As a Walt Disney World Resort vacation go-to person, I recently helped a friend plan their very first trip! I was overjoyed as she and her family of four had decided to visit WDW at a great time of year, during the International Food and Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! However, they only left themselves about 6 weeks to plan and I was nervous about ADR’s (Advanced Dining Reservations,) Fast Pass+ reservations, etc. But since they already had their heart set on a date, we did the best we could in the time frame we had and they were happy with the plan we developed for their family! Upon their return, I simply could not wait to sit down with my friend and hear how it all went! As a Disney veteran so to speak, I am always interested in some insight from first time guests and she had some great ideas to share!
Our conversation began with me asking what she thought of Walt Disney World Resort overall? She said “remember how you tried to tell me the property is twice the size of Manhattan, and that planning the details was really important? Well, it was kind of like someone explaining to a blind person what an elephant looks like!” And we both burst out laughing! She is so right, until you get there and experience firsthand the size and scope of the resort, it is almost impossible for anyone else to explain it to you in a way that you truly understand.
Lesson 1: Walt Disney World can be overwhelming; researching ahead of time can help! Look at park maps online, read books like the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and go with the understanding that you cannot possibly do and see everything in one trip.
Next she said that although they enjoyed their trip, they felt like they needed a vacation when they got home!
Lesson 2: It’s not a vacation, it’s an adventure! I have decided to tell that to all my friends and family from here on out, I think it is the best way to describe what you are likely to feel while visiting WDW. Sure, you could relax at the pool for your entire trip there if you’d like, however you won’t experience the essence of what this type of “vacation” is all about. It’s about the attractions, the experiences, the memories and the stories of adventure that you will tell when you get home. If you are looking for a place to lie around for a week, I do think there are other vacation destinations better suited for that. (Although level setting your expectations and having a more relaxed pace is possible and can go a long way to alleviate that feeling of exhaustion upon returning home.)
When I asked her what her overall dining experience was like, knowing that she did not make any ADR’s for her trip, she said that was a big mistake. They much preferred table service restaurants to quick service and her options were very slim.
Lesson 3: If dining at table service restaurants are important to you and your family, your best option is to book your vacation at least 180 days ahead of time. This way you are more likely to have the best selection of ADR’s and won’t be left feeling like you missed out.
She also mentioned that her family did not care that much about meeting characters, so the Character Dining she splurged on she would not do again.
Lesson 4: Every family is different, and I always recommend family discussions about what each person’s preferences are ahead of time. You may assume your little ones will enjoy spending an hour and a half at a buffet meeting characters, however if you explain to them that the time doing so will take away time from the park, they may say they would rather spend time doing something else. The best way to avoid disappointment is to involve everyone in the planning process, plus it builds excitement about the activities that you chose!
Lastly, I asked her how she liked staying at Disney’s Beach Club Villas. (I helped her choose this resort because the quality of the pool was very important to her family.) This was thankfully a home run! Her family loved Stormalong Bay, the ability to spread out in a spacious Villa and the convenience to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
Lesson 5: Accommodations can play a big part in the overall enjoyment of your Walt Disney World Resort vacation. Consider what your family’s needs are, and what truly makes a vacation an enjoyable experience. For some, it’s convenience to the parks, or being close to Disney Springs. For others, it may be the ambiance, overall theme of the resort or what simply worked within their budget. Whatever your preference is, I assure you that Walt Disney World Resort has something to not only meet your expectations, but exceed them!
So there are the 5 lessons I learned from a first time guest that you may find helpful when planning your next Walt Disney World Resort adventure! Research, plan for fun, book ahead, decide on your preferences ahead of time and really think about your accommodations; if you abide by these lessons you are sure to have an amazing time whether you are a first time visitor or a Disney veteran!