You’ve seen the rides, the Mickey Mouse ears, and the fireworks over the castle on TV and now you’re finally going to Walt Disney World yourself! Yes, it can be an incredibly fun and enchanting vacation for you and your family, but it can also be overcrowded, overpriced, and stressful if you don’t manage your time and plans efficiently. Here is your first time guide to Walt Disney World:
1. Slow down. The parks are huge, and there are six of them! This means that unless you’re going to be there for a month or two, you really won’t have time to do everything. You wouldn’t want to anyway—part of the magic is letting yourself be swept away by the wonders of the park and doing what you feel like in the moment, not being super strict on yourself and sprinting from attraction to attraction; after all, it’s a holiday! Pick a park or two to prioritize (WDW consists of Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Typhoon Lagoon, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Blizzard Beach). Then pick a few rides or places ahead of time to which you want to make a special effort to take the kids. Let the rest happen on its own. The more you stress about riding every ride and seeing every section, the less enjoyment you’ll get out of your ‘vacation’!
2. Decide between on-site or off-site. This debate can get pretty tricky, especially if you’re talking to friends who are passionately one side or the other. If you stay at a WDW Resort, transportation is much more convenient, and the fun doesn’t stop when you leave the park. There are themed pools and rooms, specials, parties, and discounts. On the flipside, sometimes it can be too much, and too expensive overall. Staying at a non-WDW resort can be a nice break at the end of the day.
3. Have a meeting spot. This tip isn’t just for people with kids, it’s for anyone who is going into a theme park with someone else! Picking a big, memorable, noticeable meeting spot is an absolute necessity. A good idea is to point it out on the way in (a clock tower or a certain shop, for example) and then clarify the situation for which the group would need to make their way back there (separated for longer than an hour, lunchtime, park closing, etc). Sometimes it seems silly to do this in the morning, but if you suddenly need to meet up and cell phones aren’t an option, you’ll be glad you did! Another good tip for kids is to show them how to identify park employees if they need to ask for help (e.g., nametags).
4. Think FASTPASS. FASTPASS is a nifty system you’ll see referenced everywhere in the park, and you’ll start to wonder if you should be taking advantage of it—the answer is yes. Basically, a FASTPASS ticket lets you skip the main line of people waiting to go on a ride and join the much shorter (or nonexistent) FASTPASS line. The catch is that each park guest can only have one FASTPASS at a time (the park ticket you swipe makes sure of this). When you slide your park ticket into a FASTPASS machine, it’ll give you a FASTPASS with a specific window of time (e.g., 2:30-3:30) in which you can ride that ride later and skip the main line. To make it worth it, you should get a FASTPASS for the busiest rides at the busiest times of the day (or your favorites). Once you start using the system it’ll become easier to manage efficiently. Just remember that everyone in your party must have their own FASTPASS for you all to skip the line!
5. Comfort is more important than you think. Bring a backpack with anything you might need, just in case. Sure it might sound like a nuisance to drag around a big bag of stuff when you just want to walk lightly, but there’s nothing worse than needing to spend ten times as much money than necessary on buying something because you left it in your hotel room. Good things to bring along are sunblock, sunglasses, hats, comfortable walking shoes, cameras, water, etc. When you’re waiting in line for an hour in the blazing hot sun with fussy kids, you’ll be happy you packed some extra necessities.
Other tips: get a Dining Plan to manage your meal expenses if you’re staying on-site, take breaks, stand in the shade when possible, and most of all treasure the memories as they happen!
Read more: Tips for a First-Time Visit to Orlando