Things I Learned On My First Visit To Walt Disney World

Things I Learned On My First Visit To Walt Disney World

Back in April, I went on a last-minute trip to Walt Disney World. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision and although it may not have been the wisest move financially, I don’t regret it at all. It was the best holiday I’ve ever been on. So much so, that I’m already plotting and planning how to get back there as soon as possible.

In this post, I’ll be sharing some tips and advice for anyone else considering a spontaneous adventure to Orlando.

Hopefully, they’ll prove helpful to anyone else who is planning a trip, or even to someone who, like me, flew by the seat of their pants and didn’t prepare at all! There are so many different options for tickets and passes that it can get a bit confusing, so here’s my super quick lowdown on some essentials.

Taking a first trip to Walt Disney World

Having well and truly experienced the Disney bubble, I can now see how people spend such a long time planning a trip to Disney World. There are whole websites dedicated purely to Disney preparation. It seems like a lot for one trip, but I can understand why now.

Considering this was my first trip to Walt Disney World, I think that some prior planning would’ve helped with many things. However, there were some useful tips I picked up from doing things spontaneously too.

So, let’s jump in with some of the biggest things I learned during our trip to Florida.

Don’t underestimate the size of Walt Disney World

I’ll admit, I completely underestimated the place. I thought it’d be big, but I didn’t consider exactly how big. All I had as a frame of reference, in my defence, were a couple of trips to Flamingo Land to go on, so my idea of ‘theme park big’ really didn’t compete at all with ‘Disney World big’.

The place is massive. Massive. Don’t be surprised if you end up with swollen feet/ankles/knees after your first few days. You don’t notice it at the time, but the sheer amount of walking you have to do on this trip is astounding.

Make sure you pack some sensible footwear because you’re going to need it. Thankfully, I took two pairs of trainers as well as a pair of sliders. I think I spent more time in the trainers than I ever expected to on a holiday in 30-degree heat.

Also, wear trainer socks. It’s hot, but it’ll be much worse without them when it’s sweaty and you’ve been on a water ride. Squelching around for hours afterwards is not fun.

Be prepared for multiple modes of transport. We hired a car, but even then we had to get on a tram from the car park to the front gates, and then onto a ferry across the lake to the park. There’s a lot of transport and travel time involved here, so make sure you factor that into your plans.

Things I Learned On My First Visit To Walt Disney World

Plan your meals ahead of your trip to Walt Disney World

My biggest tip from our visit to Walt Disney World is to consider taking packed lunches. If you remember to take nothing else in your suitcase, take an empty backpack which will hold a couple of water bottles. Then, when you get to Florida, hit the nearest Walmart and stock up on packed lunch supplies.

It’ll save you a lot of money and hassle when you’re in the parks. I say that because, in all honesty, the food at Walt Disney World isn’t that great.

We took a packed lunch with us every day, which might seem a bit sad, but the thrifter in me is glad we did. The Disney parks food isn’t that great and it’s also incredibly expensive. That’s a real shame when you’ve already paid such a lot of money to be there in the first place, and possibly the only thing that I wasn’t happy about while we were there.

So yes, you can bring a packed lunch to Walt Disney World, and I’d advise doing so. Otherwise, you’re going to be left feeling pretty hungry as well as even more out of pocket. Unless of course, you’re on the Disney Dining Plan. That’s something I’ll be looking into for our next trip.

Additionally, be sure to fill up some water bottles each night at your accommodation. You can freeze them overnight and take them to the parks with you the next morning. Having them thaw through the day worked a treat and saved us a fortune!

Get the most out of your Disney Parks days by researching the experiences

The tickets I bought included FastPasses, which are priority passes for rides and experiences. You can use your FastPasses on three Disney rides or experiences a day. Once you’ve used one you can then re-book another using the My Disney Experience app on your phone, which is handy.

Try and do a bit of research beforehand about which rides or experiences you consider unmissable. Some of these FastPass slots are snapped up so quickly that it’s easy to miss a ride you’d love to go on.

We missed out on the Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster because there were no FastPass slots left and the standing queue time was over two hours. There was no way I was standing out in the sun for two hours with a five-year-old. So, unfortunately, that’s one ride we missed out on.

However, you can sometimes catch a lucky break and grab a FastPass for a ride during unusual hours. Consider whether or not you need to book your rides for the middle of the day when everyone else is. Could you get on the rides you want to go on by heading to the parks at a more unconventional time? Most of the Disney Parks are open till late, with Magic Kingdom staying open until 10 p.m. and sometimes a lot later!

Things I Learned On My First Visit To Walt Disney World

You should also research the experiences you probably shouldn’t use a FastPass on. By this I mean which are the ones that it’d be wasteful to use one of your three options on. Some of the shows, for example, can be booked with a FastPass, but everyone just walks into the auditorium at the same time and takes a seat wherever they like.

So in that scenario, it doesn’t make a huge difference if you have a FastPass or not. It pays to have a look into the must-do events and decide which ones you want to reserve a slot for.

Prepare yourself for the Florida heat

I’m British, so I get stressed out when it starts to reach 19 degrees. I knew it would be warm in Florida but I was expecting European warm. I was not prepared, let me tell you!

Florida has a humid, subtropical and tropical climate. The heat is intense and the humidity is bizarre. It’s not unbearable, at least it wasn’t in April. However, it’s ever-present and although you soon get used to it, it’s nothing like the heat we occasionally get in the UK.

Wear lightweight clothes that aren’t clingy, or made of a material that’ll make you even sweatier. I wore a polyester/chiffon-type playsuit for one mid-afternoon trip to Hollywood Studios and the regret was almost instantaneous. Sweatiness is one thing when it’s not visible, but when your polka-dot polyblend betrays you then there’s not much else you can do but style it out and pretend you’ve been on another water ride.

Also, you absolutely need sun cream. Miraculously I didn’t burn on this trip, despite the temperatures getting up to 33 degrees on most days. The factor 30 stuff I brought from home wasn’t quite cutting it. So, on our first trip to Walmart, I stocked up on their own brand factor 50, which came in a handy roll-on stick format. Why don’t we do that at home? So much less mess and so much easier to carry around!

Anyway, I can’t stress this enough; apply your suncream. Every day. You can buy it there if you run out. You’ll need it when you’re spending the majority of your days walking around in the tropical sunshine of southern Florida. Grab yourself some mosquito bands too if you don’t want to spray the repellent on yourself.

Unexpected things about Walt Disney World – you’ll be surprised at how friendly people are

It’s like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. The whole place just hums with happiness. It’s weird but brilliant at the same time. You’ll probably be a bit taken aback by it at first, but after a while, it’s refreshing.

I’m quite a cynical person, and I honestly think the warmth and friendliness of the people I met on my trip to Florida were game-changing. I’d never experienced anything quite like someone stopping to chat with me in the middle of the day, just for no reason other than to be friendly.

That kind of happiness is contagious, and I’d challenge anyone to not spend more than a week at Walt Disney World and not feel like they were much happier.

Things I learned on my first trip to walt disney world

The post-Disney blues are awful

I genuinely think I cried about ten times on the last day and the trip home. I wasn’t expecting them, but be ready for the post-Disney blues to hit hard. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t been able to write up my other posts yet. That sounds dramatic but it’s a big shift from sunshine and happiness to the grey grind of UK life again.

I also now have a renewed sense of love for all things Disney. My holiday brought back loads of happy feelings I’d left on the doorstep of childhood, and oddly, I’m glad. I came away from Walt Disney World feeling happier and more content than I had in years. If being able to embrace a cartoonish love of stories enabled that, well then I’m here for it.

You may find yourself feeling a bit depressed after two or more solid weeks of pure, infectious Disney happiness. That’s normal (well, I think it is, anyway) and you’re bound to find it a bit strange getting back into your normal routine.

Once you’ve had a taste of it though, you’ll find that you’re probably already planning your return trip. I know I am, even though I have no idea if I’ll ever be able to afford to go back there again. It was a very expensive holiday, but it was worth every penny, especially knowing how much joy it brought the whole family.

Are you planning a trip to Walt Disney World?

So there you have it, a few things I learned from my first visit to Walt Disney World. There are loads of other things to talk about, such as types of character experiences, parking, accommodation and other events around the Disney parks. But I’ll save that for another post before I start getting too depressed about not being back there already!

How was your first visit to Walt Disney World? If you’ve been before and think there are things that other first-timers could learn from then pop them in the comments below and let me know. If you’ve found this post helpful I’d love it if you gave it a share or a pin on Pinterest.

You can also check out my Walt Disney World boards on Pinterest for further information and ideas if you’re planning your own last-minute trip.

Can you plan a last-minute trip to Walt Disney World?

Absolutely! I did, and saved quite a bit of money by leaving everything to about 30 days before the flight dates.

Can I get a combination ticket for Walt Disney World and Universal?

Yes. There are different options for getting combination tickets so you don’t have to book them through your holiday provider. I saved a lot of money by booking my tickets separately from my flights and accommodation.

What do I need to take with me to Walt Disney World?

Essentials such as good quality walking trainers, sun cream and lightweight clothing, because it will be hot and you will probably get wet on some of the rides. Also an empty backpack with bottle holders. See why here.

Do I need to pre-book everything at Walt Disney World?

No, but it’s not a bad idea to look into which experiences you want to have and try to reserve your spots on those with a FastPass. Find out more about how FastPasses work.

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