed by this and did not realize until my 2nd year that the main popular characters do not walk around. Instead they’re each in designated spots (check out the map) and you have to find them and make a line, or use flash passes to see them (which I don’t recommend).
Now what I do is that I plan the character meets on my way to rides and attractions. However, if the line is too long we simply skip the character.
Something I did last year, as I really wanted the kids to see Mickey and friends without wasting time in lines, was attend a character dining. There are restaurants throughout the parks and resorts, with different themes and characters, and many of them have a group of characters walking around the tables, taking pictures and autographs and entertaining guests. It was so fun and we then skipped seeing these characters in the park since we had a chance to spend time with them and take pictures at the restaurant. The food was surprisingly good for a buffet and very much worth the money.
I personally recommend doing a character dining outside of the park during non park days. This does limit your choices to resort dining experiences only, but to me it is worth not wasting time at the parks while giving us something more to do on resort/rest days. Keep in mind that you do not need to stay on Disney property to go to the resort character dining. FYI, I highly recommend Chef Mickey!
3. YOU CAN BRING YOUR OWN FOOD AND DRINKS
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, you can bring your own food and drinks to the park. The first, and even second time we went to Disney, we spent a ton of money on buying water alone. Bringing drinks, food and snacks will save you money and time. Read here for more tips on this.
If your child is young, you may really want to consider bringing a stroller. There is a ton of walking and they will get tired! Also, strollers are great for carrying bags, food etc. Disney has designated stroller parking all over the park. Strollers are not allowed in the lines so you must leave them in these designated areas. A cast mate is assigned to each area and often moves the strollers around to organize them and make space. With that being said, you may want to make a sign for your stroller because there are a ton! Generally, it is safe to leave your strollers, but I always bring a small side bag with me to the rides with our most personal/valuable belongings to be safe.
Also, one thing many people don’t know is that there are many outside companies that rent strollers and scooters for a pretty reasonable price. So if you don’t own a stroller, or don’t want to carry one on the plane/car, you can rent one and have them deliver it to your hotel room (Disney or non Disney properties). Check google for Disney stroller rental and you will get a few options to shop from.
5. Disney World Smart Phone Apps
As I mentioned earlier, you are able to create an account through My Disney Experience to schedule flash pass rides. In addition, you can link your passes, make dining reservations and make an itinerary all on your account. There are many other things you can do and very useful so check it out and play around with it. I recommend downloading it before your trip.
Another app I use before and during my trip is the Magic Guide Disney World App. This app has maps of all the parks available as well estimated wait times and ride descriptions. I especially love using this app because it has all of the restaurants by park and resort. It includes price of food and description of the restaurant for easy planning.
I hope you are able to find these tips helpful and have a magical time planning your next Disney trip! For more Disney Tips check out my other Disney blog post, Disney World On A Small Budget.