Planning your first trip to Walt Disney World? We welcome you, to a lifetime of obsession and love for the most magical place on Earth. We know that the sheer amount of information out there on Disney World can be incredibly overwhelming, especially when you run into websites using abbreviations and lingo you’ve never heard of (WDW, ADR, Fastpass+, WTF?!). I know it can be easy to go into overload really fast, especially when you factor in the thought of how much money you’re going to be spending on your trip. We would love to share some of our insights from our trips, to try and provide some clarity to your planning to make things easier, as you navigate your first time in the parks.

1. You need a plan

This piece of advice is so important, that we think it determines if you end up liking Disney World or not. Going into a huge place, that you’ve never been before, that can have monstrous crowds at times, without a plan in place, is a recipe for disaster. It’s important to know what you want to see before you get there, and have a list of priorities so you can make sure you accomplish them. This is especially important if you are visiting during a time of year that school is out, or a Holiday season. We highly recommend The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World if you’re a first time guest – it’s a long read, but you can pick and chose the sections you want, and the whole thing is full of fantastic tips.

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2. Make your Disney Dining Reservations early

What most first time guests don’t know, is that most dining reservations, or ‘ADR’s, as they’re called, are made several months in advance. It’s virtually impossible to just walk up to a sit-down restaurant, and be able to wait to eat there. If there’s a restaurant, especially a character meal, that you have your heart set on, make a reservation far in advance.

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3. Consider the Disney Dining Plan

Considering how your family eats, the Disney Dining Plan, might, or might not save your family money. If you’re going to eat breakfast in your hotel room everyday, and take sandwiches to the parks, then this is not for you. We think that many of the elaborately themed Disney restaurants add to the experience of our trip. We personally enjoy the Disney Dining Plan for one simple reason – peace of mind. If you are one that enjoys all inclusive resorts, you might find yourself a fan of the Dining Plan. You pay up front, and then enjoy the freedom of not having to check price tags the rest of the trip, and sighing every time you put your credit card down. To us, that freedom, makes the Dining Plan worth it, even if it doesn’t end up saving money.

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4. Consider going when schools are in session

This might not be feasible for you and your family, but crowds are significantly light when schools are in session. To us, lighter crowds, mean happier days and less cranky people. Our all-time favorite time of year to go is the first week of December. While it’s not as dead as it used to be, it’s not ridiculously crowded, and all the Christmas decorations are up in the parks, and it adds an extra element of magic to everything.

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5. Consider staying on property

You will find plenty of cheap hotels in the Orlando area (trust me, when David and I were just starting out, we stayed at the sketchiest of $25 a night places). We always recommend staying on property if you can though. If you fly to Florida instead of driving, it might even save you money, because of the free transportation Disney offers. If you are a guest at any Disney Property Resort, you will have access to the Disney bus system. If you stay at certain Deluxe resorts, you will be able to use the monorail, boat system, or even walk to the parks. This is a great way to avoid spending money on a rental car.

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6. Make your Fastpass+ Reservations Early

Fastpass+ is a relatively new system, that allows guests to make reservations to wait in a shorter line for top attractions. Like dining reservations, you can make these early, and if you’re a Disney Resort guest, you can make them 60 days in advance.

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7. Download the My Disney Experience App

Want to know wait times without having to run around the parks? Want to know what entertainment is happening in the park you’re in? Want to see all the reservations and fast passes you have planned for the day? THEY CAN ALL BE IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND!! Downloading this app is one of the best ways to make your life easier.

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8. Pack Strategically

You’re going to need more and less than you think. Packing for Disney is a whole new world – for example, did you know you walk on average over ten miles a day at a Disney park? You’re going to need comfortable shoes. We have a whole blog on What To Pack for a Disney Park, to help you out.

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9. Skip Downtown Disney

If you only have a limited amount of time at Disney World, we highly recommend not using one of those precious vacation days at Downtown Disney, or as it’s now called ‘Disney Springs’. Disney Springs is cool, but it’s nowhere near as cool as a Disney Park, and that’s why you’re going to Disney. You can shop, and eat at restaurants anywhere (and yes, this is a cool place), but you can’t go to the Disney Parks anywhere.

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10.Budget more time

Everything, and I mean everything is going to take longer than you think. From waiting in lines, to eating at restaurants, to traveling to and from your hotel to the parks. Things take time, and you cannot set your expectations too high on how much you can accomplish.

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Walt Disney World is a fantastic experience your first trip – whether you’re going as a couple, a family, or with a group of friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the magic, and make memories that will last a life time. We hope that our first timers tips and tricks will make your time at WDW even more enjoyable.

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