Planning your first visit to Walt Disney World may seem a bit overwhelming.  Here are some valuable tips to help you plan the most magical visit. Once you get down the basic planning steps and Disney lingo you will be a pro in no time.

Here are ways to keep kids entertained on a road trip to Disney with just the right amount of excitement and calm. Make the miles magical!

At long last, the entrance to Walt Disney World! Photo: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

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Planning a Walt Disney World vacation is certainly a task. There are words like FastPass, magic band and memory maker thrown around. There are reservations to be made if you want to dine with Mickey and Pals. And then there is the need to choose the best hotel for your family. You can and will certainly find a multitude of resources to help plan. I want to share the basics of planning your first visit, so it doesn’t seem so scary.

Your First Visit To Walt Disney World

walt disney world vacation mistakes

Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World is the centerpiece of Magic Kingdom photo credit: Jenn Greene Last Minute Traveling Mom


Budget Accordingly

Before you even begin planning your Walt Disney World vacation you need to realistically decide on a budget for this magical trip. If you don’t have a budget you may find yourself overspending and this could ruin your trip before it even begins. A few variables go into this: resort, dining, airfare and “extras.”

  • Fly or Drive: This is a personal decision. If you live eight hours or less from Disney World it seems a no-brainer to drive. Larger families may not have the money to fly, so breaking up a trip over a few days drive could prove easier on the wallet. Southwest often has fantastic fare sales to Orlando from domestic US markets, keep an eye out each Tuesday for sales. You can also choose to drive as opposed to fly if you want to stay in a nicer resort for your first visit as you will certainly save money not flying.

Traveling Mom Allison Taylor shares her opinion on this, and why she won’t ever drive again with her kids.

your first visit to walt disney world

Magic and Memories await at Walt Disney World. photo credit: WDW

  • Resort Choice: The first decision is whether to stay “on property” (at a Walt Disney World Resort) or “off property” at a Disney partner hotel like the Wyndham Disney Springs or an another Orlando hotel. Disney resorts offer a magical experience, from imaginative and immersive themes to real animals grazing the Savannah outside your window. Make a check list of what is a must have for your resort, and then research the options. There are hotels and resorts for every budget, even on property at Disney, where you can choose from resorts in the Value, Moderate and Deluxe categories.
Which resort is best at Walt Disney World for your budget.

The pool at the Art of Animation is the largest of any of the Walt Disney World resort and features underwater speakers. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

  • Dining: A first visit to Walt Disney World almost requires a meal with Mickey and friends. This can be quite costly if you plan for more than one meal with characters. Take a look at the Disney Dining Plan and see if that is a better option for your family. You may end up saving money with the dining plan.
  • Tickets: There are a myriad of ticket options at Disney World. You can choose one park per day, or a park hopper that allows you to change parks on the same day. You can add mini-golf and water parks. While this may sound like a tough choice, it’s really all in how your family likes to vacation. If you prefer to tackle one park per day then go with the single day tickets. This can also save you money, as the park hoppers are an extra charge.

Traveling Mom Tip: A Disney trip can be exhausting. When planning your tickets I suggest leaving one day free to relax and spend some downtime at the hotel pool.

All of these variable will play into your Disney budget, and are the main parts of your Disney Vacation. You will also need to budget for the “extras” such as souvenirs. You can choose to have a very budget conscious Disney vacation or you can plan an extravagant deluxe Disney vacation. It truly depends on what you are looking for.

Use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner

Did you know that there are FREE Disney Vacation Planners? They will help you every step of the way and all at no cost to you. From helping with your resort choice, to getting that impossible dining reservation in Cinderella’s Castle. For me, this is the best way to plan your first visit to Disney. Your vacation planner already knows all the tips and tricks, and they are FREE!

Plan Your Dining Reservations

This may sound ridiculous, but in order to get the premium dining reservations you desire, you must book them six months in advance. It is extremely rare that you will be able to show up to a restaurant in Disney and find availability for walk up options. If you want to book character meals you MUST book them once the 180 day window opens. And preferably as early in the morning as possible!

Casey’s Corner Menu Photo Credit: Karen Heffren / Desert TravelingMom

Learn the Lingo

Walt Disney World has its own language. While some things you can pick up on easily, others can be a little more difficult to dissect. Here are the four words you will need to be familiar with in planning your Disney vacation.

  • My Disney Experience: This is the online hub of your Disney World vacation. On this site you will link your reservations, make FastPass choices and book your dining reservations. This is available as an app as well and you can use it to check park hours, park maps and more.
  • FastPass: A FastPass lets you skip the line for popular rides. You can choose up to three FastPasses at a time before you even arrive at Disney. Rather than spending 90 minutes waiting to ride a ride, you can spend that time having fun in the parks and return to the ride at your appointed FastPass time.
  • Photopass: This is the free photography service in the parks, you simply have a Disney photo-pass photographer take your photo. It is linked to your My Disney Experience, where you can see the photos and choose to buy them.

MagicBand: These are provided as part of an on-property Disney Resort stay. A MagicBand is your key to Walt Disney World, literally. This waterproof wearable device stores your park ticket, opens the door to your on-property Disney Resort room, keeps track of your FastPass reservations, is tied to a credit card to be used for purchases, and much more. The idea is to make all aspects of your Disney vacation as seamless as possible. If you are not staying property, you can get into the park with an old-fashioned paper ticket or buy a MagicBand for $14 and have it programmed to do link to your ticket, your credit card and everything but, of course, open a hotel room door.

Where to Buy Discounted Disney World Tickets

Headed to the Happiest Place on Earth? TravelingMom recommends Undercover Tourist for discounted tickets including $7 off Mickey’s Christmas party tickets and $8 off Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween tickets.

your first visit to walt disney world

Fast Pass + saves you time in line at Walt Disney World by scheduling attractions in advance. Photo Credit: WDW

What is your biggest challenge planning your first visit to Disney?