Going to Disney World? Here are some valuable things you need to know.
Have you ever taken a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida? Alright, I must admit that it wasn’t my first time going there. And it wasn’t Justin’s first time either! But, it was our first time going to Disney as adults, and our first trip to Disney together as a couple. While we both had so many wonderful childhood memories, it was also an entirely new experience. Let me explain.
When I was a little kid, I was obsessed with Disney World and family trips to Florida. We went for the first time when I was seven years old, along with my five year old sister. A few years later, we had another opportunity to take a family vacation and wanted more than anything to go back to Disney. Flash forward to another two years later, and we took a third holiday to Disney! My sister and I clearly couldn’t get enough.
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But, that was back in the 1990s, and my parents completely planned those trips. Decades later, Justin and I decided to take our first Disney trip, both for nostalgic purposes and to create new memories together. It’s also a really fun place to travel for couples; Disney isn’t just for kids and families, you know!
However, once I started doing some research for the trip, I realized that there’s actually quite a lot that you should know before you travel to Disney. There are so many articles online with Walt Disney World tips and tricks. Sure, you can simply buy your ticket and go, but your experience can be even more magical with a little preparation. After going to Disney World, here are the most valuable little tidbits, all in one place. Here’s your Disney World must do activities, Walt Disney World tips, and everything you need to prepare for a memorable first time at Disney.
Disney World Must Do: Before You Go
There are many aspects of your Walt Disney World trip that you can book in advance, ultimately saving you time and hassle. There are some pretty obvious things to do before you arrive at Disney World, like book your tickets. But, it is also necessary to make restaurant reservations and the ability to skip the line for certain rides. Here’s a list of Disney World must do activities before you hit the parks.
Download My Disney Experience App
I recommend making an account and downloading the My Disney Experience App even before you buy your tickets. You can make an account and access My Disney Experience online. Make sure you download the My Disney Experience app for your iPhone or Android before you leave. There is free Wi-Fi at every Disney World park, and you can use the My Disney Experience App to keep track of your bookings.
Furthermore, you can check ride wait times from the app when you’re in the park, which is very valuable for the rides where you don’t have Fastpass+ reservations.
Once you buy your park tickets, add them directly to the My Disney Experience App.
Purchase Discounted Tickets
You can buy your tickets online from a variety of places, including the Disney website. I recommend purchasing your tickets from a trusted seller online, Undercover Tourist. You can often get cheap Disney tickets here, and there are lots of deals. Browse the website and see what you can find!
When we traveled to Walt Disney World, we went for three days, visiting three parks (Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot). If you want to experience all of the parks, you can easily spend up to a week at Disney World.
Make Dining Reservations
In all of our planning, we didn’t realize that we needed to make dining reservations ahead of time. That was so silly of us! You can book dining reservations for certain restaurants in the parks up to 6 months ahead of time. When we went to Disney, we thought we could walk right into certain restaurants and get a table. Wrong!
Many restaurants book up fast, especially the popular ones. We wanted to eat at this one restaurant, but realized that we could only dine there with a reservation. When we checked our My Disney Experience App, we could eventually dine there – three hours later! Of course, we were hungry right then, so we went to a quicker grab and go dining option. For the next day, we booked the restaurant ahead of time and we were able to dine where we wished.
You can also book dining plans at Disney, depending if you plan to eat there often. If that’s the case, you can certainly save some money by choosing a dining plan. However, we weren’t staying at a Disney resort hotel and we didn’t dine at the restaurants often. Maybe next time, we’ll visit a Disney resort and will choose to eat a lot of our meals at the Disney parks.
For those who are wondering, you won’t have any difficult dining as a vegan at Walt Disney World. I’ll be writing a vegan guide to Disney very soon with everything we ate. Stay tuned.
Schedule Disney World FastPass+
The ride lines at Disney World can be intense. You definitely don’t want to spend most of your day waiting in massive lineups. Thankfully, there are options to skip the line with FastPass+. You can book three fast passes at any time. Once you use all three fast passes by going on the rides, you can use your app or a kiosk at the parks to book three more fast passes. I recommend scheduling your initial FastPass+ bookings earlier in the day so you can use three more later in the day.
For regular visitors to Walt Disney World, you can book your FastPass+ up to 30 days in advance of your trip. If you are staying at the Disney resorts, you get to book your FastPass+ earlier, up to 60 days in advance. Those staying at the park have an advantage because they’ll have a better chance of getting to skip the line for the most popular rides. As we weren’t staying at the resorts, many of the newest and most popular rides were completely booked for FastPass+, or we could only snag passes late in the day.
If you decide to park hop, you can book FastPass+ for rides at multiple parks. For a thorough explanation of how FastPass+ works, please check the Undercover Tourist website.
Walt Disney World Tips: The Parks
After you complete your Disney World must do planning and preparations, it’s time to travel to Orlando! It’s all about reliving your childhood memories and creating new magical moments that will last a lifetime. I highly recommend planning a Walt Disney World trip for couples. Justin and I had an amazing time wandering around the parks together, exploring each fantastic world. While we loved going on the rides, we enjoyed making our way around the public spaces just as much. Walt Disney World is the most magical place on earth and it’s the perfect vacation to spend with the one you love.
Once you’ve planned out your FastPass+ and some of your dining options, there are really only a few things you need to know. Otherwise, lose yourself in the magic, go on some rides, eat some fast food and snacks when you don’t have restaurant reservations, and wander everywhere.
Devote 1 Day (or 2) to Each Park Separately
While some might disagree and like to hop from park to park, we found that there was more than enough to keep you busy at one park for the day. If you want to go on all of the rides and see every attraction, you can easily spend 2 days at Magic Kingdom, 2 days at Epcot, and 1 day at the other parks. When Justin and I visited, we spent one day at Magic Kingdom, one day at Epcot, and one day at Hollywood Studios. While we didn’t get to go on every ride, we chose our favorites and had so much fun.
Wear Your Mouse Ears
One of the first things I did when I got to Magic Kingdom? I went into one of the shops and bought my own Minnie Mouse ears! You’ll see so many mouse ears as you walk around the park, and it’s all a part of the magic. Wear your mouse ears with pride!
Little did I know, there’s an entire fashion concept around the Disney Parks called “Disneybounding.” It’s not necessarily wearing a costume, but it’s choosing articles of clothing inspired by Disney characters. It might include a color scheme, a shirt or skirt, or a hair accessory that reminds you of a Disney character or movie. In a way, wearing mouse ears is a small form of Disneybounding, even if you don’t fully prepare an outfit to wear. The more you know!
Our Favorite Rides and Experiences
At the top of my list of Disney World must do activities are the rides. Disney is all about the magical experience, and you’ll feel that right down to every detail on the rides. These rides create immersive worlds that will captivate your imagination. Here are a few of my favorites, both for nostalgic and present day purposes.
It isn’t a ride, but Cinderella’s Castle is at the middle of the park. As you wander through Main Street USA, you’ll see the castle off in the distance. Inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, this is the place to take photos, watch daily performances, dine at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and marvel at the fireworks in the evening. Cinderella’s Castle is even illuminated at night.
After a day at Magic Kingdom, our favorite rides include:
- Pirates of the Caribbean: This was one of my favorites from back in the day, although there wasn’t a Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) character back in the 90s! I love how the rides at Disney keep their essence, but they’re continually updated as well. It’s easy to become immersed in the pirate way of life, as well as get that song stuck in your head.
- Space Mountain: It’s a roller coaster in the dark, traveling through space. It really doesn’t get much cooler than that! When I was a kid, my sister was too scared to ride on this one. I faced my fears and went on it anyway. It was one of my favorite rides back then, and it lives up to the nostalgic hype in my brain.
- Haunted Mansion: Travel through the haunted mansion on a slower moving ride, along with some ghost companions.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: This was one of my favorite rides as a kid, and it’s a really fun roller coaster moving through the landscape of the Old West.
- It’s a Small World: It’s such a classic ride, you really can’t miss it. Dolls from every country sing that same tune, over and over. It’s such a charming and magical ride that has stood the test of time. You will definitely get the song stuck in your head.
- Peter Pan’s Flight: We didn’t get the chance to do this one because there were long lines, but I remember really enjoying it as a kid!
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: Sadly, we didn’t get to try this new ride either due to the long lines. I imagine that it’s a really fun roller coaster, so snag a FastPass+ for this one if you can!
By far, the busiest area of the park is the new Toy Story Land, so check it out really early in the morning or later at night. Here are some of our favorite attractions at Hollywood Studios:
- Toy Story Mania: This ride is more like a video game than a ride! While you spin around from scene to scene in your own bucket car, it’s a 3D shooter with various scenarios. Grab a FastPass+ for this one if you can, it’s a lot of fun for video game addicts like us.
- Slinky Dog Dash: We hope to ride this one on our next visit as the wait was too long and we couldn’t get a FastPass+ for it. It is such a cute roller coaster, and looks like a great time.
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: This one scared me just as much nowadays as it did when I was a kid. It’s thrilling, it has a great story, and I wouldn’t hesitate to ride it every time I visit the park.
- Rock ‘n Rollercoaster Starring Aerosmith: This rollercoaster takes you on a ride through the dark, and the ride takes off intensely from the get go. For rollercoaster lovers, this one is a Disney World must do ride. We were smiling the whole time!
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular: It’s an Indiana Jones stunt stage show that fans of the movies will love. It’s funny, engaging, and we really enjoyed it. It’s a great way to cool off and rest your legs, too.
- Star Tours: The Adventures Continue: It’s a 3D motion simulator ride through the Star Wars universe. While this one made Justin feel a little bit queasy (as we discovered that 3D motion rides tend to do for him!), it was a lot of fun and highly recommended if you’re a fan of the movies or not.
By far, our favorite experiences at Epcot was traveling around the world. At the back of the park, there are 11 countries represented at the World Showcase: USA, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, and Italy. We loved traveling the world in a day at Epcot. It was magical to visit replicas of places we’ve seen in real life, like Doge’s Palace in Venice and half-timbered houses in Germany. I could have easily spent the day at the World Showcase, admiring the landscapes and sampling the food and drink.
Justin and I spent most of our time at the World Showcase and only went on a couple of rides:
- Soarin’ Around the World: This is one of my favorite Disney rides by far. It feels like you’re flying around famous world attractions, like the Great Wall of China and the Great Pyramids of Egypt. If you love to travel or discover some of the most amazing places on the planet, this ride is for you.
- Spaceship Earth: This ride takes place inside the giant iconic sphere at Epcot. It’s really fascinating to explore how technology has changed our lives and how we communicate with others around the world. It’s a slow moving ride that’s very interesting, and one that you should definitely experience at least once.
First Disney Trip Tips
There are a few key mistakes you can make for your first time at Disney World, and I want to make sure you have the best time possible. Some of these might seem like common sense, but I thought they were worth mentioning anyway.
Wear Comfy Shoes
Don’t wear brand new shoes to Disney World. Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes like heels or blister inducing flip flops. Wear comfortable running shoes or sneakers. Trust me. You will be doing a lot of walking all over the place for several days in a row, most likely. Choose your most comfortable shoes and wear them throughout your trip. You’ll thank me for this one! You’ll likely end up clocking 20,000 to 30,000 steps on your Fitbit daily!
Don’t Buy Water
We made this mistake because we didn’t realize that you can get free ice water at most fast food stations around the park. If you aren’t able to easily access the water, just ask for a cup of ice water and you shall receive. There’s no need to purchase expensive bottles of water at Disney parks.
With that said, I was actually able to find rather inexpensive iced coffee at coffee stands at Disney. Cool down and get your caffeine fix! Sounds like a plan to me.
Check Crowd Calendars Online
I wish that I had done this ahead of time. I’ll definitely make it a Disney World must do travel planning activity for next time. Check crowd calendars online for predictions on the least crowded days to visit the various parks. While they might not be perfectly accurate, this will give you the best chance to visit when it is least busy.
I really like the crowd calendars at Undercover Tourist. In fact, there are predictions for all Orlando parks in one place, which is super handy. The calendar also lists special events going on at each theme park.
Conclusion: Be a Planner
While it isn’t necessary to plan out every detail of your trip, you should definitely plan some important aspects of your holiday to Walt Disney World. If you’re going to Disney for the first time, I hope that you’ve found this article to be enlightening and valuable. There are certain details that you’ll want to plan ahead of time, like FastPass+ and restaurant reservations. However, if you’d rather wing it when it comes to the food (I know, it’s hard to decide what to eat far in advance, especially when you don’t know exactly when you’ll be hungry!), you can eat at the quicker fast food kiosks without any difficulty (we did this a lot).
From the rides to the imaginative lands, Walt Disney World is a truly magical experience for couples and families alike. Whether you’re on a family vacation with the kids or wandering hand in hand with your other half, you’ll surely have a wondrous time at the happiest place on earth.
Want to see more photos from our trip to Walt Disney World? Check out our travel photography album!
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