OK – Full disclosure. I was not technically a Disney virgin. I have been to Disney World before. However, this recent trip was the first time I have been in over 15 years (it has changed a ton!) and it was the first time going as a family with children. My girls are 4.5 and almost 6 years old and I think my kids were the absolute perfect age for this first trip.
We only went for two days and we only visited the Magic Kingdom, but we learned a lot from that experience and I am sharing those things here.
Use a travel agent: I used Chrissy from Fairy Tale Concierge and that girl knows her Disney. She took my directives, booked the trip, helped with fast passes, gave recommendations and sat online with customer service for me to work out an issue with our memory maker purchase (which she totally didn’t have to do). She even called the resort to tell them it was my birthday and my girl’s first trip to Disney… which led to some pretty awesome Disney magic surprises being dropped off in our room. I can not stress enough how much having a resource like this helps with your trip – especially when you are a Disney virgin.
Plan breaks: We learned this one the hard way. Since we only had two days, we didn’t really think taking a mid-day break would be necessary. However, day one was crazy hot and the girls got crazy tired. In hindsight, I wish I had booked a third day in the middle to have a chill out and swim day at the hotel between the park days. On day two, we had breakfast reservations and I told Nora that we could cancel if she wanted to sleep in. She did not want to miss seeing the characters, but, she kept asking if Winnie the Pooh could come eat in our hotel room instead. That girl was T.I.R.E.D.
The Festival of Fantasy: I am not a fan of crowds… therefore the idea of cramming into the nightly parades on Main Street wasn’t high on my personal list of “must-do” activities. However, there is a daily parade at 3pm, in Liberty Square, that is amazing. It showcased all of the major characters and we walked right up to it 5 minutes before and were front row for the show. I highly recommend this alternative.
Get the My Disney Experience App: This app was super helpful and very user friendly. I recommend downloading it a week early and checking it out daily during that time. Look for trends in things like wait times, so you can choose to reassign your fast passes as able. Also, I used this app in the weeks before to keep checking on dining reservations as they will randomly become available.
Know When and Where You Can See Characters: Some of these are in special locations and have long lines (you can use fast passes). But some are stationed in the park for limited times during the day. The app can help you with this as well, but if you have a princess that is a must-see for you (for Nora this was Jasmine and Mer needed to see Merida), you only have brief windows to connect with them. And they are strict about this… two minutes late… no go. My husband caught onto this much faster than I did, so we managed to get to see pretty much everyone in person except Tiana (who wasn’t where she was supposed to be grrrr.)
Make Fast Pass Work for You: Obviously you want to use your original fast pass selections to make sure you get your “must dos”. For us this was Peter Pan’s Flight, The Seven Dwarves’ Mine Train and Meeting Cinderella/Rapunzel. All of these typically have substantial waits so we definitely wanted to use fast passes for these. However, by day two, we had the fast pass system down to a science. Want to ride The Barnstormer… stop at a kiosk and see if there is a fast pass time available. Typically, we were finding them available on these more average popularity rides within 10-15 minutes of when we looked.This enabled us to use fast passes on most everything on day two. **You can only do this once your original fast passes have been used for the day, so if possible, try to schedule your first three early in the day.**
Get Out of the Heat: If you are crazy like us and go in the summer, it can be important to know where to go when you need to cool down. The following three were our favorite options to beat the heat.
- Cosmic Rays – This is a fast casual restaurant, but the girls were fascinated with the puppet lounge act inside and we would just sit and take a water break when over that way.
- The Circus in the Dumbo Ride Line – You get to stop and sit while the kiddos explore an inside playground. Air conditioned and factored into the ride wait time – win/win.
- Visit Donald, Goofy, Minnie and Daisy – This was the coolest AC in the park… and the end prize of visiting some great new friends made it an extra awesome break from the heat.
Our Girl’s Favorites: Ariel’s UnderSea Adventure, The Barnstormer, The Incredible’s Dance Party, The Haunted Mansion, The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and Mickey’s Philharmonic
My Favorites: Breakfast at The Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh and Friends, Peter Pan’s Flight, Meeting Tinkerbell (mainly because she was our first stop and the girls were literally speechless, they were so starstruck) and The Haunted Mansion.
Things We Could Have Done Without: Stitches Great Escape, The Tiki Room, Dinner at The Be Our Guest Restaurant (food was good, but experience was meh for the price) and while my husband does not agree, I could have done without meeting Mickey in person. I felt he was much more fun out and about in the parades than up close and personal.