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Today I’m sharing details on what to do on your first day at Disney World. Do you make dinner reservations? Check out the resorts? If you’re wondering what to plan and what to expect the day you arrive at Disney, this post is for you...
What to know when you arrive at Disney World
- Learn what to do when you have hours to fill with activities during your first day.
- Get tips for getting from MCO to Disney.
- Find out details on Rideshare, Mears Connection, or if you should Rent a Car.
- Check in to your hotel. Check-in times are usually between 3pm - 4pm
- Book dinner reservations. You’ll be hungry after a day of travel.
- Find things to do at the Disney resorts, like ride the Skyliner (free) or play in the resort arcades with the kids like the Safari So Good Arcade at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Disney World Vlog - Arriving the First Day and Dinner
Unless you have a full first day to enjoy when you arrive to Orlando…
Like you’re arriving in the wee hours of the morning, or very late at night…
You might want to play it by ear, and skip going to a Disney World park the very first day.
That’s what we did on a September Disney trip.
1. Plan your carry-on bag for Disney
Before you go, be prepared for anything that can go wrong on your first day at Disney.
For me, this would be missing my luggage.
I suggest you plan your carry-on Disney flight bag so if your luggage is lost, you can still have a good night – and not have to wait around for it.
Your footwear for Disney is essential to plan for, as are many other things you’ll want your first day at Disney… like medicine, contacts, a change of clothes, maybe a poncho, etc.
About having comfortable feet at Disney, though…
You will be walking a long distance throughout the Disney theme parks, so you should be walking in the best shoe possible.
Learn more about why I chose Brooks women's running shoes for our recent Disney trip.
2. Be prepared for landing at MCO Airport
Orlando International Airport (MCO) is the closest airport to Disney.
Plan for a 30 - 45 minute drive depending on traffic and weather.
IMPORTANT: There are two terminals at MCO… A and B which you get to by shuttle.
Don’t be alarmed when you get off the plane and have to take the shuttle, your Disney transportation will be available easily from there…
Get tips for attending the Epcot Food and Wine Festival...
If you’re ridesharing (Uber/Lyft), pickup can be found on level two depending on the terminal.
This was super easy for my family and I highly recommend going this route if you’re not renting a car.
You don’t need a rental car, but if you want one, most ground transportation and rental car companies can be found on level one of both terminal A and B.
Magical Express transportation from MCO to Disney Resorts is no-longer offered to my knowledge, however you can book the Mears Connect Transit bus.
Checkout all of my flying into Disney Tips.
3. Check into your hotel / resort
This is the Signia by Hilton, an offsite Disney property in Bonnet Creek.
Staying off site is sometimes more friendly on your budget (depending on resort fees)...
And you often get some of the same perks you’ll find with Disney property offerings, like a free shuttle to Disney parks and Disney Springs.
Check in time
Most hotels / resorts on or off Disney property have check-in times between 2pm - 4pm.
If arriving earlier in the day, drop off your bags and go checkout some of the Disney resorts for quick service, formal dining or just fun activities to do.
Or head to a pool… see the lazy river at Signia by Hilton Bonnet Creek.
4. Make dinner reservations (if you haven’t already)
After a day of travel and getting settled into your hotel, you’ll be hungry for sure.
One problem…it’s your first day at Disney, but your park tickets don’t begin until tomorrow.
What do you do?
Well, you can get a quick service meal, order room service, order delivery, or…
Make a last minute Disney dinner reservation
You make dinner reservations at one of the Disney on-property resorts.
You won’t regret it, because without entrance to the parks on the first day, hanging out at a resort and eating Mickey ice cream for dessert will give you the right vacation vibes.
Recommendation: Topolino’s Terrace
Try this Disney World foodie spot: Topolinos Terrace.
If you’re looking for an awesome first night dinner at Disney, you can’t go wrong with Topolino’s Terrace - Flavors of the Riviera.
See my full Topolino’s Terrace menu tour on the Jenna Loves Magic YouTube channel.
This fine dining restaurant is located on the top floor of the Riviera Resort.
You’ll have open views of Disney parks, the Skyliner, as well as other resorts in the area.
5. Tour a Disney property resort
You should plan to explore the Disney property after your arrival. There are a ton of resorts on the Disney property, each with their own theme, design, and fun things to do.
Resort hop your first day at Disney to check out this place…
One resort worth checking out is the Riviera Resort - it’s a modern, Italian and French inspired Disney property.
You’ll see in the next two tips: how to resort hop from Riviera to Art of Animation.
You are also pretty close to the Caribbean Beach Resort and POP Century.
This is a Disney DVC hotel – a Disney Vacation Club resort property.
You don’t have to be a DVC member to stay at the Riviera Resort.
It has onsite resort parking and plenty of onsite activities such as a pool, campfire activities, and free outdoor movies.
It also has direct access to the Disney Skyliner which is completely free to use and is a good way to get an aerial view of the parks and resorts.
6. Go on the Disney Skyliner (FREE Ride)
The Disney Skyliner is a free aerial gondola that helps connect several resorts to two theme parks…
Get tips on taking the Disney Skyliner to Epcot...
Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
Headed to Epcot? Don't miss these Figment ride tips...
Watch the best free ride at Disney World…
It’s practically a ride which can be enjoyed morning to night.
See what it’s like to go on the Disney Skyliner at night…
Take a thrilling ride aboard Disney Skyliner! Glide through the sky while soaking in the scenery of Walt Disney World.
Here are some more skyliner travel tips.
7. Play some games
Arcades are a fun non theme park activity for kids on a Disney vacation.
For those first days at Disney / arrival days, or when you have an hour to explore after dinner.
This is always a fun activity for the first night at Disney…
Check out Pixel Play at Art of Animation Resort in Disney World.
Having access to arcades in almost every resort provides a ton of nighttime fun to close out the evening.
See tips to find and meet Winnie the Pooh at Disney World...
Tips for planning a Disney World trip
Shop my favorite things to buy in advance for a Disney World trip:
- Disney outfits for women
- Brooks sneakers for women (see more on shoes for Disney)
- Matching Disney adult and kids hats
- 2 pack of ponchos
- best neck fan for Disney World
Get more Disney World travel tips...
- See the ULTIMATE GUIDE to Disney World resorts
- Get tips for booking Disney World tickets
- See this beginners guide to Disney World packages
- Tips for flying to the closest airport to Disney World
- Learn about taking a Skyliner ride during EPCOT fireworks time
- Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
Top Disney World ride guides
Top Disney World restaurant guides
- What to order at Topolino's Terrace for dinner at Riviera Resort
- Sanaa bread service
- Where to get breakfast in EPCOT
- Joffrey's Disney coffee
- Le Cellier
See top Disney World hotel tips and guides...
Disneyland travel tips...
- When Halloween starts at Disneyland
- Complete guide to Halloween at Disneyland
- 1 Day Disneyland Itinerary Example
Disney dining tips from Jenna Loves Magic
Remember: for any sit-down dinner or character meal, I recommend to definitely book 60 days out, or whenever your Disney dining dates open.
If you’re staying on site, you can book dining reservations earlier as a perk.
Don’t have reservations? Check regularly during your trip, on the app, or walk up to the restaurant early in the day and request a day-of reservation. Disney reservations are often dropped day-of since sometimes people “hoard them”.
I once was a walk-up and was told there would be a 90 minute wait for a table at Steakhouse 71.
Not a problem, since it’s an interesting hotel to walk around and they have an arcade.
Anyways, within 5 minutes my reservation was ready because someone canceled. So you never know.
Also see my other favorites on this list of the best places to eat at Disney World. (coming soon)
Have fun planning your arrival at Walt Disney World
Hope that answers all your questions about what to do on your Disney arrival day.