Walt Disney World Planning Guide For The First-Timer

Planning your first trip to Walt Disney World can be overwhelming. There is so much to consider and so much to forget. Follow this step by step guide for your first trip!

  1. Set your budget. Your budget is going to dictate where you stay, how long you can stay and when you can go. And the beauty of it? You can take your family to Walt Disney World for a handful of hundreds or double digit thousands. But if you’re not a lottery winner like me, cheaper is always better. Just be careful not to fall for any “too good to be true” traps. ALWAYS use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner or call Disney directly. Too often, people are tricked or scammed with non-authorized “Disney” vendors.
A trip to Disney creates memories that last a lifetime!

2. Pick your dates. Now that you have a budget, choose the time of year you would like to go. In a perfect world, September, most of January & February and late April, early May are the best times to go. The rates tend to fall in the Value category (as opposed to Regular and Peak season categories.) The weather is more comfortable and the crowds are thinner.

Some of us (education professionals or families with school age children) are slaves to the school year schedule. If this is your case, I recommend immediately when school is out – if your school year ends “early” OR at the last minute before school begins – if your school year starts “late.” We are of the early category so we like to go in the last days of May into the first week of June. The last weeks of August, although quite sticky, are also good. Let’s face it. Summers in Florida are hot. Pace yourself and you’ll be fine.

3. Choose where to lay your head. Disney resorts have Value, Moderate and Deluxe options. If you have a camper, there’s even a campground on property. For large families or family reunions, there are great home rental options nearby through sites like vrbo.com or airbnb.com. Depending on how long you’re staying there are options for every budget.

The brightly colored buildings of Coronado Springs (a moderate resort) is a popular resort with beautiful grounds and plenty of dining options and activities.

4. Plan, plan, plan. And plan some more. Gone are the days when you can say you’re going to Walt Disney World and you just….go. There are dining reservations that need to be made, FastPasses to be scheduled and extras like tours and special parties to be considered. Educate yourself. Check out the links above, explore sites like this one and I always recommend the latest Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World planning book for first time visitors. It’s the best out there that provides lots of information and doesn’t overwhelm.

5. Pack. I typically set out the suitcases in a staging area (usually our bedroom), print out our packing list and while I’m doing laundry for the next 10 days, fold and pack right into the suitcase. There are some great packing lists out there so you can create one that is best for your family. And then, there are the things that you don’t want to pack. Check out both links so you can streamline your process.

All packed up and ready to go!

6. Download apps. There are a lot of great apps out there (free!) that you can download to help before you leave and while you’re there (think: wait times and maps.) But the one app I always have at the ready is My Disney Experience.

7. Enjoy! Once you arrive, take a deep breath and enjoy! There is so much to see and do. Pace yourself. Don’t try to do it all. There’s always next trip. Savor what you are able to do and take note of the things you want on your “next trip bucket list.”

Happy Planning!

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