This year we decided to take the kids to Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World Florida. It was our first visit and it was just as magical as I had hoped. Before we left I did some research and talked with some friends and family to ensure we made the most of our trip since we were only visiting the park for one day (note, one day is doable but you'll inevitably leave wanting more). In doing my research I got a bit overwhelmed so I thought I'd distill it down and share my top 10 tips for your first visit to Disney World (specifically from a boy mom).
1. Ask Guest Services for a "First Visit" Button
When you arrive, be sure to ask Guest Services for a “First Visit” button. This will let the cast know it's your first visit when they see you in the park and they will do their best to make sure it’s extra special. Plus, the button makes a great souvenir. You can also get a "celebration" button if you're celebrating a birthday or other occasion.
2. Wear your Disney Gear
This is a tip from sister-in-law, thank goodness she reminded me. Everyone wears something Disney related and it really feels like part of the magic. Remember to pack your Disney gear or purchase it as soon as you get on site. Especially the ears!
3. Bring an Autograph Book
Characters are walking around all day or have scheduled meet and greets specifically for photos and autographs. The autographs are special because the are usually specific to the character. For example, we got “Shakey’s” signature and it was all wobbly. One thing we wish we would have done is to book a character dinner at one of the restaurants, this is the best way to get a lot of autographs in a short amount of time plus you need to eat anyway.
4. Download the "My Disney Experience" App
The My Disney Experience app is such a great tool for organizing your day. You can book your fast passes, restaurant reservations, receive notification, see wait times and magic hours (certain days some parks open early or close late). The best thing about the app is the mobile ordering at quick serve restaurants, you can order and pay for your food while enjoying the rides at the park and pick up your food without waiting. Such a great time saver. Download the app ahead of time so you can familiarize yourself with it and plan your day ahead of time.
5. Book your Fast Passes but Don't Panic
We were such rookies at this and it made us feel behind the ball. If this is you all I can say is don't panic. Every guest receives 3 Fast Passes that you book within the app or on park kiosks. If you're staying at a resort you can book them 60 days in advance. We booked our fast passes the morning of our visit because we bought tickets onsight. Once we figured out the Fast Pass booking process there weren't many rides left. This had us feeling a little worried that we wouldn't ride anything but that wasn't the case. The Fast Pass availability changes throughout the day and even if you don't get a Fast Pass on the ride you want the line ups aren't too bad. Disney World does such a great job of crowd management that you never feel like you're wasting your day in line-ups. I suggest booking your Fast Passes for the afternoon of your visit and ride as many rides as you can in the morning before it gets too busy. At Magic Kingdom, my boys (age 4 and 6) enjoyed Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Speedway, Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan and Pirates of the Caribbean. Splash Mountain and Space Mountain are also great as well but my little guy wasn't tall enough. (PS - my kids were too scared for the haunted mansion, despite the pic below).
6. Get to the Parade Early and Secure a Good Spot
This one comes from my son's JK teacher and I'm so glad she told me about it. Head down to Main Street early approx 45 min before the parade. Cobb a squat on the curb and get your kids an ice cream while you wait. Aim to get a spot on the right side so you're in the shade. Trust me. The parade is amazing and it's just not the same if your kids can't see. My boys loved the Maleficent dragon.
7. Quick Serve Restaurants have Healthy Options and are Affordable
I was pleasantly surprised that the quick serve restaurants were reasonably priced and offered healthy options like salads. If your kids are like mine and only eat pizza be sure to go to PinocchioVillage Haus in Fantasyland for some delicious flat bread. If you go during off-hours, hold onto your receipt, sometimes it offers 20% off at souvenir shops. Don't forget you can bring snacks into the park and you can ask for free ice water at almost any quick serve restaurant so bring a water bottle.
8. Phone Charging
Bring your charging cord. You will be taking a lot of photos and video and you don't want to run out of battery. If you need a charge there are outlets in the stumps near the Tangled restrooms in Fantasyland (or you can use any outlet you find in the park).
9. Bring Pennies and Quarters
There are a numerous penny press machines all over Magic Kingdom (locations here) each with their own design and story. These pressed coins make great souvenirs and my kids love it. Each one cost $0.51 so be sure to bring your quarters and pennies.
10. Watch the Fireworks on the Second Floor of the Entrance
The fireworks are hands down the best thing I have ever seen. It gets very crowded and when the fireworks begin many people put their kids on their shoulders so your view might get obstructed. To avoid this head down to the entrance and go to the second level to watch the show. Be sure to leave a few minutes early to avoid a wait at the monorail.
On this trip we only visited the Magic Kingdom as we didn't want to rush it and we also needed to squeeze in a visit to the grand-parents while we were in Florida. While Magic Kingdom is totally doable in one day I highly recommend planning a few days to allow you to visit all the parks and have enough time for down time. I'm already planning our trip back to see Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.