By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Instructions for Your First Visit to Walt Disney World

By Dave Shute




Follow the instructions that follow for your first family visit to Walt Disney World to save thousands of dollars, and avoid dozens of hours waiting in line, while seeing all the best of Walt Disney World! you make great Disney World plans quickly!!1. When to Go to Walt Disney World:

Most years, I suggest that if you can, you should arrive at Walt Disney World one of the first two, sometimes three, Saturdays after ThanksgivingIn 2023 I recommend the first three weeks after Thanksgiving.    More…    Next best dates to go…

2. How Long to Stay:

You can have a wonderful trip spending as few as 5 days. However, if you can, be in Orlando for 9 days–a Saturday through a Sunday.    More…    Going for a shorter trip…

3. How Old/Tall Your Children Should be:

Kids of any age can have a wonderful time at Disney World. However, if this may be your kids’ only childhood visit, consider going when your youngest child is at least 8 or 9, and your shortest child at least 48 inches tall.      More…    Planning for going with younger/shorter kids…

4. Where to Stay at Walt Disney World:

Stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort if you can afford it, or at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort if you can’t.   More…    Next best resort options…

5. How Much to Budget:

You can have a wonderful first visit for $3,000 or less. However, to see all the best of Walt Disney World at the best time of the year to visit, budget if you can $14,000 if you are staying at the Polynesian, or $9,500 if at Art of Animation.    More…    Developing a much lower or a different budget…

6. When Your Plans Need to be Firm:

Your plans should be firm at least 181 days before your arrival date.      More…    Planning if it’s already later than that…

7. How to Eat at Walt Disney World:

Sign up for the “Magic Your Way Plus Dining” package. More…    Planning if you can’t do this package…

8. Where to Eat:

The Basic Itinerary tells you exactly where to eat (as do the Other Itineraries).      More…    Next best dining choices…

9. How to Spend Your Time at Walt Disney World:

The Basic Itinerary tells you exactly how to spend your time in Orlando (as do the Other Itineraries).      More…    Other Itineraries…

10. What to do When:

See the To-Do List for an exact list of what to do when to prepare for your trip.       More…    To-Do Lists for Other Itineraries…

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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1 Brad { 08.29.18 at 1:34 pm }

We bought your book and enjoyed it! We see now our planning started too late, but we are committed now! We will be at WDW from October 29 to November 7. My question is about expected crowds. We had real difficulty finding a room on property, Swan and Dolphin also booked. Nothing in moderate, we were lucky to get non standard rooms in All Stars in Movies.. Where would you consider the best area in that hotel to request and with the shortage of available rooms, would you consider it time to go to the the higher crowd schedule?
Two adult visitors
Any other tips? For this November?
We did visit 25 years ago with our kids…

2 Dave { 08.30.18 at 8:25 am }

Hi Brad, the Disney resorts run at ~90% occupancy month in and month out, and thus are not a crowd calendar. For more on this interesting subject, see this.

At Movies a room refurb is underway, adding queen beds and coffeemakers to what had been a full bed and no-coffee-maker space, so I would call and request a refurbed room.

3 Jena { 09.18.18 at 2:34 am }

I love your weeks to visit WDW ranked in order and would really like one for Disneyland!!! I have searched many online hours have not found anything like it in comparison for WDW and there is nothing like it for Disneyland. Do you think this is possible I know the 10.4 million people who visit the smaller park would appreciate rankings as much as I would!

4 Dave { 09.18.18 at 10:38 am }

Sorry, Jean, I can barely keep up with DIsney World!

5 Elizabeth { 09.23.18 at 11:51 pm }

I’ve narrowed it down to Beach Club Villas vs Boardwalk Villas, and the price difference is a total of $300 more for Beach Club. Can you weigh in on why to choose one over the other? Thanks!

6 Elizabeth { 09.23.18 at 11:53 pm }

I should add that this is not our first visit and we have two teenagers

7 Dave { 09.24.18 at 5:40 am }

Elizabeth, the main difference is that Beach Club has a much better pool. My review of the Beach Club pool is here, and the Boardwalk pool is here.

8 Katie { 10.01.18 at 7:47 pm }

Hi Dave,
Planning on two days at Disney on November 3rd and 4th. Wanting to do Epcot and Hollywood Studios. I was going to do HS on Sat and Epcot on Sunday but now am second guessing. Also, if we would happen to do Magic Kingdom on Nov. 2 how do you think the crowd levels would be that day (just in case we add an extra day). Thanks for your advice!

9 Dave { 10.02.18 at 8:21 am }

Katie, because of unusual set of extra magic hours that week, your swap of HS and Epcot will work quite well! And yes, Friday 11/2 will be fine at MK!

10 Brittany { 12.05.18 at 3:44 pm }


My husband and I are having a big debate on how to deal with the Full Marathon traffic on Jan 13th. He wants to go early to the park and I want to go later in the afternoon to avoid the traffic. Honestly we have no idea what to expect, however, the last thing I want to happen is to get stuck in a car full of Kids and Mother in a car jam waiting to get into Disney. We plan to visit MK that day. Can you shed your perspective on how we should plan on arriving? Also, what is your estimated crowd level for that week? Seems like all the sites vary from 1 to 7…its confusing…thanks for any help and we love your site!

11 Dave { 12.06.18 at 7:23 am }

Hi Brittany and thanks!!

There’s a new set of flyovers at the Magic Kingdom parking entrance, that may make some causes of marathon congestion easier to deal with–it’s hard to say, as this is the first time it’ll be available. You can make either the early morning or afternoon approach work, but you would want to add an extra 30 minutes to your morning drive plan, just in case.

That week will be just fine until Saturday 1/19 when you will start seeing MLK crowds.

12 Jennifer { 12.12.18 at 5:39 pm }


I just got married and my husband and I just spent our honeymoon at disney. We were thinking of joining DVC or just becoming passholders.

With the opening of star wars land opening next fall, what do you anticipate as far as crowds? Because we are trying to consider if its wise joining either one for now. We know HS is going to be crazy and we aren’t planning on even going back to that park for a couple of years. But what do you think the other 3 parks will be like as far as crowds?

13 Dave { 12.13.18 at 7:38 am }
14 Jennifer { 12.16.18 at 8:21 pm }

Hi dave,

Thanks I just read your response regarding the impact on the parks when star wars land opens.

Question: my husband and I were thinking of going back either first or second week of december of 2019 but the travel agent we usually use said a lot of the resorts are already filling up. I know theres not an exact date as of yet, but our concern was even though we’d avoid HS, in the likely event it’ll hit capacity once it opens, would that cause the other parks to get crazy as well as people are turned away?

15 Dave { 12.17.18 at 7:07 am }

Hey Jennifer, this is absolutely possible. It is not what happened at Harry Potter–people either waited in line or avoided Universal entirely–but it is possible.

16 Jennifer { 12.17.18 at 7:01 pm }

Thanks Dave 🙂

I think we’re going to go with our premonition and wait till May of 2020, (our second favorite time to go) 🙂

17 Dave { 12.20.18 at 11:31 am }

Jennifer, I love May, especially early May. Note that Memorial Day is early in 2020 (5/25, as early as it can be).

18 Jane { 01.13.19 at 8:05 pm }

Hi Dave, I’m not sure where to ask this question. We’ve been to WDW twice, in 2014 and 15. Now planning late 2019 visit, again for a week. Want to spend 1 day at Universal where we’ve never been, and to go to each of the 4 WDW parks. But there is a question of whether to also include time at legoland, which one of my sons is very interested in. Is this park at all comparable in quality to WDW or Universal? My kids range in age from almost 8 – 13 at that time. Thank you for any advice. I am really thinking of doing only a half day at legoland, but tend to think that once we get there we’d just stay until close b/c that’s what we do.

19 Dave { 01.14.19 at 7:46 am }

I’m sorry Jane, but I don’t have an opinion on Legoland–I can barely keep up with WDW!

20 Ashley { 02.18.19 at 7:41 pm }

Hi, we are planning a trip 8/29/19-9/8/19. As of now, this is our plan:
8/29 – Epcot
8/30 – MK
8/31 – AK
9/1 – Off
9/2 – HS
9/3 – MK
9/4 – HS
9/5 – Epcot
9/6 – MK
9/7 – AK
9/8 – ?

21 Dave { 02.19.19 at 7:39 am }

Hi Ashley, Disney’s calendar for then is not out yet–it won’t be out through 9/8 for about three weeks. Ping me then–or if you are trying to get 180 day ADRs, let me know, and I can put together a forecast for your dates!

22 Panchena Hale { 02.19.19 at 6:21 am }

Hi I’m thinking of taking my daughter for her birthday which is 3/15 she will be 8 we are first timers and need advice on plans on what park to choose for her and my son will be with us he is 13 any advice

23 Dave { 02.19.19 at 7:40 am }

Hi Panchena, how many days will you be spending in the parks–or are you thinking just 3/15?

24 Maggie { 03.20.19 at 11:34 am }

Hi Dave! We have reservations at Boardwalk Villas for Oct. 3 – 13, 2019. I know I may be early but I need to make dining reservations April 6 and need to decide which parks I will be in on which days. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks for all you do – your site is wonderful!!

25 Dave { 03.21.19 at 9:05 am }

Maggie, I’ve been tracking this “early” source of park recommendations for about 6 months now. While I can’t confirm its accuracy until I see Disney’s own calendar, which won’t be out for you dates until April 16, it has been pretty close so far.

26 Maggie { 03.21.19 at 10:15 am }

Thanks Dave – that is very helpful!

27 Bob { 03.21.19 at 11:07 am }

Hi Dave – Your site is amazing and an invaluable resource to planner-types 🙂
We’re going to MK for only 1 day on 4/4 staying off-site. Do you think it’s worth doing a themed meal or the BB boutique for the short time we’ll be there? Our 7 y/o daughter is hoping for both! 🙂 Thanks!!

28 Dave { 03.21.19 at 3:40 pm }

Bob, first of all you need to read this now if you have not already.

Second with a seven year old MK has easily two days worth of stuff to do. So you are going to miss a lot regardless. Given that, doing a meal and BBB, if that’s what you really have your heart set on, seems to me fine–you will miss even more, but delight her more?

That said, this stuff books up months ahead, so you may find you can’t get a reservation…

29 Michael { 04.09.19 at 2:25 pm }

Is there any indication if/when Disney will have FastPasses for the Star Wars rides? I wanted to book a trip for next April and my 11 month window is next month but only if I could get FastPasses. Seems like they may not have FastPasses for the first year of the ride like Universal ride with the Harry Potter rides. Any rumors of that policy? Thanks

30 Dave { 04.10.19 at 5:07 pm }

Michael, there’s no strong indication either way. The word is that FastPass+ will not “initially” be available, which makes me think they will eventually, but that’s just an interpretation. I have more thoughts on Galaxy’s Edge here and in here.

31 Missy { 05.05.19 at 5:09 pm }

I just have a quick question about the skyliner. Can you use it to travel between Epcot and Hollywood studios if you’re park hopping? From the map there isn’t a direct route, but if traveling from HS would we need to get out at one of the resorts and get on another one to get Epcot and would that just take a lot more time? Sorry for the long question and I’m hoping it makes sense!

32 Dave { 05.05.19 at 5:32 pm }

Hi Missy, yes, Caribbean Beach is the hub. All routes stop or start there. If you wish to go somewhere else, you get off at CB, and then get on a different gondola line. It’ll be like the monorails to Epcot vs MK at TTC.

33 Cindy { 09.27.19 at 4:04 pm }

We are looking at late January to early Feb 2020. We now have premium annual passes. How do I get the annual pass discount for room only?

34 Dave { 09.28.19 at 9:59 am }

Hi Cindy, Disney releases annual passholder discounts from time to time. The one that is out now is valid thru 12/24/19, and was released in July. The deal for the equivalent of your dates in 2019 was released in early November 2018.

Rooms do book up ahead of time. If you will be going regardless of your deal, you might book a room now, then try for another room when general public deals come out–which usually happens before the passholder deals come out–and then try yet again when the passholder deals come out. I use the word “try” as availability can be limited, especially if you are seeking a very popular room type.

This is a pain, and is a perfect example of the benefits of using a travel agent to handle all this for you.

35 { 10.02.19 at 7:26 am }

Does it work hmmmm . If you have the maturity to do it, yes. If you are bad with money, can t budget your income, and regularly spend more than you make, then DO NOT TRY THIS! We were NOT excited about having 3 different credit cards (So, we only did 2 of the 3 steps, and only half of one of those). In 2 weeks we are going to Disney World and staying in the Swan hotel for free for 4 nights. About 60% of our park tickets were paid for by another card. So, does it work? Yes, if you are careful in spending your money and STAY ORGANIZED. Otherwise, do not attempt this, it can EASILY get out of hand.

36 Brian { 10.08.19 at 12:25 am }

Just curious Considering taking my 2 year old son down with my mother and going to magic kingdom and animal kingdom in about 2 weeks or so. Doing my math with driving from where im at and staying offsite at a different hotel gas and just doing 2 day tickets im looking at a total of around 1100 or 1200 for that. obviously not including food or anything else extra which isn’t an issue but does this sound doable on that amount of money and only going for the 2 days. Basically driving down and staying around orlando for 3 days and coming back. or should i shoot for a longer time or bigger budget? thanks in advance

37 Dave { 10.09.19 at 11:30 am }

Brina, honestly I would not. There is little at WDW for a two year old, so I would save the money and time for another visit. For some more thoughts on how old kids should be, see this, and for how much time to devote with kids of various ages, see this.

38 Brian { 10.09.19 at 5:41 pm }

Thanks for your quick response. Ya everyone says possibly to wait till hes a little older but we have family down there that we havent seen in forever so If we came down thats why i thought about taking him. If I’m correct though he should be able to ride almost everything except for the obv bigger kid rides as hes right around 3 foot tall. I honestly think he will enjoy animal kingdom more as he loves the local zoo and aquarium that we have here as well. But I figured if I do one I might as well do both while we are there. This wont be the last trip down so it’s not going to be a onetime experience. I was just checking to see if the magic kingdom would be worth the trip as well seeing hes so young. Thanks again for all your advice. As I said it is just a short trip for 3 or 4 days max so I assume 1200 or so should cover most of it

39 Dave { 10.10.19 at 7:26 am }

OK Brian, got it! As you can imagine, I have to point things like that out in case you have not already heard! Being able to return totally changes the game.

Frankly park choice does not much matter at that age–it is hard to predict what will appeal and repeal. Kids are so funny. MK would be my first choice, and AK my second.

You tickets will cost (in total) about $500-550 for the two of you depending on when you go. They are more expensive if you don’t buy them ahead of time online, and getting them ahead of time lets you pre-book some experiences (and thus avoid lines). See this for more.

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