First time going to Disney World? How Exciting! You are in for the trip of a lifetime.
Disney is such a magic place and it is a top destination for so many people. Disney sees close to 50 million people a year! That is a crazy number of people going to see Mickey Mouse+Rides+Fun Foods.
The other crazy thing is most of those people are first time visitors or people that haven’t been in many years. Things at Disney do change– they are always looking to improve on the guest experience and the magic of Walt Disney World.
But if you haven’t been in a while or its your first time, it can be overwhelming!
Because the people giving you trip advice are so biased because they’ve been doing it for so long. They have signs, and the Disney app, and they have maps and dedicated TV channels filled with information. But it can be seriously overloading to go on a trip when you haven’t been in a long time!
Recently I took my aunt to Disney World for the first time in 25 years… and I totally flopped it! There was so much I didn’t prepare her for because I assumed she knew things, would research things, and only needed things repeated once. Thankfully she’s a forgiving person (And we have a new trip planned!) but I learned SO MUCH from her experience (and my mistakes!)
Here are the top ten things you’ve got to know about Disney World as a first timer, Especially because it can be fun and magical (if your prepared!)
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There’s a new Disney FastPass, called Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane
Disney used to have a system called FastPass, that was a free skip the line system.
Now they have Genie, which is a free recommendation tool.
Genie+ which is a paid skip the line tool for some options.
And Lightning Lane (the third option), which is also a paid skip the line tool, but only for a handful of rides at each park. These rides are purchased separately, not included in Genie+ and can be purchased without purchasing Genie+.
So for example, you could purchase Genie+ for around 15-30 dollars per person per day.
Or you could purchase Genie+ for 15-30 and also purchase one of the lightning lane options for around 10 dollars for one specific ride.
Or you could just purchase a lightning lane options for around 10 dollars for that one specific ride for that day.
There’s also several rules, like not being able to book another option till you have used up your first option, or 120 minutes have passed (Whichever comes first!).
The most important thing to know about Genie+ is that if you can’t get it to work, or it doesn’t give any options till late evening, to visit Guest Services to see if they can get you an earlier return time or your money back.
Few Covid Measures remain in the parks
basically, there’s not many. It feels like a fever dream even though it’s still in the news!
Check the Disney Website before your trip to see if any measures have returned, but right now Disney is partying like its 2019
You need to know how to use the Virtual Queue for some rides
There are some rides that require a Virtual Queue… which means you can’t do a walk on or wait in line.
These lines also typically offer a paid lightning lane option, so if you miss the Virtual Queue you can purchase a line pass.
Currently the two Virtual Queues are for:
Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT
Tron Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom
To Access the Virtual Queue:
- Download the MyDisney App or make sure your App is updated.
- Sign into the App
- Double Check that all of your party are listed under your ‘Friends and Family’ Section
- At 7 am and 1 pm you can hit the ‘join Virtual Queue’ button. It helps to have the app open a few minutes before 7 and 1 to make sure it loaded properly.
- Request a Spot for you and your party members
- Return at the Virtual Queue Time
You will be walking 8000-25,000 steps a day
Oh yes. I’m going to write a post one day about all my shoe mishaps- but lets just say that the right shoe makes a huge difference on your day (and for your kids!)
You can easily walk, just on a half day at the parks getting content I walked 13k steps (my phone was on the shelf at home and I don’t have an apple watch, so this is accurate of my time inside Disney World)
Getting sore feet and blisters is NO FUN. and for all the people in the back DO NOT WEAR NEW SHOES. Not shouting- just want you to remember to break those shoes in!
I recommend packing several pairs of shoes. I’m a huge fun of crocs for kids, since they air out nicely and dry quickly. WIth crocs, pack bandaids. You can buy them at the resort, and the First Aid Center at the Parks have bandaids available.
Packing at least two pairs of shoes allows you to swap them out each day to prevent blisters (and not taking care of your feet is a top ‘money mistakes’ people make when planning a vacation!)
I also recommend bringing some moleskin for hot spots and some chub rub to prevent blisters on feet and anywhere else that rubs (yes TMI, sorry, but once you’ve walked 10 miles and have a chaffed inner thigh, you will do anything to prevent it for the future!)
Don’t forget about the kids either! Make sure they have several pairs of socks and shoes. They really can’t walk that many miles day after day when they are younger. Consider renting a stroller!
We prefer Kingdom Strollers as it’s often times cheaper, and way more comfortable (did I mention it saves you time in the parks as you aren’t standing in line with all the other parents to buy a stroller for the day? those 20 minute lines each day add up quickly!)
Please please bring a stroller, or rent one for your vacation, especially if you have kids under 9 years old. It will save you time, sanity and be one of the best things for your kiddo!
Pro Tip: Disney sells shoes too, so if you get in a hard spot you can always go grab a new pair of kicks!
You should plan for unexpected weather issues
This is not an exageration. Florida weather is super crazy! During the summer we have these gigantic rain storms that come out of nowhere!
Literally. You go into your fastpass and by the time you come out, there are huge black clouds overhead and you see everyone running to grab ponchos and their strollers.
And in the winter, your weather man will say its going to be 70 degrees all week and then BAM! It’s 35 outside and windy. (and still kinda humid, yuck!)
So all those cute outfits you packed won’t keep you warm.
Florida is super strange with the weather, so you need to pack accordingly. Bring Ponchos no matter when you come to visit, and make sure you bring both hot and cold clothes (Even just one outfit) when you come.
If your anything like me, you’ll want to be prepared for the rain! Check out the 9 things to do at Disney World when it rains!
You can also learn about Disney’s refund policy and what to expect in a hurricane.
Besides the rain, you can also get SUPER hot at Disney World.
In the summer the paramedics from Reddy Creek run on a lot of heat exhaustion, and dehydration. Don’t let the sun ruin your vacation!
Make sure you stay hydrated.
And take breaks when you need to (you can always call the Disney Line if you think you might be late. They do try to work with you!)
If you are going int the summer, learn how to survive the summer at Disney World. Which is super important, because summer lasts like 6 months out of the year.
You can have amazon delivered to your resort
Isn’t this the coolest thing ever! We have Amazon delivered almost every time we visit because we are an allergy family. We order what we need and have it shipped to the resort.
Some other cool ways you can use amazon:
– ordering baby supplies like diapers and wipes so you dont have to bring them while traveling
– ordering souvenirs for the park. That way you dont spend extra and your kids dont find them by accident.
– suprising one of your family member with whatever you are celebrating. Doing a Birthday at Disney? Get them lots of stuff to celebrate at the resort or bring it into the parks!
– forgot something important? Order it and you could have it within 24 hours. The Magic of Orlando!
You can also order grocery delivery from somewhere local like target or Publix. Several places deliver, like garden grocer and Instacart.
This is a great way to save money at the parks too! Just water and snacks alone could cost you over 50 dollars a day for a family of four.
Know what to pack 🧳
I know for a fact that most people forget the important stuff when they come to Disney. Wanna know how I know?
The resort gift store, and the main stores in Disney are PACKED full of items that you wouldn’t find in a regular gift shop.
They know people are going to forget everything from toothbrushes to underwear to phone chargers. (PSST- you can still order them from Amazon and have it same day delivery if Disney doesn’t have your favorite brand!)
Insulated Water Bottle– It’s hot and you cant have straws at Animal Kingdom, and paper straws throughout the parks. Make sure you grab plastic or stainless steel because you can’t have glass.
Portable Phone Charger– The My Disney App drains your battery. And if your phone dies by lunch you are stuck going to guest services to ask about your fast passes and food reservations. You can also do FuelRods, which is my preferred portable charger because they are so easy to swap out.
Body Glide– this stuff is a life saver. It’s my ultimate defense against chafing. Forget the souvenirs, if you are in pain, you wont enjoy your trip! This stuff is like Disney Magic, it’s not greasy but it keeps your skin from chaffing due to friction.
Extra shoes, extra clothes- Disney does have clothing and shoes for purchase, and you can always do laundry on vacation if you need clothes. It’s probably better to just bring them though!
We’ve got the full guide to Packing Hacks if you need some more ideas on where to start!
Bucket lists are ideal, as You literally *can’t* do it all
Everyone I speak with is pretty overwhelmed about what fastness and what character meal.
Or they avoid stuff because it gives them anxiety.
But let me tell you, you can’t do it all. Even after going for years and years. Disney does this so you can’t get bored!
At all of the Parks there are random bits of entertainment, fun hidden things to do, and parades that will literally block you in.
Plus, Disney Transportation isn’t exactly award winning at their speed. 🙃
My recommendation is to pick your top 3 things and to plan them no matter what. That way you go home satisfied at all you did do (and all that you didn’t do!).
You can also check out this list of items you don’t want to miss on your next vacation so that you can prioritize them!
Disney is (even more) expensive
Inflation am I right?
What I mean is- the stuff in the resorts and inside the parks is often double what you could buy it for at Target or Amazon.
Which is fine and all if you have one souvenir you really want, but it does tend to add up quickly, especially with food! I have a great guide here about saving on food at Disney.
Basically, I want you to not get sticker shock. Be prepared for high prices, like 40 dollars for mouse ears and 50 dollars for a jacket. Be prepared for really good marketing that encourages you to spend money!
Disney also changes their prices based on the season. Nothing crazy drastic, but enough that it does add up.
If you need more information on budget Disney World, there’s other posts I’d recommend. Like this list of money mistakes that you should avoid on your trip, and this break down of how much Disney World really costs.
Cast Members do their best to give you pixie dust but they are tired
Cast Members have been through a lot in the last few years, just like we all have! There’s many new faces, lot of members who have retired, and so much change it’s hard to keep up with everything. Forgive my HR speak, but the attrition at Disney World is not a good thing… too many new folks and too many folks who would rather be doing something else!
But when a Cast Member does do something magical (and many still do) it’s called Pixie Dust!
Offering you helpful suggestions, catering to your children, making you feel extra special. These are the things that make a Disney Vacation so special… but they also aren’t guranteed.
Yes, you are paying top dollar, but please do not go in demanding pixie dust. That takes away the fun of giving and makes it hard for you, your family, and the Disney employees you are working with.
I love when we get pixie dust! We tend to give a shout out on Twitter with their name (or their location if we can’t remember) so that Disney can thank them.
But new in 2022, you can do it in the app! Head to the My Disney Experience App, click the three lines on the bottom right. Scroll to the bottom and tap, ‘Cast Compliment’. You’ll see the following screen with a drop down area to fill in what they did, and their location. Plus you can add their name, cast member hometown and date of interaction!
The cast members truly are part of the magic of Disney World, so if you come across someone amazing, please give them a shoutout!
Pro Tip: you can get literal pixie dust in Magic Kingdom! Head to Sir Mickey’s in Fantasy Land and ask to get Pixie Dusted. It is SO CUTE! The wand has been outfited with a 50 for this years celebration!
You can bring food into the park
You CAN but you don’t have to. We normally bring in snacks every time we go. I get hungry on the way there ok?
We also have food allergies, so I talk a ton about managing food allergies on a disney world vacation.
But this also works if you want to bring in your lunch and have a picnic at Disney. We’ve done this many times and it’s always a fun a peaceful experience.
Sometimes I just don’t want to deal with characters or lines- I just want to eat!
This is also a great way to optimize your time. If you are trying to get a lot done during the day, I definelty recommend bringing lots of snacks or a lunch into the parks to help with your time management.
It can easily shave off 20-45 mins (actually a character buffet could be close to 2 hours!) so you can get back to the rides and attractions!
We normally order all our snacks from Amazon because PRO TIP the Walmart and Target by Disney are ranked as some of the busiest stores in the US. Another thing to consider is bulking up if you have a Costco Membership. There’s one about 20 minutes from Disney World.
I do like to go to Publix if we need cold goods, and I normally grab my kids some balloons there for 4-8 dollars. Which is great because it beats the 15-20 you spend on balloons in the parks!
Don’t worry about Disney World overwhelm- the cast members are helpful, there are plenty of resources online, and Disney has lots of maps and info shows and signs to point you in the right direction. If you go knowing that you will be overwhelmed by the whole thing, and that you can’t control every time and meet up, you will have a magical time!
These top 10 tips are items that I tell everyone I know when they are planning their first Disney Vacation- mostly because I want them to have a magical trip!
Disney World is just so much fun- especially when you are prepared.
Do you need some more information for your trip? I have a Beginners Guide to Disney World!
This Mini Series Breaks down all the essential information into easy to understand, bite-sized pieces for busy people on the go. Check it out!
Money saving tips for Disney World