15 Fantastic Tips for a Spectacular First Trip to Disney World
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All Four Parks:
This was our first trip to Disney World as a family. It had been over 20 years since my husband and I had been there (not together), so I wanted to make the most of it. I decided we should go ahead and do each park, one a day, without the park hopper ticket–to save a little money–and it was a great decision! Now, we know what each park has to offer and we discovered that even those we thought we wouldn’t like as much were favorites of a few of the family members. For example, we almost didn’t go to Animal Kingdom, but it turned out to be my husband’s and 3 of my kids’ favorite park!
Polka Dots and Wishes Travel:
I am so glad I used Amy of Polka Dots N’ Wishes Travel Agency to help me plan this trip. She made it so easy, answered all my questions quickly, and helped me make the best decisions. I especially liked that she knew when all the deadlines were and followed up with me to make sure I had chosen my FastPasses, customized my MagicBands, and made dining reservations. (By the way, you don’t pay a travel agent anything; they receive their commissions from other parties.)
The MagicBands were the coolest thing! These are special bracelets that are read by devices throughout the Disney property. Be sure to customize them on your Disney account a few weeks before arriving. That way you can choose the color for each person and get their name printed on the inside. They will be mailed to you at your home.
The MagicBands are connected to everything you do at Disney. It has your hotel key, park tickets, FastPasses, saves photos taken on the rides and by the Disney photographers (like in front of the Castle or with characters) on your account, has your meal plan, and can have your credit card connected so you don’t have to even have that with you to make purchases at the resort or parks. You do have to type in a password each time you use it to buy anything, including the meal plan, so that makes it safer in case you lose it. Also, when entering the parks, you scan the MagicBand with your fingerprint at the same time. With our younger kids, the security people had iPads and I gave permission for them to take photos instead of using the fingerprints (because for some reason they never worked with my little kids).
I discovered one night that my MagicBand had disappeared. The only complaint I have about it is that the way it attaches makes it fairly easy for something to catch on it and it falls off. It was at Epcot, so I checked at guest services, but no one had turned it in yet. They said since I was staying at a resort I should get the replacement from them because it doubles as my room key. When we got back, I went to the concierge, showed my ID, and got a replacement in no time (but the new one was gray and didn’t have my name on it!)
There are different options for the meal plan. We chose two quick service meals a day. It also included 2 snacks and a resort cup which could be used for free drinks while we were at the resort (not the parks). We usually used a snack for breakfast (yogurt or cereal or cinnamon roll). Then, we could get another snack at the park later in the day. A few times we ate dinner at the park, but usually, we came back to the resort and ate dinner there.
One of my few complaints about the Disney trip was that the food court at the Disney Caribbean Resort isn’t the most efficient. It’s a huge resort with lots of people. I’m sure they could find a more user-friendly way to organize the meals there. The food was ok, though, and fairly typical–pizza, burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads. I loved that they always had fresh fruit and veggies available as sides for the kids. It’s easy to accommodate food allergies, GF, etc. at Disney!
These were great! My kids loved getting to drink a variety of drinks, rather than just water like they usually do at restaurants. There aren’t 10 different colors, so I wrote each of our names on the cup and lid with a Sharpie. This actually helped keep them separate when we were in the eating place as well. Also, if you think you might want to wash your cups throughout the week, bring some dish soap. They have a sink to rinse them out at the eating place, but it’s just cold water and there’s no soap.
Water at the parks:
It gets hot at Disney! Any food place that has cups will give you free ice water if you ask.
We loved these! The first day we were able to choose them (I think it’s 2 months in advance?), I worked scheduled them. You get 3 per person per day. A FastPass+ gets you quickly through a separate line up to the front of the attraction. After you use your 3, you can go on the My Disney Experience app (or kiosks in the park) to add more if there are any left. Sometimes, there weren’t for the attractions we liked the most.
My Disney Experience App:
I already mentioned that the app keeps track of your FastPasses and you can delete, change, and schedule more with it. The app also shows wait times, restrooms, and walking instructions to attractions. We used it constantly.
Unless you have an amazingly good battery in your phone, or don’t use it much, you are sure to run out of battery before the day is over. Either bring your own battery charger (don’t forget the cord, and make sure you fully charge it each night) or use one that you purchase at Disney. The benefit of the latter is that whenever the battery on it runs low, you can just exchange it for a fully charged one at different places throughout the parks! They include cords and can be used outside of Disney once you leave.
Mickey and Minnie Ears:
I decided to buy some Mickey and Minnie ears from Amazon before we left for the trip. I knew some of my kids would want them, and didn’t want to make an impulse buy at the park. 🙂 We got 12 pairs for $15!
We happened upon a great week with no rain! But, usually it does rain, so pick up some thin ponchos at the dollar store before you arrive. Carry them in your backpack (or fanny pack–what I used!)
Caribbean Beach Resort:
This resort is in the “moderately priced” category. I chose it compared to the others because I like the Caribbean decor. It was a nice place to stay. It’s huge, so I asked for our hotel rooms to be close to the eating facility (called Old Port Royale). We were still quite a walk away, but right at the end of the bridge, so it was fine. It was a beautiful walk through the trees and flowers, past the playground (which we never did have time to use!), and past other sitting spots. I do wish we had had more time there, so I could have just sat on their sandy beach spots on a hammock.
They had outdoor movies on a big screen each night. My kids watched three of them: Lilo and Stitch, Tangled, and Finding Dory. I have a funny story about Tangled. I guess my 4-year-old daughter had never seen it before. Spoiler Alert: When it got to the end where Flynn Rider/Eugene cuts Rapunzel’s hair and then dies, my daughter burst into tears. She was really crying hard! My husband thought it was because Flynn/Eugene had died, and tried to reassure her that he was going to be okay, but that did no good. Later on (around 10 minutes after she got back to the room), she was still crying hard. I discovered it was because Rapunzel had lost her beautiful hair! She told me, “I’m never watching that movie again. And, if I see it in the library, I’m not going to check it out!”
My kids also loved the pool at the resort. It had a couple of slides, lots of chairs for the adults, 2 hot tubs, and 4 lifeguards. The lifeguards were extremely professional and attentive, so I was much more relaxed about having my kids swim there. (It’s so hard to watch four kids in a big pool!)
Since I had some young kids (ages 4, 6, and 8) that weren’t into rollercoasters at all and wanted to do little kid Disney things, and I had two teen boys (ages 15 and 16), I decided that it would be more enjoyable for us to split up often at the parks. I made sure to get the older boys all the thrill ride FastPasses, and had the middle group (my husband with kids ages 10, 12, and 13) do some of those as well. It gave me more freedom to enjoy things like Enchanted Tales With Belle and Magic Carpet of Aladdin that I knew the others wouldn’t want to do. We did occasionally meet back together, such as for the Star Wars ride at Hollywood Studios, fireworks and Monsters Inc. comedy show at Magic Kingdom, and Safari ride at Animal Kingdom.
Definitely stay for (or head back for) the fireworks at Magic Kingdom and Epcot. They had really nice shows. I especially enjoyed Magic Kingdom’s.
Buses went back and forth to the different Disney parks from our resort. They told us there would be a bus every 15-20 minutes. Different buses go to different parks, though. The first morning worked out perfectly. We got on the bus within 15 minutes and got to Magic Kingdom in enough time to ride a ride before our first FastPass. The other three mornings didn’t work out so well, though. We waited well over 30 minutes each of those 3 days, and missed out on getting there early enough to go on a ride before the first FastPass expired. The buses, then, were my other complaint.
When to Go:
We only had a choice of spring break or summer since my oldest son is now in school. If you have an option, I would recommend going during a less busy time. Anytime school is out, the parks are busier. We chose spring break because it would be a little cooler than summertime. It still got up to 90 degrees, though! The crowds weren’t too horrible most of the time; Disney is very good at efficiency. However, it would have been nice to get to go on some of the more popular rides more than once.
Each evening after the park, my 8-year-old daughter drew about her day. Here is the drawing about Magic Kingdom.
Our first of four Disney days was at Magic Kingdom. That was a good choice for our crowd! We arrived early so that we could walk in right as it opened. (Allow a little time to get through security and get your MagicBand working with your fingerprints.) They do a little opening show on the stage of Cinderella’s castle, but you don’t have to stand too close to see and hear it. We were standing near the entrance to Fantasyland so we could go straight to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and not need a FastPass.
Then, we split into our three groups for most of the rest of the day (although we did meet back up for the Haunted Mansion).
I loved the rides and attractions I did with my younger three kids (ages 8, 6, and 4). It’s so easy to get into the joy of it when seeing their glee! With them I did It’s a Small World (cute–just looking at things on the side of the boat), The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (not too scary, they liked it), Swiss Family Treehouse (I told them to remember it all when I read the book to them this summer), Country Bear Jamboree (nice to sit and watch a show when we were hot, but the songs were somewhat risque and I wouldn’t go again), Peter Pan’s Flight (fun to “fly” over scenes from the movie), and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (yet another ride that takes you through scenes, the kids had fun playing with the stuff they had along the way while in line).
Enchanted Tales With Belle:
We had a FastPass for this one. The kids loved it. They got to play a part in acting out the Beauty and the Beast story with Belle herself! My kids were Mrs. Potts, Chip, and Felipe the horse.
We also got a photo with Ariel. I didn’t realize until later that the Disney photographers are perfectly fine with parents taking photos even though they are as well. I didn’t take one of the kids with Ariel. We have it online, so I might order it. I didn’t purchase the Photo Plan because it was $169. You’ll have to decide if that is worth it to you.
With the other kids, we did Pirates of the Caribbean (a riding through ride to see scenes, not the great, but you have to see it because of the movies, right?), Haunted Mansion (another riding through ride, wasn’t too scary for my younger kids), Mickey’s PhilharMagic (a 3-D movie that the younger crowd liked), and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor (really loved this interactive show, really funny!)
Rides that my other kids did that I didn’t: Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover. The older crowd also went on Space Mountain. We got additional FastPasses for it at 10 p.m., after the fireworks, so I got to go on it as well. I love Space Mountain–an indoor, in-the-dark
We headed back to the resort in the later afternoon to rest a bit and eat dinner. Then, we headed back to the park for a little more fun. We got additional FastPasses for Space Mountain at 10 p.m., after the fireworks at 9 p.m., so I got to go on it as well. I love Space Mountain–an indoor, in-the-dark rollercoaster! The fireworks show was absolutely incredible. I’ve never seen its equal.
We were at Epcot during the flower show. It was so beautiful; they had gardens and bush sculptures everywhere.
Spaceship Earth: This is a ride-through and see stuff kind of ride that’s inside the big Epcot ball. It didn’t do anything for me.
Mission: Space: My older kids and husband did this one. They liked it. There are 2 levels of “thrill” if one is too much for you.
Test Track: I had a FastPass for this, and stood in line to do it again later! If you’re willing to be an extra rider with 5 other people in a car, you can get through the line faster. (It’s called Single Rider.) You feel like you are really riding in a race car.
Soarin’ Around the World: This ride was totally worth the hour wait. I wished it was longer. It’s indoor in front of a movie screen. They lift you up some from the floor, but you can’t see how high, so don’t be afraid if you don’t like heights. It really felt like you were flying over the ocean and seeing different landmarks around the world.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends: The ride was pretty lame, but I loved walking through the aquarium. They had manatees!
Turtle Talk with Crush: An interactive show with Crush, the turtle from Nemo. I don’t know how they do these shows (Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor was the same way). The speaker is the animated character on the screen, but he can see the audience and talks to them. At one point, he chose my daughter to ask a question. She said, “Can we see Squirt?” So, Squirt comes swimming on to the screen and talks to her. I asked my daughter if they had told her to ask that question, and she said she had chosen it on her own!
Frozen Ever After: My 8-year-old daughter and I stood in line for an hour. It was a very cute ride. We were the last boat to make it through before it broke down and closed for the night. 🙁
My kids were really complaining about the heat this day. They were tired and wanted to go back to swim. We debated a while, and finally decided that we would all just stay so we could watch the fireworks at 9 p.m. After they got some dinner with the meal plan (quick service), they headed off to do Test Track again while my husband, older son, and I ate at a restaurant in Italy. It was fun talking to the waitress about the program they use to bring international people to Disney to work for a year.
My oldest son enjoyed staying in the “countries” and listening to the music more than any of the rides at this park. I barely got to scratch the surface for what they had to offer. I’d love to go again!
It’s really hard to decide which park was my favorite because they each had special things about them. But, it might have been Hollywood Studios.
The first thing we did when we walked in was see Donald Duck. My 6-year-old begged to stand in line to get a picture with him. He later told me he had forgotten to tell Donald that he was his favorite character and asked if we could do that. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there when we left, so we’ll have to send him a letter!
While standing there, Stormtroopers started marching through the streets. There is a stage in the middle of the park (this park is far smaller than the other three) that had different shows throughout the day. Be sure to pick up a Times Guide so you’ll catch as many as possible.
We split off to use our FastPasses with my older boys going to Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which is light a giant drop down an elevator shaft, and the Rock N Roller Coaster. The rollercoaster goes upside down, is indoors, and plays loud rock music! My husband and middle kids stood in line for it later in the day.
Toy Story Midway Mania
I thought this was going to be a ride to just humor my little kids, but it was so fun! You ride in a car through it wearing 3D glasses and shoot at targets. I really wanted to do it again, but the Fast Passes were gone and the line was too long.
The Great Movie Ride
This was enjoyable for all of us. A tour guide takes you through explaining different things about movies of the past and different genres. But, it’s interactive. She is actually an actor in the show.
Here was another ride I wished was longer. You feel like you’re riding in a star wars spaceship and get to go places like you’ve seen in the Star Wars movies, such as a Pod Race.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
We almost didn’t go to this, and I’m glad we did! What a great show! They act out many of the stunt scenes from Indiana Jones movies and explain a lot about stunt work as well.
A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
I did this just to humor my younger kids, and then I was sad that my whole family didn’t join us (they were on the Rock N Roller Coaster). It was absolutely hilarious! The man and woman who were “telling” the Frozen story were top-notch stand up comedians. And, it’s also fun to sing the songs from Frozen along with 1000 other people. At the end, snow fell on the crowd. You couldn’t help but be smiling when you left the theater.
We didn’t participate in this, but watched it. Throughout the day, they lead a group of kids through a “Jedi Training Class.” It’s outdoors, and a crowd is watching–if that changes your plans about wanting to do it. The kids also get to “fight” one of the bad guys, like Darth Vader, with their light sabers. Sign up first thing in the morning to get a spot.
Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage:
The last thing we did before heading back to the resort to swim was watch this stage show. I was not impressed. The only ones really singing were Belle and Gaston. The others were dancing, but their singing was dubbed on the musical track. It just wasn’t that good, and I was disappointed.
I do wish I could have stayed to do the rest of the attractions at Hollywood Studios, but it was already Wednesday, and my kids still hadn’t been to the pool! So, we needed to head back. 🙂
The Tree of Life is the focal point at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If you love animals, and if you loved the countries at Epcot, you’ll love Animal Kingdom. We were pleasantly surprised! They have huge sections for Africa and Asia, with music, dancing, shopping, food, and people dressed in traditional clothing.
My little kids and I got a FastPass to meet Minnie and Mickey at Adventurers Outpost, while my older kids went on the rollercoaster that goes backwards: Expedition Everest. A lot of people bring autograph books and have the characters sign them.
It’s Tough to Be a Bug. This is right inside the Tree of Life, so it was actually fun to stand in line for a while to see the amazing carvings in the tree.
Multiple warnings were given about the 3-D show It’s Tough to Be a Bug being too scary for some. I was with my 3 youngest kids, so I told them to remove their 3-D glasses and cover their ears if it got too much for them. Be sure that everyone sits in their own seat! It’s a 4D movie experience, which means that you will smell and feel some things, as well as hearing and seeing them. 🙂 It’s fun!
Here is Flik from A Bug’s Life.
DINOSAUR is a ride that’s in the dark and goes fast with lots of flashing lights and jerking, to imitate time travel. Also, fearful realistic dinosaurs get close. Some kids might be too scared for it.
Several of my kids went on Primeval Whirl (while I left to take the littles to meet Mickey and Minnie).
My kids who were ages 6, 8, and 10 absolutely loved doing the Wilderness Explorer activity (you know, like Russell in the movie “Up”). They go from spot to spot in the park and meet with the guide who has them do an activity to get a sticker. Some of the activities included searching for supplies that would be carried up Mt. Everest, learning facts about certain animals, digging up fossils, and identifying animal sounds. When the rest of us went home to the hotel, my 10-year-old son stayed with his dad so he could complete more of the book. The park is actually almost too large to complete in one day. If you are able to return, you can bring your book back and continue filling it up.
The Bone Yard:
There are animals all throughout the park. I didn’t even get to see 1/10 of them! Here are a few pictures. Definitely, go on the Kilimanjaro Safaris Safari Ride. The pictures you see below are not blown up. The animals of the Safari really were that close!
The lion was asleep at the top of the rocks.
My 3 youngest and I enjoyed the bird show Flights of Wonder. They will never forget hearing a parrot sing “Old MacDonald Has a Farm!”
I was so impressed with the Finding Nemo- the Musical (ten times better than the Beauty and the Beast musical we saw at Hollywood Studios). The singers and costumes were amazing. The songs were all original, and I was really wishing Crush’s song was more of a Beach Boys surfing type of song, but I still loved it.
The last day we were in Florida, we headed out to Cocoa Beach. We checked the weather before-hand to see which way to go (gulf side or Atlantic Ocean side). Cocoa Beach was less rainy, so off we went. There was a Wal-Mart near the beach, so we stopped for supplies. Thankfully, there was still a cabana available to rent on the beach to help shield us from the hot sun.
Here’s a tip, though. Buy new sunscreen every year. I finished up the spray sunscreen on my younger kids and switched to some old stuff for the rest of us. Guess who got really sunburned! That spray sunscreen kept us all safe every day we were at Disney.
What an awesome first trip to Disney World. My kids are already asking to go back. 🙂
Have you been to Disney World? Have some tips to share that I missed? Please leave them in the comments!
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