Disney Dad’s Dozen: Tips for a First Timer

“I’m going to Disney World!” You have heard that catchphrase before. The Superbowl MVP gets to say it each year after their victory.

It is also said by 58 million people each year who spend their hard earned money to visit the most “magical place on earth”. A trip to “The World” can be daunting. There are four theme parks, two water parks, a huge shopping and dining destination, thirty four resort hotels, thirty two thousand hotel rooms, one hundred and fifty restaurants, endless shows and attractions and that’s without ever leaving the forty two square miles of the Walt Disney World Resort. Where do you even begin?

That’s where I come in. I have been going to the Walt Disney Resort since the mid eighties. My wife shares my passion for the mouse and we even spent our honeymoon there. The train around our Christmas tree is a monorail. We visit the resort three to four times a year, we are annual pass holders and we have stayed at roughly half of the resorts on the property. Last year I spent almost 30 days at the Walt Disney World Resort. With this column I hope to share some of my Disney experience with other Dads. I like to save time, I like to save money and I don’t like waiting in lines. For each column we will give you a Disney Dad’s Dozen to help you enjoy your dream Disney vacation.

This week I give you A Disney Dad’s Dozen tips for the first time visitor.

Ok newbie!! Time to get ready for the agony and the ecstasy of a Disney Vacation. Drink a lot of water, wear running shoes and don’t look at your credit card statement for at least two weeks after you arrive home. “Heeeerrree Weeeee Gooooo”!


1. Study up!

I don’t want to scare you off, but a good Walt Disney World Vacation takes a lot of planning. You need to do your homework. The first thing you will need to do is download the My Disney Experience. The MDE app is your gateway to the world. Almost all the info you need for your vacation will be contained in this app – shows, rides, meals and even transportation. You can make all of your hotel and dining reservations there and you can purchase park tickets as well.

Another app and website I highly recommend is Touring Plans. The touring plans app is NOT run by the Walt Disney Company. The site is full of honest non-partisan reviews and tremendous advice. Their step-by-step park touring plans are mathematically proven to save you 2-4 hours in wait times at the park. I have been a faithful follower of the touring plan app for years and it is never wrong. The wait time portion of the app will cost you $14.95 a year but that’s a small price to pay to not wait in lines. I also recommend their massive Unofficial Guide book available here from Amazon.

Its about five inches thick but it is filled with reviews, tips and things that you never knew that you needed to know. How long is the bus ride from each resort to the park? What rooms have the best/ worst view? Which room is the quietest? What is the best touring plan for Epcot on a weeknight for adults only? How can you ride Dumbo twice in a row? All the answers to these questions can be found within these 850 pages. I call it “the bible”. It is updated every year and will give you a great plan of attack for your trip. Also if you buy the book, the app is only $9.95

2. Save before you go!

For cheaper park passes go to your local AAA office. They are really the only place to purchase park passes for less.

Beware of the Disney ticket resellers online! Almost 100% of the time these are scams. Looking for a room discount, cheap airfare, Disney Dining specials? Go to www.mousesavers.com .   This a fabulous website with all the current Disney discount offers, discount codes, car rental specials and even discounts to Disney’s Broadway shows and touring productions. Also, put yourself on the Disney Parks email list. They send out specials and last minute savings all the time. Remember if you book a WDW vacation and a sudden special comes out (like free dining) you can call WDW reservations and they will recalculate your price.

3. Reservations

Over the last ten years the folks at Walt Disney World have made reservations for everything a necessity. Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort? Then you can make ride reservations or “fast passes” sixty days in advance of your trip. Otherwise its thirty days in advance. A fast pass is basically a one-hour window or reservation for you to experience a Disney attraction. You can make three Fast Pass reservations per day per guest. Once those have been used or the time has passed you can make an additional fast pass on the MDE app.

Dining reservations and specialty reservations like backstage tours or fireworks dessert parties can be made 90 days in advance. Please note you need to have a credit card on file for a dining reservation and they will charge you 10$ for a no show. When Disney implemented the Disney Dining Plan ( pre paying for meals) this filled up all the WDW restaurants. Last minute or walk up reservations are rare in the parks these days. So if there is an attraction you HAVE to get on or a restaurant you HAVE to experience make sure to reserve a time. For the most popular dining experiences like breakfast at Cinderella’s Castle or dinner at Be Our Guest (try the gray stuff its delicious) you should call exactly 90 days in advance at 7am EST. Seriously. I am not kidding. You have to get up early and call or you will not be able to get a reservation.

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