If you’re planning your very first trip to Disney World, you might be feeling a mix of excitement and, let’s be honest, a tad overwhelmed. But don’t you worry, we’ve got your back with some super simple and down-to-earth tips to make your first Disney experience a walk in the park
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There’s a new Disney FastPass, called Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane
Disney used to have a system called FastPass, that was a free skip the line system.
Now they have Genie, which is a free recommendation tool.
Genie+ which is a paid skip the line tool for some options.
And Lightning Lane (the third option), which is also a paid skip the line tool, but only for a handful of rides at each park. These rides are purchased separately, not included in Genie+ and can be purchased without purchasing Genie+.
So for example, you could purchase Genie+ for around 15-30 dollars per person per day.
Or you could purchase Genie+ for 15-30 and also purchase one of the lightning lane options for around 10 dollars for one specific ride.
Or you could just purchase a lightning lane options for around 10 dollars for that one specific ride for that day.
There’s also several rules, like not being able to book another option till you have used up your first option, or 120 minutes have passed (Whichever comes first!).
The most important thing to know about Genie+ is that if you can’t get it to work, or it doesn’t give any options till late evening, to visit Guest Services to see if they can get you an earlier return time or your money back.
You need to know how to use the Virtual Queue for some rides
There are some rides that require a Virtual Queue… which means you can’t do a walk on or wait in line.
These lines also typically offer a paid lightning lane option, so if you miss the Virtual Queue you can purchase a line pass.
Currently the two Virtual Queues are for:
Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT
Tron Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom
Here’s how to Access the Virtual Queue
- Download the MyDisney App or make sure your App is updated.
- Sign into the App
- Double Check that all of your party are listed under your ‘Friends and Family’ Section
- At 7 am and 1 pm you can hit the ‘join Virtual Queue’ button. It helps to have the app open a few minutes before 7 and 1 to make sure it loaded properly.
- Request a Spot for you and your party members
- Return at the Virtual Queue Time
Knowing what to Pack will make your trip that much better!
I know for a fact that most people forget the important stuff when they come to Disney. Wanna know how I know?
The resort gift store, and the main stores in Disney are PACKED full of items that you wouldn’t find in a regular gift shop.
They know people are going to forget everything from toothbrushes to underwear to phone chargers. (PSST- you can still order them from Amazon and have it same day delivery if Disney doesn’t have your favorite brand!)
Insulated Water Bottle– It’s hot and you cant have straws at Animal Kingdom, and paper straws throughout the parks. Make sure you grab plastic or stainless steel because you can’t have glass.
Portable Phone Charger– The My Disney App drains your battery. And if your phone dies by lunch you are stuck going to guest services to ask about your fast passes and food reservations. You can also do FuelRods, which is my preferred portable charger because they are so easy to swap out.
Body Glide– this stuff is a life saver. It’s my ultimate defense against chafing. Forget the souvenirs, if you are in pain, you wont enjoy your trip! This stuff is like Disney Magic, it’s not greasy but it keeps your skin from chaffing due to friction.
Extra shoes, extra clothes- Disney does have clothing and shoes for purchase, and you can always do laundry on vacation if you need clothes. It’s probably better to just bring them though!
If you are using a Travel Agent
Not all Travel Agents are created equal. Be sure you look up reviews for the Agency that they work with, and you get someone who can help you with clear communication. While many of the Travel Agents are free to use, many are now requiring planning fees to make sure you get the most out of your vacation. I have an Agency I enjoy using if you’d like to connect with them.
You will be walking 8000-25,000 steps a day
Oh yes. I’m going to write a post one day about all my shoe mishaps- but lets just say that the right shoe makes a huge difference on your day (and for your kids!)
You can easily walk, just on a half day at the parks getting content I walked 13k steps (my phone was on the shelf at home and I don’t have an apple watch, so this is accurate of my time inside Disney World)
Please please bring a stroller, or rent one for your vacation, especially if you have kids under 9 years old. It will save you time, sanity and be one of the best things for your kiddo!
We prefer Kingdom Strollers as it’s often times cheaper, and way more comfortable (did I mention it saves you time in the parks as you aren’t standing in line with all the other parents to buy a stroller for the day? those 20 minute lines each day add up quickly!)
Pro Tip: Disney sells shoes too, so if you get in a hard spot you can always go grab a new pair of kicks!
You must have the MyDisneyExperience App
Could you struggle through vacation without it? Sure. You could get paper maps and not use the line skip feature and ask a Cast Member is times change due to Weather.
But having the app will make things MUCH easier. I highly recommend it!
Disney is (even more) expensive
Inflation am I right?
What I mean is- the stuff in the resorts and inside the parks is often double what you could buy it for at Target or Amazon.
Which is fine and all if you have one souvenir you really want, but it does tend to add up quickly, especially with food! I have a great guide here about saving on food at Disney.
Basically, I want you to not get sticker shock. Be prepared for high prices, like 40 dollars for mouse ears and 50 dollars for a jacket. Be prepared for really some items to have good quality for the price, and other items to be grossly overpriced for the options available.
Here’s what you should Budget for each person in your party:
- $75 per adult for food, drinks and snacks per day, $60 for kids if you plan to only eat Quick Serve
- $50 for Souvenirs Minimum. If you want to buy gifts for others, or get some clothing items plan $200 per person.
- $50 for Accidental Expenses (like ponchos, socks, sunscreen, a spare shirt because yours got soaked etc)
- $20 a day per person for the Disney Genie+ Skip the line function
You can bring Food into the park
You CAN but you don’t have to. We normally bring in snacks every time we go.
But this also works if you want to bring in your lunch and have a picnic at Disney. We’ve done this many times and it’s always a fun a peaceful experience without having to wait in line or ask everyone what they wanted to eat.
This is also a great way to optimize your time. If you are trying to get a lot done during the day, I definitely recommend bringing lots of snacks or a lunch into the parks to help with your time management.
It can easily shave off 20-45 mins (actually a character buffet could be close to 2 hours!) so you can get back to the rides and attractions!
You need a Bucket List
Also known as a Can’t Miss List, you need to have a list of things that you absolutely want to do.
Disney is Large and Amazing… they have new offerings all the time, and some Attractions can close in bad weather.
With a Bucket List, you can prioritize the things that mean the most to you and anything else is a bonus!
For my family, I ask each person what three things have they been dreaming about or excited for, and then we make sure those get done at the beginning of the trip.
Here’s three examples:
- If you have a Princess fan, you can meet lots of Princesses around World Showcase in EPCOT or at Princess Fairytale Hall in Magic Kingdom. At EPCOT the Characters are out intermittently between 11 am and 7 pm. If you come too late, you will miss them. At Magic Kingdom, they are there all day (including up to park close time). If you didn’t prioritize or check the time schedules, you could easily miss the princesses on your EPCOT day.
- If you are getting Mickey Balloons, know that they are NOT sold at Animal Kingdom or EPCOT. You will only find them at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Disney Springs.
- If you want to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks, but your Magic Kingdom day is also a special event day (where they close at 6 before fireworks) you will miss them.
By picking your favorites and researching them ahead of time, you’ll be so much more relaxed and satisfied with your vacation.
Information Changes quickly at Disney
Plans and offerings change all the time at Disney! I’ve had several instances where Cast Members didn’t even know the correct answers (and their wrong advice caused us some headaches!). When in doubt, head to Guest Services to talk to a Cast Member (who we lovingly refer to as ‘plaids’).
You can find Guest Services at the Front of each Park, at the Blue Umbrella’s placed around the Parks, and on your MyDisneyExperience App under the Chat Feature.