10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Booked My First WDW Holiday, Tips For Visiting Disney

Are you planning a Walt Disney World Holiday? Here are my top tips for planning and negotiating your Disney World Trip. Because with a little planning, choosing the best Disney World resort for your family your WDW trip can run like clockwork and you can really get the best out of a Disney Trip.

Top Tips For Visiting Walt Disney World

As we have stayed on and off site during our last few visits. I thought I would share the Christie hints and tips of the things we wished we had known before our first ever Walt Disney World holiday back in 2003. I will never ever forget how I felt the first time I walked though the Magic Kingdom gates at WDW.

Tips for staying onsite at Disney World Orlando

My Top Tips For Visiting Disney

Get A Great Deal At Disney Resort Hotels.

Disney World has some amazing offers throughout the year. Decide when you are going and keep an eye on disneypackages.co.uk. At the moment they are offering great deals on packages and up to 4 nights free when staying onsite at Disney, With school holiday dates on offer too.  See here for the amazing deal we got. You just need to keep an eye on all the Disney World offers, but they really are there and available to book.

Parking Charges At Walt Disney World including the new onsite parking charges

Choosing Where To Stay Onsite At Walt Disney World

There is an amazing choice of hotels and resorts to suit all budgets and tastes- Disney World has an incredible 31 resorts. There really is something to suit everybody, and larger families are easily accommodated too. WDW has a selection of  Disney villa resorts that offers up 2 bedroom family  accommodation, even tree houses.

10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Booked My First WDW Holiday, Tips For Visiting Disney

Check out the Grand Floridian Villa’s, wow, or the Disney Art of Animation resort family suites. We chose the beautiful Saratoga Springs due to it’s amazing location,  with accommodation close to Disney Springs. And because of Joe’s love of horse riding and all things equestrian.

The new parking charges at Disney Resort Hotels

There is free Wi-Fi throughout the whole of Disney

Now did you know this is actually a deal breaker with a teen. Come to think of it, for a blogger too. I don’t think my family would survive a week without Wi-Fi to be honest. It is so reasuring to know I will not be stressing over data roaming charges and feeling like I am leaving the world behind.

Pre Book Disney Dining In The Parks

When you are staying on or off site you can pre book your restaurants, experiences and fast passes in advance. However this window of opportunity opens a little earlier to on site guests. Thus allowing you to book character dining and speciality Disney restaurants in advance.

Get Collected From The Airport If You Stay on Site


If you book your flights to Orlando international; Disney actually collect you from the airport and take you to your resort hotel  on the Disney Magical Express and then return you to the airport at the end of your stay. As soon as you get on that bus at the airport you are in Disney. The Disney resort bus plays Disney films and music, it all feels so exciting. And very easy, no bickering over directions to find your resort. In fact Chris once drove the wrong way down the freeway the first time we visited, I nearly had a heart attack when I saw all those cars coming towards us.

Disney Transport System

If you are like me and have no intention of driving on holiday. And a husband that commutes by car, so wants a break from driving. Then this is the perfect option, you do not need a car. The Disney transport system is a network of buses, monorail, and boats and to be honest, for my two it is a large part of the holiday experience. Just nipping on a boat to Disney Springs or monorail to get to a Disney park is so exciting.

Please note as of March 2018 you can no longer park for free when staying at A Disney Hotel. Click here for the new charges for parking at a Walt Disney Resort Hotel.

However this can only be a positive move to reduce traffic around the resorts, and as a family who prefers to use the Disney Transport System this will not affect our plans.

Tips for staying onsite at Walt Disney World Florida

The Disney Extra Magic Hour

Disney Resort guests get extra magic hours in a different park every day, I am going to include this in my next post, but if you plan ahead; which I might add is very easy then you really can get the best out of the parks.

Disney Magic Bands

The Magic Band, now this is new and Joe is beside himself with excitement, he has already planned to upgrade to a Bruce the Shark band, bless him. This really cute wrist band comes pre loaded with your park tickets, your room key, dining credits and enables you to charge to your room. I am so looking forward to trying these out. (This is replacing a card that did much the same) it is so convenient.

Fast Pass Tips For Walt Disney World

The Magic Of Staying On Site At Disney

My last tip just has to be enjoy the MAGIC of staying on site, it’s so incredible. Disney is such an inclusive place in every way shape and form. Yet they somehow maintain this and also make on site guests feel like they are part of something extra special and magical. Once you experience that feeling there really is no going back. There is nothing more special than going to the Boardwalk for a cocktail on a hot balmy night. Or wandering down to the bridge near the Swan and Dolphin to watch the Epcot fireworks. And then climbing onto a boat down the river to start your journey back to your resort.

So there it is, the 10 things I wish we had known before we booked our first WDW Holiday. It is all so overwhelming the first time you visit. And there is so much information out there, and you really do learn as you go along. Check out my post on how to get the most from My Disney Experience and also check out these tips for visiting Epcot.

See my Pinterest planning board for some fantastic planning pins and tips.

Follow Sarah Christie’s board My Walt Disney World Board on Pinterest.


My top tips for booking and staying onsite WDW including where to stay onsite, where to eat, park and how to get free wifi

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72 thoughts on “10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Booked My First WDW Holiday, Tips For Visiting Disney”

  1. Amazing advice Sarah. I’ve been twice when I was younger and we will go with our boys but for us it will be a a once in a lifetime holiday so I’m waiting until they are old enough to truly appreciate it. This information is so good though, it is such a big holiday for families it can make all the difference to make use of the whole Disney experience! I’m so jealous, you will have a fantastic time!! xx

    Reply
    • Absolutly right. The only thing I would add is the Disney Dining plan we went in August last year and thought we wouldn’t need it ( our travel agent who are not part of Disney talked us out of it ) How wrong they were. The meal plan is awesome for those on a tight budget and is really helpful plus the dining at disney offers so many choices there isn’t any way you can fit it all in to a holiday. So don’t be like my wife & I.

      Reply
      • Thanks Luke, yes we have booked it as part of our deal, its great to hear confirmation we have done the right thing, we are all so excited

        Reply
  2. I’m not sure what I can really say to that. Apart from I WANT TO GO TO DISNEY TOO! It sounds like the most truly magical place for children and adults alike in the entire world!! Through reading that I felt like I needed to grab a pen and actually write some notes, as I’d really love to go here with my family. Loving the sound of the on site villas, the Disney airport transfers….. EVERYTHING!! That’s it – I’m sold. Where do I book!!!! Xxxxx

    Reply
  3. Fabulous post. It reminded me of when I went to Disneyworld when I was 18. It was the most awesome holiday ever. I know that it is completely different now. I can’t wait until Little Miss H is older and we can go. I will bookmark this post so that I can refer to it then. Hugs Mrs H xxxx

    Reply
  4. I would love to go to Disney World but I’m afraid it’s not in our future 🙁 Some great tips there if our fortune ever changes though 🙂
    I know exactly the feeling of driving the wrong way down the Highway as my Dad did it when we visited my Auntie in Alabama when I was a teen. We had been there over a week and he’d driven loads already, just takes one second of distraction at the wrong moment!

    Reply
    • Ah thank you, wow she would love it, it is so magical. It takes my breath away every time I visit, in fact I cried tears of happiness the first time I visited magic kingdom, I was so overwhelmed xx

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    • Oh no, if I had done that Jack my oldest would have never forgiven me ha ha, I think you need to go back now especially to test the WI-FI out x

      Reply
  5. I have never been to Disneyland, it is on my to do list with my girls when they are both old enough to appreciate it. I will be keeping an eye on your Disneyland posts for useful tips like this post.

    Reply
  6. As you know I am so pleased for you hun! We have visited Disney Florida on many occasions and I can’t wait to take he girls! It’s a magical place. My parents owned a lace in Orlando. We have loads of family in the sates too. Some excellent advice there and I look forward to seeing more posts about your adventures! xxxx

    Reply
    • Thank you, in my experience it is best to decide a year and plan for it, thats the only way I can organise holidays so I am prepared and well planned x

      Reply
  7. I love this post and totally agree with all the tips. We have been lucky to have visited 3 years on the run (last time in 2013). Many people discount staying in a Disney hotel as they think it is far too expensive. We have stayed twice onsite (Old Key West hotel) and when you factor in the free dining plan we received, it really was a fantastic deal. Also husband and I have no intentions of driving when we are there, and the Disney transport is amazing. God how I miss planning a Disney holiday, but hopefully we will be returning in 2015 and experiencing it again with a teen and 10 year old.

    Reply
    • Thanks Tracey yes they do discount it, but its actually the most amazing deal and whats better than being in the heart of the Magic. The planning is just so much fun isn’t it?

      Reply
  8. Your list is amazing; have bookmarked it and will start my planning very soon!

    Was aiming to go in 2017 with friends and their/our kids but was then extremely lucky and won a trip! 🙂

    Not staying at a Disney hotel (staying in an off site villa) which is a shame after how great they sound, but I am definitely even more excited after reading your advice than I was 5 minutes ago!

    Looking forward to the next installment of your advice! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Paul, is it your first visit ? I never forget my first visit it was so so amazing, and every time since has felt just as incredible. How amazing to have won a trip congratulations to you all and have a fab time, don’t want to spam you but check out my latest post as it has tips on booking fastpass in advance, I know you and your family will have an amazing time x

      Reply
  9. Hello,

    This is a fantastic blog!

    I am 22 and when I go for my first time visit, all five of us guys will be 23. (Don’t worry, we’re not the type who have to drink to have a good time and cause a riot. I think we’re decent people who are going just to enjoy the ride.) Anyway, this is my first time to America, let alone Disney World and I had a question.

    I noticed you had written…

    “If you want to hire a car, then the parking is free at all the Disney Parks; this in itself is a huge saving if you are visiting the parks every day.”

    We’ve been doing some research that suggests that there is a parking fee. Have we got that wrong as we have hired a car.

    We’ve booked to go for two weeks at the start of October. That date just can’t come quick enough! I’m so excited, it hurts haha.

    All the best,

    Oliver

    Reply
    • Hi Oliver, if you stay on site in a Walt Disney Word resort hotel is no charge for parking , but there is if you are not staying on site. Hope this helps, have an amazing time x

      Reply
  10. we went to Orlando stayed at the quality inn and we booked a Humber car 14 seater as it was my 40th birthday it costs us $120 each but you was in it for 8 hours we to so many places in it then at the end we went and had meals with the Disney characters then the following day we went up in the helicopters which cost $25 each it took you all round Florida then at the end you got photos also a cd of the journey you went in also we flew out wit virgin Atlantic airlines we seen Richard Branson we upgraded by £30 each way to first class had champagne all the way and also got the chance to get our photo done in the cot pit of the airline plus the staff was brilliant with you , you can not beat them.

    Reply
  11. on a previous comment it says all disney parks are free parking. I don’t know if it is if staying at a disney hotel but it is certainly not free if staying off site. It is $16 a day which is very high. I have been going every year for the past 18 years and it has never been free x

    Reply
  12. Oooo I didn’t know about thw free parking if you hire a car. How do I find out more about this?
    I know parking is free for on site guests.

    Reply
  13. Hi this is my fith time for my family forth time in Disney great staying there do the meal plan saves load of money and park tickets free with meal plan

    Reply
  14. Hi great blog but may I just clarify your point on parking. Free parking is only available to on-site Disney guests. You mention significant savings when you hire a car, but if for example you stayed in a villa off site you can expect to pay $17 per day parking (which covers multiple parks if same day parking)

    Best wishes www. facebook.com/ukdisneytips

    Reply
  15. Something that saved us literally a few hundred pounds: booking through the US wdw site! Last summer they had an offer on accommodation and we stayed in the All star sports resort (which,granted, is one of the cheapest) for like $100 per night… The same accommodation was way more expensive on the UK site! Either way it’s worth checking out the different prices and offers on the US site!

    Reply
  16. Great blog! Having stayed onsite I would echo these comments, don’t wrote it off thinking it’s more expensive, price it up, the free dining offer makes it a fab deal. The disney hotels are amazing and you feel completely spoilt staying there. The dining an is fantastic, you can eat in some amazing places, we are in lots of the deluxe resorts at some if their amazing themed restaurants, and did character meals as well and it added another lovely dimension to the holiday. I’m afraid I’ve well and truly got the disney bug now and know WDW holidays will feature in our plans for many years to come, even after our 3 girls have grown up I imagine as there is just so much to do and explore! Tx

    Reply
    • Thank you Tracey I feel exactly the same about Disney and staying on site, and am so excited about our next visit. Especially be our guest xxx

      Reply
  17. Great tips! I was wondering about the hotels as you said certain ones cater for larger families. Are there any Disney hotels that will cater for a family of 7? I would love to stay in a Disney hotel but when I’ve checked the prices I need two room and it makes the whole holiday just too expensive so hubby is now saying we would have to stay in an hotel away from Disney. I really would love to take my frozen obsessed daughter now but funds are low lol.

    Reply
    • Hi there the deluxe villa resorts fit up to 8 guests and if you look out for the dining deals that would make it a great deal, I hope you get there soon x

      Reply
  18. We are going to Disney for our 4th time. Twice we went with our kids – the first time was 1999 and we stay at Caribean Beach Resort. That was awesome. Then in 2004 we stayed at Fort Wilderness Campground in a log cabin. The reason we did that was because our kids were at an age where our daughter wanted a room to herself (16 years old). Our son was 12. We had the double bed and our son had the bunk bed. Our daughter had the bed in the lounge. It meant we had to go to bed before her (which was a downer). That year was one of Disney’s wettest Augusts. It rained and rained and rained……..some days all day long. However it just doesn’t put a dampner on the Disney atmosphere – life goes on and poncho’s are a must! Disney is the best holiday EVER and you never ever say “what shall we do next I’m bored”!!. In 2009 we went to the All Star Sports Resort which is one of the value resorts. Even the value resorts are still absolutely brilliant. Lets face it, how much time do you really spend in your room? You want to be out there in the parks. No complaints at all though about the room. We did the Dining plan last time and still had credits on it for snacks at the end of the holiday. I ended up using the credits to bring flapjacks back as gifts! This year we are going back again – to Coronado Springs. The only thing I don’t like about going to America is the long haul flight from the UK………..however, the American guys are so friendly towards the British that it really is a brilliant holiday and worth it in the end. We’ve got the Dining plan again this year so it’ll be different having a band (rather than a card)………just hope I don’t end up with a white arm where my band has been!!

    Reply
    • Linda thank you so much, I am so excited, we too are going in August hope we don’t need the ponchos so much but fully expect the rain because of the time of year.And I can’t wait to use the dining plan we have booked the restaurants and I am beside myself about Be Our Guest has the whole Disney experience x xx

      Reply
  19. Hi, I am taking (without my husband) my 21 year old daughter to disney in September. This is the first time for both of us. We did not book the dining plan at first, but i am going to ring and add it to our holiday. We are so excited, I feel like I have a permanent smile on my face. We have already booked a table at be our guest, because we can’t wait ‘to try the grey stuff’ 🙂 the only thing I am trying to work out is how to get to international drive for malls, universal studios and sea world. I have looked at buses, taxis etc and would really appreciate some advice. Not too sure if I am confident enough to drive ???? Xx

    Reply
    • Hi Sheryle, its very easy to drive there the roads are huge but taxi were not to expensive last time we visited, I am so excited for Be our guest, and the dining plan is looks such great value doesn’t it? I too am so so excited I can’t wait to visit, have a fantastic time xx

      Reply
      • Thanks, might try cab first and get a feel for the lay out of the roads 🙂 I hope the time flies by until we go in September, can’t contain my excitement xx

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  20. Hi, We have visited WDW many times over the years, went 18 months ago, took all the
    family, we had a 3 year old grand-daughter. You are so spot on over meal plan, we
    stayed at the Floridian, our meal plan was wonderful our dinner cost each evening was
    over 150 dollars, no problem with meal plan, my son had steak most evenings, I had
    fish dishes. A few extra tips, book your meals 90 days in advance you get to eat in the
    restaurants with character dining, characters come to you, so you save time in the park,
    not having to wait to see them, also go for character breakfasts, chef Mickey is good.
    The lady who has a little girl who loves Frozen, 60 days in advance you can book fast
    passes to see Elsa and Anna also all Disney Princesses , for Elsa and Anna the Frozen sing along you must book fast pass 60 days in advance. Should you be going to Euro Disney to visit Elsa and Anna is a nightmare, you have to get your husband, partner up and in the park by 8am, (only possible if you are in a Disney Hotel ) they have to move very quickly down main street, get to the booth on the side of the Castle and then wait 2hrs 30 minutes for a ticket with a set time on it, if you are then like us, we returned to the Disneyland Hotel at the gates to drop my grand-daughters dress at
    guest-services to find Elsa and Anna in the reception area with only a few people
    with them. By the way I was told it is mostly fathers and grand-fathers who stand and
    wait , to enable their Princesses to see Elsa and Anna. Back to WDW when you book your holiday you get your Disney Experience this is brill all your meal times, fast pass times are all listed for you on a daily basis. We also are going back in May, Virgin Atlantic and Floridian can’t wait. Also if you stay in the Floridian use the smaller boat for hotel when park closes, back in your room within 10 minutes.

    Reply
    • Oh Rosemary I bet the Floridian was incredible, have you seen the new vacation villas wow. We have just booked our meals, and can’t wait to book the fast pass. Thank you so much for your lovely comments and great tips xxx

      Reply
  21. great tips!!
    We are off in April and this will be our 14th time since 2007 (we are DVC members) If you love Disney it’s worth a look. We have done the dining plan but having been so many times now we find eating out to be not as expensive if you head out of Disney ( not far two minutes walk from downtown Disney) you have a huge choice of restaurants to choose from. Most rooms have a small kitchenette so if you head to Walmart you can grab cereal, sandwich stuff and drinks for next to nothing. Of course this all depends on if you drive out there. But you so right it’s all in the planning. As soon as you get there go to a Disney hotel and the reception has printouts of park hours and characters times/places. Hope you have an amazing time when you go. I will tell Mickey Mouse your on your way 🙂

    Reply
    • OMG I bet you could give me a tip or two Kelly, I just love every-thing about Disney and we are so exited. Thanks for all the great tips and yes give Mickey the nod that we are on our way ha ha xx

      Reply
  22. oh my Gosh, we went October 2015. First time for my 4 and 6 year old. Dining plan and character meals!! Stay on site, use the buses to get you to the parks. We stayed at Art of Animation which is a value resort, but we didn’t think so. We stayed at the Little Mermaid area, which is quite a walk..so be prepared.

    Reply
      • Yes, first time it should be a must!! My husband complimented me on a great trip and stated he can’t wait to go back!! I would do a few things differently, but overall we had a great time and great memories were made for the kiddos

        Reply

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