Every trip to Walt Disney World is special, but there's nothing like that FIRST TRIP! I remember crying the first time I saw Cinderella's Castle and the first time I saw Wishes at Magic Kingdom. And, the first time we took our children? Goosebumps!! (My daughter's very first trip when she got her Cinderella dress was so special. I'll never forget that evening!!)
But, first timer trips can be tricky to get right. You don't know what to expect and it's easy to make mistakes that make the trip less than magical. So, here are some of our best tips and tricks for getting it right on the first try!
1. Plan far enough in advance.
Dining reservations can be booked 180 days before your arrival. This means you should really start planning 7 or 8 months in advance so you know what to book. A good Travel Agent can help you make the selections that are perfect for your family. Disney restaurants aren't like your local Applebee's. If you wish to dine at a sit down restaurant, 99% of the time you MUST make reservations.
2. Plan to be there enough days.
Vacation Specialist with Coasters & Castles Travel, Alyssa Wharton says,"Clients sometimes think 4 parks equals 4 days. But it just doesn't!"
Walt Disney World is comprised of 4 Theme Parks, 2 Water Parks, a shopping/dining/entertainment district plus resort hotels, mini-golf, regular golf, boat rentals and more. There's no way to "do it all," but you will want to plan enough time to see your personal priorities and have some down time. A minimum of 5 days and ideally, a 7-10 day trip gives you a great balance of park touring and relaxing by the pool.
3. Know your priorities.
If you have preschoolers who really really really HAVE to meet Doc McStuffins - it's best to know that ahead of time so you or your Travel Agent can include it in your itinerary. Make sure you check with the people in your travel party so you know their 3-4 Must Do's. You may be surprised! Vacation Specialist Robin Wright advises, "Make sure you see the fireworks and parades!" They are so special at Disney!!
Samantha Carter, Vacation Specialist advises her clients to get to the parks early so you can get those priorities done. Many people want to sleep in on vacation, which is totally understandable. But, you will get a lot more done by getting up early and taking a break if you need a nap later in the day.
4. Manage expectations.
Be very careful in what you promise, especially to children. At every character meal, for example, the characters are likely but are not guaranteed. Sometimes, even Snow White gets a cold and can't attend dinner at Akershus. Or, you may not realize that a promised ride has a height requirement that your child doesn't meet yet. Your Travel Agent can help you figure out what rides your child can do, so they don't have a meltdown in the park.
5. Find an objective source of information.
Planning a Disney trip is like getting married or having a baby. As soon as people find out, you will be bombarded with advice. While it's well-intended, keep in mind that most people are talking about what worked for their family. It may or may not work for yours. Find an objective source, like a Travel Agent or look to this Blog or numerous books on the market and decide for yourself. My daughter doesn't like roller coasters. Everyone and their brother will tell me to get to Space Mountain. For our family, that just doesn't work and that's the beauty of Disney World - there is something for everyone!!
6. Have a plan but be willing to drop it if it's making everyone unhappy.
Some people love to go "commando touring," and have every minute of every day planned out. Unfortunately, this doesn't always work. Someone may be tired. Or, not feel well. Disney World, in particular, can feel overwhelming at times. In these situations, we would always pull out the water park card. Our girls loved the water parks when they were younger (and they still do at 13 and 15). It was a way to change up the situation, get out of the heat and just have fun. Your family might prefer a nap, or the resort pool.
Whatever you do, just make sure that the time you are spending makes you happy. After all, isn't that the whole point of vacation?