About yourfirstvisit.net: the Walt Disney World Instruction Manual

By Dave Shute

This site gives first time Walt Disney World family visitors who do not know whether or not they will ever return the guidance they need to make their trip as good as it possibly can be! See Who this Site is For for more detail.

It is a first-of-its-kind travel site that focuses on first time visitors, gives exact instructions for the best possible first trip, and—more importantly—gives next best choices ranked in order if these instructions can’t be followed.

It uses the power of the web, and the web’s ability (through links) to focus on just what is of interest, to free people from having to invest hours in poring through guidebooks that were written for everyone, to dig out what’s just right for a first—and perhaps only—visit.

And for those who would never have used a guidebook anyway, a few minutes spent on the site can turn what would have been a vacation of missed opportunities into a spectacular one!

The site is based on original research, review of thousands of pages of secondary sources, and more than 75 trips to Walt Disney World by my father (20+ trips), my son (15+ trips; he’s the one in the Donald Duck outfit), and me (40+ trips).  That’s me in the photo–I’m the one in the red shirt…

I am by profession a McKinsey-trained strategist, and the approach I have taken is to act as though a client asked me to craft the best possible first visit for his or her family, assuming that they were not sure whether they would ever return, and that they valued their time and money.

The results, like those of any strategy project, are a mix of analysis, inference, and judgment.  I would be delighted to hear any feedback via the opportunities the site gives to comment.

  • I released the first set of material on January 20, 2008, from my wife’s and my room at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, after earlier celebrating  (with my wife and dad) my mother’s 77th birthday by watching her demolish almost all of an enormous banana split at the Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort.
  • More material was released February 24th and 25th, 2008, from my son’s and my room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
  • On March 20, 2008 I finished moving an expanded and improved set of this material from its original home to where it is today, yourfirstvisit.net.

(See also How this Site is Different.)

To contact me, email me at davidhobartyfv@gmail.com.

All references to Disney and other copyrighted characters, trademarks, marks, and registered marks are made solely for editorial purposes.  The author makes no commercial claim to their use, and is not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company in any way.

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter or Pinterest!!

This site is dedicated to my mom, Evelyn Light Shute, 1931-2013



27 comments

1 Kim { 02.19.11 at 4:29 pm }

Love your website! I would love to see this kind of information for people making return trips. Is that something you’ve done? Thanks!

2 Happy Fourth Birthday To YourFirstVisit.net | Military Disney Tips Blog { 04.02.12 at 7:43 am }

[...] site’s about page says “It is a first-of-its-kind travel site that focuses on first time visitors, gives exact [...]

3 Melissa { 06.19.12 at 8:12 pm }

The only time I have available for a Disney trip this year is Feb 16-25, 2013 which is a very crowded time. Would I be better to plan my 5 park days later in the week (Wed 20-Sun 24) rather than my usual Monday-Friday? I am hoping to avoid the President’s Day crowd.

4 Dave { 06.20.12 at 6:50 am }

Melissa, President’s Day week is crowded all week long, but you are right that the corwds will be better–not goo, but better–later in the week, so I’d go with Weds-Sun

5 Kara { 08.03.12 at 11:50 am }

Are there any rumors about the Free Dining Plan offer extending into January (or for 2013 at all)?

6 Dave { 08.03.12 at 4:00 pm }

Hi Kara, I have not heard any…I’d expect that it will…

7 Joan { 10.02.12 at 10:25 am }

We plan to go to Disney World in week of Feb. 24. This will be our first time to go there. We have two kids, one is 9, and another is less than 2. Our concerns are weather and crowd. I heard that it is still cold in Feb. And I like to have your recommendations on which parks we should plan to go. Thanks.

8 Dave { 10.02.12 at 11:59 am }

Hi Joan, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/07/30/february-2013-walt-disney-world/ It answers or gives links to answers to each of your questions!

9 Jennifer { 03.20.13 at 1:48 am }

Hi Dave,

Thanks so much for all the great information on your site. It has been extremlely helpful even as i’m also working with a travel agent from destinations florida. I needed to create my own itinerary as our trip didn’t easily fit into any of the options.. If you have a chance can you pass along any suggested changes to these plans?

We’re headed to Disney the week after Easter…definitely not a good time for kids going for the first time but the stars aligned for this to be the week. It will be 3 adults (me, my husband and my sister) and my and my husband’s two kids (8 and 6).

We’ve got a few Harry Potter fans so are staying at Universal resort on 3/31 and going to world of wizardry on Morning of 4/1 (hoping your great advice of staying at a universal resort and going on monday will mean we can get into that park without too long a wait). We’ll then head to Disney and check in at art in animation that afternoon and are staying until 4/5 (flying out Friday late afternoon). We’ve got 5-day park hopper passes for Disney and the meal plan.

Here’s my thought on our schedule for Disney (I had scheduled character meals just over a month ago, so needed to work around those as there really aren’t many other options now)…
4/1 afternoon/evening – AK
4/2 morning HS – lunch akershus in Epcot and a little time in Epcot – evening/night in MK and stay for electric parade and wishes fireworks
4/3 morning AK (early hours) and lunch at Tuskers inAK – evening/night in HS for Fantasmic (magic hours that night)
4/4 morning MK and lunch at crystal palace, probably stay into the afternoon – evening/night in Epcot for illuminations
4/5 breakfast at o’hana Polynesian then MK maybe DTD before we leave

10 Dave { 03.20.13 at 6:49 am }

Hiya Jennifer! Best of luck that week, there’s not a whole lot anyone can do to help. My thoughts on which park which day are here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/03/14/the-common-sense-guide-to-easter-week-at-walt-disney-world/

I’m not sure why you are hopping from park to park so much? Each hop will take as much as an hour, and send you to a park where the FASTPASSES likely will all be gone and waits will be hours long. Staying put means you can use all of what’s available in FASTPASSES, including later afternoon and evening FASTPASS return times…

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11 Jennifer { 03.20.13 at 1:16 pm }

Thanks for the quick reply. I can’t believe I missed that Easter chart you have on parks. My schedule doesn’t look too good if I reference that…I think I was using best times to go the parks in general so this added resource will be helpful. I had been splitting up parks as a friend recommended taking a break in the early afternoon back at the hotel so I thought we’d hit a different park later that day (and also try to get things to work with our character meals we already had set up). I hadn’t considered the fast pass at all…definitely need to do some re-work. We do have a rental car, so we may take that option to help with travel times, though I heard that doesn’t help too much with MK since car parking is a bit far away.

Thanks again for the feedback and this great resource.

12 Dave { 03.20.13 at 2:20 pm }

Jennifer, glad to help! Most of the year, the afternoon off and head to another park in the pm is a great strategy. This time of year, though, you want to return to the same park in the evening to use the last fastpasses you collected before you left! And you are right that buses to MK are always better than driving…

13 Pop { 03.21.13 at 10:33 am }

Dave, Does Alex really like his picture as Donald Duck? After these years I think it should be replaced.

14 Dave { 03.22.13 at 7:20 am }

Hi Dad! Shockingly enough he loves that picture!

15 Jennifer { 03.24.13 at 7:21 pm }

Hi again Dave

I think I’ve got my schedule for 4/1-4/5 worked out better thanks to your Easter calendar. We’re planning AK on afternoon of 4/1, MK on 4/2 and 4/3, HS on 4/4, and back to AK on morning of 4/5 assuming we don’t want to head back to MK. Does that seem better?

We will be heading to Epcot for lunch on 4/2…I had the akershus character meal set up and haven’t been able to get any other character meals to match up with our park schedule. What’s the best way to get from MK to Epcot…I read to take the monorail and plan on 45 minutes – does that sound right? I’m also thinking we’ll head to Epcot the evening of 4/3 to see illuminations.

Does your reco to get tot the parks 30-45 minutes before they open hold during the Easter week? I’m assuming so?

In your experience is it worth continuing to check for characters meals to see of we can get another option (we do have o’hana breakfast on 4/5 right now). I’ve been checking the last few days and doesn’t seem like much is really opening up. I did book the Fantasmic package with one of our table meals for the day we are in HS.

Thanks again for the great resource this site provided!!

16 Dave { 03.25.13 at 7:13 am }

Jennifer I just wrote and lost a really long reply, so let me give you a short one and get back to me if it doesn’t work!

1. Thanks for the kind words about the site!
2. Love your new schedule. It will still be a zoo, but you’ve avoided the worst of it.
3. Aim to arrive 45 mins early for 9a openings and for MK, 30 mins early for non-MK 8a openings
4. To account for crowds, plan for 75 mins from the exit of MK to the entrance of Akershus. Take the ferry (not the monorail) from MK to TTC, then the monorial from TTC to Epcot. Add even more time if you’ll be leaving MK between 12.50p and 1.45p, because of the effects of the 12.30 parade
5. Because of the cancellation policy, some restaurant reservation for the next two days open up every day.

17 Jennifer { 03.25.13 at 2:51 pm }

Any thoughts on Fantasmic package restaurant options? I originally had mama melrose, but the 2:40 time meant we’d miss the Pixar pals parade. The next best time slot I could get was 3:30 at Hollywood and vine…not rated as well but thought we might be able to see a glimpse of the parade (which is at 3pm). Other option was brown derby at 1:20, but not sure the kids would enjoy that at all.

Our Epcot lunch is 12:05, so sounds like we’ll miss the parade rush :) thanks for the tip on taking the boat…the kids will enjoy that more…and how much time to plan. I’ll have to keep looking for character meal options to avoid that trip if we can.

18 Dave { 03.25.13 at 4:23 pm }

Jennifer, all the Fantasmic dining options are lame one way or another unless you have really little kids. However, the HS afternoon parade is by far the weakest parade at WDW (rumor is that it is closing after April 6), so I wouldn’t let missing it bug you too much…

19 Greg Wallace { 09.01.13 at 1:30 pm }

What if we are planing a mid week arrival? Should we shift the itinerary accordingly?

20 Dave { 09.02.13 at 9:07 am }

Hi Greg, in the itinerary days are days–so “First Saturday” means “Saturday,” not “Day 1.” If you give me your dates, ages of the kids, and whether or not you are staying at a WDW hotel, I can advise on how to fix.

21 Greg Wallace { 09.08.13 at 7:04 pm }

My kids are going to be seven and two. We are staying in a WDW hotel and the tentative dates are Tuesday August 19 through wednesday August 27.

22 Dave { 09.09.13 at 8:58 am }

Greg–I only post itineraries six months ahead, anyway, to make sure they map to Disney’s operating hours (whihc it releases 6 months ahead). So check back in five months, OK?

23 Greg Wallace { 09.24.13 at 8:09 pm }

Well I booked my dates. August 19 27 2014. Look forward to contacting you.

24 Dave { 09.25.13 at 7:00 am }

OK Greg! April just came out last week, so August should be out in about four months.

25 Scott { 01.30.14 at 10:28 am }

This site is great! I’ve been to WDW three times as a child, and three times as an adult, with greatly varying lengths of stay including a quick couple days to play best man in a friends WDW wedding. I’m currenlty planning a new trip with my newly blended family [wife and 6 year old (at time of visit) haven't been before]. I’m thinking getting down there for Thanksgiving and staying through Sunday Dec. 7th. Any chance you’d be willing to review the iteniary I’ve roughed out, and give feedback? BTW you should consider becoming a WDW travel agent.

26 Dave { 01.31.14 at 6:57 am }

Scott thanks! I’ll gladly review your itinerary, but only after Disney publishes its December calendar, which it will do in mid-late May. And on being a travel agent…I don’t have the people skills or patience for that!! :) SO I’ll stick to my day job of being a strategy consultant…

27 Scott { 01.31.14 at 7:52 am }

Thanks. I’ll check back then.

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My response to questions and comments will be on the same page as the original comment, likely within 24-36 hours . . . I reserve the right to edit and delete comments as I choose . . . All rights reserved. Copyright 2008-2014 . . . This site is entirely unofficial and not authorized by any organizations written about in it . . . All references to Disney and other copyrighted characters, trademarks, marks, etc., are made solely for editorial purposes. The author makes no commercial claim to their use . . . Nobody's perfect, so follow any advice here at your own risk.