If it’s your first time visit to Walt Disney World , congrats! Visiting Disney is exciting, no matter if it’s your first or tenth time! Heading to Disney with kids for the first time, though, can be stressful if you don’t have a plan. Some tips for your first time visit to Disney may put your mind at ease, and help make your trip amazing for the family.

8 Important Things to Know Before Planning a First Trip to Disney

1. Plan, plan, plan

There are four theme parks in Disney World: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, not to mention two water parks including Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Breaking up your trip into one park per day is likely the only way to enjoy each park.

If you have any essential attractions you absolutely must see, or particular rides you must try, you will need to plan your day in advance. Create an itinerary while understanding that due to weather and line-ups, things may not go as planned. Give yourself plenty of time in between activities to account for waiting in lines, as well as meltdowns not only from tired kids but also stressed-out parents!

2. Use Plan Disney

If you’re in the early planning stages of a Disney vacation, you’ll find plenty of great resources at the Plan Disney. It’s a free forum where Disney ‘experts’ offer first-hand experience and advice and answer user questions about hotels, rides, and attractions.

3. Get there early

The early bird catches the worm, especially when visiting Disney! Get to the parks as early as possible, and get to your must-see attractions and rides first thing. Guests staying at Disney Resort hotels and select other hotels can take advantage of a 30-minute early entry into Walt Disney World theme parks every day. During the early entry period, certain attractions, merchandise and food and beverage locations will be open. Learn more about early entry here.

4. Patience is key

Traveling with kids can be tough, especially if you factor in ages, different temperaments, special needs, and stressed out parents! Everyone will need lots of breaks, and that’s okay. Plan breaks accordingly and try not to rush through. You don’t have to see everything in one day, so take your time and enjoy each attraction. You’ve planned a trip to Disney to create memories, right? Remember that when your 3-year-old has her third meltdown before noon.

Need to decompress? No problem! Check out the Baby Care Center, a quiet space for when you need to get away. There’s changing tables, a nursing area, a kitchen, and more.

5. Bring a stroller

A stroller can be a pain to lug around if your kids are older, but if they’re at the age where they’re going to get tired and want to take a nap, a stroller is a must! Even 4 and 5 year olds can get worn out enough to take a little nap in a stroller. The alternative is carrying a 40+ pound kid and that gets tiring, fast. Plus, a stroller can carry all the bags!

6. Pack your own food

This is probably one of the number one questions asked, whether guests are allowed to bring food into Disney. You may bring snacks or foods that do not require heating, such as granola bars, cereal, fruit snacks, etc. If you’re traveling during the summer months, be sure to pack snacks that won’t melt! 

7. Download the Disney App

Make the most of your time at Disney by downloading My Disney Experience free app. This app will help you coordinate dining reservations, FastPass+, help you with wait times, maps and find out where Disney characters are hiding out.  Plus, all your family members can use the same account and follow the same itinerary.

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Park with Boys!

8. Kids get lost

Obviously losing a kid at Disney is a worst-case-scenario type thing, but wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry? When you head to Disney with kids, make sure you have a Safety Plan in place. Talk to your kids about where to go and what to do if you get separated. Consider writing your phone number in permanent marker on the inside of your child’s arm (or using those phone number tattoos), so if they get lost and someone finds them, they can call you. If the kids are older, make sure they have your number memorized and know who they should (and should not) approach to get help if they’re trying to find you.

9. Make dinner reservations

If you want to dine at any of the resort’s 300-some restaurants, you’ll have to make dinner reservations in advance – even months in advance! Some visitors book their Disney vacation when they offer free dining promotions, which can include one quick-service meal, one table-service meal and one snack per person, per night of your stay. If you wait and plan your vacation when a promotion arises, you can save money.

Fantasyland at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom

10. Where to Stay

When trying to decide whether to stay at a Disney resort or a non-Disney property, there are several factors to consider. You might think you’ll save a ton of money by staying off-site, but there are pros and cons to both options.

Most parents who have been to Disney will tell you that staying on-site is worth the extra you’ll spend. Once you factor in the extra stress staying off-site can bring, you might realize it’s worth it to splurge a bit. Plus, if the little ones need a break in the middle of the day, you’ll be able to head to the room to take a nap without the hassle of leaving the property. Bonus: Ask to get a wake-up calls from a Disney character.

Disney hotels are likely more expensive, but you’ll have quicker access to the parks. Plus, staying at a Disney resort grants you other perks like extended park hours (known as “Extra Magic Hours”), the ability to book early dining reservations and free transportation to the parks.

The Disney website has a filter option to help guests compare hotels on the property, an efficient tool for determining which resort is best for you and your family. For example, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort offer transportation to the parks with access to the monorail, while other properties like Disney’s Pop Century and Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort are more affordable, but not as close to the action.

If you have small children, Magic Kingdom and the water parks are huge attractions. Tweens and teenagers will want to be closer to Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk, and Epcot’s World Showcase.

There are also lovely hotels in the Orlando area to consider, like the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, as well as vacation home rentals.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Luxury for the Family

Remember, the most important part of your Disney trip is to create memories! Take a break when the kids need it, or when you need it, and don’t overbook yourself. Have fun!


Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of amotherworld.com, a leading lifestyle blog for women.

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