Our family just returned from our first trip to Disney World and we had a wonderful time! We learned a ton and I researched for hours before we left. Over the next few posts, I want to share what I learned for any other newbie families out there. The Disney experts in my life are Kathy and Debra, so check in with them if you're looking for info that I don't have here.

Walt Disney World is is 42 square miles. It is way bigger than I realized and can be a little overwhelming. You will need to make some decisions to prioritize what's most important to your family.

We decided we wouldn't see everything in this one week. Our first sacrifice was Animal Kingdom. I don't think we even drove by that park, but I really don't know. Our second sacrifice was any ride or attraction that we weren't all tall enough to ride—just no reason to exclude the littlest McKee. And we learned very early that Disney's 44" is about 1/2" taller than the doctor's, so we had to cut some rides we thought we'd hit. Oh, well.

We also decided to use a Disney touring plan to guide us through the parks. was recommended to us, and we really liked it. You have to pay to subscribe to it, but it's totally worth it. The accompanying app is called Disney World Lines. It provided plans based on park capacity, kids' ages, and real-time line waits. We knew when to get Fast Passes and when to use them. We never waited more than 20 minutes for anything. It was awesome.

Some other quick tips:
  • Don't miss the opening of Magic Kingdom. There's a show at the gate that really sets the magical tone for the day. I cried. Seriously. For like 10 minutes.
  • Make sure you catch the closing show at Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Both were great.
  • People kept suggesting we go back to the resort for the afternoon and rest. We didn't. We just planned to watch a show before dinner to give Azlan a chance to nap.
  • Let the kids have Disney gift cards with a set amount of spending money for them to buy souvenirs. Help them understand that when the gift card is empty, they're spending is done.
  • If you're going to watch any of the parades, get there 10 minutes earlier than you think is early enough. Sit down, have a snack, take turns going to the bathroom, but protect your spot. The electric parade in Magic Kingdom was totally worth the wait.
  • Decide ahead of time what pace your family is going to follow in the park. Will you schedule potty breaks, or take them as needed? Will you pause to take pictures randomly, or stay on task to reach your next attraction? If you're going to be a family that moves at a pretty quick pace, don't invest in pins and autograph books. These diversions will slow you down. But if your family is going to move at a slower pace, trading pins and collecting character autographs were a lot of fun (especially for younger kids).
  • Plan a rest day if your trip is more than 3 or 4 days long. You'll need a day that you don't go to the parks. Spend the day at the pool, reading a good book, napping, going to Downtown Disney, or checking out the other great resorts on property. There is plenty to do outside the parks.
  • Don't miss Captain EO in Epcot. If you don't know what that show is, you'll be surprised.
Disney does a great job reminding you to live the magic and create memories while you're there. But let's be honest, you're kids are only going to remember so much. So take a ton of pictures to remind you of the special moments you had together.
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