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What are some good tips for visiting WDW for first timers?

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  • What are some good tips for visiting WDW for first timers?

    Hello, my girlfriend and I are AP's for Disneyland and decided that for our anniversary we will go to Disney World. This would be the first time for both of us going, and I just wanted to know some tips about getting the most of our days, things you recommend that we do, things maybe to skip, etc. Definitely understand that WDW is more of a park you need to plan, as opposed to Disneyland, where you can kinda show up and have a successful day. We are going April 28 - March 1 at the park. we are doing one park a day, and already know about the whole fast pass reservation system with making reservations a month ahead.

  • #2
    Welcome to MiceAge/MiceChat! Hope you enjoy your time here. You have asked a quite common question around these parts, so hopefully the few snarky comments that MAY crop up won't chase you away. It's just that Walt Disney World World Resort (WDW from now on) is SO big and expansive, that what you are asking is too broad of a question. There are multiple prior posts from other members with similar requests, and some great explanations, that go into pages of reading.

    As a WDW veteran (since 1972) and annual pass holder, and occasional Disneyland visitor, let me see if I can sum up the best responses from other members over the years.

    1) If this is your first time to WDW, get ready for the shock. It's set back from the highway and exists in it's own bubble. 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 2 dozen Disney owned and run hotels, plus several "Good Neighbor" Anaheim style hotels as well, and Disney Springs (aka Downtown Disney, but MUCH larger). It takes a while to go from any one place to any other. You can NOT just walk between the parks, Disney Springs, etc. You either have to take your own car, a bus, or ride a monorail (connecting 3 hotels and the Magic Kingdom/Epcot), or use the Skyliner "ski lift bucket" system (Disney Hollywood Studios/Epcot/3 Disney hotels).

    2) SO... if you can afford to stay ON property at one of the Disney hotels, do so. There are a lot of perks (extra magic hours, transportation) that will make your time more profitable. They are more expensive than say, a Holiday Inn Express or Comfort Inn, etc, but it is part of the magic as well.

    3) Tickets are more expensive than at DLR.

    4) Since you only have a few days, and time is limited, then do the "unique" attractions at WDW, not found at DLR. My guess is that you will overall be disappointed by the Magic Kingdom at WDW. It's spread out over more property and has a larger castle, but oddly has fewer attractions than DL.

    GET TO EACH PARK BEFORE ROPE DROP. The weather is cooler in the morning, crowds are less, and you can get more in and then have time to break away over the lunch.early afternoon hours.

    Some examples of attractions to hit/skip throughout the resort:
    a) Galaxy's Edge is almost the exact same. Skip it.
    b) Toy Story Land has one "different" attraction than DLR, Slinky Dog Dash. It's a fun family coaster. Do it.
    c) Rock-N-Roller coaster... unique to WDW, so do it.
    d) Pirates of the Caribbean: while still my favorite, it overall is shorter and less impressive than DLR and is OK to skip.
    e) Big Thunder: basically the same, so skip it. Ditto for Splash Mountain, Winnie the Pooh, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, It's a Small World, Buzz Lightyear, Peter Pan's Flight, Carousel, Tiki Room, etc. While some of these attractions have a differently themed queu than in Anaheim, the ride itself is essentially the same.
    f) Seven Dwarves Mine Train coaster... do it.
    g) Space Mountain WDW: MUCH different than DLR, so do it. Basically, WDW never got the Matterhorn Bobsled coaster, but we DID get Space Mountain, which is essentially the Matterhorn in the dark, space themed. Two tracks and everything, and even the cars are similar. Seriously, it's basically the Matterhorn.
    h) People Mover...do it.
    i) If you have time, do the Carousel of Progress, if for no other reason than to see Walt's 1964 World's Fair cheesy masterpiece.
    j) Avatar, the World of Pandora is a must see. Get there EARLY for rope drop at Animal Kingdom, and do Flight of Passage. Skip the Navi River Journey if need be. Also, Expedition Everest is like Matterhorn on steroids, so do it.
    k) ALL of Epcot is worth "doing" if you have never seen it before, but it's under MASSIVE construction now so getting around is tricky.

    (you get the point)

    5) If this is your first time, and you only have April 28, 29, 30, May 1, then you don't have time for water parks. No big deal there.

    6) Food can be PRICEY. Decide on a food budget, and stick to it. Don't be afraid to order Child Meals at quick service eateries. Take bottled water into the parks.

    7) Central Florida can be HOTTER THAN YOU THINK. Check weather forecasts before you go, and take sunscreen.

    8) If you are flying in to Orlando Airport/MCO (I assume), and are staying at a Disney hotel, then use the complimentary Disney Magical Express bus service to get you back and forth from the hotel (unless you are renting a car). You have to make reservations by phone, AHEAD OF YOUR ARRIVAL It's like going from LAX to DL.... about a 40 minute drive (we normally use John Wayne Airport when going to DL because it's closer to the resort and less congested).

    9) Try eating at the Contemporary Resort of Polynesian Village resort. These are the two "opening Day" resorts at WDW and are on the monorail line. Even though they have been updated over the years, they still retain the 1970s vibe and charm of WDW. They have quick service as well as sit-down table service restaurants, and lounges. NOTE: You can walk from the Contemporary Resort to the Magic Kingdom front gate... about the distance from the DL Hotel to the gate in Anaheim.

    10) Don't try to do it all, or see a little bit of everything. You just can't, in the time you have.

    11) Take LOTS OF PICS AND VIDEO, especially at the unique locations. Bring phone charger/power banks with you, as finding charging spots can be tricky. Use an cloud storage /upload service for your pics and videos, so you don't run out of memory space. If taking a DSLR camera, then remember to bring an extra battery and memory card. You do NOT want to buy that stuff at WDW, $$$$.

    12) Consider doing the "coast to coast" Disney trip photo, if you travel time will allow (i.e. a pic of you both at WDW in the AM the day you leave, then a pic of you that night at DL resort)

    Check out Mousesavers.com for more info and tips, and have fun!!
    Last edited by chris2fett; 02-17-2020, 07:31 AM.

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    • #3
      Appreciate the response! I'm sure theres a ton of threads started around it, just wasnt sure if anything may of changed since SWGE opened. Ill definitely search thru some older posts and see what others already suggested

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      • #4
        Hi Kevin,

        Chris gave you some good advice & I hope I add a worthwhile good tips too.

        Where are staying?

        Have you made your restaurant and Fastpass reservations? If so, wasn't that weird? I went to Paris with my family in 2019 and that took FAR less planning than going to Disney World.

        Are you going to see Universal? The Diagon Alley is pretty cool!

        I disagree with Chris' suggestion about getting to parks early because when we're on vacation we want to relax, sleep in and stay on CA time. If your goal is to hit as many attractions as possible, then sure get up early & maybe hit early & late extra magic hours. I avoid parks on days they have extra hours, because they're less crowded.

        My number one tip is to accept that you're not going to see everything! Pick a few things you really want to do in each park--get Fastpasses for them, and be emotionally prepared for several of the attractions you most want to see being closed. Check he refurbishment schedule before you go.

        The Animal Kingdom is awesome--VERY well themed! See the Festival of the Lion King show, the Avatar ride (Flight of Passage-not the boat ride--the Na'vi River journey--unless the line for is is short), & Kilimanjaro Safaris. Walk through the two cool nature trails & maybe eat at the Tusker House buffet.

        At the Studios we liked two restaurants for their theming--the 50s' Prime Time Diner and the Drive-In theater themed restaurant. (Not sure about either name.)

        In the Magic Kingdom, the Haunted Mansion is similar to Disneyland's but I like it even more, and the MK's Splash Mtn is the best Splash Mountain. Maybe ride Big Thunder, the Jungle Cruise (with a cave!), The newish 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, Pirates of the Caribbean--it's shorter but the line is interesting. Skip the inferior Small World. You have too experience the Hall of Presidents or else you're uneducated scum. Skip the vastly inferior Buzz ride. Don't miss the Carousel of Progress and the Peoplemover!!! I like eating at the Columbia Harbor House and the Liberty Tree Tavern. You can use a mobile app on your phone phone to order food to avoid a line at the Harbor House. I do think having to use my phone at WDW makes it seem like work; I'd rather get away from my phone while on vacation. But Ernie LOVES the convenient things Disney lets you do on your phone. (I just made up Ernie.)

        Maybe take a boat from the MK to Fort Wilderness and eat dinner at the Trail’s End $30 buffet (ONLY BREAKAST & DINNER, NOT lunch) or walk to the Contemporary resort and eat at THE WAVE or splurge at the California Grill. Tell everyone at the restaurant that you are from California and that everything in CA is actually much better. (Kidding.) You can see the fireworks & if you're early I've heard they can give you a pass to come back & watch the MK fireworks from the restaurant or bar. I've heard ordering food while at the bar is a good move, but I haven't done this. I took my girl to the CA Grill for dinner with a view of the fireworks, and now me girl's me wife!

        Or take a boat to the Wilderness Lodge. One of the coolest things about WDW is the well-themed resorts. Think the Grand Californian, but with more and better surrounding scenery. The two MUST VISIT resorts for me are (again) The Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Wilderness Lodge. (Not to be confused with Fort Wilderness & its worthwhile dinner buffet.) At the AKL I recommend eating at Sanaa (get the bread service!) & at the buffet named Boma. Maybe take a tour of the restaurants--check for times/dates of these free AKL restaurant tours before you get to Florida. I heard that the fanciest & most expensive restaurant at the AKL, Jiko, is currently in a slump. In general be emotionally prepared for restaurants at WDW to be inconsistent & overpriced. And research restaurants, rides & everything else before you go.

        EPCOT’s Test Track is fun and I like the China & French films. Take time to talk to cast members from around the world at different World Showcase pavillions. If you don't see The American Adventure show, the Muppet's Sam the Eagle will fly to your workplace and publicly accuse you of being a communist. Skip Soarin' because we've got that in Anaheim. The eating options at EPCOT are wonderfully overwhelming so you can research that for yourself. Do check out reviews & prices when selecting restaurants. WDW restaurants do not have the world's best food, but some of them are the world's best themed.

        The most fun we had on our last trip was renting the little speed boats. We got ours from the Polynesian, but other resorts have them too.

        Maybe pre-order groceries including beverages from the Garden Grocer in advance to save money—They'll deliver to your room or to the front desk. (Double check with your resort.)

        In Disney Springs I've heard good things about one of the two seafood restaurants (name?), and Raglan Road--the Irish pub/restaurant with live musicians at night is reportedly fun.

        So to sum up: visit the AK, MK & EPCOT parks, & if time, Universal. See the Animal Kingdom Lodge & Wilderness Lodge. Rent a little speed boat.
        Last edited by jcruise86; 05-05-2020, 01:49 PM.

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        • #5
          I have gone to Disneyland 20+ times over 30 years and made my 1st trip to WDW and was very disappointed. the Magic Kingdom to me was a poor attempt of copying some of Disneyland and the other 3 add-on parks were not at all up to Disney quality. Terrible flow of the park layout, etc.

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          • #6
            Making fastpasses before arriving at the parks is actually a comforting thought. You can pick the things that are "musts" for you, and you know that you definitely get to enjoy them. Do your homework ahead of time, and you will not be disappointed. The My Disney Experience is a big help. They make the fastpass selection quite easy. You need to sign up for My Disney Experience and it is very helpful, Especially if you are staying onsite. I never used it when not staying onsite, so I cannot speak for that.

            I liked the magic bands. They let you in the parks, and your hotel room if you are staying onsite. Not sure if you are driving or not, but Magical Express is a great perk if you are staying onsite. You Might want to consider using a travel agent. I used them a few times, and the ones I had were very helpful. They can help you with as much, or as little as you like. I liked letting them do the reservation part. Calling Disney and waiting on the phone can be very time consuming. They take care of all that, and it is a blessing. They also watch for any discounts that you might qualify for, esecially if you have a Disney Visa.

            Try not and compare WDW with Disneyland, because they are total opposites in so many ways. I liked to do some special meals on each of my trips. They are fun, especially if you want to meet characters. If you do make dining reservations, make sure to do nearby restaurants close to the park you are visiting that day. You don't want to waste precious time with too much traveling. One day for each park will give you a good feel for WDW. However, you very well may come home wanting "more". Wanting to go back.

            Wear good footwear. Lots of walking. Lots of traveling time to the parks. You said April to March, I think you meant May. They should have longer hours. Rope drop can be crowded, but it does extend your time for exploring, and doing attractions. I like seeing all the parades and fireworks. It breaks up the day nicely. Plenty of places in the parks to just relax, for a while. I do that, most of the time rather than returning to my hotel. I used to make my fastpasses midday, just in case I wanted to get a later start that day. You don't always want to get up early 4 days in a row. That's too exhausting. More important to get an early start in the MK, DHS, than Epcot, and the AK.

            I'm just typing off the top of my head here, you have already been given some goo advice. I envy you your trip. Wish I could get back. Lots of new stuff in the last few years that I haven't seen. Toy Story Land at the Studios, and Avatar Land at the AK.
            BarbaraAnn

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