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10 Insider Tips for Walt Disney World First-Timers
by Craig Williams
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Your first holiday to Florida can be a fairly daunting (although magical!) experience. We asked blogger and Florida veteran Craig Williams for his top 10 tips to help you plan your trip - plus some hidden gems at Walt Disney World not many people know about …
10 Insider Tips to Know Before You Go!
1. Have a plan! There is no need for a military style itinerary, but I would suggest that you know what you will be doing on most days. Attempting too much during one trip is a recipe for disaster. Plan ahead, and make sure you include rest days.
2. Beat the queues at immigration: All UK visitors need to clear immigration as they arrive. Queues can be lengthy, so here’s a tip to speed your progress. The US citizens-only queue is at the right hand side of the Immigration Hall at Orlando. If you join the queue next to that desk, once the US passengers have been processed, other non-US passengers are invited to be processed there. Also, make sure you complete your ESTA online before travelling.
3. The “secret entrance” at Animal Kingdom: Should you arrive at the Animal Kingdom and find a large queue, then there’s a lesser-known way to beat the crowds. If you enter the Rain Forest Café restaurant outside the entrance, and go through the shop, you will find another entrance to the park. This can save you a few minutes and have you on Expedition Everest before the crowds arrive!
4. Enjoy the luxury of Disney resorts even if you’re not a guest: It’s fine for non-resort guests to visit Disney resorts. You can spend many hours soaking up the delights of resorts such as The Boardwalk, Wilderness Lodge and The Yacht and Beach Club. Looking through the shops, having a meal or frequenting one of the lovely bars are activities everyone should try. Take photo ID and be polite to the guard on the gate and you will be fine.
4. You snooze, you lose! On a theme park day, get to the park early. If you wake at 9am, then spend a couple of hours eating breakfast and turn up to the park just before lunch, your options will be pretty limited in terms of rides and attractions. If you’re in a park when it opens, you can ride the headliners and avoid a heap of queuing.
5. Hire a car: Unless you have an insurmountable fear of driving abroad, please hire a car. On-site guests may be able to manage on the Disney buses, however a car gives you added freedom. After a long day in the parks it is no fun to stand waiting for a bus or shuttle. Your own car also allows you to explore further afield. Automatic cars, long, wide roads and no roundabouts make US driving easy!
6. Enjoy the fireworks in comfort: Reflections of Earth, the Epcot laser and fireworks show, is not to be missed. However, finding a good vantage point can involve staking out your spot for a while at peak times. It can also be less than joyful leaving the park afterwards as the entire park heads for the exit. An alternative is the Illuminations Cruise. You view the show from the comfort of your own boat. There are a range of these cruises, and they can be booked by calling 001-407-939-7529 exactly 90 days before the date you want to reserve.
7. Take on a challenge at Beaches & Cream! This nostalgic soda shop at the Disney Beach Club Resort is a unique and fun experience, and one that dares you to challenge The Kitchen Sink, an ice cream-eating challenge that’s not for the faint-hearted.
9. Non-Disney Dining. On-site dining is wonderful but for the sake of your budget it can pay to eat off site too. The enormous amount of choice in Orlando can be baffling. Here are some favourites that I have discovered -
- Bahama Breeze
- Romano’s Macaroni Grill
- Olive Garden
- The Outback Steakhouse
10. Avoid Fun Fatigue! The long journey, the heat and walking around the theme parks all day can take their toll. Firstly, you must stay hydrated. Drink water and lots of it, making sure young children do the same. Beyond that, if there are signs that any of your party are losing the magic then it is time to retire to your villa or hotel. Go and have a swim and come back later. It will be worth it I promise.
So there you go - ten tips to make your first trip more magical. I hope they help you on your first visit, and on all the visits you will undoubtedly make in the future!
Craig Williams has been travelling to Florida for over thirty years. He has written two travel journals about his family's US holidays covering trips from 2003 to 2013, during which he has passed on his own Florida addiction to his wife and children. Craig can be found online on Twitter (@mkingdon) and at his blog, http://mkingdon.com.
It always pays to book your tickets before you go – make sure you check prices and select the best tickets for you on our Disney World tickets page.
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