Five Disney World Tips for First Timers: What You Need to Know

an ornate Cinderella Castle close up with gold adornments, blue rooftops and a light pinkish exterior

When planning your first trip to Disney World, where do you even start? The are four theme parks, each with a long list of attractions, two themed water parks, a wide variety of recreational activities and a glittering shopping and dining complex. The food, the fireworks and the friendly character interactions are all things visitors look forward to. How do you fit all of the magic into a week or a few days? What should you prioritize on your Disney World trip? What are the best Disney World tips for first timers? When you go for the first time and everything is new, you want to get in as much as you can. That’s why we’re considering five foundational areas of every Disney World experience. We hope you learn some things you never knew you never knew as Pocahontas sings.

Five Top Tips to Enhance Your First Visit to Disney World

1. Learn how to use Disney World’s calendar to your advantage.

One of the best Disney World tips for first timers is to get acquainted with the calendars Disney shares online prior to visiting. This includes month, 5 day, day and at a glance view Disney World calendars. The Walt Disney World Resort calendar can provide guidance that will maximize every day of your vacation.

A few key things to look for are park hours, extended hour opportunities for resort guests and special events. While there are busier times of year to visit and off peak times, there are also ways to visit the least crowded parks on your visit specifically. Disney doesn’t share which park is most crowded on a specific day but there are hints to look for that may help us determine that on our own. The biggest tip is to try to think differently than everyone else when possible.

Try to pick what is the least popular thing to do on a day when you can.

Intuitively, guests may try to plan to visit the park with the longest hours. Let’s say there’s a special event that causes Magic Kingdom to close early. Many guests will avoid visiting that park that day. This makes sense for some visitors as the regular nightly firework show may not be part of admission that day. Most would consider this an important highlight. You would be missing out if that was your only day experiencing Magic Kingdom. However, these days can have very low crowds. Especially in the afternoon before the park closes for day operations and switches over for the event. Wait times can be much lower, saving you time in line and helping you get more in than you would visiting another day.

If you’re taking a week long vacation at Disney World, you’ll be able to visit some parks more than once if you wish. Especially if you choose to add on a park hopper to your ticket. This allows you to visit more than one park in a day. Visiting Magic Kingdom for a full day and a second time when there is a special event and lower crowds can make for a very full experience.

Additional park hours can draw lots of guests to a certain theme park.

There are some perks to staying at Disney resort hotels that allow you to be in the park before or after other guests. You’ll find these opportunities on the calendar or above the calendar in the case of daily thirty minute Early Theme Park Entry for all resort guests

While extended evening time periods may have less people in the park, they may draw higher crowds at the park overall for the day. For example, Extended Evening Hours for Deluxe resort hotel guests may draw people to Epcot, freeing up space at other parks.

If you’re taking part in Early Theme Park Entry for Disney Resort Hotel Guests, that thirty minutes goes by very fast. You will want to make sure to be standing in line at the gate well before the thirty minutes begins. Disney transportation is convenient and complimentary but can also be busy during peak times. You may be waiting for a bus to Disney’s Hollywood Studios along with many other guests in the morning. If you have to wait for an additional bus, that could take another twenty minutes. That would put you pretty behind on the special early entry period. Planning extra time for travel helps you make the most of your days.

It also makes sense to visit a park for early or late experiences and use your park hopper to visit another park during the day.

If you happen to see an event like an Epcot festival kick off during your visit, note that the first days of that event may draw many people to that park. It may be to your benefit to pick another park for the first few days at least and enjoy lower crowds at a festival a few days in.

Eat at off times at Disney to enjoy lower waits.

Simply choosing to eat at off times can save you time in line for meals and at attractions. You may see the wait times for some attractions dip during the lunch rush. If you eat early, you can avoid longer lines at quick service restaurants and take that time to seek lower waits for rides on your wish list.

Weekends may actually have lower crowds at Disney World.

We have seen Magic Kingdom actually be less busy on the weekends and quite busy on some Mondays. These kinds of trends change over the years. Disney is now able to manage attendance with more precision than ever before. This is something that’s been in the works as technology has progressed over the years. However since 2020, Disney had an advantage with restricting capacity and fully leaned into it. Some annual passes are blocked out on the weekends. Other annual passes require park reservations if entering Magic Kingdom before 2:00 p.m. on the weekends. With variable pricing based on what Disney determines as high demand, we’ve seen Saturday and Sunday at this park in particular present some of the highest ticket prices you’ll find at the vacation destination. With hotel prices typically higher on the weekends as well, conscious consumers may be choosing to visit during the week to save.

Disney World tips for first timers blue, gold and gray entrance gate with Mickey and Minnie mouse on each side
The Walt Disney World Resort entrance.

2. Get comfortable with the Disney app before your trip as a first timer.

One of the most surprising Disney World tips for first timers is to spend time learning how to use the My Disney Experience app before visiting. This mobile application debuted and changed everything about Walt Disney World vacations. In some ways it’s a helpful planning tool before and during your trip. You can use it to make dining reservations and check park hours. In other ways it’s a vital and necessary must have.

You need to use the My Disney Experience app to ride some attractions.

Some rides do not have a line you can walk up to and join but instead operate using a virtual queue. These are the newest and most popular attractions like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot and TRON Lightcycle/Run in Magic Kingdom. The virtual queues can fill up fast. If you’re not familiar with how to use the app and where to sign up for things like these, you can miss the opportunity.

Main Street U.S.A. at Magic Kingdom decorated for Christmas with lighted wreaths and garlands hanging
Planning to wear comfortable clothes and being prepared for possible extreme weather during your visit is one of the most helpful Disney World tips for first timers or any visitors.

3. Disney World outfits tips: Plan for comfort by carefully choosing what you will wear.

Some other helpful Disney tips for first timers have to do with the weather and outfit choices.

Wear a pair of tried and tested shoes to know blisters won’t be a burden on your trip. You’ll be taking 10,000 steps without even trying.

In the summer months especially, afternoon storms can roll in and downpour out of nowhere. Athletic or quick dry clothing may save you from needing a trip back to the hotel to change after rain. A poncho or small umbrella can also be a day saver.

Despite the sunshine state being known for its warm weather, Florida can have some surprisingly chilly nights and mornings. Wearing layers can help you comfortably enjoy full days at the parks November through February when temperatures are less predictable.

a crisp brown Minnie Mouse miniature waffle on a white plate surrounded by other food that is out of focus
Food is a big part of the fun and something to plan ahead for as a first timer visiting Disney World. Minnie and Mickey waffles are a favorite among Disney goers.

4. Disney World Restaurants: What will you eat on your Disney Parks trip? Should you book a Disney character meal?

This is a Disney tip to help you make the most of your time and money. If characters are high on your priority list, consider dining at a character meal.

Character meals at resorts don’t require a ticket and can make even better use of your time. You won’t have to wait in line to meet Mickey. He’ll come to you! Character meals are for everyone. They are great for families but also for couples or groups of friends wanting to get the full Disney experience.

For those interested in other Disney dining experiences, the option list is long. Walt Disney World Resort has every kind of food you can imagine.

The time of year you visit has a great deal to do with what specialty and novelty food items are offered.

For sit down restaurants you’ll want to be researched and ready to book 60 days in advance. This is when Disney restaurant reservations open up. Those staying at a Disney resort hotel have an advantage and can book meals for your entire trip 60 days in advance. This gives you access to book meals a few days before anyone not staying at a Disney hotel.

5. Consider which is the best Disney hotel for your needs and preferences.

If you’re looking for ways to save on your first Disney trip, your hotel has a lot to do with the overall cost. Staying at a deluxe property like the Grand Floridian keeps you very close to Magic Kingdom and offers firework views. The accommodations will be very nice. The price will be very high though. To save money you may choose to stay at a value resort like All Star Movies. The feel of the resort is very different. There are less amenities at value resorts.

One way people make the most of their money for Disney vacations is by joining Disney Vacation Club. If you’re in a season in life where you can see yourself visiting Disney regularly, this is something to research. Disney Vacation Club, DVC, is the point based Disney timeshare. The hotels available for DVC Members are the best at Disney, in convenient and magical locations with top tier amenities. You don’t even have to visit every year for DVC to make sense. It’s possible to bank and borrow your points which allows you to save them up for a future trip or use the following year’s points early. Resale DVC makes Membership even more affordable. Take a look at resale DVC listings today to compare to what you might pay to book a resort hotel.

DVC Resale Experts, Disney Vacation Club and Disney Tips for Your Trips Ahead

The moment you exit your new favorite attraction you might find yourself thinking about your next trip. The wind in your hair on Space Mountain can do that to you! You can turn the dream of visiting the whimsical lands of Disney’s incredible theme parks every year into an actual dream come true with Disney Vacation Club. When you become enchanted with the parks and resorts, shows and attractions, remember that DVC can help you visit consistently and for a great value. Talk to an Expert about finding the right contract for you.

Disney Blogger Nicole and Disney CEO Bob Iger

Sparkly Nicole

Nicole is a native Floridian who attended the University of Central Florida and decided to call the land of theme parks home. She’s been sharing magical tips, tricks and Orlando travel and tourism favorites online for over a decade.

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