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Planning Your Family’s First Trip to Disney: Part Three

Planning Your Family’s First Trip to Disney: Part Three

You made it!  You are about to start the magical, memorable journey at Disney World.  Here Organized Mom & Disney Addict will share tips for the actual trip (this is no vacation friends, this is the trip of a lifetime!)  If you missed our first two posts on planning a Disney vacation, be sure to check them out! Here’s what do 6+ months out and 1 month prior to departure for your family’s first vacation at Disney. 

Question & Answers for Planning Disney Family Vacations: At the Parks

What’s your #1 Disney parks experience tip?

Organized Mom:  ZERO Expectations
This blog post is written for first-time Disney visitors, so remember this: If you have no expectations, you will not be disappointed. All your hard work and the money you are about to spend will be that much more worth it if you can just enjoy whatever you can. Your kids will have no idea what they miss at Disney so if the line at Space Mountain is never shorter than two hours, skip it.  This will hopefully not be their last tip in their lifetime, plus, trust me there are plenty of memories to be had. They will have no idea what is missed.

Disney Addict:  Enjoy Making Memories
I agree with Organized Mom. The only expectations you should start your trip with is to enjoy the time with your family, to have fun and to make memories together. No matter what shows you see or characters you meet or miss, if you shared memorable time with your family, the trip is a huge success.

What’s the best what to capture memories at Disney? Disney Photo Pass and/or a personal camera?

Organized Mom:  Personal Camera & Photo Pass
If you’re like our family, traveling solo, the photo pass is worth it. The only Disney family photos we have from our trip were taken by the professional photographers at Disney. That being said the disk is VERY expensive ($165.00 if purchased after your trip). If you decide to buy this, make the decision ahead of time and then get your money’s worth. Every time you see a photographer ask them to take a picture. And read blogs on the photo pass – sometimes there are discounts for committing to buying the disk before you leave. There are also tips on photos to request, like a magic shot. My daughter is still in awe over these shots. She just doesn’t recall holding Tinkerbell but we have the picture for that!

Disney Addict gave me this great tip too: If you happen to be at Disney the same time as other families you know (we crossed over three days with another family) combine your photo passes. Even if you aren’t traveling together, if you combine your passes you can split the cost of the CD.

I also took lots of photos with my personal camera – over 500. It took a year to put the photo book together but it just arrived in the mail and it came out GREAT! I combined my photos and the Disney Photo Pass photos to make an amazing album.

Disney Addict: Personal Camera (SLR & Disposable) & Photo Pass
So I am a bit obsessed with taking photos. On an average trip I take 1200-1400 photos and have 300+ on our Photo Pass card. While I love all the moments I have captured, I only get to see my version of the trip. If you want a real glimpse into your child’s view of Disney, give them a disposable camera or an inexpensive digital and let them capture the trip too. Beware that you may have far more photos of your “back side” than you would like. We too purchase the CD after our trips. When you get home you can add borders and signatures to the photos and they too will be added to your CD. Since I am always behind the camera, these are the only photos that show I too was actually on the trip.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom opens at 9:00 a.m., but we arrived early at 8:30. What’s going on?

Organized Mom: Ahhh the magic has begun! You are experiencing the opening ceremonies. While friends told us about this months before our trip, I glazed over this during the information overload stage. But on our first day, we arrived early and what a treat! Watch as all the characters arrive at the Magic Kingdom via train and dance and sing you into the magical world of Disney. This is one event you will not forget (especially if your husband catches you crying!). And despite it being daylight you may be surprised by the small fireworks show (which will later lead to the question – how much money does Disney spend on fireworks in a day?)

Disney Fast Pass/Ride Swap: What are these?

Organized Mom: Fast Pass is a special ride ticket you can get for select rides that will give you a specific hour in which you can return to the ride and enter a special “fast pass” line which will go much faster. Make note of which rides offer the fast pass option and take advantage of these. If you have four riders you will need four fast passes. One person can take the four Disney Park passes, feed them into a machine and get 4 fast passes (and their original tickets back). The fast pass has a date and time printed on it for you to return. You can’t have more than one fast pass at any given time however. So this means if you got a fast pass to Space Mountain with a time of 11:00-12:00, you can’t obtain another fast pass until 11:00 (you can however, go and collect a new pass at exactly 11:00 before heading over to Space Mountain). In some cases, like Toy Story in Hollywood Studio, it may make sense to send one person running ahead to get a fast pass as soon as the park opens.  We arrived at the Toy Story fast pass turnstile at 9:15 and the next time we could ride was 4:00-5:00. We opted to wait in the hour line (just 15-minutes post park opening). Obviously a very popular ride!

Rider Swap is perfect when one child is not tall enough to ride. It allows both parents to ride without waiting in the long line again (you get to jump ahead of the line either in the fast pass line or in the rider swap line). Let’s say mom and child go on the ride. Ask for the rider swap when you get to the ride entrance.  Once you get off the ride, dad can return with the child and get right on the ride (and the child gets to go twice – lucky him/her!)

Wishes Nighttime Spectacular: A must-see?

Organized Mom: We decided early on that an 8:00 fireworks show was not going to work for us. Our children were a little young to be out this late after what we anticipated being long days. However, on our second night, dinner at the Royal Table concluded at 7:30 and we were kind of dumped right in front of the castle. Since we were there, we decided we’d stay until they crashed. Even when we were warned that once the fireworks start, guests are asked not to leave we still stayed. I’m not overly impressed by fireworks but this was the most amazing fireworks show I’ve ever seen. Why? Because it’s not just a fireworks show. This is Disney after all and in true Disney fashion there is magic to be seen the whole time. What amazes me is the realization they do this magical event almost every night (see above fireworks question)! Yes, a must see! (Note though, during certain times of the year the fireworks are only at 10:00 p.m. We went went there was an 8:00 and 10:00 show.)

Are there other must do’s/see’s while at the Disney Parks?

Disney Addict: This is my families list of must do list by park. Do note that some of them are must eats.

Magic Kingdom

  • It’s a Small World ride: No matter how old we all get, this is a tried and true favorite.
  • Casey’s: No trip is complete without a hot dog at Casey’s on Main Street.
  • Find PUSH: Push is a talking garbage can that can be found in Fantasyland.
  • Visit to the Main Street Barber Shop: For $8 you can get your hair painted and bedazzled with Pixie Dust. This is a long standing family tradition and it makes us favorites in the park that day.

Animal Kingdom

  • Kilimanjaro Safari: Start your day with a safari and end your day with a safari. You are sure to see different animals each time.
  • The Festival of the Lion King Show: All I can say is amazing.
  • Nemo the Musical Show: One of the songs from the show is called Go With the Flow. Good lesson for your trip.
  • Expedition Everest: This is my children’s favorite ride, not mine. I did it once and was crying so bad my daughter (10 at the time) was trying to comfort me. I have since learned to stand at the bottom of the drop and using the quick shutter on my camera capture their smiling faces on the way down.


  • Soarin’: One of our favorite rides. Not only do you see and hear the sights, you smell them too.
  • Santa and Mrs. Claus: If you happen to be there during the holidays, be sure to visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus in America. You are sure to get a wonderful Christmas card photo with them.
  • Iluminations Firework Show: This is a long show but so worth it. People will find their spots along the water early, so try to find a good spot for the whole family to see

Hollywood Studios

  • Toy Story Mania: Must, must do! So much fun. Say hi to Mr. Potato Head for me.
  • Jedi Training: If you have a little padawan in your family, upon park opening head straight over to the Jedi Training Sign-Up area. Your child will have a chance to battle Darth Vadar and save the empire from his evil wrath.
  • 50’s Prime Time Café: Good food and great atmosphere. Just don’t put your elbows on the table.

Fun for the whole family – Hidden Mickey Hunting!

  • All around the parks, on rides, in restaurants are Hidden Mickeys. We enjoy hunting for them. Really helps to pass the time on a long ride line. If you want some assistance, there is a book that gives good hints and clues. Cast Members are happy to help too. Happy Hunting!

Any other final tips for a successful trip to Disney?

Organized Mom: There’s an app for that.  Just before you leave for Disney, download the Disney Parks app (or one of the other comparable apps). The Disney Parks app is unlocked once you get into an actual park and will provide you with locations of characters, wait times, fast pass availability, restaurants options and an interactive map. We often consulted the app to decide where to go next.

Disney Addict: Please remember, take these tips and tricks into consideration, but do what works best for your family. These are your memories to make and relive for years to come. Hope you have a magical trip! Tell Mickey I said hi!

Editor’s Note: There is a lot to consider when planning your first trip to Disney with kids.  See the additional parts of this series about planning a Disney vacation to learn more great tips!

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