10 Tips from (Former) Walt Disney World Newbies

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Features, Park Wise

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Published on July 17, 2014 at 2:00 am with 16 Comments

Sometimes it’s hard to step out of park vet brain.  Although we’ve discussed tips for newbies on Park Wise, I thought it might be interesting to hear from former newbies who’ve traveled to Walt Disney World for the first time recently.  Here are ten of the top tips I received from the geeks-in-training.

1. Plan Ahead

“Don’t just show up and see what happens.  You don’t have to plan every minute, but there’s so much to do that you can’t make the most of your day without at least a basic plan, especially if you don’t know your way around.”–Adriana W.


2. Look for Specials

“I didn’t even know you could get discounts at Disney World!  I originally just called [Disney] and asked for prices.  One of the moms in my son’s class was telling me how cheap their trip was, and I was floored!  She sent me to her travel agent.  We had to move our trip back a couple days, but we ended up saving about $300 and stayed in a nicer place!”–Lisa D.

3. Sunscreen

I got this from lots of former newbies.  It’s really a no-brainer.  When headed out in the Florida sun, no matter your skin tone, slather on the SPF! Don’t forget those sneaky places like the part in your hair and behind and on top of your ears.


Get Park Wise: Sunscreen is widely available at the parks and resorts, but it is sold at premium.  Pick some up at home or somewhere off property if you have your own transportation.

4. Check the Weather

Ok, so I just waxed poetic about the Florida sun, but take a peek at the weather before you pack.

“We just assumed Florida would be sunny, but we had two rainy days at the end of our vacation.  I would have packed a jacket and umbrella for everyone if I’d thought to look at the forecast.”–Alan H.


Get Park Wise: Although weather can change on a dime, checking out the 10-day before you leave home can give you an idea of what you should toss in your luggage.  Also, summer vacationers, expect an almost daily afternoon shower.  They usually don’t last long, so wait it out and enjoy the slightly less crowded park after the rain.

5. Don’t Worry About Water

“I loaded our backpack down with bottled water.  It was nice to have when we needed it but a pain to carry.  Halfway through we left the water in the hotel room and just bought cold water bottles in the parks.”–Sarah T.

Get Park Wise: Remember, if you’re cost conscious, quick service restaurants offer free ice water.  Can you tell this is a favorite tip? ;)

6. Comfortable Shoes

Another no-brainer I received multiple times.  You’ll be walking miles upon miles a day.  Great for your thighs, hell on your feet.  Invest in a nice sturdy pair of shoes a couple of months before your trip and break them in, or go with a pair you already know are comfy.  Happy feet make happy travelers!

7. Make Reservations

“If you know you want to eat somewhere [a table service restaurant], make reservations.  We ate at Be Our Guest and walked past a huge line hoping to get in.  We were so glad we scheduled a reservation!”–Adriana W.


Get Park Wise: Dining reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance.  While some restaurants do have walk-up availability, if any of your must-dos are heavy hitters such as Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table or most character meals, make those reservations ASAP!

8. Make Sure to Use FastPass

While this was always a tip of mine, it’s vital to use the new FastPass+ if you want to make the most of your time.  Unfortunately, FastPass+ seems to be indirectly elongating standby times for rides that were often “walk-on,” so it’s more important than ever to take advantage.

“I was able to schedule some of our favorite rides on my phone before we got to Disney.  We slept in and still got to ride Toy Story with a short wait.”–Gary J.

9. Use PhotoPass

“We got Memory Maker with our package and were really glad we had it.  We ended up with over 200 pictures and I liked having the ride pictures because I wouldn’t usually spend the money for those even though they’re usually pretty funny.”–Kristin C.


Get Park Wise: If you’re not ready to invest in Memory Maker, PhotoPass photographers will take photos with your camera, too.  If you did choose Memory Maker, let them know, and they’ll often take several pictures to help you get the most bang for your buck.

10. Use a Disney Specialist Travel Agent

I promise I didn’t make them say this!!

“We told her what we wanted, and she made it happen!  Jessica handled all of the details from reservations to itinerary recommendations and discounts.  Her expert knowledge came in handy before, during and after our trip! Wouldn’t book a Disney vacation any other way!”–Valerie M.


Any new Disney parks travelers reading?  What’s your advice after your first trip?


[email protected]

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

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  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    GREAT tips for first time WDW guests Jessica!!!

    My #1 tip to newbies is to book your dining reservations as far in advance as possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up waiting forever to eat in a good place.

    If difficulty affording a WDW vacation is an issue, I recommend staying offsite. You can save 50% or more. True, it’s not as magical or as easy to jump from park to park . . . but there are advantages. Rent a car and you’ll be able to get around quicker that WDW guests who have to wait forever for the HORRIBLE buses on property and you’ll also easily be able to visit Universal and SeaWorld because you won’t be dependent on WDW transportation. If you can afford it, stay on property. But if you can’t, don’t hesitate to stay outside of Disney World. There are numerous great options.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      No off-site!! Hahaha!! I’d almost even suggest waiting until you can stay on-site, especially if this may be a once in a lifetime trip. Oh, and it’s always nice to have super talented agents who will stalk the promotions to get you the best value possible. ;)

      • Dan Heaton

        Nice job with the tips, but I disagree with no off-site. Once you’ve stayed in a nice condo for the price of a value resort, you’ll never go back.

    • Amy VandenBoogert

      I second staying off-site. Especially if you only plan on being in the room to sleep. There are TONS of great off-property hotels within a mile of WDW that offer rooms just as nice (or even nicer) than rooms at WDW and cost WAY cheaper.

  • amyuilani

    I have mentioned this as a comment in another of your columns, but I will mention it here again: BE SPACIALLY AWARE! Don’t stop in the middle of walkways or doorways, don’t meander at the world’s slowest space right down the middle of the path, and don’t congregate near entrances or exits. If you need to stop, move to a wall or bench, If you’re checking out a piece of merchandise, grab it and get out of the way while you’re contemplating the purchase so that you’re not blocking other shoppers. Most people don’t realize that they do this until they stop and see how annoying it is when everyone else is doing it.

    The second tip I have is to know your rider requirements, especially if you have young children, and respect them. You can take your kids to the doctor or measure him/her yourself, but you have to understand that the only decision that matters is that of the Cast Member at the height check in the attraction. Sometimes it’s a judgment call, and no amount of argument will get your kid on the ride if he’s deemed to be too small. Rider requirements are set for safety, not to inconvenience you, and that CM’s job is on the line if your child is injured when he was too small to ride in the first place. No CM is going to risk his job for you and your family. And your kid may have been tall enough yesterday and he may be tall enough an hour from now, but that doesn’t matter. If that CM determines your kid is too small to ride right now, accept it and move on to the next ride. Don’t waste precious time and energy arguing about it. Be respectful of CM’s who are only trying to do their jobs.

  • BlahBlahson

    A few more:

    -Look at a crowd Calendar. Enjoying any theme park is somewhat dependent on your ability to avoid LONG waiting times, higher resort prices, more difficult reservations…etc.

    -Arrive early, Stay late. Midday Naps or pool. Having a car helps.

    -Look for quick service reccomendations on EasyWDW.com and quickly pick out three restaurants in the parks that look good in advance so you are always pretty close to one of them when you feel hungry.

    -Book Fastpass plus reservations early in the day, and know which rides are the most in demand in a rough order, and know that MK has more rides that have long lines.

    Mk: Space Mountain, Seven Dwarves, Peter Pan, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder, Jungle Cruise

    DHS: TOY STORY MANIA, Rockin’,

    Epcot: Soarin, Test Track, Norway Boat Ride

    Animal Kingdom: Kilamanjaro, Kali (seasonal), Everest, Dinosaur

    • BlahBlahson

      Oh, and a few more tips for NON disney fun.

      -Best Christmas Entertainment: Seaworld is more impressive than any single disney park, with a TON of great lighting, shows, and special dinners. And they have the Polar Express attraction.

      -Best Non-Disney Waterpark: Aquatica, and especially NOT Wet N Wild.

      -Best Halloween Entertainment: Halloween Horror Nights at Universal is great, though the event is an extreme example of arrive early/Stay late, or needs the express pass. The haunted entertainment is movie-set quality.

      -Best Thrill Rides: Busch Gardens Tampa has many world class rollercoasters, and also has animal exhibits that rival the Animal Kingdom.

      -Best Non Park Fun: Either Fun Spot for low crowds, Hard Knocks laser tag for best laser tag, Kelly Park in Apopka Florida for beautiful florida scenery and tubing, Clearwater for nearest/best tourist beach.

      • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

        Mine are too chicken for Horror Nights, but I’ve been dying to get over there during one of our October trips. ;) See what I did there? Seriously, though, one of these years!!

  • TheBig2na

    Go off season if you can avoiding holidays or big events. Rent DVC points as well. 5 star hotel for 2 star prices.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      We’re fans of the off season! Well, the off-ish. If you’re looking at renting, make sure to go through a reputable source. I’ve read lots of not-so-magical experiences with this approach. That’s usually not the norm, but always make sure everything is on the up and up.

  • Sifferz

    Another tip, though not for everyone: Leave the phone in the hotel room. Have a set meeting place for everyone if you get separated, for me it’s always been the Partners statue, and just don’t let that thing distract you from all the beauty around you, be it in a queue for an attraction or the landscaping masterwork that the parks are absolutely filled to the brim with.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Definitely a thought. We got through the parks sans phone in the “olden days,” but they’re so nice to have now, especially when so much of the park experience relies heavily on them now.

      • BlahBlahson

        A smartphone is essential for using Fastpass Plus to its fullest abilities.

  • Asylim

    This might sound like a dumb question but if you are a DVC member and you take care of your lodgings that route would you still recommend a Disney Travel agent for everything else?

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      You could go through an agent for your tickets, but most DVC members I know use the DVC discount to get annual passes. Lodging and tickets are how agents get paid, so aside from booking those items through them, I’d doubt you’d get much one-on-one time and service from an agent. I will share tips with those who’ve already booked on their own, but I definitely don’t offer the whole shebang (making dining reservations, discount watch, etc.). Most often, I just direct them to blogs or web sites that would address their questions, as I dedicate most of my Disney planning time to my clients.

      • Asylim

        Thought that might be the case.

        Being from Canada and only being able to visit the resorts once every other year or so means that the passes are still more expensive than just buying the tickets for which ever trip we happen to be on.

        Still, good tips all in all. :)