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10 Things First Timers NEED to Know About Disney World

First Time at Disney World: When thinking about your first time going to Disney World, I bet all you can think about is the magic that goes along with it. And that’s a great thing! Disney World is probably the most magical place you will ever be, no doubt about that. But there are things that some people, especially those who have never been before, don’t really think about when it comes to planning their WDW vacation. I’m here to help with that!

*UPDATED October 24th, 2022*

1. If you can, plan your trip as far in advance as you can.

Nicole Ellington

If you enjoy getting your plans all in order waaay ahead of time, then you will enjoy this! The very earliest that you can begin making your Walt Disney World vacation 500 days before your planned visit.  The only thing is that at this time you can only make ”room only” reservations this far in advance. So, you can not add tickets or any other package deals at this time. This 500 days in advance might be a little excessive to some, but if there is a hard-to-get room that you just need to have ( think magic kingdom view rooms), then this might be a good option for you. In order to book these ’early access’ rooms, you will need to call Disney and book it over the phone.

Now for me, I don’t book that far ahead (I’m not organized enough for that). What I like to do is book as soon as I can online. Packages for the next year typically open in the summer, about June/July-ish. So if I am planning on a trip in November 2023, I would try to book my trip in June/July 2022, or whenever Disney opens the reservations.

2. There is not a ton of shade.

Nicole Ellington

I am looking at you Toy Story Land! Andy’s Backyard is kind of notorious for its lack of shade, but actually, most of Disney is out in the bright Florida sun. You will NEED sunscreen and you will need to reapply it during the day. Instead of lugging a big bottle of sunscreen with me throughout the parks, I end up putting some in a travel-size container and refill it every day before I hit the parks.

Here is an article all about how to handle that Disney heat!

3. The parks are always busy!

Lots of times I hear, “When are the least crowded times to go to Disney World?” And the short answer is… Disney is ALWAYS crowded! True, there are times when it’s more crowded than others (Christmas break, spring break, holiday weekends), but the truth is that there will always be a crowd. I know some might think of this as a bad thing, but I like to think of it this way: obviously, Disney is doing something right when no matter what time of year you go, there are people that want to be at Disney World. So my suggestion is to book when you want to go! Don’t let crowds scare you. With enough planning, the crowds will not bother you and you will have a great first time at Disney World.

Want to know more about how to handle crowded park days? Click here!

4. If you have your heart set on a great spot for a show or parade, get there early!


Don’t get me wrong, I love the fireworks in Magic Kingdom! I cry almost every time I watch it. But I don’t mind watching it from a ‘non-traditional’ view (for example, behind the castle near The Little Mermaid Ride). This is because if you would like a great view right in front of the castle, you are going to have to get there early. Like, an hour to an hour and a half early. For me, that’s cutting into precious park time and doesn’t feel worth it to me. But I do understand that first-timers, or people who really love the fireworks, want the best view possible. So if that’s the case, get there early. And that goes for the parade too.

5. Think about your feet!

I know at Disney, many families like to buy new outfits to get that adorable matching family photo. And that’s great! But do your feet a favor and don’t wear new shoes to the parks. Wear the shoes that you are most comfortable in, even if they are a little run down. I know it’s tempting to get new shoes to match that new outfit you bought, but think about it. You will be walking and standing for hours and hours a day. My Apple watch recorded 12 miles a day on average for me this past trip. If you really want a new pair of shoes for your trip, buy them at least a month in advance and wear them around so your feet can get used to them.

Ps- These are really comfy shoes!

6. You will NOT be able to do everything in one trip.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer here, but I am just trying to tell you the facts! Disney World is HUGE! There is so much to do, see, experience, and eat! You will never get to do everything in just one trip. I have been more times than I can count, and we always manage to try something new during our trips. My advice to newbies is to pick 3-5 things that you want to do that day. Focus on doing those things. Anything after that will just be a magical extra!

7. Florida Weather is unpredictable!

As Scar says, “Be Prepared!” Actually, I don’t know if we should be getting our advice from a Disney Villain. But you get the point. One minute it can be bright and sunny, the next minute it can be torrential downpours. I have been to Disney in May when one day it was in the 90s and it was soo hot! But that night it felt so cold that I needed a sweater. Also, I have been in January when one day I was wearing jeans and a jacket and still felt cold, and the next day it was so hot that I wished I was wearing shorts! So check the weather and try to be prepared for the unexpected. And always pack a poncho or an umbrella.

Want to read more about how to strategize a rainy day at Disney? Click here!

8. Taking a break is okay!

I know you have just spent an unearthly amount of money on your dream vacation and you want to live it up to its fullest. But breaks are necessary during a WDW vacation!

Like I said before, on my last trip I averaged 12 miles a day. And that’s in the hot Florida sun with crowds of people around you. WDW isn’t exactly a relaxing vacation. I often joke that I need a vacation once I get back from Disney. If you are there for multiple days, I highly suggest sleeping in one morning, or taking an afternoon break at the resort.

Lately, I have been taking the day in the middle of my vacation completely off from the parks! You spent a lot of money at the resorts, you might as well relax there and use the pool. Do whatever works best for you and your family. Having to deal with grumpy kids (or grumpy adults for that matter) is never fun. Taking a break during your trip will be highly beneficial.

Rest days are some of my favorite days! Click here to see what awesome things you can do!

9. Get to know Genie+, Lightning Lanes, and Boarding Passes


Before we get into how to use Genie+, let’s get into what it actually is first. Genie+ is what replaced the beloved FastPass system at Disney World in 2021. But this time, you have to pay for it. As Rumplestilskin says in Once Upon a Time ”magic comes with a price!”. The price of Genie+ will vary throughout the year, so check your My Disney Experience app for the current prices. The price range is typically from $15-$22 per day per person.

To access Genie+, you need to have the My Disney Experience app. Once you purchase it you can make “Lightning Lane” selections throughout the day. The Lightning Lane is a separate line (use to be the old Fastpass line. RIP) at each attraction.

Once you purchase Genie+, you will have access to the Lightning Lane all day. There are about 50 different rides, shows, and attractions that you can use your Lightning Lane on across all the parks.

You can make your first Lightning Lane pick at 7 am. Next, you can make your next Lightning Lane pick either when you check in for your current selection or after 120 minutes have passed since you made your current selection. The only exception to the 120-minute rule is if you make your first Genie+ Lightning Lane selection before the park opens. You would have to wait for 120 minutes after the official park opening time to make another selection. 

Are you confused yet? Just wait, there’s more

There is something called Individual Lightning Lane (or ILL for short). These are reservations that you can purchase for an exact time to ride on one of Disney’s major rides. Those will vary in price also, so check your app for the exact prices. You do not need to purchase, Genie+ to purchase ILL. This is a separate purchase.

Then we have Boarding passes (last one, I promise!) Boarding Passes (or Virtual Queues) are free (whoohoo!) and are typically only given to rides that are new in the park. Right now it is Guardians of the Galaxy. Before, it was Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Rise of the Resistance.

If a ride is currently using the Virtual Queue method, then that means that the is no standby line. The only way to ride this ride is if you have a Boarding Pass.

To get a Boarding pass, you will need to access your My Disney Experience App. The passes go live at 7 am. These passes go quickly as there is a limited amount. I suggest at 6:58 am, get on your app and start refreshing.

All this to say… get familiar with Genie+, Lightning Lane, ILL, and Virtual Queues. Some people love them, some people hate them. They are all what you make of it. I know that was a lot of info thrown out at you, but keep an eye out for a more detailed post on how to best utilize these coming soon.

10. Getting from your resort to the parks can take a lot of time.

Skyliner station Caribbean Beach Riviera Resort

If you end up having an early Boarding Pass or a breakfast reservation, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to travel! Sometimes buses are delayed. Sometimes the security check is really backed up. And like I said before, WDW is huge! So even if everything is running smoothly, it can still take some time.

Helpful links-

In order to help you plan the PERFECT first vacation, here are some helpful links!

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First Time at Disney World: With these tips, you will be exploring the parks like a Disney veteran! Knowing these valuable tips will help to set you up for a successful, magical vacation. Do you have any tips that you like to give first-timers? If so, leave them in the comments below or let me know on Twitter at @DisneyDreamCo!

Post You May Like: Free Printable Disney World Planning Sheets!

I'm a lover of all things Disney! I have an adorable son named Andy (after Toy Story), and an amazing hubby named Aaron. For my family and I, Disney isn’t just a hobby or someplace we casually go when on vacation, it's a way of life. We try to go back 'Home' twice a year. My hope for this blog is to help families navigate their crazy, magical times through Disney and reach their Disney Dream!


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