Top 10 Tips For First Time Visitors To Disney World
Devoted Disney fans and lovers of ‘all things Orlando’, might head to Orlando year in, year out as their addiction grows for the Sunshine State, but everyone agrees, that their first visit holds the biggest magic.
Don’t get me wrong, the fun never fades, and the magic is always there, but that first time is special.
Part of the fun is often the sense of ‘overwhelmed’ without being lost.
Everything seems so perfect, unusual, and with endless opportunity to learn and explore, and even hardened serial visitors agree that even after 20 years of vacations, they are still discovering wonderful new experiences inside the theme parks.
We felt however, that the magical first visit to Disney, Universal and the wider Orlando attraction areas, deserved a special mention, along with some great tips and advice to help your vacation along just nicely!
While we do our best to give you and your family a great head start, we do also want to remind you that the odd ‘mistake’ or harmless mishap are inevitable and in a way, kind of make the memories last a little longer. In other words; always keep safe, but always take any unexpected outcomes in your stride and laugh about them for ever more!
Here are our Top Tips For First Time Visitors to Walt Disney World and Orlando!
- The Dreaded Planning Word!
We know that you are desperate for your well earned vacation, and the last thing you want is a load of extra work, but believe us, a little knowledge and preparation will go a long, long way to making that visit to Orlando go smoothly.
We do have a major piece of advise for busy mums and dads! Get your internet savvy kids on the case and set them a few tasks to find things like cheap restaurants, best attractions in each park etc. They will love being the vacation guide for the whole family!
- Theme Park Tickets
Park tickets are in the Top 3 expense items for an Orlando vacation, alongside accommodation, and travel.
Our major bit of advice here is this; Don’t expect to find discounts over 10%. If you do, be wary and only buy tickets from verified approved vendors.
Tickets are a lucrative business for fraudsters who cash in on people looking for a cheap deal. Please take our honest word for this, big discounts simply don’t exist.
Read this article about discount tickets.
Next up for tickets, DON’T buy upgrades like park hopper options without thinking them through very carefully. They are incredibly tempting, but hardly ever work out worthwhile, especially for first timers.
- Make a realistic itinerary or vacation plan
One of the best ways to start your vacation is to set out a practical daily plan for your week. It will help you decide which park tickets to buy, avoiding one of the biggest causes of overspending in Orlando; Too many park tickets bought!
We recommend a simple list of parks, including set off times and return home times.
If you can go a bit further and pencil in a few show times during the day, or mark down a few choices of restaurants that you really want to try after researching the parks, that’s even better.
We wouldn’t advise going too much deeper than that though for a first visit as the fun will overwhelm you and can quickly change any minute by minute plans! Check out our suggested vacation plans.
- Don’t Thrash the Parks, but do make the most of every day!
Some guests arrive at the parks as they open and have to be politely ushered out in tears at each and every day’s park closing.
Especially if you’ve got younger kids, always remember that they don’t just magically find more energy on vacation. They need their sleep more than they do at home!
Don’t hit the parks hard without a few nice ‘pool days’ or visits to the water parks.
By all means do something fun each and every day, and never waste your valuable vacation time, but definitely decide what kind of vacation your family can cope with when planning your basic vacation itinerary. Early mornings are becoming an increasingly important element for guest satisfaction!
Express passes (Universal) and Fastpass+ at Disney are important tools to avoid lengthy line waits and frustration.
- USA Immigration
Be prepared for a long and tiring wait once you’ve left the plane.
Read about clearing through Orlando immigration and also about ESTAs. You need to understand both before you travel.
- Daily Spending Budgets
The biggest shock people get when visiting Orlando for the very first time, is just how tempting it is to spend. If you just show up, and buy what you want each day, you are almost certainly going to overspend part way through your visit. The food and merchandize is tempting, and your vacation spirit can seriously damage your credit card unless you take precautions. One of our close friends for example, never uses his plastic. He buys dollars at the right time, and even places a set amount in fourteen envelopes for his two week stay. That pays for food, drinks, treats and gifts. Read our Top 20 Orlando Budget Saving Tips!
- Sunscreen in Orlando
No matter how well travelled you are, we are pretty certain that Florida’s scorching sunshine will catch at least one or more of your family members out on vacation.
Don’t think that you’ve got the kind of skin that won’t burn. Florida is different and you simply will not get away with it.
Apply Factor 30 or more, and do it as you enter the parks, as you stand in line waits, and especially if you are in the water parks. Please read our special Orlando sunscreen tips article.
- Pool Safety
This one is so often taken for granted, but read this Orlando Pool Safety Advice article for some helpful advice.
3 minutes reading a good blog post can save a child’s life.
Remember that Florida has the highest number of pools in the USA, so give them the attention they deserve and avoid a tragedy.
- Driving in Orlando
With a bit of extra thought, driving around the attractions area is easy, thanks to well sign posted routes and a simple road network that is centered around just a few main roads.
Get a map of Orlando and familiarise yourself with the area before you travel.
A Satnav with USA maps is a great help if you miss a turn off, and the cell phone versions are a great choice.
Orlando’s roads can be busy at peak times, so keep a distance from other vehicles and always drive carefully. More about driving safely in Orlando.
Avoid fines on toll roads and have a few dollars inside the vehicle as you leave the airport in your rental car to pass through any tolls along your route. $5 to $10 should be enough to get to most places from that first airport journey.
Other than to and from the airport, your stay in Orlando will most likely be on regular non toll roads. Our Top 10 Rental Car Tips.
- Hotel or Rental Home?
if you’ve booked a regular vacation package deal with accommodation, flights and a car, you’ve probably ended up either a hotel ‘on site’ at one of the theme parks or in the immediate area. Hotels are convenient and easy to book, however transportation can be a little clumsy unless you’ve also taken a rental car.
Always pick a hotel that offers shuttle services into all of the major theme parks as some tend to cover just a few. Public transport in and out of the theme parks is often very poor, partly perhaps due to the fact that the theme parks would prefer you to stay in their hotels, rather than the lower cost offerings in the area.
Vacation homes work well for guests that don’t mind driving and love the independence and comfort of a luxury villa for their family. Private pools, lots of personal living spaces and the opportunity to prepare your own meals gives any vacation a luxury boost with big savings on food and hotel costs.
Check out our hotel or vacation rental home advice article.
- Ride height advice
Ride height limits are strictly enforced in a very polite and careful way in all of the Orlando theme parks. Some guests spend considerable lengths of time arguing with poor staff at rides, but if the policy is simply; “If your kids aren’t tall enough to ride, they won’t be allowed on”. The great news is, that there’s so much to do in the parks, it won’t ruin anyone’s vacation. Check our ride height tips and theme park search tool to find all of the rides for any height!
- Safety Rules!
Always follow the safety advice on rides. If it says “Please keep all hands, arms, legs and feet inside the vehicle at all times”, then please do so. There’s obviously a very good reason for this! The theme parks are extremely safe and especially so if you follow the basic guidance and apply common sense at all times.
- Common Sense – Your best friend on vacation!
Serious crime in the tourism area and resorts of Orlando is quite rare, but as with any popular area, don’t tempt fate by displaying large amounts of cash or valuables.
The theme parks are safe places to be, with excellent security measures throughout, but they are also busy, so please keep children in sight at all times to avoid them innocently wandering off. Read our top tips for kids safety.
- Mobile Data Roaming – How Non USA guests avoid huge phone bills!
Don’t get a huge data bill on your mobile phone account. Read our advice about avoiding data roaming costs abroad.
- Take a battery booster case for your phone (such as Mophie’s Juice Pack).
With parks offering power hungry Apps to help you through the day, you can easily kill your phone well before park close! Some ‘Pay to Charge’ services are beginning to appear in the parks, but it’s nice to have a case that protects your phone, and gives another charge of power!
- Take a Photograph of your parking lot name and number every time you leave your vehicle. Without it, you might never remember where to return to at the end of each day! The parking lots are huge!
- Don’t Call For Pizza! Disney Pizza Flyer Scam! When you return to your room after a busy day in the parks, what could be better than a delicious hot pizza delivered to your door?
If you ever find a flyer pushed under your room door or stuck to your car windshield, it is almost certainly a trickster hoping that you call your order, hand over your card details and guess what? No pizza! If you do order pizza, check if the number matches the number online for your area’s pizza shop! Read this from Touringplans.com