Tips for Disney World first-timers
So you've finally decided to head to Walt Disney World! With so much to see and do, it's important to come prepared. Here are some tips to make your trip one that will be remembered for a lifetime from Cara Goldsbury, author of The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World: How to Get the Most Out of the Best Disney Has to Offer.
Slow down and enjoy the magic
Resist the urge to see everything at breakneck speed. You can't possibly cover it all, so think of this as your first trip to Disney, not your last. There will be time to pick up all the things you missed on the next go-round.
Decide ahead of time what your priorities are and make a plan of action. Take a look at a map of the various parks to help you choose which worlds to explore.
Get to the parks early!
It's amazing, particularly in busy season, how many of the popular rides you can knock off before half the "World" gets out of bed.
Call ahead for any necessary reservations
Reserve a table at one of the popular or theme restaurants online here, or by calling (407) WDW-DINE. Be sure to sign up early -- even months ahed of time -- if something like breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom is tops on your child's list. The only way you might get away with sleeping in and booking a bit later for this highly-coveted character breakfast is if you are traveling in extremely slow season.
Be ready for rain
Come prepared for an afternoon shower during the rainy summer months, even if the sky looks perfectly clear in the morning. Rent a locker to store your raingear and circle back if skies start to look threatening. However, if you're caught unprepared, just about every store in the parks sells (relatively) inexpensive rain ponchos.
Use Fastpass, Disney's free, nifty timesaving device
Fastpass is offered on certain popular rides at all four theme parks (Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom and Epcot Theme Park), and is a great way to save hours of waiting in line. Just insert your park pass in one of the machines located at each individual Fastpass attraction and receive a ticket printed with a designated one-hour window in which you may return and enter a special line with little or no waiting.
Take time for a rest in the middle of the day
If you stay at one of the Magic Kingdom or Epcot resorts, you can easily return to your hotel in the middle of the day for a nap or dip in the pool.
Give yourself enough travel time
Allow plenty of time to reach the theme parks each morning, especially if you have reservations or specific plans. It's easy to miss your breakfast priority seating if you don't allocate enough time.
Wear broken-in, comfortable footwear. Better yet -- bring two pairs of shoes and rotate them. Nothing is worse than getting blisters on your first day, and then having to nurse them for the remainder of your vacation.
Realize the limitations of your children
If they're tired, take a break. If their feet hurt, get them a stroller (forget that they outgrew one years ago). If a ride scares them, don't force the issue. Such precautions will make your day and the day of other park visitors a lot less stressful.
Keep in touch
Bring cell phones to keep in touch if your party plans on splitting up -- or in case it happens by accident.
If something catches your eye, even if it's not on your daily list of things to do, stop and explore. If not, you could miss something wonderful.