WHOO-HOO!! That day you have been waiting for is FINALLY here! Today is your arrival day for Disney World! No matter how long you have counted down to this day, you want to make sure that you are prepared! Most people have their Fastpasses covered and dining reservations covered, but have you thought about what you are going to do your first day there?
Before you leave your house-
- Confirm luggage tags are on luggage (and that you have all of your luggage)
- Any paperwork is on hand and easily accessible. Also, make sure that you have confirmation numbers easily assessable if you need them.
- If you are flying: Arrive at the airport about 2 hours before departure. Sometimes I fly out of a super small airport at 5 am. For that airport, 1 hour is plenty of time. But for larger airports, give yourself an extra hour just in case security is backed up. It’s better to be waiting around for your flight to leave then it leaving without you.
You just laded at Orlando International Airport (MCO), now what? This is when I say the vacation officially begins! If you are a resort guest, follow the signs to the Magical Express!
Disney’s Magical Express-
Disney’s Magical Express is a great complimentary bus that departs about every 20 minutes from the airport and will take you to your resort in the most magical way! (Also, the photo above is literally the only photo I had of the Magical Express. I guess I am just too excited to take photos at this point 🙂 )
But how long will it take me to get from the airport to my hotel on Disney’s Magical Express?
Good things come to those who wait! Depending on the time of year and the time of day, sometimes this process can take awhile. First, it will take you a good 30 minutes from when the plane lands to the Magical Express Pick up area. Click here to see a map of MCO (Orlando Airport)
Once at the pickup area, scan that MagicBand (Mickey to Mickey!) at the receiver, or show the castmember your WDW reservation papers. The castmember will direct you to the right line to wait in.
Once your Bus arrives and you are all loaded on, you are ready to go! Sometimes buses will stop at multiple resorts. All in all, you are looking at a bus ride anywhere from 35-75 mins.
Finally Arriving at Your Resort
Once you are at your resort, you are probably going to want to check-in. You also have the option of doing this on your phone via the My Disney Experience app. But if you choose to do it in person, head on over to the check-in counter. For most Disney resorts, the check-in time is 3:00 pm. The variations on this are that the Fort Wilderness campsite check-in time is 1:00 pm and the Disney Villa Resorts check-in time is 4:00 pm.
If you arrive before the check-in time, no worries! Sometimes Disney will have a room available. If they don’t, you can leave your luggage and bags with Bell Service. They will keep your luggage for you until your room is ready.
You are all checked in, your bags are dropped off, and you want to start your vacation! You now have two options: head right to the parks, or do some non-park activities. Depending on how your tickets are, you might want to skip the parks on the first day, especially if you would only have a few hours left in the park before it closes. For non-park ideas, check out the list below!
1. Check out your Disney World Resort!
No matter what Disney Resort you stay at, whether it’s a Value or a Deluxe, there is exploring to do! One of my favorite things to do on our Arrival Day for Disney World, once we bring our bags to our room (or leave them at Bell Hop if our room isn’t ready yet) is to walk around and see what the resort has to offer.
I’m sure you have already done some research and know pretty much what to expect at your resort, but you will never fully know a Disney resort until you walk around it! Check out the decorations, find the pool, see what activities they have going on that day. Just exploring for a little bit is a great way to get the lay of the land.
Tip: If you are on the dining plan, or you decide to purchase one, make sure to get those refillable resort mugs first before you explore! This way you can have your cup of coffee or soda while exploring.
(Just as a side note, the photo above is from the All-Star Movies Resort, to read about it, click here!)
2. Have a Meal at your Resort or another Resort
A great way to start your Disney vacation is at one of Disney’s many restaurants that are at the resorts! And if its a Character meal, that’s even better. What better way to start off your vacation than with a full belly and meeting some of your favorite characters? Although I have never stayed at the Contemporary Resort, we seem to have dinner at Chef Mickey’s pretty often on our first night.
Other great Resort Character meals are: 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian Resort , Cape May at the Beach Club Resort (characters are at breakfast only), Trattoria al Forno at the Boardwalk Resort (characters are at breakfast only), O’hana at the Polynesian Resort (characters are at breakfast only), and Story Book Dining at Wilderness Lodge. Just make sure to book your reservations 180 days in advance. Character dining can book out quickly!
Did you know that we have our own Disney World date calculator so you can figure out when you 180 date (and more) is? Click here to check it out!
Even if character dining isn’t your thing, the Disney Resorts have TONS of other great places to eat. You will for sure be able to find something to your liking! Again, try to book these dining reservations as soon as you can to have better luck at getting the restaurant you want.
3. Resort Hop!
If you have a meal planned at a resort that you aren’t staying at, get there early and explore that resort! Or, stay there after the meal and have a look around. Even if you don’t have a meal scheduled, still try to take some time to look around these highly themed resorts! One great way to resort hop is to jump on the monorail and visit the Contemporary Resort, the Grand Floridian Resort, and the Polynesian Village Resort. They are all on the same monorail line, so it’s easy just to hop on and off and explore these beautiful resorts
One of my favorite resorts to hop over to is the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s a great place to see some animals that you would normally see in Animal Kingdom, but without going to the park!
I also really love spending time at the Boardwalk! (pictured above). Even if I am not staying there, I love to head there for some ice cream, or just to hang out!
4. Have a pool day
Disney pools are one of a kind. You want to make sure that you have time for them! One tip that I have learned the hard way is to make sure that you pack your bathing suit and a change of clothes in your carry on bag. This is because if you took the Magical Express and let Disney pick up your luggage, you might not get your luggage back for 4+ hours. Also, if your room is not yet ready, you can use the changing facilities at the pool.
5. Go to Disney Springs
There is so much to do in Disney Springs! Some people think it’s just about the shopping. Although there is a lot of stores to peruse through, there is way more than that! I am not a shopper at all. But I really do enjoy my time at Disney Springs. For us, we like to go to the LEGO store and play. My 4-year-old son has such a blast! (who am I kidding? Both my husband and I also have a blast there). Below is a list of things that you can do (besides shopping) at Disney Springs!
- Relax and watch a movie at AMC Movie Theater
- Go bowling at Splitsville Lanes
- Fly in Aerophile: The worlds largest tethered helium balloon!
- Explore the Coca-Cola Store
- If you have Dino loving kids, let them play in the T-Rex Restaurant! There is a bone digging area that the kids can play in even if you are not eating there.
- Take a ride in an Amphicar or water taxi
- Let the kids play in the Splash Pad
- Watch some live musical performances! There is often someone singing, or even performers walking around or stationed. There is a stage with seating across from The World of Disney that has a large array of musical performers.
6. Finish the Day off with Fireworks
I usually suggest going to bed early on arrival day because chances are you just had a long day, and will want to wake up early the next day to head to the parks. But if you really want to see fireworks while not being in the parks, there are a few places that you can!
- The Beaches of the Polynesian Village Resort
- Boat dock at the Grand Floridian Resort
- Boat docks at the Ticket and Transportation Center
Do’s and Don’ts for Arrival Day for Disney World
- Do remember to pack your travel sized, TSA-approved sunscreen in a carry-on. As I said before, your luggage can take hours to get to you. Honestly just make sure anything that you need for the day is in your carry-on.
- Don’t schedule a dining reservation too close to your arrival time. If you are flying, I recommend not planning any reservations for any closer than 4 hours after your scheduled arrival time.
- Do schedule groceries, strollers, and scooter/ECV deliveries on your arrival day so you’ll be ready to go on your first full day at Walt Disney World.
- Don’t do too much! I know I gave you a lot of options to do on your first day. But they are just that, options. You don’t (and shouldn’t) do it all. Try to relax a little before your vacation begins.