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Posted by on Oct 13, 2012

Tips for your FIRST day in Walt Disney World…….

Photo courtesy of Nick the Devo (tee)

Author: Canadian Diva

At first (no pun intended), when planning your arrival day, you would think it would be the same as planning any other day of your vacation. However, as the Disney Diva analytically mentions  in this article about the psychology of order, one remembers their trip primarily by the order of how they plan things. That means… your first day can and will affect your entire stay!!!
Here are some tips to share with you on getting the most of your “arrival date”………..
(note: this is for those primarily staying on property)

Early Morning Arrival – Short Stay:

I learned from the Disney Diva here, (read Step 3 on planning your first vacation), you should definitely maximize your time in the “World”, especially if your trip is shorter (5 days or less). Arrive very early and enjoy a day at a Theme Park. That’s what the Canadian Diva’s family did on our last vacation. With a short vacation, we visited Epcot right after we checked in!

If your check in early, your room may or may not be ready. Simply leave any of your carry on luggage with the front desk of your resort. If you use the Magical Express, your check in luggage will be delivered to your room later on. You can enjoy your first day at a theme park, worry free.

Make sure you have time to rest mid way through the day, so you don’t feel burnt out.

If you read the Disney Diva’s article on the psychology order mentioned above, the best parks to visit on your first day is your “second choice” or next on your favorite list park.  It is not advisable to visit Magic Kingdom right off the bat. A table service meal is excellent for your first day, but make sure you make your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR), see below for more details.

Early Morning Arrival – Longer Stay:

If you have a longer vacation in WDW, (6 days or more) and you are arriving early in the day… why not make it one of your “free days”. This way you can settle in and relax. As mentioned above, if your room is not ready when you check in, you can leave your luggage at the front desk where they will store it for you and will call or text you when your room is ready.

Check out Memory Maker’s Diva article here, on how to spend your “free day”. By having a “free day” when you arrive (whether it is recovering from jet lag or a long drive), this will help rejuvenate you and your family for the rest of your exciting vacation.

Diva Tip: Memory Maker’s Diva mentioned going Golfing on your “free day”. If you booked a “Magic Your Way” vacation package, you automatically receive a free voucher for a round of miniature golf for everyone in your family/party that is booked on the same vacation package. To book a Disney World vacation see Pixie Leslie for more details. Her services are free when you book a Walt Disney World Vacation Package.

If you picked the Waterpark and More Option, why not visit a Waterpark for the day? Then perhaps visit Disney Quest in Downtown Disney later in the evening. This will help use up some of your Waterpark and More Credits without cutting into your touring schedule later in your vacation. For Waterpark and More Options, see here for details.

Mid Afternoon to Early Evening Arrival:


Yes, you could head over to a theme park to maximize your time at Walt Disney World. You may be especially tempted if there are evening Extra Magic Hours (3 hours after park closing in 2012 but in 2013 it goes 2 hours later) for Disney Resort Guests! However, the theme parks are always super busy during late evening Extra Magic Hours. And although the theme park ticket is not much more when you book a longer stay with your Disney Vacation Package, why spend extra money and limited time in a Theme Park?

Our Suggestion: relax, and as mentioned above, play golf, hang out in Downtown Disney (you don’t need a Theme Park ticket to visit here), catch a dinner show, have a great table service (see below) or quick service meal. This is also a chance to Resort Hop!! Explore different resorts without worrying about your touring schedule in the parks. For our next vacation, the Canadian Diva family is arriving mid-afternoon to early evening. We are planning to  visit the new Art of Animation resort.  We may even check out the Wilderness Lodge. You can always eat at any Quick Service Restaurant in the resorts without staying there. It’s a great way to see what else is in the “World” and perhaps plan for your next vacation! (hint hint!)

Early to Late Evening Arrival:

Unless you’re gung ho about visiting a Theme Park right away and taking advantage of evening Extra Magic Hours, our suggestion again, is to relax and settle in at your resort! If you have time, enjoy a table service meal or catch a dinner show. Go for a dip in the pool, and check out your resorts’ evening activity schedule, Almost all the Walt Disney World Resorts have great activities, movies and fun stuff for adults and children.

Check out some fun things the Diva team enjoyed in the late evenings at Walt Disney World, outside of the Theme parks:

Budget Diva: Spirit of the Aloha
Disney Diva: ‘Ohana Dinner
Active Diva:  Bay Lake Tower activities
Brit Diva: Fort Wilderness
Nick the Devo (tee): Jellyrolls, a dueling Piano Bar at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort
Diva Viva: Dining in Downtown Disney – Wolfgang Puck

Book an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR):


Booking an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR)  at one of Disney’s fantastic table service restaurants, or Dinner shows is a great way to spend your first day, especially if you are on the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) and saving a ticket from the theme park. This way you can enjoy a sit down meal without having to worry about running around on a touring schedule. If you have kids, this is a perfect opportunity to go for a Character Meal at a Resort (like Chef Mickey’s, 1900 Park Fare, Cape May Cafe for breakfast). Your child will meet his or her favorite characters and it could save YOU touring plan time when you visit the theme parks.

Also, as Nick the Devotee mentions here, to make sure you schedule enough time from when you leave the airport to your resort then to your ADR. Call ahead and ask a Cast Member which is the best way to travel to your Restaurant or Dinner Show reservation. Just a friendly reminder,  most Table Service Restaurants book up quickly, you would need to reserve 4 – 6 months in advance for many of them! So plan accordingly. Again, a  Disney Travel Specialist like Pixie Leslie could help you with all these types of details!

Enjoy Your Magical Vacation!!

Born and raised in Canada. Loving Disney has meant a lifetime of hope, dreams, happiness, learning values and kindness. It is the magic across all boundaries and an adoration I can share with my loving family, my friends and... with YOU! Spreading the magic through writing is what keeps this incredible circle growing and building positively, that is the Disney Dream.

2 Comments

  1. Planned arrival to resort is 11am-noon on Mon. 4.8.13 and wanted to do as suggested- rest and tour resort(s) and eat dinner. but then I wanted head to MK in the evening to see the electrical parade at 9pm and wishes at 10pm. This isn’t an extra magic hour day and was wondering if you would still recommend avoiding it ?

    I plan on going to MK again later in the week to get in the rides and such. I have park hopper passes so I wont be stuck there all day.

    Thanks. Love this site and the information by the way .

  2. Just found your site. My recommendations for first day…

    We can never get an early morning arrival, it is usually around lunch time or later afternoon. We always head to our hotel, ask them to hold our carry-ons and head on down to Downtown Disney. We start our shopping early and get a chance to just walk around and stretch our legs after our flight.
    We also make a ADR at a hotel for that night. It gives us a chance to tour a different hotel that we typically won’t go to and eat a delicious dinner to get our trip started right. Also, the plus side is we don’t take time out of the parks to go to some of the wonderful resort restaurants!!

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