The first time planning a vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida is thrilling but at the same time can feel very overwhelming. With four major parks, two water parks, 31 resorts, 135 attractions and more than 300 dining options, it can be difficult to know where to begin making plans for that very special, first Walt Disney World vacation.
The best way to begin planning a first Disney experience is to break things down by answering two questions first.
- Who will be in your traveling party?
- How long do you plan to stay on property at Disney World?
From here, you have a jumping off point to help determine which resort will best fit your needs, if you’re taking in any special events, which parks to visit on which days and your choices for dining reservations.
Could you just make a resort reservation, purchase a Park Hopper ticket and then simply “wing” it? Yes, but it’s not recommended, especially for a first time guest to Disney. We’ve put together five trip tips for first time visitors to Disney World.
- Choose the Disney Dining Plan
For guests staying on property at Disney World, the Dining Plan is one of the easiest ways to enjoy the hundreds of amazing food options available throughout the parks, resorts and Downtown Disney (soon to be known as Disney Springs.) There are several Dining Plan packages available, each designed to fit different budgets and preferences.
- Experience a Meal with a Beloved Disney Character
The first visit to Disney World must include one character meal. This is a chance for you to dine and hang out with your favorites. There are 18 restaurants that feature character dining located throughout the parks and resorts. Favorites include:
- Crystal Palace: located in the Magic Kingdom on Main Street U.S.A. and featuring a buffet meal with Winnie the Pooh and friends.
- Chef Mickey’s: located in the Contemporary Resort and featuring a buffet/family style meal with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto.
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall: located in Epcot® at the Norway Pavilion in the World Showcase. This buffet meal is the opportunity to dine with Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Princess Aurora, Ariel and Mary Poppins.
- See Wishes and Fantasmic!
Nobody does fireworks like Disney. These are more than just fireworks displays, Wishes in the Magic Kingdom and Fantasmic! in Hollywood Studies are spectacular nighttime events that need to be on the list of every first-time guest. There is no extra charge to view either, although it’s recommended to plan ahead by reserving a FastPass (available for both.)
- Visit Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney is a magical experience all its own. From the amazing theme shops to restaurants like T-Rex™, Raglan Road (an authentic Irish pub) and the unique Splitsville™ which combines great food with a retro-style bowling alley, there’s something for everyone. Kids will love The LEGO® Store and don’t forget to explore Mickey’s Pantry for unique Disney/Mickey themed kitchen and home items. There’s so much to see and do, plan to spend several hours or to visit at least twice during your trip.
- Down Time
Down time is essential in between park hopping and hanging out with characters at their meet-and-greet spots. Plan for at least an hour a day to hang around at your resort, enjoying the pool, arcade and the many amenities each resort offers. It’ll give both kids and adults a chance to recharge their batteries.