When I asked for help on Facebook you guys came running with tips for this Magic Kingdom newbie. I wanted to share some of the information here for others who might be considering their first trip to Disney World.
Tips for Magic Kingdom First Timers (From First Timers) – 2018
We just got back from our first family trip to Orlando and the Magic Kingdom! This trip was planned last minute, with help and advice from all of you! Our trip was four days, three nights. While it went well, if I knew then what I know now it would have been that much easier. If you’re planning your first trip to Magic Kingdom hopefully some of these tips will help.
Making the Plans
Both my parents were in the hospital in January so we weren’t planning to travel this Winter. When both were doing well we decided to throw together a last minute short stay in Florida. We planned the trip just 1.5 weeks before we left.
This is the first do NOT. The more time you have to plan, the better. We were held hostage by our short time frame with hotels already at capacity and even planning meal reservations was a challenge.
We visited in February at the end of a holiday weekend. It was already 85 and sunny every day! The temperatures can vary but even the evenings were warm during our short stay. Magic Kingdom was crowded but many schools were on break the day we went.
Where to stay
We used credit card points to stay off Disney property at the Sheraton Vistana Resort about three miles from Disney World. This saved us a lot of money, but we had to manage getting to and from Magic Kingdom. If you have a car and can drive yourself to the grocery store and the parks this is a good place to lodge. I would have loved to use the kitchen in our room for breakfasts and lunches. Not only would that have saved us money but we would have had healthier meal options. We didn’t have a car so we didn’t grocery shop.
We chose to only visit Magic Kingdom and for only one day because I had work to do in Orlando as well. If you are planning to get more out of the parks than that and can afford it, I definitely recommend staying at one of the Disney hotels. They offer MUCH easier access to the parks. There is a wide range of prices depending on how easily you want to access the parks and what perks you’re looking for. Our hotel charged about $150/night, while hotels on the monorail to Magic Kingdom will cost in the $400-$600 range. You can follow Disney specific blogs and pages to find lots of deals on rooms and dining plans but I didn’t get my act together in time. Our hotel room was great and the kids loved the pools. That said, travelling to and from Disney via uber or shuttles was not ideal and the quality of the food was poor so I would only stay at the resort we used again if we had a car. Several people mentioned to me after the fact you can now order grocery delivery (Amazon and other services) but I didn’t think of this during our stay.
The food at and around our hotel was not good in my opinion. At the Disney World parks it is a kid’s heaven of sugary treats and I struggled to find healthy options for myself. Looking back I would have brought in some healthy snacks to limit the junk food intake. You can bring as much food and drink into the park as you want (as long as it’s not in a glass container). You can also pre order food at some restaurants through the My Disney experience app to cut down your wait time.
We made plans too late to get dinner reservations at any of the popular restaurants in Magic Kingdom. If you plan your trip with enough notice, make sure to make these reservations right away. The best dinners for the family seemed to be Cinderella’s Castle, The Crystal Palace, and Be Our Guest. Per the advice of a host at The Crystal Palace we showed up for dinner at 4 pm and got on the walk-in list and were seated quickly. The dinner was buffet style and actually served vegetables! Winnie the Pooh and friends greeted the kids during the meal.
Disney World means walking and waiting in lines. Like me you probably want to avoid each of those as much as possible. We rented a stroller at Magic Kingdom right inside the entrance ($30 for the day). The stroller was difficult to maneuver, not too comfortable for the boys, and had very minimal storage. The website Kingdom Strollers has MUCH nicer strollers you can rent for not much more money and they deliver them right to your hotel! We did not have time to make the arrangements but that’s a better option. With a nicer stroller you can also carry more water and snacks.
Our day at Disney consisted of two parts, pre Fast Pass understanding and post Fast Pass understanding. Needless to say the latter was much more enjoyable! When you purchase park tickets, you get three Fast Pass vouchers. Download the My Disney Experience app and you can see each ride’s wait time in real time and schedule your Fast Pass vouchers. Most people, like my husband, plan the rides they want to go on the most and sign up. We signed up for rides at 11am, 3pm, and 830pm.
Don’t schedule a late Fast Pass time. Once all three Fast Pass vouchers are used, you can use one at a time for the rest of the day. While in line for our last ride, we kept refreshing the app until a ride we wanted was available for Fast Pass right after the one we were going on. TIME SLOTS COME AND GO WITHIN SECONDS! REFRESH YOUR APP – you should be able to get onto the rides you want with much waiting. We did this for the rest of the day.
The first half of the day we barely managed to experience two rides. For the next few hours we went on 10 more rides, some even three or four times until we all but sick of going Under the Sea with Ariele! This was a game changer.
Coming and Going
If we stayed off site again I would rent a car to drive to the parks (and grocery store). If you stay at a Disney Magic Kingdom hotel (The Contemporary, The Grand Floridian, or The Polynesian Village Resort) you can take the monorail to the parks which is ideal. I’m not that familiar with the Disney properties so I don’t to speak to any more particulars of the hotels.
The shuttle at our hotel was not at convenient times and was running late the day we used it. Magic Kingdom opens at 9am and we paid for the first shuttle from our hotel which didn’t get up there until 9:45 am.
I recommend getting to the transportation terminal by 8:40am. The 20 minutes waiting for the park to open will spare you the hours of time we stood in lines just to get from the parking terminal to the Magic Kingdom.
Leaving the park is just as critical. There are daily fireworks at 7:55pm every night that last 18 minutes. After the show there is a mass exodus. This would be the worst time to plan to leave. If you want to see the show, plan on staying another hour before leaving. Since we were able to go on so many rides during the second half of the day and my two year old hates loud noises we chose to leave just before the fireworks. Leaving was effortless. If we had waited for the hotel shuttle to pick us up it would have been at their scheduled time – after the fireworks. We opted to Uber back to the hotel on our own timeline.
What my kids loved most
My kids were TERRIFIED of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It’s dark and filled with skeletons and it wasn’t for them (2 and 5 year old boys). They LOVED:
- the Dumbo ride (which has an air conditioned playroom/waiting area if you aren’t using a Fast Pass)
- It’s a Small World
- Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
- Tomorrowland Speedway
Some of those we did several times. I am sure they’d have loved others but we were there for them and they wanted to binge ride certain options.
Thanks again for all of your TIPS FOR MAGIC KINGDOM
In retrospect, the real gem of this post is how to use the Fast Pass and I owe it all to you guys that reached out a helping hand! The My Disney Experience app COMPLETELY streamlined our trip through the Magic Kingdom. It has a park map, the ability to make dining reservations and order food for pickup in addition to scheduling Fast Pass rides. REFRESH the app often – information is CONSTANTLY changing and time slots opening up.
Do any of you have plans to visit Disney World soon? Or any Disney experts that want to add tips for Magic Kingdom newbies? I certainly have LOTS to learn and we only made it to one park.
Thank you so much for stopping by! I’ll be sharing what I wore in Florida next week :).