Disney World is a place that had been on my wishlist since I was about 5 years old. I remember begging my Dad to take me and dreaming of seeing Cinderella’s castle in real life. However, with Orlando being so far from us and the costs involved, it just never happened. So, when my husband announced that he had a work conference in Florida coming up we jumped at the chance of making it a family holiday too… and of course, planned Disney World into our second week!
As we only had one week to do it all, we tried to fit in as much as possible, experience as much as time allowed and take in all that Disney wonderment.
We managed to visit Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Typhoon Lagoon, so we actually only missed out Blizzard Beach which I think was pretty good going (and maybe a little crazy with 2 small children in tow!) when we only had 7 days. But even in such a short amount of time, I learnt an awful lot about Disney, about what is worth doing and what isn’t and I certainly quickly discovered which parks were amazing in my eyes and which weren’t. So I thought I’d share a little insight from our very first trip to Disney World, Florida.
Visit the Magic Kingdom
This is a must in my opinion. The Magic Kingdom is where the real Disney magic happens. As soon as we arrived on our first day, the parade was making its way down Main Street– we couldn’t believe our luck! And of course, it is the home of the iconic castle which just mesmerises you from the moment you set eyes on it. I could have spent all day just in this area, soaking up the atmosphere, looking at the castle, watching the shows and milling around the shops. It was everything I had ever dreamed of and here I was finally experiencing it on my first Disney trip.
It is a large park and there are a lot of rides and things to see so getting there early is probably the best idea, however, when you have children this doesn’t always happen. Remembering everything, packing changes of clothes, nappies, snacks, water, suncream etc all takes up time, as does persuading them to get out the villa or hotel (especially if it has a pool!) so do not panic if you aren’t there at opening. We never were and we got in easily, they have great systems in place and the parades and characters happen regularly throughout the day so you won’t miss them.
We spent 2 days at Magic Kingdom but to do it comfortably, I think you would need perhaps 4 in total? I mean, if you are going for 2 weeks this could be easily achieved.
Don’t Get Too Hung Up On Fast Passes
After all the rush to try and get the fast passes before we went and struggling to get the rides we wanted, I would have to say don’t get too hung up on it all especially if it’s your first time going to Disney too. We had ours all set to go but once I was in the Magic Kingdom on the first day, the last thing I wanted to do was rush off to get on rides. As I mentioned above, I just wanted to take it all in and getting on to rides wasn’t my priority. Also, it is very easy to hop onto the app and check if anything has changed. You can cancel your bookings and find other rides at more suitable times on the actual day itself so you may even get what you wanted in the first place. Another reason we had for making changes was because once we saw the rides in person, we realised that even though Jake was the right height for them they weren’t all suitable for a five-year-old which meant we swapped his fast pass rides for other ones.
There is always so much to see around the parks and you certainly don’t want to miss any shows or parades to go on a ride… well, I didn’t!
Don’t Always Wait For The Trams
If you drive to Disney and use their car parks, you will see that there are areas to wait for trams to pick you up and take you to the gate. We didn’t really know the drill so found ourselves waiting for some when the entrance was actually within walking distance! Check how far you have to go as it may save you time to walk it.
Take Advantage of The Disney Photographers
The Disney experience allows you to have your photos taken around the park by dedicated photographers. They are usually located in the iconic areas so you can have a photo of your entire family to treasure. These are sent to your app ready for you to download. Yes, the queues for some are ridiculous but if you time it right or see a photographer about to set up, just go for it! It is always worth popping back to see if the queues have gone down. If we hadn’t done that we wouldn’t have got this shot at Toy Story Land.
Take Your Own Food and Drink
Unless you book yourselves in for the meals, I would definitely recommend taking your own lunch, snacks and drinks. For starters, the queues were just ridiculous and we easily wasted far too much time on our first day trying to find somewhere that could provide a quick lunch. Secondly, the food is far from healthy and we struggled with the amount of junk and sugar on offer. Thirdly, if you are a vegetarian or vegan you will struggle. My sister had such a tough time trying to find options on the menus as most vegetarian options were too spicy for her. In one place she asked for the child’s meal and was refused at first as she wasn’t under 10 but when she explained she was a vegetarian they allowed her to purchase one because the choice was so limited. Plus it can get very pricey and taking your own food is a great way to save money at Disney.
We made sure we had fruit for snacks too as it can be very easy to be sucked into buying the ice creams and donuts and all the other sugary items Disney World has to tempt you. Plus take a reusable water bottle as you can fill these up at the water fountains found around all of the parks.
Get A Double Buggy
Having a one-year-old and a five-year-old, we assumed that one buggy/pushchair would be enough. Unfortunately, the week was so intense that it wiped both the boys and Jake was constantly asking to be in the pushchair. This would have be fine if it wasn’t for the wriggly toddler who just wanted to get down and run off! A baby carrier would have been far too hot for him and it wouldn’t have sheltered him from the sun so we ended up buying a stroller at one of the parks. If I had known, I would have either bought a secondhand double buggy or borrowed one.
Not All Parks Will Be Your Cup of Tea
This is something you’ll discover as you visit each park and it was certainly something I knew before I even went! I didn’t like the idea of Animal Kingdom because I don’t believe animals should be in theme parks. My husband booked some fast pass rides there anyway and we agreed to avoid the animal areas. What I didn’t realise was that you can’t avoid them as they are all around the park! I’m sure there are others of you who adored this park and that’s fine, it’s just animals stuck right next to rides, noisy people all around them and nowhere to hide away from it. The crocodile really upset me as did the overcrowded fish tank with a dead fish floating on the top.
Anyway, that is my opinion. I loved Epcot, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood studios and I am sure some of you won’t like those as much but going for the first time allows you to work this out. I now know that if I ever go back, I will head to the areas that I loved, I will get fast passes for certain rides and I will only return to Animal Kingdom to visit Pandora again because this was just mesmerising.
See The Shows
If you go to Hollywood Studios you have to see some of the shows they have on offer. We made it to Beauty and the Beast, the Indiana Jones stunt show and Sing-a-long Frozen and each one was brilliant. The shows and the parades all make that Disney magic come to life and if the rides aren’t your thing, use your fast passes to get into the shows instead.
You cannot go to Disney World and not see the fireworks at the castle. I was only expecting a firework show, I didn’t realise there was a light show that went alongside it and didn’t anticipate feeling so emotional over it all. We saved this until near the end of our holiday and I am so glad we did as it just wrapped the whole trip up nicely. You will never, ever see another show like this anywhere else!
(I have this post on tips around the fireworks and leaving the park etc so you can plan what you’ll need to do)
And lastly, just enjoy it especially if it’s your first Disney trip too. Even if you have to cancel some rides, even if there are arguments (believe me, there will be!), even if it rains or gets far too hot, don’t let those things ruin your fun. It truly is a magical place and there are so many amazing things to see and do. It will take several visits to see everything and what I have taken from my first visit is that I have seen what I really wanted to, I have learnt these key points and I am just so happy that I finally got to experience Disney at long last.
I could probably go on and add so many more points but I will write follow up Disney posts to give further tips in more detail.
Do you have any to add at all? Have you ever been or are you planning on going? Is it your first Disney trip?
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