Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: 11 Tips for First Timers

Blogger Street Team member Patrick Boyd shares with us his top tips for folks who are visiting Disney World for the first time. A seasoned Disney traveller, Patrick is gluten, dairy, and soy-free, and shares details on everything Disney-related on his blog, Stitch’s Home

You’re heading to Disney World for the first time for a trip of fun and pixie dust.  How about some tips and info to make life easier?

1.       First thing to know The Walt Disney World Resort is huge, comprising of four “theme” parks, two water parks, several golf and miniature golf courses, several resorts, and a shopping area that also contains a multi-story indoor video game “park.”   In short, odds are good you will not see everything there is to see and do in one trip, but that what future trips are for.


2.       In the parks themselves, an average guest walks about five or six miles a day, so bring comfortable shoes and clothes for walking.  If you want to get from one side of the park to other, it takes about ten to fifteen minutes walking and that assuming routes aren’t blocked from a show or parade.  This is important to keep in mind when deciding how to use the FastPass returns or if you need to be across the park for a dinner reservation.  While you are trekking back and forth in the parks remember to slow down a bit and take in the scenery.   It also is helpful to take a break and grab a drink to rest and relax a bit.  You can do that in general, or just plot out periods of time to eat, watch parades, shows, etc.  Many people often find it handy to break the long day up by returning to the resort during the middle of the day to nap or hit the pool and return that evening.

3.       Speaking of dinner reservations, no you do not necessarily have to have them to eat at a nicer place, however, availability and restaurant selection will be much more limited.  So if there is a place you or someone in your party has their heart set on eating at, you should try to get an advanced dinner reservation by phone or online.  You can do this 180 days out from the start of your trip.  Keep in mind travel times to get to the location, Disney recommends about planning an hour travel time and asks you be about ten minutes early.  Obviously if you plan to be in the area the restaurant is ahead of time you just need to plan about fifteen to twenty minutes to walk across the area.  Do note if you area at a park and you are eating at Downtown Disney, you typically need to plan to travel to a resort, then on to Downtown if using the Disney Transportation systems.  Disney is also awesome at providing options for those with special diets.  You can note the common allergies when making a reservation, and you either talk to a chef or manager at the various restaurants and quick service locations.

4.       I mentioned FastPass earlier and you may have wondered what I was talking about.  The FastPass system is virtual line system Disney uses to both keep people going on other attraction or shops instead of standing in the “stand by” line.  Now it has been updated and replaced as FastPass+ which allows you to schedule three attractions per day upto 60 days inn advance (there are a few differing rules for onsite and offsite guests, passholders, etc).  After the launched they also added the ability to schedule more after you use those first three.  Basically you schedule a return time of say 1-2 and show up anytime between 1 and 2 and enter the usually shorter FastPass line cutting the time you are standing around physically in line a lot.  This is subject to change as is whatever they have the selection tiers set to and they do shuffle them along to try to improve the experience.

5.       Speaking of attractions, many of the more exciting ones do have height requirements, and the Mouse takes these requirements seriously for safety reasons.  Keep in mind these reasons may not be apparent when looking at the attraction, but they exist for a reason.  If someone doesn’t meet the height requirement they don’t get to ride, no exceptions.  However, you can child swap so someone isn’t left out or has to wait thru the line after everyone else rides.

6.       Something to keep in mind as you set out for a day in the parks is all bags will be checked, and there is usually a line.  They look thru all the pockets for items not allowed in the parks.  If you do not have a bag, there is an entrance on to the main gate you can bypass the check.  You will be looked over a bit and they can ask to see something or for you to unzip a coat, etc.   Also as a fun tip there is actually more security watching than just the official ones you see both inside and outside the park as well as cameras all over.  As a side note, there are cameras inside the attractions as well.  The mouse is like Roz “Always watching. Always. “


7.       Let’s talk characters for a second.  Both the Disney App and Kenny the Pirate’s blog can tell you where and when you will usually find them.  However, keep in mind they take breaks in regular intervals, usually every 20-30 minutes.  Sometimes this means they will be gone for a while and be back shortly, sometimes it means some other characters will come out for a while.  Also ones like Merida that hang out over by the Castle take a break for fireworks as well.  For her that’s less a big deal during the day but if you go to the Halloween or Christmas Parties you’ll run into this.  Occasionally you will run into characters going around the various lands, sometimes they are just wandering and will interact with kids some, other times they are heading from point A to point B.  In the latter case they may interact some but likely not much if any.  That said, you will occasionally see some amazing interactions between guests and characters or just between characters as they move around.

8.       If you want to see a parade or a show you need to head there early, the good spots will fill up quickly as people often grab them around an hour or so beforehand.  That doesn’t mean you would not have a chance at seeing, you just would usually not get as good of a view.  Also for parades keep in mind they are required to keep a clear walkway so space is limited more than you might think.  Also note there are spaces reserved for FastPass +(at some shows and parades) as well as for wheelchairs.

9.       Want to know a way to get more things done at the parks?  Head in early.  Getting there at or near rope drop typically means short to no line for most attractions.  There are exceptions as things like Toy Story Mania often line up quickly, however, you can do a lot more in a few hours than if you took the rest of the day coming in at 11 or 12 till closing on most days.  Most people sleep in since it is vacation.  Going back to the earlier mention of breaks this is a good way to do that.  Head in early and get a bunch of things done, then go rest and eat for a while and come back in refreshed to spend the rest of the day.

10.   So the parks close time has arrived and everyone is heading out, do yourself a favor and don’t rush out.  Many shops stay open for a good while after park close and the buses, monorails, and ferries will be swamped.  Rushing along will just get you stuck waiting in a massive crowd with a good chance of your party getting separated as people jostle to exit the park.

11.   Plan to spend more than you might think.  While there are ways to save on a Disney trip: on tickets, staying at cheaper hotels off site (or landing a good deal on site), occasional free dining plan offerings, etc… you will find most things are more expensive if you buy them on Disney property.  Food and drinks are priced higher, and every attraction practically exits into a gift shop (not a problem for everyone).  Another thing to note if you enable room charges, your magic band acts like swiping a card and you punch in a pin.  This makes it incredibly easy to buy stuff; it also can mean total shock when you see your check out bill unless you keep track of it.

Hopefully at least some of these will make your trip more enjoyable.  Have a magical day!



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