20 Things First Time Disney Visitors Don’t Know

World Showcase
World Showcase - Photo by Steps to Magic

“If you had to offer a first time visitor just one tip before they arrived, what would it be?” This list is packed with 20 things that we wished someone would have told us before our first trip to Walt Disney World! (In no particular order, although the first one does involve the possibility of getting more Dole Whips!) 

20 Things First Time Disney Visitors Don’t Know

Hi, I’m Dustin and I’m the editor of StepstoMagic.com, a trip planning website that provides ideas and concepts for you to consider when you’re planning a vacation to Central Florida.

Dustin and Mickey Mouse
Dustin and Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theatre – Steps to Magic

Being that I’m a former cast member and someone who loves to visit Walt Disney World & Universal Orlando and travels from my home base in Toronto, first time travel this is a topic that I’m well versed on.


DON’T PAY FOR WATER

Bring an empty water bottle to the parks and fill it up at Quick Service locations…or at Starbucks! Don’t pay $4+ for bottled water when you can spend that towards getting a Dole Whip!

Related Article – Where to Find Free Water


SEE IT! LIKE IT? BUY IT!

Souvenir Keys at The Art of Disney
Souvenir Keys at The Art of Disney – Photo by Steps to Magic

The number of times that you see something that you really want and think “oh, I’ll get it tomorrow”…and then it’s gone or even worse when your size is sold out! It’s a horrible feeling that I’ve had so many times that it’s time that I share my secret….just buy it. You’ll thank yourself later 🙂

Related Article – 10 Things We Wish That We Bought at Disney World


STAYING ON PROPERTY HAS PERKS!

Magic Kingdom FastPass Kiosk
Magic Kingdom FastPass Kiosk – Photo by Steps to Magic

When you stay at an official Walt Disney World resort, you will pay more. BUT with that price comes a number of perks that are exclusive to resort guests like complimentary transportation, Extra Magic Hours and extra days in advance of your vacation to make Advance Dining or FastPass+ Reservations.

RESORT 101 – DON’T OVERPAY

Holiday Inn Disney Springs
Holiday Inn Disney Springs – photo by Steps to Magic

Are you planning for 16-18 hours in the parks and just need a bed at the end of the day? Well staying at the Polynesian Village Resort will be wasting money (sorry to be honest), as you’ll get more bang for your buck at a value resort like Pop Century OR staying off-property at a location like the Holiday Inn Disney Springs!



ALL STAR RESORT TIP

Disney's All Star Resort Bus Transportation
Disney’s All Star Resort Bus Transportation – Photo by Steps to Magic

If you can’t get into Pop Century and have to end up at the All-Star resorts, be prepared with an alternate plan just in case the transportation system is against you. During off-peak season, the THREE resorts are all serviced by ONE bus line and it gets crowded quickly. We suggest Uber-ing from the closest possible park if you get stuck in that situation.


DISNEY BUS SYSTEM WILL TAKE EXPONENTIALLY LONGER THAN YOU THINK

Magic Kingdom Bus Directory
Magic Kingdom Bus Directory – Photo by Steps to Magic

When you first go to Walt Disney World and plan to go from your resort to the Magic Kingdom, be prepared on how long it’ll ACTUALLY take. Maybe you’ll miss the first bus because there’s a cheerleading squad ahead of you…or a Brazilian tour group. Be patient and take it all in. Remember that you’re in Disney World!!


MAKE YOUR DINING RESERVATIONS IN ADVANCE!

1900 Park Fare Character Dining
1900 Park Fare Character Dining – Photo by Steps to Magic

This by far is the best tip that we can share because first-timers don’t know just how popular some of the Table Service restaurants really are. 180 Days out will give you the best odds to get that EPIC reservation!

Related Article – Top ADRs to get ASAP


GRAB YOUR SPOT EARLY FOR FIREWORKS AND PARADES

Festival of Fantasy Parade
Festival of Fantasy Parade – Photo by Steps to Magic

Want to see a parade or a fireworks performance? Get there early…because you don’t want to miss out in a great spot for EPCOT Forever (head to the Italy Pavilion), Magic Kingdom Nighttime Spectacular (Train Station) because being stuck in crowds just isn’t magical!



THERE’S ONLY ONE MICKEY!

Mickey and Minnie with Dustin at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Mickey and Minnie with Dustin at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Photo by Steps to Magic

Within the community, the topic of Character Integrity comes up regularly and it’s incredibly important. First-time guests may not become aware of what their words mean until they see the first kid in tears after hearing their parents try to explain why Mickey has to go away for a “cheese” snack.

How can you explain that guests can meet Mickey at every park? Well, how long does it take for you to go from the Magic Kingdom to EPCOT…well does Mickey have to find parking or wait for the Disney Bus? 😉

Related Article – Where to find characters at WDW


TALK TO THE CAST MEMBERS

Guest Service Manager at Boma
Dustin with an awesome Guest Service Manager at Boma – Steps to Magic

You may feel stupid asking “What time is the 3 o’clock parade”, but a Cast Member will never laugh or judge you for an honest question. They’ll answer to the best of their ability, usually by asking a follow-up question and then providing the best possible explanation as to why you should get your spot at around 245pm if you’re in Frontierland, 3pm if you’re in the Hub or 315pm if you’re by the Train Station on Main Street USA.

Never be afraid! Disney Cast Members will always be there for you to help you enhance your Disney vacation.


NO GUM

Are you a gum-chewer? Well in keeping with the cleanliness of the Disney brand, you won’t be able to find Juicy Fruit (or any brand) sold on property.

If you really want to partake in this yucky habit (haha, sorry had to…because I love gum!) you’ll have to bring it with you, have it delivered through Walmart.com, stop in at a gas station on property or head off property to a gas station or at the Orlando Premium Outlets!

Related Article – Top Items to buy Online Before your next Trip


CHARACTER WAKE-UP CALLS

Want to be fully engulfed up in Disney Magic? Well, imagine getting a wake-up-call from a character? You can request to have this amazingly hilarious extra perk happen as many times as you’d like when you’re staying on Disney Property.


CHILD SWAP #1

Want to ride Expedition Everest but your little one hasn’t reached full height? Well, you can tell the Cast Member at any attraction that you’d like to do a Rider Switch. They’ll present you with a paper pass so that after you ride, you can hand it to the other half of your group so that they can ride without waiting in the line all over again.


CHILD SWAP #2

Do you have a kid who’s excited to go on Splash Mountain and one that’s scared of that 60ft drop? Well, you can have the child that wants to actually ride it…go twice! One with either parent:)



PIN TRADING WITH CAST MEMBERS

Cast Member Nametag and Pin Trading
Cast Member Nametag and Pin Trading – Photo by Steps to Magic

Trading is a ton of fun! How do you do it? Either buy a pin set at DisneyStore.com or on eBay and then go on your adventure. Every guest has a strategy or collection that they want to get…and to each their own!

Related Article – How to Pin Trade


TAKE TIME TO ENJOY THE MAGIC

Yacht and Beach Club White Sand Beach
Yacht and Beach Club – Photo by Steps to Magic

We are so focused on getting every possible second out of the trip that we’ve forgotten to plan something so basic – To Sit back and Enjoy!

What does this mean? Well if you see an empty bench…sit down for a few minutes and just people-watch. It’ll be so much more impactful if you take it all in while you’re in the moment vs thinking after that you should have.


WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES

Don’t buy shoes the week before and think that you’re not going to HURT bad within a few days of walking 15k-25k steps!


GET TO THE PARKS EARLY

Magic Kingdom at 8am
Magic Kingdom at 8am in May – Photo by Steps to Magic

Sleep is for the weak;) You want to beat the crowds and then when it’s the midday heat (because it’s gonna get hot!), head back to the hotel for a nice shower and nap before hitting the parks again for the evening.

Related Article – Top Things to do at Magic Kingdom Before 10am



PLAN SOMETHING OFF-PROPERTY

Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Orlando Resort – Photo by Steps to Magic

Yes, you’re going to Walt Disney World for a vacation, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy attractions and activities off-property. This may mean a day at Universal Orlando for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter…or a trip to the Orlando Premium Outlets. There are a ton of great activities within a short drive (Uber, rideshare, shuttle) of the Disney resorts.

Related Article – Top Things to know about Universal Orlando


DISNEY-BLUES AFTER THE TRIP

Disney World Ferry
Disney World Ferry to Magic Kingdom – Photo by Steps to Magic

We spend weeks and months planning a trip and sometimes years saving up to go to Walt Disney World…and then in a blink of an eye…it’s over. We call it the “Disney Blues”, but don’t worry because you’re not alone. The best way of getting through it? Well…besides stopping by StepsToMagic.com and reading some of the fun that we’re having is to plan your next trip!


WANT MORE?

We love sharing information for our readers to enjoy their trip to a whole new level. If you have anything that you think should be added to the article, let me know via Social Media @StepsToMagic!

20 Things First Time Disney Visitors Don't Know
20 Things First Time Disney Visitors Don’t Know – #StepstoMagic

I’m Dustin Fuhs, a theme park fanatic that has created this platform to showcase my passion, tools and opinions to create a fun and interactive experience for everyone who visits. My goal is to help you and your family have the most magical experience at Walt Disney World. In reading my articles and ideas, I hope that you can find some fantastic ways to bring your dreams into reality!
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