Planning a first visit to the Walt Disney World Resort? Planning a Disney vacation for the first time can be overwhelming, but there are some things you just shouldn’t miss:
1. How early you need to make reservations
This goes for resort accommodations, dining reservations, FastPass selections, basically anything that could potentially be reserved in advance. Many first-timers assume that they would be able to find a room last-minute, and walk up to their favorite restaurant and secure FastPasses on the day of their visit because they may be able to do so in other theme parks. While it can be difficult for first-timers to make reservations so far in advance (because they may not really know what they want since they’ve never been), making a couple of dining reservations and FastPass selections never hurts.
2. FastPass is free
Even worse than making your FastPass selections last-minute are the instances where first-time guests are under the impression that the FastPass service comes at an additional charge, which often results in them skipping it altogether. This misconception likely comes from visiting other theme parks where FastPass-like programs do come at an added cost, but Disney’s FastPass service is included with park admission.
3. How expensive everything is
As many tourist destinations are, a visit to the Walt Disney World Resort does not come cheap. First-timers are often surprised at how expensive a day in the parks can turn out to be. Once the sticker shock of the resort rooms and park tickets fade, it’s easy to forget to consider the cost of dining and shopping in the parks, and any additional experiences you may want to include.
4. How crowded it is
You can always tell a first-time guest by how amazed they are that the parks are extremely crowded during Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks. Many first-timers think these are the best times to go because they believe everyone else will be at home with their families. Much to their dismay, everyone else (and their family and extended family by the looks of it), is spending the week at the parks as well.
5. How friendly the cast members are
First-time guests are often pleasantly surprised at how friendly and helpful Disney cast members are. This may say more about how people interact with the public outside of Walt Disney World, but it’s always good to here nonetheless. Speaking of cast members, many first-timers don’t know how easy it is to compliment a cast member who goes above and beyond to help them. It’s as easy as tweeting about it and tagging @WDWToday and #castcompliment or stopping by Guest Relations on your way out of the park.
6. How large the Walt Disney World Resort is
Some first-time guests are surprised when they realize the size of the Walt Disney World Resort first-hand. Having never been before, they may not realize that it’s actually not possible to walk between most theme parks and resort areas, and they may be intimidated by the internal transportation system (but thankfully those friendly cast members are there to help!)
7. How Disney’s transportation works
First-timers sometimes end up paying for transportation from the airport to their resorts, and between parks simply because they do not understand how Disney’s transportation system works. Whether they think it comes at an added cost, or it just seems too confusing, an unfortunate amount of first-timers spend some unnecessary money on using their own transportation.
8. What services are available
Disney is extremely accessible, which depending on your experience with other tourist attractions may come as a bit of a surprise. As a result, first-time guests do not always realize what accommodations can be made to help anyone in their party with a disability. In addition to accessibility options that are included with a visit to the park, some guests do not realize that services that come with a fee in the park may be more affordable from a third party (like ECV and stroller rentals).
9. Availability for special diets
Nearly every Disney dining location has some set menu or accommodations in place for particular diets including vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and a wide variety of allergies. These options may not always be listed on the general menu, but if you ask a cast member they will be happy to let you know what other options are available or at many table service restaurants have the chef come out to speak with you directly.
10. Package pick-up is available for free
Ever notice that you don’t see that many guests carrying their purchases around the park? That’s likely because Disney offers complimentary package pick-up, and can either send purchases to the front of the park or to your resort free of charge. If you spot guests struggling to carry all of their shopping, chances are they’re new to the parks and did not even know this service was available.
11. How easy it is to get lost
Any Disney cast member will tell you, there are plenty more lost adults in the parks than lost kids. As you’d expect all guests are concerned with keeping an eye on their kids, so lost kids is actually a rarity. First-time adults are lost all the time however, whenever a party agrees to split up but does not know the parks well enough to meet back at the same location.
12. How immersive the parks are
First-time guests are often awe struck at how incredibly immersive the different areas in the parks are. Disney is much more detailed than a local amusement parks, and the photos and videos they’ve seen before their visits surely don’t do it justice!