Disney World tips for first timers – a beginners guide

Are you finally going on your dream holiday to meet Mickey Mouse and friends? Planning a trip to Disney World can be incredibly exciting but also confusing and stressful so I’ve pulled together my top tips for first timers.

I’m a gigantic Disney fan and on my Florida road trip we made sure to stop in Orlando to enjoy two days of Disney World. Specifically, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. As first timer, I wish I’d had some of the advice below.

Looking for more Florida ideas? Read about that time I went kayaking with manatees and visited The Turtle Hospital.

CONTENTS OF BLOG
The Parks
Parking and shuttles
Park tickets
Don’t forget to pack
General tips
Warnings
Fast pass
Where to use fast pass
Disability pass
Disney world tips

The Parks

There are 6 parks in Disney World all with their own unique theme. So, it’s really down to your taste. We opted for Magic Kingdom as the original and Animal Kingdom because my favourite film is The Lion King. But here’s a micro intro to each park:

1. Magic Kingdom

Go classic with Magic Kingdom – the first theme park to open here in 1971. Explore 6 amazing lands and 40 attractions as well as Cinderella’s famous castle – the epic insta shot. Don’t miss the unforgettable Happily Ever After fireworks.

2. Animal Kingdom

Go wild and explore the world the Animal Kingdom. Get up close and personal with nature, watch The Lion King Show and experience the world of Avatar. Make sure to relax at the Rivers of Light illumination show.

3. Epcot

Have a peek into tomorrow’s world with this innovative park. Have fun with Guardians of the Galaxy, blast off into outer space or indulge in one of Disney’s biggest successes with Frozen Ever After.

4. Hollywood Studios

Step into the world of showbiz, where exhilarating attractions and live-action extravaganzas are waiting for you. Join the resistance in Star Wars land, only opened in 2019.

5. Blizzard Beach

Experience a blizzard in the middle of the Sunshine State! Admire the ‘snow-capped’ mountain above the water park or plunge from the peak at high speeds of around 55mph.

6. Typhoon lagoon

Feel the tropical sunshine in this park with roaring rapids, lazy rivers, shark reefs, a relaxing beach and Florida’s largest inland surfing lagoon.

Disney world tips
Credit – wdwinfo.com

Parking

We stayed in a cheap hotel in Kissimmee, which was only a 15-minute drive away from Disney Wold. Don’t be afraid to drive in as there’s tonnes of parking!

To get to Magic Kingdom follow signs to the Transportation and Ticket Centre (TTC). It’s the car park for Magic Kingdom and Epcot and costs $25 per vehicle for the day.

You will be guided to a spot in the massive parking lot. If you’re miles from the entrance you can hop on the shuttle cart. From here head to either the monorail or ferry. Yes, you can catch a ferry! Both options are free and it’s the only way to get to the park.

Animal Kingdom is a bit more straightforward. It has its own large car park ($25 entry) where you can walk, or jump on the shuttle cart, to the entrance. Simples.

Disney world tips

Park tickets

Tickets to Disney World do not come cheap. Let’s just throw that right out there. You may have bought a package deal, so you don’t need to worry about buying tickets, but for those who are doing it separately there’s a few options.

The official Disney World site sells 7, 14 and 21 day tickets, always cheaper than gate prices. You’re looking at £20-60 a day, depending on special offers, so at least £400 for a week.

Attraction tickets sell the same tickets but sometimes at a cheaper price. You can also mix and match with other attractions in Orlando by booking combo tickets.

To get a 2-day pass, like we did, then you need to do a little trick. Go on the Disney site ticket page and then on the top right hand corner change the country to Europe. It should reload and show day ticket options. Ta daa! You can’t park hop or use the water parks, but it’s a great option for those only wanting to visit for a short time.

Don’t forget to pack 5 key items

1. Snacks

After eating very little – see why below – my starvation levels where high. We stopped off at a local supermarket to fill our bags full of snacks. It works out WAY cheaper too.

2. Water

It gets hot hot hot. Florida isn’t called the Sunshine State for nothing. Make sure you are carrying lots of water to keep you hydrated.

3. Sun cream

It gets super sunny and sweaty in Florida so don’t be an idiot. Pack your sun cream, a hat and clothing to cover exposed skin.

3. Umbrella

In total contradiction, Florida is also known for rainfall. One minute it will be glorious and the next like you’re in a tropical thunderstorm. Take a small umbrella as it will most certainly rain.

4. Hand sanitiser

It’s a busy park full of thousands of people. That’s a lot of germs to go around so bring hand sanitiser to keep your hands fresh and clean.

5. Portable charger

We took SO MANY pictures and videos. You’re having the time of your life and want to document it. Carry a portable charger and keep your battery nice and topped up. All about the gram, right?

6 Disney World tips

1. Eat at off peak times

Disney World is busy and one of the best tips is to eat at off peak times. Don’t go for lunch between 11.30-13.00 or have tea at 18.00. Can you eat earlier or later to avoid the mad rush and long queues?

2. Shop at the end

We found this so useful! Shop for a while to avoid the thousands of visitors all leaving at close time. I love souvenir shopping at the end of the day as there’s less to carry around the park.

3. Download the app

If there’s one thing you should do right now, it’s download the Disney app. We relied on it to get ride, performance and parade times, navigate the parks, browse menus and book fast passes. More on that below.

4. Plan your route

Disney World parks are huge. If you can plan your route and rides in the same area, trust me, your feet and back will thank you!

5. Be wise with fast pass

The fast pass – a fantastic perk to visiting Disney World but use them wisely. The pass means you can choose a ride and time to visit, with very little queue. More on fast passes below.

6. Embrace the whole experience

Seems obvious but embrace Disney World. It’s big, camp and colourful. Don’t be the boring adult amongst a sea of children and big kids. Don’t snigger or pull your face at the joy it can bring people. Give Goofy a huge hug. Dance by the parades. Wear mickey ears. Get in the spirit and feel the magic.

Warnings

1. Little Shade

I’m ghostly pale, full of freckles and burn in the slightest bit of heat. And I found very little shade in either Kingdom. I’d run under the shadow from a plant or have to go indoors. So, bring a hat and obviously sun cream. The umbrella comes in useful for shade too.

2. Few seats

I suffer from multiple chronic health issues and I’m unable to stand for long periods. Rest is my best friend. But I couldn’t see many chairs or benches in the park or whilst queuing for rides. Be aware to pace yourself.

3. Where’s the veggie?

Being a vegetarian in Florida was torture and Disney World made me so hungry I cried. The veggie sloppy joe was disgusting. In the end I got pastries and fruit from Starbucks. I eat fish so the evening meal was tasty but really, they do not offer a good choice for veggies.

Fast Pass

Everybody gets a fast pass. It allows you to book experiences and attractions up to 60 days before your visit, where you skip the long line. You are given 3 passes a day so use them wisely.

Pick the most popular rides and book mid-morning. That’s because once they’re used up, you get 1 extra pass at a time for later in the day.

Use the app and keep eye on the wait times for rides so you can make sensible decisions about where to use your extra fast pass. Don’t use it on lines less than 30 minutes. Be savvy so you can really make the most of your visit!

Which rides to use fast pass on

I only visited Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, so I have suggested 3 rides in each and mentioned what to avoid.

Animal Kingdom

  • Avatar Flight of Passage (BEST RIDE EVER!)
  • Expedition Everest – very scary
  • Kali River Rapids – very wet

Don’t use your fast pass on The Lion King Show as you’re pretty much guaranteed entry. Rock up 20-30 minutes before for seats. Na’vi river journey wasn’t so great so I’d miss that.

Magic Kingdom

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – family fun
  • Splash Mountain – wet wet wet
  • Space Mountain – dark and scary

Haunted Mansion was a let down, so I wouldn’t bother with it. But Buzz Lightyear’s Space Rangers ride and It’s a small world show were super fun.

Disney world tips

Disability Pass

Do you also suffer from a medical issue(s) that will challenge your trip? Well Disney has you covered. They want to make their parks accessible, inclusive and welcoming to all guests regardless of disability, invisible or visible.

On your first day, head to guests services inside the park and get a Disability Pass. They will take your picture and add it to your account. There are no health checks and they take your word so don’t take the mickey. It’s reserved for those really in need.

It means you can go to the person at the ride entrance and they will give you a return time, which matches the current wait time. You’re not getting priority access. You and your party just don’t need to stand in a queue for hours. This pass can be used alongside your fast pass.

Have a magical experience

I hope you have the most magical time on you holiday to Orlando and that these Disney World tips have helped prepare you for a whirlwind time. Tell Mickey I said hi! Let me know if you have other tips in the comments below.

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