As a first timer going to Walt Disney World, you can have so many questions, hopes, and expectations of your trip.
Will you cry when you see Cinderella’s Castle? Does that Dole Whip REALLY take the place for best snack at Walt Disney World?
When you have children with you, those expectations may change. How do I navigate a stroller onto the Disney buses?
Will my room have a pack and play? Will my little one run up and hug Mickey, or stay back and be shy?
These, and so many other aspects of planning your first Walt Disney World vacation with children, can be questions you may have.
So today, I am going to share my tips with you for visiting the Walt Disney World parks for the first time as a parent! Taking the kiddos to Disney can be magical fun for everyone, and you want to be prepared!
Book your trip as far in advance as you can
This allows your family to get the accommodations that are right for YOU! Disney takes planning, and taking kids on vacation can be stressful – but fun! So if you book far in advance, you have plenty of time to prepare yourself, and your children, for the awesome adventure ahead!
Be understanding if your children are shy
Your 7 year old may sit entranced during an entire showing of Sleeping Beauty. But seeing Aurora up close? That could bring their shy side out super quick! Don’t force your child to get close to the characters, or even pose for a photo with them.
The characters see shy kids all the time, and they are prepared to help your child feel at ease during a meet and greet or character meal.
Character meals are GREAT for shy kids, or if you think they will be overwhelmed by a meet and greet. There is food, the characters come to your table, and often they don’t stay too long, so the visit is short and sweet.
Keep your expectations low
You can expect that your family is going to have an awesome vacation, and come home with some pretty stellar memories.
However, as much as you intend to Rope Drop every park every day because your 9 year old is up and ready at 7AM at home on a daily basis…..doesn’t mean he/she is going to be up and at ‘em at 7AM on vacation.
Disney makes you tired! Allow yourself to take your time on some days to get to the park.
Do you have visions of your freshly made over princess running up to Cinderella in a commercial-worthy moment? Only to arrive at Cinderella’s Royal Table with her dress on backward and her lipstick faded? It’s okay!
Don’t stress about the small things….remember that often what we notice as parents, our kids don’t.
Have a touring plan for the parks
This does not have to be a step by step plan. But, when you are visiting a place that is about the size of Manhattan, do your research!
Plan two days at Magic Kingdom, planning to accomplish Fantasyland and Tomorrowland on one day, hit the parade, and then have a relaxing evening. Then on the second day, plan on Frontierland, Adventureland, and staying late for the fireworks show.
You want to have an idea of what you plan to see at each park, and plan Fastpasses accordingly. That way you aren’t criss-crossing all over the parks! Also, being flexible in your plan allows you to stumble upon some of the magical, in the moment experiences in the Disney parks.
Choose a Walt Disney World Resort with a great pool
An afternoon break, as well as a “down day” is a must for having happy kids and happy parents on vacation. Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, and Disney’s Port Orleans all have amazing pools.
You want a fun pool, as well as a resort that is easy to navigate, so you can enjoy your time out of the parks.
Pack a park bag the night before
When the kids are winding down from your day, and watching classic Mickey cartoons in your room, that is the time to start preparing for the next day.
Charge your devices, make sure you have fresh band-aids and hand sanitizer, wipes, and an extra pair of clothes for the kids.
When your kids are little, you want to be sure you are taking a backpack into the parks, because those keep your hands free and allow you to take the necessities. It can also become an abyss of stuff, so cleaning it out in the evening and making sure you have what you need for the next day is a good idea.
Watch YouTube videos ahead of time
This is SO important if you have shy, or unsure kids, when it comes to attractions. Everything at Disney seems bigger in the parks than it does at home. The sights, smells, sounds…..you want to prep your family.
Because your 5 year old is tall enough and LOVES dinosaurs does not mean that he/she will love DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom. In fact, it’ll likely freak them out! So do your research, watch the videos, and even involve your kids if you think that will help.
Keep things simple
There is a lot of information out there, and pressure, to have the cutest autograph book, matching DIY Disney shirts, and come home with a Christmas card worthy photo.
While all those are awesome, simplicity is your friend when it comes to doing Disney with the kids for the first time. The classic blue autograph books you can buy at the gift shop – even a Disney themed notebook from Target – will suffice as an autograph book.
The more pressure you put on yourself to accomplish every experience at Walt Disney World will only make you as the parent frustrated and feeling like you didn’t do enough on your trip.
Book your character dining mindfully
Just because your 6 year old is obsessed with Minnie does not mean you have to book Cape May, Chef Mickey’s, AND Minnie’s Seasonal Dine at Hollywood and Vine.
Pick one, and it will be their FAVORITE! Character dining is wonderful to save time, get a good meal, and see characters.
If you have a child who loves the princesses, then a meal like Akershus or Cinderella’s Royal Table is a good move on your part. That beats waiting in line at the parks, and going from meet and greet to meet and greet.
Work the shows into your park plans
The shows at Walt Disney World can serve a couple of purposes. First, it gets you out of the sun and into the air conditioning.
Second, it allows you a good 15-20 minutes of sitting and resting. You would not be the only parent who nodded off during Mickey’s Philharmagic or Carousel of Progress.
Third, it gets your family out of the crowds and stimulation of the parks.
I am sure I could add SO much more to this list of tips for parents taking their children to Walt Disney World for the first time. But, we’d love to hear yours! Leave a comment below with your tips, or questions, about a first visit to Walt Disney World with kids!