Walt Disney World welcomes millions of visitors every year to it’s four theme parks and other top amenities. At the same time, countless first-time visitors set off to the parks every day too with no idea what to expect except for perhaps a glimpse at Mickey Mouse or a Disney Princess.
With that in mind, here are 10 tips that every first-time Walt Disney World visitor should know before setting off on their adventures in Florida.
1. Save Money and Bring Your Own Food
It might not seem like something Disney would do, but they allow you to bring your own food into the parks. This is no small tip after factoring in how expensive food and drinks can be in the parks. A quick service meal with a drink alone can range from $15–$25, and spread out over a family of four can add up quickly. There are a few exceptions to this, including the obvious: alcohol. No beer, wine, or liquor can be brought into the parks.
This is perfect, however, for those families looking to save a little (or a lot) on their park visit. You can bring in pre-packaged snacks, sandwiches, and anything that will keep you fueled and ready to go.
2. Security Checks Are at All Park Entrances
If you’ve never set foot in a Disney World theme park, it is easy to forget that it attracts a lot of people and a lot of health and safety challenges. For that reason, Disney has security checks at every park entrance, including their shopping area called Disney Springs.
They are mainly checking for weapons, alcohol, and controlled substances, so there is no reason to worry about that bottle of water. It’s not a movie theater. In recent years, they’ve made huge strides, technology-wise, so the checkpoints should only take a matter of seconds or maybe a minute; it all depends on how busy it is. Anticipate they might be a bit backed up, and ensure you factor this in as you plan your park days.
3. Walk to the Left
This might seem weird, but walking to the left can often save you precious time. A typical Disney parks experience is made up of lines; many, many lines. It can also be crowded as you and countless others try to navigate the parks. Heading to the left of groups or along a bank of lines is counter to our North American inclination to pick “right” as the correct direction to go.
This is perfect advice for quick-service dining locations that have multiple cashiers and lines to choose from. It’s also important to think about as you are looking to travel from one end of a park to another while avoiding crowds.
4. Don't Try to Do an Entire Park in Half a Day
Half-day park visits are fairly common. It’s why Disney invented the Park Hopper pass. For first-timers, doing a full park in one day will do two things: 1) make you more rushed to try and see everything, and 2) force you to lose out on experiencing the full theme park.
Doing half-day parks is perfectly okay if you know what you’re missing, but this is your first Disney World trip, don’t put anything to chance and feel rushed. Take your day to explore, discover, and truly experience the Disney magic all around you. This means walking up and down Main Street U.S.A. to read the unique windows honoring past Disney Cast Members and Legends or simply pausing to soak up the hussel and bussel of the action around you as you sip a drink at Epcot. Don’t be afraid to slow down a bit and that starts with taking one park one day at a time.
5. The Cost of Extras
Extra, extra, read all about it! That’ll be $5.99, ma’am. Visiting Walt Disney World is full of random costs. Some you have to pay, others are optional. Knowing that ahead of time is half the battle. Want to skip the line for that big new ride? Pay an extra $15 or more. Need that one piece of clothing or a souvenir or even just a bottle of water? Get ready to pay, especially if you have children. Maybe you’re driving to parks, don’t forget about that parking fee.
There are many more examples, including how some sit-down, table service restaurants force you into a pre-fixe menu that is more food and cost than you were expecting. Know before you go.
6. Book Your Dining Reservations 60-Days in Advance
Speaking of dining, be sure to book your advanced dining reservations. All guests can book their table starting 60 days before your visit. You can do this within the My Disney Experience App or by calling (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463). This is very important for high-demand restaurants and those with character interactions.
There are two important points to make about dining in general. One, ensure you have a Disney park ticket for the park restaurant you want to visit. You can’t book Cinderella’s Royal Table without a Magic Kingdom ticket. Restaurants at Disney resorts do not require that you stay at that hotel, but parking may be an added cost. Secondly, when you get to your table service restaurant be sure to check in using the Disney app to save time getting to your table.
7. Enjoy Complimentary First-Aid Supplies
Got a pounding headache or maybe a nagging blister but don’t want the fun to stop? Check out one of Walt Disney World’s First-Aid centers at each park. Even if you need a moment to get out of the beating sun, seek out the First-Aid locations. Here is where you can find each of the Disney World first-aid locations:
- Magic Kingdom: In between the Crystal Palace and Casey’s Corner restaurants as you exit Main Street U.S.A.
- Epcot: Near the Odyessy Pavillion behind the pavilion’s restroom location.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios: To the left as you enter the park gates.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Next to Creature Comforts on the left side of Discovery Island and on your way to the Africa section of the park.
It should be noted that the Disney World water parks also have first-aid centers that can be accessed by park guests as well.
8. Baby Care Centers Are Life Savers for Parents
If you are headed to the parks with babies and very small children, the park Baby Care Centers are key. Stocked with emergency wipes and diapers, plus other resources for purchase, these centers come in handy at the most stressful of times.
With air conditioning, relatively quiet sitting areas, and spots for nursing and feeding, the Baby Care Centers are there for parents and guardians in need. Each of the Baby Care Centers at Walt Disney World can be found in the same locations as the First-Aid centers. Overall, these are essential amenities for parents to know about. Don’t hesitate to use them.
9. Bring an Umbrella or Poncho
It rains in Central Florida. Some months more than others but rest assured, it rains. You need to be prepared. Bring at least an umbrella. It is also advisable to pack a poncho and save yourself a few dollars from having to buy one at a Disney gift shop. You never know when a light sprinkle will turn into a downpour that lasts an hour. Rain is a part of Walt Disney World life, it’s always best to be prepared.
On the poncho side of things, don’t feel you need to go high-end or anything. Reusable ponchos are nice, but simple, clear disposable ponchos work just as well. Make sure your umbrella is compact and your ponchos lightweight, from there you will be more than covered.
10. Purchase a MagicBand
A Walt Disney World visit can obviously be a little on the complex side. There’s one purchase that you don’t have to make, but should. That purchase is that of a MagicBand. MagicBands come in many designs and iterations. MagicBands are simple and lightweight bracelets that sync with your My Disney Experience account and can act as your theme park tickets, Genie+ Lightning Lane access tool, and can even make purchases as easy as a wave of the wrist. All without taking out your wallet.
You can also purchase a MagicBand+ with added features, including lighting actions on the band's face and interactive activities. MagicBand+ is a little more expensive, so be warned, but it can make your visit a tiny bit more magical.
Bonus Tip: Test out the My Disney Experience App
The My Disney Experience app has been mentioned already, but it can’t be stressed enough, test out the mobile app before your visit. If you’ve purchased Genie+, test out the booking experience for rides. It will so much stress. A great deal of your Disney park day takes place over the app, take the time you need before your trip to learn it.
No matter what, your first Walt Disney World trip will be exciting and, yes, magical. Enjoy every minute and savor it. You’ll never have a first Disney trip again!
© 2023 David Tubbs