Going to Walt Disney World for the first time, especially as a family, is exciting. After all, it’s noted as the most magical place on Earth. And while that’s true, it can also be overwhelming as no one can really prepare you for how to “do Disney.” You may know of a family who goes every year. They have their favorite parks, wear matching t-shirts and various themed Mickey-shaped ears, and rave about their fun. Their pictures shared on their social media accounts year after year show them beaming in front of Cinderella’s castle. But they never give you the insight on how they plan and execute a Disney vacation. It can be intimidating…and more importantly, it can be costly.
However, planning a family trip to the resorts/parks isn’t as difficult as one may think. Here’s everything you need to know about your first go-round.
This app helps a ton
WDW has created a centralized hub for all visitors. The My Disney Experience app allows one to make reservations for WDW hotels and resorts, purchase tickets to theme parks and check park hours and showtimes, wait time for rides, find dining options, and get around the parks more accessible thanks to their map option. The first order of business for everyone looking to plan their trip is to download the app or go to the website.
Ticket purchases are made easier
Tickets for each park can be purchased on the app/online instead of standing in line and wasting time while on location. As of now, reservations are required to enter each park, but that’s changing on Jan. 9, 2024, and theme park reservations will no longer be required for WDW’s current standard, date-based tickets. For certain other admission types, such as special events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, theme park reservations may be required.
As a Disney adult who’s been to the parks five times alone last year, the best option is the park hopper pass. Options include one-day and multi-day tickets. The great thing about park hopper passes is that it allows one to visit multiple parks a day. This is a great option for families who have extended stays at WDW, which I suggest to be a minimum of five full days to enjoy the parks and more, but also switch between parks while there and not be confined to one for a full day minimally.
For the ride lovers, lines are long. But, they’re worth the wait. It’s worth investing in lightening lanes for select rides such as Guardians of the Galaxy, as those wait times can expand hours.
Children two and under are free to enter the park. On this trip, I took my two-month-old daughter. Ticket prices for ages 10+ are typically $109 per ticket, starting point.
Where to start with the parks
Each WDW theme park has something different for everyone in the whole family to enjoy. Magic Kingdom is probably the most fantasy-filled and family-friendly. EPCOT is for the travelers and food lovers. Animal Kingdom is a mixture of it all. And Hollywood Studios is for those wanting a bit more thrill and flare. Each theme park also has Disney shows to experience live, such as Animal Kingdom’s Festival of the Lion King, and Hollywood Studios’ Beauty and the Beast. Looking for fun and frolic with water? Buy a ticket to Disey’s Typhoon Lagoon, their water park. The My Disney Experience app lists each park’s shows and showtimes, rides, and ride wait times. Purchase a photo pass to capture all of your memories. Photos can be downloaded.
Enhance your trip with the MagicBand + that upgrades your time in the parks with color-changing lights, haptic vibrations gesture recognition, and more. MagicBands can be used in lieu of physical key cards for park entry and ride admission.
Where to stay?
There are 25 WDW resort hotels to choose from, and all of their amenities and such are laid out in the app. There’s one to fit each family’s budget and lifestyle.
So, when exactly should you go?
There are different themed events annually at WDW. Whether you want a Spring getaway, Halloween activities, deck the halls for Christmas, or ring in the New Year with your loved ones and Pluto, it’s all an option. Keep in mind, the cost varies depending on the season and can get expensive, but key is to plan ahead and as early as possible.