I have come across a number of people that are going to Disney for the first time or have not been for a long time. They ask me for some tips & I always have to write some things down for them.
I was thinking it would be nice to gather up a top ten list for Disney noobies and have them printed out to give to these people.
Research You will likely be spending thousands of dollars on your Disney Vacation. Spend some time researching your trip. Get maps so you will know your way around. Pick up a touring guide like the Unofficial Guide to Disney World. Check out bulletin boards like DISBoards.com, they can be invaluable and have lots of Disney experts that are happy to help you have a Magical trip. On these boards you can find out everything from menus to information about hidden Mickeys.
Have a Plan Choose your dates trying to avoid holidays. Once you have your dates, chose which park you want to go to each day. Consult the calendar on the Disney.com website for current hours. Disney hours are not the same everyday and can change often. Disney also offers Extra Magic Hours for Disney resort guests. These times allow resort guests only in the park before and after the non resort guests may enter. These can make the parks extra busy on the day that a park has an EMH. Decide before getting in the park which rides you want to do first, second and third and know where these rides are at. This will save a considerable amount of time trying to figure out where to go. There are also pay sites like touringplan.com, tourguidemike.com and ridemax.com. Considering how much a trip cost, spending an extra $20 for some great advise is cheap.
ADR Advance Dining Reservation. If you want to eat at a sit down restaurant while at Disney World you should have reservations. ADRs can be made 180 days in advance by calling 407-WDW-DINE. Most of the better restaurants will fill up quickly and not take any walk up requests for dining. There are also many Counter Service restaurants that don't take reservations. Eating early will lesson the crowds, as there is a huge difference in the lines from 11:30 to 12:00.
Park Hopping If you want to go to more than one park on the same day you need a Park Hopper ticket. You cannot just use an extra day from your Magic Your Way ticket to hit 2 parks in the same day. If you are unsure that you will use park hopping, dont get it but put the money aside (currently the hopper option is $50 per ticket for your entire stay whether it is one day or 10) and then if you need to add the hopper option you can upgrade at any ticket booth or even at your Disney resort. If you dont end up hopping you just saved a considerable amount of money that you can spend on that stuffed Mickey you have been eyeing.
Transportation Getting around the parks is easy, but can take a while. Buses, monorails and boats go between resorts and theme parks and from theme parks to theme parks but not from resorts to resorts. Allow for 30-60 minutes to get from a resort to a theme park and a bit longer to get from one resort to another. Disney Magic Express provides free airport transportation to and from Disney resorts. (advanced booking for DME is required)
Rope Drop Disney gets crowded. The earlier in the day you start your tour of the parks, the more you will get done. If you get there 30 minutes before the park opens for the day you will be at the turnstiles when they open 15 minutes before the park opens. From the turnstiles you will be held inside the park by a rope. When the park officially opens for the day they remove the rope and you may then proceed to the attractions. You will get more done in the first hour than you will in the next 3 hours and more done in the first 3 hours than you will the rest of the day.
Fastpasses They are free and are included with your park admission. You get a Fastpass by inserting your Key to the World card or park ticket into the Fastpass machine at the attraction you want the Fastpass for. This will give you a ticket with a return time that will allow you to ride with a minimal wait. You can get a second Fastpass as soon as the return time on the ticket or 2 hours from the time you got the previous Fastpass whichever is less. Fastpasses must be used within the return window that is printed on the ticket.
Take Care of Yourself and Your Group - Make sure to drink plenty of water. Dehydration can cause meltdowns and muscle fatigue. If someone in your group starts to imitate Grumpy from the Seven Dwarfs have them drink some water. There are many drinking fountains around the parks but filtered water is also available for free from any location that has fountain drinks. Bring a couple of pairs of comfortable shoes that are broken in. Take a first aid kit with moleskin for putting on blisters and check your kids feet regularly to make sure that they don't have a blister starting. Extra dry socks are a good idea to take with you into the parks. Medicated powders can be helpful for keeping chaffing under control. If your in pain, your not feeling the Magic.
Know your Group Gear your trip to the needs and interest of all members of your group. Not all people are into big coasters or meeting characters. Plan something for everyone. Also remember that you are only as strong as your weakest link. Young children (some adults too) may need a break in the afternoon whether it is a nap or a swim in the pool. You will then be better rested to hit the parks in the evening. Remember that you can get Fastpasses before you leave that you can use when you get back to the park.
Have Fun Remember that this is a vacation and not a military exercise. You will not be able to see and do everything in a single visit. Slow down and enjoy what you are doing instead of rushing around trying to get it all done. If you miss something, don't get upset about it. Just think of it as being the reason for your next trip to the Mouse House.