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8 Things that First-Time Visitors to Walt Disney World Need to Know

A Disney vacation is often a splurge, and if you are planning a family vacation to Walt Disney World, there are some things you need to know. While I have lots of in-depth tips on this site, it can be overwhelming to first-time Disney travelers. To make it easier for first-time visitors to Walt Disney World, I created this post as a starting point.

Disclosure: Affiliate links within. Purchasing and/or clicking on some of the links in this post may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.

I am a past member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel and have gone on some complimentary press trips in the past. All opinions are my own.

A Disney vacation is often a splurge, and if you are planning a family vacation to Walt Disney World, there are some things you need to know. Here we've gathered some easy tips and things first time visitors should know before their family vacation including booking advice, dining options, inside tricks, and more.

Purchasing Walt Disney World tickets? You can get great deals at our affiliate Undercover Tourist.

8 Things that First-Time Visitors to Walt Disney World Need to Know

You can’t just wing it when it comes to planning a Walt Disney World vacation

You can try to go with no plans (or last-minute plans), but you’ll probably be disappointed, especially for a first trip. To best enjoy your Walt Disney World vacation, I’d definitely recommend doing some research well in advance (at least 6 months in advance).

Pick up a guidebook, ask some questions of friends, study blogs (like this one), and ask questions on the Disney Parks Moms Panel (where I was a panelist).

For our very first Walt Disney World vacation as a family, I did a combination of these things. I talked to friends with kids that were the same age as mine, as well as people on message boards. Guidebooks and blogs were also a huge help.

One thing you will find with Disney World is that there is no lack of resources. In addition, most people who frequently visit love talking about the four theme parks, restaurants, and resorts, so you’ll get lots of information to help.

Yacht Club exterior

Staying on Walt Disney World property is usually easiest

There are lots of hotels, guest homes, motels, and resorts in the greater Orlando area. But it’s often much easier to stay on property, especially for a first-time visit.

Convenience is definitely one of the big benefits, but there are others. With the FastPass+ system, you’ll be able to make your reservations earlier if staying on property. In addition, you can forgo the rental car and use a combination of Disney’s Magical Express and Disney transportation to get around.

Be Our Guest dining room

Make Advance Dining Reservations well in advance

Did you know that you can make advance dining reservations for Disney table service restaurants 180 days in advance? While it can be difficult to think about when and where you want to eat a full half-year before your vacation, it’s important if you have specific places you want to go to.

Reservations for the most popular places (especially the princess character meals and Be Our Guest) do book up VERY early. If you are traveling over a busy time, it’s especially important. Make those reservations and then plan around them.

You do not need reservations for quick service locations, so those are a great option when you aren’t exactly sure which park you’ll be in.

Magic Bands

Make FastPass+ reservations (Note that FastPasses are no longer offered)

With the FastPass+ system, you can make reservations for attractions in advance. I would highly recommend that you do that. They are allowing you to make three reservations per day, 60 days in advance (if you are staying on property), and 30 days in advance (if staying off property).

Once you know where you are eating, it’s a good idea to plot out a schedule, so you’ll know which parks you’ll be in on each day. That way, you’ll have a reference for making FastPass+ reservations.

Spaceship earth from a distance

All 4 Walt Disney World theme parks are worth a visit with kids

Often first-timers to Walt Disney World think it’s not worth going to all of the parks. Epcot, especially, has a reputation as being a more “adult” themed park. But my kids love all four parks and we always try to visit all of them.

The best way to visit all four of the theme parks is to purchase the park hopper option on your Disney park tickets. That way, you’ll be able to visit more than one park per day. During our family vacations, we always visit at least two parks per day.

You will be doing a LOT of walking during your Walt Disney World family vacation

For instance, it’s 1.2 miles from one end of the World Showcase in Epcot to the other side. Bring comfortable walking shoes and wear them. Make sure that you’ve already broken in these shoes.

If you are visiting with young kids, you may find that you’ll need a stroller, even if your kids don’t usually use one. Luckily, rentals are available at the parks if you don’t bring yours along.

There are lots of character experiences at the Disney Parks

You can make advance dining reservations for character meals and FastPass+ reservations for character experiences, but you’ll also find characters throughout the parks. Check your Times Guide each day for specifics. Young kids especially will love getting autographs from the characters.

You can’t do it all at Walt Disney World

You can try, but it’s nearly impossible to do everything in one trip, five trips, or even ten trips. Do your research, make your reservations, and then have fun!

If you are traveling with kids who are a bit older, you should include them in any discussions about advance dining reservations and FastPass+ reservations. It’s always a good idea to have buy-in from the whole family when planning a vacation with teens and tweens.

Are you looking for more specific tips for planning your vacation? Here’s a collection of all of my Disney tips.

If you are going to Walt Disney World, I recommend the following hotels. Note that I have stayed in some of these resorts as part of press trips, but all opinions are my own. You can also save up to 28% on Disney Resort hotels here, and see various discounts on Walt Disney World tickets here.

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