8 Insider First Time Disney Guest Tips

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Hey howdy hey! I’m back with another blog post and today I’m sharing 8 Insider First Time Disney Guest Tips! As a former Cast Member who visits the Disney parks multiple times a week, I know the biggest wins and mistakes first time visitors make during their Disney World vacation. I can’t wait to share them with you today so you can have a great first time at Disney! Let’s get to it!

Do Not Wing It

Let’s start off this post with the absolute most important tip. If you take anything away from this post, let this tip be it! When planning your first time at Disney, you certainly cannot wing it! While not impossible, planning a trip to Disney can be complex and complicated. If you try to wing it day-of, you’ll be way behind the rest of the guests who have planned their visit. You will miss out on some of the most popular activities and attractions at Disney if you wing it and don’t plan ahead as a first time Disney guest. Instead, do your research and check out my other blog posts so your party can have a magical visit!

Download the My Disney Experience App

The My Disney Experience app is Disney World’s mobile application, and it is a lifesaver when it comes to Disney World vacations. You can link your tickets, resort stay, dining reservations, and everything else related to your trip on the My Disney Experience app so everything you need is in one place. You can also check wait times, park hours and showtimes, purchase Genie+, mobile order, make dining reservations, hop in the virtual queue for certain attractions, and reserve your DAS Disability Access Service time on this app.

Trust me, this app will be your best friend as a first time visitor! Download the app in advance and create your account. Then, spend some time exploring and getting to know all the features, such as checking wait times, booking reservations, navigating the Genie tip board, reviewing virtual queues, etc. This way, once you arrive for your visit, you’ll already know how to use the app and where to go for everything within the app, saving time and stress as a first time Disney guest.

Photo of the My Disney Experience Mobile Application on an iPhone

Plan for a Crazy Amount of Walking

Did you know Disney World is the size of San Francisco? I’m telling you; Disney World is huge! And while Disney offers numerous transportation options to give your feet a break, it’s still a ton of walking at the parks and resorts. Even if you are an avid marathon runner, you will not be prepared for the amount of walking you will do in the parks. I cannot think of anything less magical than sore, swollen, blistered feet! You will need to plan for lots of walking to avoid this!

You can expect to get in at least 10,000+ steps per day, and in the heat and humidity of Florida, it can truly feel exhausting at times. Be sure to pack a few pairs of comfortable shoes (I recommend a few because you might rub blisters) and plenty of blister Band-Aids. I love Clarks and Vionic shoes because they’re built with specific technology to provide the best support possible. Whatever shoes you plan to pack for your first time at Disney, be sure to break them in before you visit, too!

Prepare for Crowds

This is another important tip for first time Disney guests! Even if you plan like an expert for low crowds during your visit, you will still inevitably encounter crowds and wait times. Seasoned visitors know this and are prepared to manage the crowds! You should also be prepared for this during your first time at Disney. Pack portable phone chargers and be ready to practice patience during your trip. For more suggestions, check out my blog post on How to Manage Disney Crowds Like A Pro!

Reserve Dining in Advance

Many first time visitors don’t realize table service dining can be reserved 60 days in advance of your trip. I highly recommend you reserve it this far out due to the popularity of sit-down restaurants at Disney. If you don’t reserve dining in advance, it’s very likely you won’t have any sit-down options day-of, it’s that popular! You can book dining reservations at 6:00 a.m. ET, 60 days in advance of your visit, so be ready to log in to your My Disney Experience account right at 6:00 AM.

Lastly, if you are excited to visit with characters during your trip, I suggest you look into character dining! This is a great way to have high quality interactions with characters without having to wait in lines. My family has captured some incredible moments with characters during character dining, so be sure to check it out!

Photo of family with Eeyore at The Crystal Palace
The Crystal Palace

Take Breaks to Relax

I highly recommend you plan at least one rest day during your visit, especially if you are a first time visitor! One of the biggest mistakes I’ve watched first time Disney guests make is when they think they can handle multiple park days in a row, and then regret it once they are here and realize how physical the trip really is. Don’t be this guest, schedule rest in advance!

You can still plan your rest days with activities, so you aren’t bored, too! My favorite non-park activities include visiting the pool, Disney Springs, and other resorts (such as those on the monorail or the skyliner). I’ve never once regretted scheduling a day outside of the parks to relax and rest my feet!

I also advise taking breaks throughout your park days. In the middle of the day when the parks are the most crowded and the sun is strongest, take a quick trip back to your resort to rest or visit the pool. You can still use your same ticket to re-enter the park in the evening for more attractions and the nighttime entertainment! Or, if you’re maximizing time and don’t want to return to the resort, take a break in the middle of the day by grabbing a lunchtime dining reservation in the park or visiting a show to rest your feet!

Stay at a Disney Resort

With all the complexities in planning a Disney World vacation, staying at Disney Resorts can simplify many aspects of your first time at Disney! For instance, Disney offers free transportation to and from the parks/resorts, perks such as early entry to the theme parks before non-resort guests, ability to book Individual Lightning Lanes first, and so much more! There are a wide range of resort options to fit many budgets as well:

Value Resorts

This is the most affordable resort option. My favorite value resorts are Pop Century and Art of Animation because of their access to the Skyliner transportation to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT (the Skyliner is much faster than a bus). Art of Animation also offers incredible Disney theming and suites to allow more space.

Moderate Resorts

These are the mid-level resort options. You truly cannot go wrong with any of the moderate resorts. They are mostly quiet, with great pools and nice rooms. I personally love Coronado Springs Resort for its pool, and Port Orleans Riverside Resort because it’s one of the smallest resorts on property.

Deluxe Resorts

These are the higher-level resort options. They have a closer proximity to the parks, most offer alternative transportation to buses (shortening travel time), and they all have great pools with waterslides, and unique table service dining options!

This is my personal favorite resort level because of the unique theming these resorts have, and how relaxing they feel. While this might not be the best fit if you plan to spend most of the day in the parks and only sleep at the resort, it’s worth looking into if you plan to rest midday at the resort or spend a couple of rest days at the resort.

DVC Deluxe Resorts

DVC Deluxe Resorts are just like Deluxe Resorts (in fact, many DVC Deluxe rooms are within Deluxe Resorts), but with a few added perks! The most notable added perks are:

  • Full kitchens: This is great if you plan to prepare any meals vs. purchasing at Disney.
  • Living and dining areas: Again, this is perfect for those planning to eat in the room, or first time visitors needing some extra space to spread out.
  • Separate bedrooms: Aside from the studios, most DVC Deluxe Rooms have separate sleeping areas. If you have children with earlier bedtimes, or you and your loved one like to fall asleep at different times, this is a great choice for you!
  • Washer and dryer: This is such a fantastic perk! You’d be surprised with how fast you run through clothes as a first time Disney guest! Because so much walking is involved and the parks are outside, you’ll find you’re sweating much more, not to mention the normal stains and spills!
  • Large parties that want to stay together: If you have a large party that wants to stay together, this could be a right-fit resort category for you. There are DVC Deluxe rooms that house up to 12 guests, making this an amazing perk!
Photo of the boardwalk at Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort
Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort

Set Realistic Expectations

So, you’ve done all the research, paid all the money, and now you are expecting a smooth trip with no hiccups! I hate to break it to you, but this is just not realistic! You will need to pack your patience and flexibility because there will be unexpected interruptions. Adapt to these interruptions by changing your plans if needed, and don’t let them ruin your Disney World vacation!

For example, one of the most common interruptions is the unpredictable weather in central Florida. Expect that it will rain at some point during your vacation, and rides will stop due to lightning in the area. If you set this realistic expectation for your first time at Disney, it won’t ruin your day when it happens, and you’ll know how best to handle it! For more advice managing rain at Disney, check out my blog post on it!

Long story short, expect waits, crowds, grouchy loved ones, delays, and interruptions. If you plan for these things, then while you’re here you can focus on the joy of walking down Main Street U.S.A. and seeing the castle in person, the magic of your first time on Avatar Flight of Passage, the incredibly immersive atmospheres, the hidden gems in the details of every land in the parks, and the exhilarating thrills that come with your first time at Disney!


That’s all for 8 Insider First Time Disney Guest Tips! I hope this gives you confidence in planning your first time at Disney World! If this was helpful for you, don’t forget to download my freebie, 10 Ways to Beat the Heat at Disney World! Stay magical, and I’ll see ya real soon for another blog post!

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28 thoughts on “8 Insider First Time Disney Guest Tips”

    1. Hi there! I am a former Disney Cast Member and Disney Vacation Planner. I also live nearby and get to visit often. Check out my About Me page for more about me! Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  1. This is so so helpful! Disney World is the size of San Francisco?! I had no idea!! I already have the app even though I’ve never been hahaha I like going on and checking things anyway! Love this post! 😀

  2. Great detailed post! I love how you even told people about the heat and how to deal with it. Disney does take planning and being prepared so that you and your family will be able to have an adventure they will always remember. Thank you for sharing!

    1. I agree completely! If you plan well in advance, you can focus on making memories with your family while you’re here! Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  3. I’m not new to visiting Disney, but I didn’t know all the tips you shared in this post. Definitely keeping your tips in mind for my next trip. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Haha just read you are a former cast member!! Makes so much sense as to why you have such extensive knowledge. Great tips, never would have thought to make advance dinner reservations.

    1. Haha yes!! I learned everything I know from my time with Disney! And now my husband is a cast member so I’m always learning from him. It definitely helps to have dinner set up in advance 🙂

  5. Aww I just got back from Disney YESTERDAY so I wish I had seen this sooner. It wasn’t my first time but my first time as an adult! Luckily I managed to do most of these things but I wish I had taken more time to rest. Our days were so much more enjoyable when we took the time to rest and weren’t exhausted the whole time. Thank you for sharing these great tips!

  6. I have been to Disney once but I was younger so I dont remember it. As much as i would love to go to Disney, i really want to go to Universal studios. That being said these tips would work great for both so thank you

  7. Planning a trip to Disney is very stressful. The dining reservation always got me all stressed out. lol…

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  9. This is so helpful! I love how you are able to capture the magic of Disney in your posts and also look out for your readers by sharing all sides of the experience. Being prepared and flexible is great advice. I’ve added so many of your tips to my notes!

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment! I love to help set realistic expectations so you can focus on making magic with your fam!

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