Suggestions For First Disney Trip Requested

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wistfulgirl's picture
Joined: 10/29/2014
Posts: 35
Suggestions For First Disney Trip Requested

My husband and I are in the beginning stages of planning our first trip to Disney World with our four children. It will be the first trip for any of us. We are hoping to go in mid-to-late April 2015 to take advantage of spring break for the kids. Planning to stay a week. Kids are 14 y/o girl, 10 y/o boy, 8 y/o girl (who will turn 9 the day after we return) & 4 y/o boy. Would love to hear your suggestions of must-dos, as we feel a little overwhelmed! TIA for any help you can give us!

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PJsLife's picture
Joined: 09/08/2014
Posts: 314

wistfulgirl wrote:
My husband and I are in the beginning stages of planning our first trip to Disney World with our four children. It will be the first trip for any of us. We are hoping to go in mid-to-late April 2015 to take advantage of spring break for the kids. Planning to stay a week. Kids are 14 y/o girl, 10 y/o boy, 8 y/o girl (who will turn 9 the day after we return) & 4 y/o boy. Would love to hear your suggestions of must-dos, as we feel a little overwhelmed! TIA for any help you can give us!

This is a good place to start:

Rule #1: You will never do it all in a week
Rule #2: You WILL want to come back
Rule #3: Make your budget and stick to it
Rule #4: Do research but make the decisions that are best for you, not for us
Rule #5: Have FUN!

Allie's picture
Joined: 06/26/2012
Posts: 5477

Hi and welcome, wistfulgirl! What time of year are you going? Are you staying on-site?

The Watchmaker's picture
Joined: 07/08/2014
Posts: 1802

Agree with what's been said by other members..Its all about research for us..Just returned from a 13 day vacation at WL..This was our 6th trip and still finding new stuff to see and do ( including eating ) With over 30 things on our must list we still never managed it all...Any excuse for a 7th visit Eh.

jw24's picture
Joined: 11/23/2013
Posts: 999

It's all about planning because basically, a failure to plan is a plan to fail. Since you're going mid to late April, I think you'll be safe and avoid the Easter crowds where the parks are always crowded for that day and weekend. (Easter falls on April 5th for 2015.) and most schools and colleges have their Spring Breaks between mid to late March. Weather wise, it's pretty warm according to statistics. Around at least 80 degrees on average. And with six people, being a member of a family of five on family vacations, it's impossible to share one room so you may need two rooms.

I'm only 23 with no kids of my own but I have read a lot posts on how so many families push so hard to do everything that their own children have meltdowns and tantrums and it's understandable. Hot weather, long lines, etc. So I would say the biggest advice I can give is know your limitations of your kids. If they are hot and tired, give time for them to cool off. Your children are always first in terms of priorities and your planning.

These are just some basic tips. I think a lot of us including myself would really appreciate more information like where do you plan to stay (On-site or off-site, if you're staying at a moderate, value or deluxe, etc.) or dining tastes and preferences, etc.


"All my life I wonder how it feels to pass a day, not above them but part of them.

And out there living in the sun, give me one day out there, all I ask is one to hold forever. Out there where they all live unaware, what I'd give, what I'd dare, just to live one day out there."

crazycatperson's picture
Joined: 09/19/2011
Posts: 3718

Thinking about the ages of your kids, the 8, 10, and 14 year olds (especially the teenager) will have much better staying power than the little one, who will probably need midday breaks. Catering to the needs of the 4-year-old may frustrate the older kids, while going at the pace the older kids can handle could result in a meltdown for the youngest. If your teenager is responsible and mature enough, maybe consider letting her chaperone the tweens in a park while you take the 4-year-old off for a nap or whatever. Or have the parents split up, one heading back to the hotel with the youngest while the other stays in the park with the older kids.

Also, I can't agree more with those who advised doing lots of research and planning. I mean way, way more planning than you can possibly imagine. On our first trip, I thought I'd done enough research and planning - and then we ended up at Disney World with no advance dining reservations (you'll need them for most table-service restaurants unless you don't mind eating at 3 or 4 in the afternoon) and no idea that our Magic Kingdom day was going to be the most crowded day of the week due to evening extra magic hours. And we wasted soooo much time standing around asking each other what we should do next and wondering where everything was.

alicemouse's picture
Joined: 10/22/2013
Posts: 2832

For me, the best place to start was to pick up a guidebook. I recommend the Unofficial Guide, which pairs with the Personally, I read the guide cover to cover with a park map pulled up on my screen for reference. That's probably overkill at first, but I absorb information the fastest when it's graphical or mapped out. Skim through whichever guidebook you choose cover to cover before you commit to any plans. This is kind of lengthy, but here are some boring nuts and bolts that are really important to understand before you start making decisions on what to book and what to do once you get there:

The first priority right now is booking dining. The closer you get to your travel date, the more difficult dining reservations will be to get. Booking for table service (think: sit-down restaurant where a waiter serves you) opens at 180 days prior to the start of your trip, which for you is now. The very most popular restaurants are likely to be full already, but if you wait too much longer, the "second tier" as popularity goes may be booked as well. Go ahead and make a few reservations as soon as practical if sitting down to eat at Table Service restaurants is important to you. Counter service restaurants (think: mall food court--better quality and variety than fast food, but you order and collect your meal before you sit down) do not require a reservation. If you don't make a single dining reservation, you will still be able to get meals that fit your needs. Healthy eaters, big appetites, non-traditional diets, and food allergy sufferers can all be accommodated at Quick/counter service restaurants. Reservations have to be secured with a credit card and in the event that you make a reservation and do not show up, you will be charged a fee. You can avoid that fee by canceling with at least 24 hours notice.

Disney offers several types of dining plans. The advantage is that most of your meals are paid ahead of time. The disadvantage is that the plan restricts what qualifies as part of your "meal", there are a few (not many) restaurants that do not participate, and dollar for dollar, you can almost always beat the dining plan price (very slightly) by paying cash. One of Disney's frequent promotions is to offer the dining plan for free when you book a package that includes room & tickets. It's not currently available for your dates, but it is possible that it could be offered at a later date.

As far as booking your resort, the sooner you can pin down your dates for sure, the better. You'll be able to get a room somewhere, but the longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to get your first choice, especially since with 6 people, you can't accommodate your entire family in one standard room. There are family suites available that sleep 6, but they are quite expensive. It may be to your advantage to rent Disney Vacation Club points so that you can get a 1 or 2 bedroom suite. It will probably work out to be more expensive in dollars, but you will gain some extra space and be able to stay in a deluxe resort for considerably less money than if you paid cash for the same resort. Basically you rent points in Disney's version of a timeshare. I don't think the forum rules permit me to recommend a particular service, but if you google search "Disney Vacation Club point rental", several reputable companies will appear in your search results. (Point rentals cannot be coupled with a free dining offer if it would become available.) If you happen to own a timeshare elsewhere, you may be able to trade your points/week to stay at Disney for a fee.

There is also the option of staying off property. Some of the magic is diminished, but you can definitely find rooms in Florida that are less expensive than those on Disney property. I would strongly advise that you stay on Disney property if possible because you'll have better access to the Disney transportation network including a free bus from the Orlando International Airport to your resort and back. Even if you rent a car, parking for offsite guests is $17 per day. If you are staying at a Disney resort, parking at the parks is free.

Fast passes are free with your ticket purchase. Your fast pass window opens at 60 days prior to the start of your trip if you are staying at a Disney resort (30 days if you are staying offsite). In order to take full advantage of this system, you must have purchased your tickets and have linked them to your My Disney Experience account (set it up at prior to the 60-day mark. You can also use this same system to make your dining reservations online.

If you want to meet Anna & Elsa and ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom), Soarin' (EPCOT), or Toy Story Mania (Hollywood Studios), you really need to reserve your fast passes on day 60 before your trip. There have been days when fast passes for these attractions are completely gone the first day that the window opens and they all typically have mid-day waits in excess of an hour and a half. Also Disney has been experimenting off and on with making these attractions "fast pass only" and not even allowing guests to wait in the standby line. If experiencing them is important to you, make sure you get those fast passes just to be on the safe side. If they aren't make or break for your family, you don't have to be quite as concerned with getting the fast passes.

If you stay on Disney property, you will receive Magic Bands (rubber RFID bracelets) in the mail prior to your departure. You will use these bracelets to open the door to your room, enter the park, access your fast pass reservations, and (if you like), pay for purchases or access your dining plan credits. That's why it's so important to set up your My Disney Experience account ahead of time.

It probably all seems overwhelming right now, but you'll be a pro in no time! If you have any questions, ask away! We all love to help muchlove


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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco | Sorry I had to give up doing trip reports. Too many time commitments right now.

PJsLife's picture
Joined: 09/08/2014
Posts: 314

Very good Advice..... here! muchlove

PJsLife's picture
Joined: 09/08/2014
Posts: 314

Geez how did I double post?

forsheyj's picture
Joined: 10/30/2014
Posts: 2

When I planned our first trip with our 11-year old, part of the fun for me was the planning. I read the unofficial guidebook, did on-line research and planned as best I could. Two items come to mind for best advice...1) STICK TO YOUR BUDGET (this will relieve tension for you and if you're fortunate to have extra funds the last day ENJOY!; 2) Be flexible. You'll be less stressed if you leave yourself open for options or surprises. Making reservations is a must for dining; however, you may find that if you have a big lunch, a snack is all you'll need for dinner.

One other thing, give your kids an option for input. My son enjoyed some of the planning, especially what parks to visit which day. He felt like he had a big input into the vacation.

Most of all...YOU enjoy yourself! Don't think of yourself as only an adult; but someone experiencing a "magical moment" with their family.

We still talk about our trip and it's been many years! Have a safe and happy trip!

MrHub's picture
Joined: 10/29/2009
Posts: 9503

First off, welcome to WDWforGrownups wistfulgirl.

Next, all good info here for you so far, but I know it is probably overwhelming. Do you have an account on the Disney web site yet? . If not, go there, make one and look over the "My Disney Experienced" section. You can also download the app for your phone or any mobile device you may have. Play with that and get used to it.

The Colonel's picture
Joined: 11/08/2012
Posts: 2943

welcome to the land of the Disney obsessed.

The parks will be very crowded during spring break. I would strategize to be at the parks at rope drop and leave midday to have a swim or a nap at the hotel. Then go back at night refreshed. If you try to do 12-hour park days you will be exhausted.

Then again, I'm an old man. Maybe you shouldn't listen to me.


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Kristen K.'s picture
Joined: 09/01/2011
Posts: 23803

stars Hello wistfulgirl and welcome to our forums! stars

There has been lots of good advice offered and I'll echo a lot of it with my comments here.

1) It's very important to understand that you will not get to do everything, Walt Disney World is just too big. My family likes to pick out just a handful of "must-dos" for each day, and as long as we see those everything else is cake.

2) Buy a couple of Disney Guidebooks and use them to figure out what your priorities are. The Birnbaum Guide is a good basic place to start, it will give your a quick look at everything. However you'll really want to supplement that with another book. I like the Passporters, however the "Unofficial Guide" is really popular and offers guest reviews as well as those of the authors. Be sure to get the kids involved in the planning too!

3) Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort. There are several categories to fit different budgets, however traveling with a family of six can be difficult when it comes to booking a room. The family suites at Art of Animation will sleep 6, so will the DVC two bedroom villas. Outside of that you may be looking at having to book 2 rooms. I have a family of 5 and we are more than comfortable in a 2 bedroom Villa, however it can be costly. I stayed at the Art of Animation and it was lovely for a value category resort. With the 3 younger kids it juts may be perfect for you guys.

4) Take advantage of free transportation by staying at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel. One of the perks of being a Disney Resort guest is that your family will get free ground transportation from Orlando International Airport to your Resort and back again with Disney's Magical Express. You will also have complimentary bus, boat and monorail service around the Disney property.

5) Table service restaurants (anything with a waitress or the buffets) takes reservations beginning at 180 days out. All of April is now taking reservations, and with SPring breaks still happening you want to have reservations. I know it sounds crazy, but you want to figure out where you're going to eat as soon as possible so that you can be sure to get a reservation.

6) Ask us lots of questions!! Is there anything specific that you want to know about?

CdnSquirrel's picture
Joined: 10/12/2013
Posts: 365

I have spent the better part of a year planning for our first trip to Disney World and am not sure we're ready!

oHIo's picture
Joined: 10/04/2014
Posts: 844

welcome welcome welcome congrats

Welcome wistful girl and congratulations on joining the forum! I have been a member for only four weeks but have found that there are some incredible members who are very knowledgeable and love to answer questions and give excellent advice. My family and I have been coming to WDW since 1979 when the only park was Magic Kingdom. My children are now adults and we are empty nesters....sort of.....we have four generations under the same roof!! We have come to WDW as a family and as a couple as well as mother/daughter trips and several three generation trips. Each trip has been different and enjoyable in its own way.

You have been given great advice in the previous posts. You don't say if you are flying or driving, but our kids favorite trip was when we drove down and stayed in the cabins at Fort Wilderness. They accommodate a family of six and have a full kitchen. We saved a bundle on food by eating breakfast in the cabin and having lunch in the parks. In the evening we would return to the cabin and I would fix dinner while my husband took the kids swimming. The kitchen includes a full size refrigerator, stove microwave, coffe pot, even a dishwasher, plus pots, pans, dishes, everything you need to prepare and eat meals. All you have to bring is groceries.

Like Kristen, I also recommend a good guide book and her recommendation of Birnbaum's book is spot on for a beginner. It contains lots of good information without being overwhelming. The Unofficial Guide is excellent and I have purchased it several times but there is so much information it can be overwhelming.

Please return with more questions. Everybody will be glad to help!! mickey mickey

Sid Man's picture
Joined: 01/06/2014
Posts: 528

I second the advice being given here. Do as much research as you can muster strength for, buy a book or two and don't be afraid to ask on here too. You'll find a lot of tips on what to do and avoid in the forums which I certainly used for my more recent trip.

Not being a big planner myself, it is important to at least have an idea of what you and the family would like to see and not rush everything in the short time you have available to you - it's better to do some of the things on a list and enjoy them than rush around trying to do everything and not enjoying the experience. You'll be limited by what your 4yo will be able to do both height- and stamina-wise. Perhaps let your older children go off to explore by themselves - whilst it gets very busy, it's also very easy to specify meeting points in case of getting split up.

WDW will always be there for you to explore another time and your list will continue to grow. Like others, I've found out things I missed on my last trip, and the trip before and the one before that (I've been 4 times previously over a 20 year period)'ll always find something you wanted to see but never quite got round to and that's the lure of the'll always want to go back. You want the first time to be an enjoyable experience - it's going to cost you a whole bunch of cash (unfortunately), so enjoy it for the opportunity to become kids again with your kids.


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