The Ultimate Disney World Guide for First Timers

The Ultimate Disney World Guide for First Timers

So, you’ve decided you’re ready for that trip to Disney (or you’re seriously considering it)! YAY! That’s so exciting! And lucky for you, Disney is one of my absolute favorite topics to talk about.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to Walt Disney World more times than I can count over the years. In fact, the planning part of the trip is ALMOST as fun for me as the actual trip!

I know, I know…I sound crazy, especially since it can seem SUPER overwhelming to plan a trip to Disney World. BUT I’m here to break it down for you into simple steps. Let’s turn what may seem like an impossible task into one you can conquer!

Planning a trip to Disney

Create a “My Disney Experience” account.

The very first thing you should do when planning a trip to Disney World is to create a “My Disney Experience” account. This will be your hub for basically EVERYTHING while planning your trip and enjoying your time at Disney.

To create an account, just download the My Disney Experience app on your phone or visit Disney’s website. Once you have created your account, make sure to check it all out so you can become familiar with everything it has to offer. 

You will be able to create a Family & Friends List to include your travel party. All your plans, tickets, park reservations, dining reservations, and resort information will be linked to this account as you plan everything. This is where you will access Disney Genie (as well as Genie+ if you decide to purchase this), virtual queues, mobile food ordering, and photos that are taken throughout your vacation. You’ll be able to find the park hours, park maps, ride wait times, character meet and greet locations, and SO much more.

If you’re staying on Walt Disney World property, you will even be able to check into your resort and open the door to your room through the app (if you have the app on your phone)!

Decide when you will go and how you will get there.

There’s nothing like a good countdown to get you excited about a trip, so get those dates on the calendar! And how are you planning to get to Walt Disney World? Will you road trip or fly?

If you fly, the easiest airport to fly into to get to Disney World is Orlando.  There are several options for transportation from the airport to your resort (and back again once your trip is over!), such as shuttle services, private transfers, car rental, or rideshare services.

Choose where you would like to stay.

There are SO many options for accommodations during a trip to Walt Disney World, but there are two main types to decide between: staying on Walt Disney World Property or staying off property.

Personally, I LOVE staying on property. (I’m spoiled because my family has been a part of the Disney Vacation Club since I was in middle school.) But depending on your preference and your budget, you will make the best decision for yourself and your family.

By staying on property, you will not only be immersed in everything Disney, but you will also have access to free transportation anywhere on property. You may also get to enjoy other perks that are only offered to resort guests such as extra time at the parks.

Disney offers resort accommodations for various budgets (they even have a campground!), and each resort has a unique theme.  In fact, if you want to experience more than one resort during your stay, Disney will transfer your luggage to your next resort for free while you enjoy your day.

If you would like to stay off property, there are plenty of nearby hotels or vacation rentals. This includes “good neighbor hotels” that have similar perks to staying on property. Visit Disney World’s website to see a list of those hotels.

Planning a trip to Disney

Buy park tickets and make park reservations.

Once you know how many days you want to spend at the theme parks, buy your park tickets. Anyone in your party that is 3 or older will need a ticket to enter the parks. There is a slight discount on tickets for children ages 3-9. And anyone under 3 is FREE.

(Fun fact: you don’t age in Disney! So, if your child turns 3 DURING your trip, they still won’t need a ticket).

You can choose between 4 different ticket types (unless you decide to get an annual pass): 1 park per day, 1 park per day with water and sports option, park hopper option, and park hopper plus option. The park hopper option allows you to go to multiple parks per day. The water and sports option or the hopper plus option allows you to enjoy the water parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, golf courses, and miniature golf in addition to the theme parks.

For a full guide to Disney World ticket types and how to best use a park hopper ticket, read this post. If you are interested in a special event, such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, you will purchase a separate ticket for that specific event.


As soon as you have purchased your park tickets, make your park reservations for each member of your party by using My Disney Experience.

You can reserve one park per day. If you have the hopper option on your ticket, you will be able to enter any park beginning at 2:00 PM without a park reservation. Having trouble choosing which parks you want to go to? Check out this post!

If you’re thinking about purchasing Genie+ on your trip, you won’t be able to do so ahead of time. You’ll have to wait for the morning you’re headed to the theme park.

Book dining reservations and “enchanting extras.”

You can book dining reservations and any extras (think dessert party, cabana by the pool, Capture Your Moment photo session, backstage tour, build your own droid/lightsaber, etc.) 60 days in advance. I like to put a notification in my calendar for the day I can book reservations so I don’t forget.

If you’re staying on Walt Disney World property, you will be able to make your dining reservations for your entire trip 60 days prior to your check-in date.  If you’re staying off property and it’s 60 days prior to your trip, you will only be able to make reservations one day at a time instead of being able to make reservations for your entire trip.

(Tip: on the day you can book, if there is no availability for the restaurant or experience you had your heart set on, check back regularly to see if something opens up!)

And that’s how you plan a trip to Disney!

Voila! It really is as easy as that! Of course, there are plenty of options to consider within each of these steps when planning a Disney World trip. But I will be adding new blog posts all the time to let you know some of my personal favorites.

I’m here to help make your planning process a breeze. Make sure to subscribe to my blog to be the first to know when a new post comes out!

Planning a day at the Disney World parks can be overwhelming! But it doesn’t need to be.

Check out my FREE daily Disney World park planner to help prioritize and organize your day, so you can have the vacation you’re dreaming of.

Want to know EXACTLY what to pack for your upcoming Disney World trip?

Snag a free printable Disney World packing checklist by clicking the button below. (And how do I know it’s EXACTLY what you need? Well, it’s the list I personally use, so it’s been through plenty of trial and error.)

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