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Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Monday, March 31, 2014

Advice For First Time Walt Disney World Travelers

'Tis the season of folks heading to the most magical place on earth--Walt Disney World.  Often, these are first timers; excited, starry-eyed, first time guests.  They get a thrill when telling friends and family that they are going to Walt Disney World.  We've been there/done that and see and hear this phenomenon repeatedly.

After the anticipation begins to fade, reality sets in.  (Insert sound of screeching to a stop here.)  This is when the first-timer pack breaks into various categories.

One category is the "this is our vacation, we are going to show up and have a great time."  Yes, they may very well have a great time or at least moments of greatness, even magical.  They may also experience moments of frustration, or feeling overwhelmed by decisions.  Guests in this group may or may not return and tell tales of this not being their favorite vacation.

Another category are the researchers; the planners.  These guests show up armed with information and dining reservations  They may also experience frustration and feelings of being overwhelmed, but typically less so than the previous category.  Guests in this category may also feel disappointed.  What?  Disappointed?  Yes, disappointed.  All of the planning and anticipation may lead to unrealistic expectations and when the magical vacation that has been planned and researched falls short of those expectations, disappointment is likely.

With the above mentioned categories and feelings, how then do guests end up going back?

I recall a story about two families who went to Walt Disney World for the first time and after a not-so-magical day at Animal Kingdom readjusted their expectations and made the rest of their vacation more memorable and magical.  Both of these families have also returned to Walt Disney World.

If I could--and do--give first timers any advice, it would be the following:

  • Do some research and planning.  Grab a guidebook, surf the web, talk to a seasoned traveler, anything to get some info before you go.  A family vacation to Walt Disney World can be a significant financial investment so ask yourself, if you would spend/invest that much money in something else without doing some research?
  • Have realistic and reasonable expectations.  Know your family and/or travel party.  If they are not "night owls" at home, then they most likely won't be on vacation.  If eating breakfast is the main meal at home, then how well will skipping breakfast to get to the parks go over while on vacation?  Disney is a marketing mecca and many of the images seen in advertisements do not represent the actual images.  I'm smiling thinking about the message on the rear view mirror--there should be a similar message on Disney advertisements "your experiences may differ significantly."
  • Know prior to embarking into Walt Disney World that the place is enormous!  Walt Disney World is NOT just Magic Kingdom, but is a combination of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 22 resort hotels, a shopping and entertainment district, miniature golf course, and numerous other golf courses.  Traversing from one location to another takes time and energy.  Even getting from the parking lot of Magic Kingdom into the park can mean walking a distance, taking a tram, then either a ferry or a monorail, and that is just prior to bag check.
  • And, lastly, if possible, stay on property.  While the cost may be more, the convenience, theming, and benefits often outweigh the costs.
As always, we wish all travelers to the most magical place on earth a wonderful vacation whether it's your first time or 21st time!


  1. Hi, this will be our first Disney vacation and i just want to make it so special for my 4 year old daughter. I feel like that's my problem is wanting to do everything and almost making out a schedule. i just don't want to miss out on anything and want to see everything. I am planning to be there for 7 days. I hope all goes well. I just wanted to say that reading your blog has help me out so much. so much good advice and tips.

    1. Erika,
      Congratulations on your upcoming trip! I know the feeling. . . wanting to see/do/experience everything. Even after 11 trips we have yet to experience everything. It is okay to make a schedule, just give yourself some wiggle room in that schedule and consider the level of endurance for your family. There's nothing magical about a meltdown--kid or adult. We usually have 3-4 priorities for each park or day and if we nail those, the rest is cake. Glad the Williams Family Blog is helping. Keep us posted about your adventures!