I am a former member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel and have been on some complimentary press trips at Walt Disney World, but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us.
You’ve planned your Walt Disney World vacation – made your FastPass+ and dining reservations, and are ready for your vacation. As you start to pack your bags, you may be thinking about your first day at Walt Disney World. What should you pack in your carry-on? How will you spend your day? Here are some tips for your first day at Walt Disney World.
Plan Your Arrival Time
When you book your flights, you’ll want to figure out what time that you’ll arrive. Think about how you’ll want to spend that first day, and then look at the flight arrival times. My family chooses to fly first thing in the morning, so that we’ll at least have a little bit of time before we go to bed. If you are driving, you’ll have much more flexibility, but will still want to plan your approximate arrival time.
If you are flying into Orlando International Airport and staying on property, you’ll be able to take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express. In advance of your trip, you’ll receive a packet that includes bright yellow luggage tags. Add these tags to your checked bags, and they will magically appear in your hotel room in several hours. Because of this, you’ll need to thoughtfully pack your carry on bags.
Make sure that you have a change of clothes (if you are changing climates and will need shorts and short-sleeved shirts), sunscreen (a travel-size one, so that it is acceptable for TSA screening), your MagicBands (you’ll need them to board the Magical Express, and to enter your room), autograph books, and anything else you’ll want for the day.
Decide How You’ll Spend the Day
Unless you are going to arrive first thing in the morning, or you have an annual pass, it’s probably not worth going into a park for just a few hours. If there’s a party, like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, then it may be worthwhile to just do that. Keep in mind, however, that flights can always be delayed. So don’t commit to non-refundable tickets.
There are some great options that are much more affordable. You could choose to spend the afternoon/evening at your resort. All of the Walt Disney World resort hotels have pools, so you could just spend a relaxing day poolside. Another option is to go to Disney Springs, where you can eat at dozens of different restaurants, and spend some time shopping.
Make Thoughtful Reservations
As you make your FastPass+ and advance dining reservations, think about how you want to spend that first day. If you are planning to go to a park, it’s a good idea to get FastPasses. Just try to make them as late as possible to cover for flight delays. Keep in mind too, that even if your flight arrives on time, you’ll still have a few hours before you can be at the park.
You’ll need to exit the plane, take the tram to the main terminal, walk to the Magical Express area, wait for the motor coach, and then drive to the hotel (possibly making a few stops).
Once you get to the hotel, you’ll need to check in. If your room isn’t ready, you can leave any hand luggage with bell services. All of that can take a while, so make sure you leave yourself a buffer when making reservations. I usually leave at least three to four hours from when I land to when I plan to be at a reservation.
If you are looking for a hotel for your Walt Disney World vacation, 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.
- Disney’s Beach Club
- Disney Swan and Dolphin
- Disney’s Art of Animation
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Gaylord Palms
- JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes
- World Center Marriott
See more Walt Disney World tips here.