50 Things to Do Before Your First Disney Trip

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TouringPlans is pleased to welcome guest author Amy Crockett.

Your first trip to Walt Disney World is an amazing experience. But with so much to see and do, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are 50 things we believe you should do before your first Disney trip to help make it practically perfect in every way:

  1. Buy or borrow a recent copy of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. Yes, it is long. Yes, it looks intimidating. But it has everything you need to know. Read it in small doses, or focus only on the sections most important to you.
  2. Get a TouringPlans subscription. It includes full access to our crowd calendar and other trip-planning essentials.
  3. Make a playlist of your favorite Disney songs. Listen to it while you plan and pack.
  4. Learn the lingo. From FP+ to EMH, ADR to TTC, there are a lot of commonly used terms and abbreviations associated with WDW.
  5. Decide when to go. Take into account weather, crowd levels, holidays, work schedules, and so on.
  6. Figure out your trip length. Any length is great, but a full week is recommended if you can swing it.
  7. Create a budget. Include transportation, lodging, park tickets, other activities, food, souvenirs, and other expenses.
  8. Compare ticket-buying options.
  9. Weigh the pros and cons of staying on-site vs. off-site.
  10. If staying on-site, research Disney resorts. Factor in price, location, amenities, and theme.
  11. If staying off-site, check out nearby hotels, VRBO, and airbnb. Renting a house is often a better deal for families.
  12. Consider a travel agent. If you are feeling overwhelmed by decisions, there are plenty of qualified travel agents who specialize in Disney and would love to help you plan your perfect vacation.
  13. Discuss interests and expectations with your entire traveling party.
  14. Decide which parks to visit. Disney has 4 theme parks and 2 water parks, and Universal is just down the road.
  15. Determine which park to visit each day. Park pass reservations are currently required, but this also helps in “normal” times to plan your FastPass+ and Advanced Dining Reservations.
  16. Research attractions at each park. From opening day classics to new fan favorites, there is something for everyone!
  17. Research entertainment at each park. Disney has even more to offer than its amazing rides. Don’t overlook stage shows, street performers, parades, and nighttime spectaculars. (Also look to see which of these is available and which is currently suspended due to COVID requirements.)
  18. Watch videos of attractions and entertainment on YouTube. I prefer to be surprised, but this can be especially helpful to determine what young children are ready for.
  19. Learn about character meet & greets. Who can you meet at each park, and which ones are you most interested in? (During COVID restrictions, meet and greets are currently suspended, but there are ways to see characters in daily character cavalcades.)
  20. Check out menus at different restaurants. Make a note of ones you want to try.
  21. Look into activities outside the parks. Disney Springs, golfing, spas, and more!
  22. Prioritize. It is impossible to do everything. Make a list of “must do”, “want to do”, and “if time” to help you prioritize.
  23. Plan in some R&R. Depending on the length of your trip, you may want 1-2 non-park days, or at least an afternoon to recharge at the pool.
  24. Create your touring plans. Use our tried-and-true plans or customize your own!
  25. Download the My Disney Experience app. Get your whole party connected and get familiar with using the app.
  26. Download the Lines app. Log in with your TouringPlans subscription to create, view, or modify your plans, plus get crowdsourced wait times and more.
  27. Make Advanced Dining Reservations 60 days ahead of time (plus the length of your stay for resort guests). Use our Reservation Finder to find that hard-to-get reservation.
  28. Consider transportation options. Will you use Disney transportation, a rental car, or ride share? Or a combination?
  29. Take a breath. It can be overwhelming, but try to enjoy the planning process. (Remember: you’re going to Disney World!!)
  30. Watch The Imagineering Story on Disney+. Learn about the history of the parks and get a behind-the-scenes look before you arrive.
  31. Create or find a packing list.
  32. Look at the monthly Orlando forecast. Get an idea of the weather and see if there’s anything you should add to your wardrobe.
  33. Purchase trip T-shirts or other Disney clothing, ears, or accessories via Shop Disney, Etsy, etc.
  34. Be prepared to get wet. Whether from those infamous Florida thunderstorms or Kali River Rapids: you will get wet, and you may get soaked. Consider a poncho and quick-drying shoes.
  35. Decide what bag to bring to the parks. A backpack, purse, fanny pack, or sling, make sure it will fit everything you need, and that you can carry it for 12+ hours.
  36. Know what you can and cannot bring into the parks.
  37. Practice packing. Can you fit everything you need in your suitcase? Is there enough room for souvenirs?
  38. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes. Break them in.
  39. Start a walking routine. You should be prepared to walk 7-10 miles per day at the parks.
  40. Decide if Memory Maker is right for you. If so, purchase at least 3 days before your trip.
  41. Look at parks merch on shopDisney. Get an idea of the types of souvenirs available and what they will cost, so you can budget accordingly.
  42. Plan for special snacks or beverages. Some things are not be available at every park, so figure out where you can get them and make a note.
  43. Buy additional snacks to bring with you. You will get hungry between meals and park snacks can be expensive!
  44. Get a good reusable water bottle.
  45. Clear space on your phone. You will be taking lots of photos and don’t want to run out of storage!
  46. Consider a portable phone charger. Remember: you will be using multiple apps and taking photos for 12+ hours a day.
  47. Become familiar with the park maps. You don’t have to memorize them, but having a rough idea of the layouts will save you time once you arrive.
  48. Have a movie night. Watch a parks-inspired film like Pirates of the Caribbean, or a movie starring a character you plan to see.
  49. Stay up to date on social media. A lot is changing at WDW right now. Follow Disney Parks, Walt Disney World, and TouringPlans on Facebook or Twitter for the latest news.
  50. Get excited for what is sure to be a magical vacation!
Have any other ideas you’d add to the list? Let us know in the comments.
Amy Crockett is a native Michigander who works at a library by day and dreams of Disney by night. Planning Disney trips is her favorite thing in the entire world to do (apart from the trip itself)! In addition to all things Disney, she loves reading, musical theatre, playing tennis, traveling, and cheering on the Detroit Tigers.

Guest Author

Guest authors submit articles to our blog from time to time. If you're interested, please e-mail blog@touringplans.com for more information.

One thought on “50 Things to Do Before Your First Disney Trip

  • April 14, 2021 at 2:00 pm
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    Plan to bring or rent a stroller. Even if your child is way past his/her toddler time, he/she will take advantage of it. Also helps you carry your stuff and you can leave things that you don’t want to get into the rides.

    Reply

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