First Time to Disney World? Start Here!

If you’re planning your first time to Disney World – first of all – WE ARE SO EXCITED FOR YOU! You get to experience the magic of Disney for the first time! It is going to be great.

You may be looking at all things Disney and possibly feeling overwhelmed. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ve got a list of 13 must know things for your first Disney visit.

It is important to read through these items so that you don’t become a Kingdom Casualty and never return to the land of Mickey. 

Today we are talking Disney World philosophy. We’re not focusing on which attraction is best, or this hotel is better than that one. We want you to focus on seeing Disney World in the big picture!

We have boiled it down to these thing you really need to know:

13 Things You Need to Know for Your First Time to Disney World


1. Disney World has 4 parks.

There are 4 parks at Walt Disney World in Orlando. (You already know that?  You are way ahead of the curve!)

These 4 parks are the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If you have 4 days, you should spend one day at each park. If you have extra days, we recommend at least two days at the Magic Kingdom.

It is absolutely imperative that you get a park reservation for each day. You CANNOT show up to the Magic Kingdom (or any park) without a reservation and think you will be able to get in. Make your park reservations as early as possible, as parks do fill up.

Be aware that you won’t be able to do everything in each park! You will want to try to prioritize the things you most want to get done or see in each park. There are things you can do to help save some time, but it is best to get in the mindset that you won’t see it all.

family in front of tower of terror

2. You need to use the Disney Experience app.

Disney has a great app called My Disney Experience.  Download it now! It’s ok, we’ll wait until you’re done. 

(We’ll just hum the jeopardy theme song while you are doing this.)   Ok, got it? Just for fun, check the current wait times for the attractions you most want to visit!

You’ll need to use the app as you make your reservations and go to the parks so play around with the app and become very familiar with it.

3. You need to plan your trip well in advance.

Start planning your trip early! How early? Ideally you want to start planning 9 months in advance.

If you are trying to decide when to go, this post about the best time to book a Disney vacation will help you.

If it is under 6 months before you go, you can still pull it off but you need to devote some serious time to your planning. We are talking a part time job here! You can do it. We will be your biggest cheerleaders! There is plenty of material out there to help you.

art of animation resort hotel

4. FastPass+ is now Genie+.

There is a way to get ahead of the lines on attractions that used to be called FastPass+.  We loved Fast Passes and used them to get ahead of the lines.

Disney has permanently removed the Fast Pass system and has replaced it with Genie+. You can find out everything about Genie+ here.

Hint: we don’t think think it nearly as good as Fast Pass, and it costs extra money. That being said, it will help you bypass long wait times.

5. Early to bed, early to rise.

Arrive to the parks early!  In our opinion absolutely cannot sleep in and enjoy Disney World. Rope dropping helps us knock off some of our favorite rides before the lines get too long. It’s impossible! Get up and get going early!

In order to get to the parks early, your night will have to be devoted to sleep.  We have learned that children without sleep become cranky and irritable and angry and other things we don’t want to talk about. 

early entrance at magic kingdom

In order for this to not happen, we need to make sure they get sleep. We’re sure thinking: “But what about the fireworks? Uncle Ned went to Disney World and said the fireworks are amazing!  Did Uncle Ned lie?”

Nope. He told you the truth, but you can’t have it all!

Here is a compromise. On the last day you are going to the Parks, stay late, watch the fireworks and do other night things that are cool.

Plan a late flight home so the kids can sleep in.

magic kingdom fireworks

6. Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort.

If at all possible financially, try to stay at one of the Walt Disney Resort Hotels.  The two biggest reasons are: Tinker Bell will tuck you in and it gives you an edge in getting to the parks. 

Ok, we lied. Tinker Bell won’t tuck you in but you are surrounded by the magic of Disney. Staying on site makes your trip extra special to your children – and you.

It is true that you have an edge of getting into the park! Disney has magic hours that gives those who stay at a deluxe Disney resort extra time in the parks. We have a run down of the pros and cons of staying on or off site here.

7. You need to start exercising now.

Get in shape.  You are going to be a walking a ton in the parks so start working out before you go! On average you will be walking 10-12 miles per day. On our last trip we walked over 40 miles in three and a half days!

Make sure that you and your children are up for this before you go. The Disney rash is a real thing, and exercising will help you avoid it.

Here’s how to increase your steps and get shape for your Disney trip (notice we didn’t say a marathon…we’re keeping things easy and attainable here).

how to increase steps

8. Know you will spend money. A lot of money.

We get asked this a lot: Someone told me it costs a lot of money to go to Disney World. Is that true?

Yes it is. There really is no way around it. The sooner you accept this fact the more fun you will have planning your trip. There are ways to cut some costs, but you need to accept the fact that you will be spending a ton of cash on this trip.

Speaking of cash…don’t go into debt to go to Walt Disney World. It simply is not worth it. You don’t want to be paying off your trip 5 years later – with added interest!

9. You can find ways to make Disney less expensive.

Check out number 8 if you are randomly skimming these great tips.  Actually, there are quite a few ways to ease the burden of how expensive it is but the bottom line is Disney World is not cheap but it IS worth it.

We have 15 tips to help cut some costs here.

10. Make dining reservations early.

Unfortunately, you can rarely just “show up” at a restaurant at Disney World and get in. Just like you figured out Genie+ you need to figure out dining reservations. We have all the Disney dining reservation information you need here.

Beauty and the beast rose
Be Our Guest Dining

You can always do fast food (counter service dining) without reservations, but if you are eating greasy hamburgers every day, your kids will start to become sick and cranky and irritable.

Combine greasy food with this with no sleep and lots of walking, well, not even Disney Magic can help you. Just figure out the dining reservations long before you go! Try to hit up at least one restaurant during your trip.

11. You need to plan for the heat.

It gets really hot in Florida!  Especially in the summer! Dress appropriately. Make sure to drink lots of water.

Counter service places do offer water free of charge even if you are not eating a meal, so take advantage of this and bring your own water bottle. Plan breaks into your day. Don’t let the heat ruin your trip – plan for it.

EPCOT main entrance

Photo Credit Alexis Larcy

12. Magic Bands are magical!

You want to consider purchasing to get a fun bracelet (even if you are a macho guy and don’t wear bracelets…) called a MagicBand. 

This thing gets you into your hotel room, buys you souvenirs, gets you into parks and attractions and at the end of the day it magically goes off your wrist and goes to sleep on your nightstand. (Everything I just said is true except one thing…can you figure it out?).

There are two types of MagicBands – the original MagicBand and the MagicBand+. The regular MagicBand used to be included in your park pass when you stayed on site, but that is no longer the case. As with much of Disney, things cost extra but the perks are often worth it!

13. There’s lot of different transportation in the parks.

Disney Skyliner
Photo Credit Alexis Larcy

Transportation is free throughout all the parks and resorts. They have buses, the monorail, the Disney Skyliner and boats! Disney pays for it! Aren’t they nice? Get the lowdown on all resort transportation right here.

We are just scratching the surface, but these are few key things you need to know before you start planning your Walt Disney World Vacation!

If you have not planned your Disney dates yet, be sure to check out our crowd calendar to see when Disney has lower attendance. Low attendance days will also help you avoid lines – you can check out all our other tips to avoid long lines at Disney here! 


  • Katie Peterson

    Katie has been visiting Walt Disney World since she was a little girl. She loves the magic of Disney and knows that all it takes is a little pixie dust to make your Disney trip special!

    Katie is married and has three kids. She has loved taking her kids to the most magical place on earth. Over the years of visiting Disney World she has learned some tips and tricks to help make your trip the best it can be. She is excited to share those ideas with you!

    When Katie isn't writing about Disney she enjoys hanging out with her family, hiking, and watching chick flicks. Katie's favorite Disney princess is Belle.

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