First Timer Looking for Guidance

I’m in the process of planning out our first family (myself, my wife, 9yo son, 5 yo daughter) Disney trip. My wife who last visited DL almost 20 years ago, but no one else has been to any Disney park. I’ve done enough research to realize that this is going to be more of an undertaking than the regional midwest amusement parks I came up on. As such, I’m hoping to get some feedback on the strategy I’ve worked out and get some questions out there.

We’re planning on being at DLR Tuesday, May 26 through Thursday, May 28, bookending the trip by visiting my wife’s family in Orange county and hanging out at some beaches. We have a hotel booked on Harbor (Tropicana) for Monday through Wednesday nights to make it easier to get an early start and a have a place nearby to let the kids take an afternoon break. The current plan is to buy three day park hopper tickets with Maxpass so we can have the most flexibility in the time we have (and get all of the pictures my wife wants).

When we made our plans, we figured that right after Memorial Day should be reasonable compared to most of the summer since only some schools will be out already. However, I later learned that May 26 and May 27 coincide with Grad Nights at DCA. Does anyone have any advice on managing those crowds? Also, do Grad Nights have any effect on WoC showings? I’m figuring that Grad Nights will increase crowds more in the latter part of the day, especially on the more thrilling teen friendly rides.

We were planning to carry in snacks and lunch and just buy dinners and a treat or two each day. The plan is to stick to quick serve options and utilize mobile ordering whenever possible to limit waits and maximize flexibility. How far out do you typically need to do the mobile ordering? I was hoping to order in line for a ride to pick up when we got off, and maybe even place orders at multiple places near each other to satisfy everyone’s preferences.

As far as attractions, my kids are mostly interested in rides, with little interest in shows. I’d like to see the parade, but it doesn’t seem like that should be too hard to plan in. We’re not going to plan on fireworks due to the combination of uncertainty and a desire to get early starts instead.

The plan is to use early entry on the first day while everyone is at their freshest. The kids are more interested in Tomorrowland rides than Fantasyland so the intent is to head that way first and knock out as much of that as possible. I’ve seen articles that Maxpass opens up during that time, with return times kicking in after park opening. However, I’m unclear if that is just for the rides that are open during early entry or throughout the park. Can someone clarify this? Basically, should I be grabbing a top priority FP during that time (I’m assuming MFSR will be on FP by then and booking up fast). I’ll also assume we’re stopping a bit before 8am to set up for grab RotR BGs.

During the middle part of the day (10-2), my father in law plans to join us. Rather than springing for another Maxpass for that small of a timeframe, I’m thinking we can either use a normal Fastpass machine if we want to do any rides with long weight with him or I can take advantage of that part of the day to stack FPs in Maxpass for the afternoon at DCA (RSR and some combination of TSMM, GotG, and Soarin).

I’m going to make a reservation at Savi’s for my son (and maybe myself too). I’ve had trouble finding a guide on lightsaber logistics that isn’t largely pre-SWGE opening information. We’ll definitely want to get some photos with the lightsaber at various spots, but also don’t want to be carrying them all day so I’m thinking we can have my FIL take them when we he leaves rather than worrying about them in a hotel room or carrying them around every day. Does anyone have experience shipping them home? I was originally thinking of carrying it on, but fear being forced to gate check on the smaller jet on our second leg home.

We planning to set up an appointment for Bibbidi Boppidi Boutique for our daughter, though we were just going to bring some of the princess dresses she already has and just to the hair and makeup. How well does the hair and makeup hold up through a day in the park? Basically, should we plan for photo ops for a while afterward or can be reasonably mix in rides between photo stops?

My kids are a mix of excited and nervous about the characters. I’m assuming any walk around characters won’t engage with a child who does not engage them first. Is that accurate? We’ve told them everyone that works there wants them to have a good time so they are not going to force them to interact if they don’t want to.

Also, are there any rides were the Fastpass line bypasses something that would be interesting in the main line? I’ve read that the single rider for IJA does, but was planning to just FP that one so that’s not a concern. The only spot where I see using single rider is Incredicoaster since I’m the only one in the family interested in that one anyway.

So my basic plan is as follows (I’m trying to plan were to start based on a typical early entry schedule) and I would appreciate any feedback:

Day 1: Early Entry @ DL in TL. Priority rides 8-10. Gentler rides with FIL, Savi’s + walk around SWGE and stack PM FPs for DCA 10-2. Take a break in the hotel about 2-4. Use stacked FPs and have dinner @ DCA.

Day 2: Rope Drop @ DL. Any remaining priority rides early and start stacking PM FPs for DCA midday. Do some character meets and greets. Take a break in the hotel about 1-3. Use stacked FPs and have dinner @ DCA.

Day 3: Rope Drop @ DCA. Ride anything left on the DCA priority list and/or reride any favorites. Do DCA character meet and greets. Head over to DL and ride anything left on the DL priority list. Watch parade.

I’m holding off until closer to make a detailed plan to see if anything changes regarding rides on FP, refurb schedules, etc. I’m assuming Avengers Campus won’t open until after our trip if it hasn’t been announced yet since I’d rather avoid those extra crowds. We’ve talked about potentially returning in a few years for that if this goes well to see that (and whatever else may get added).

And to anyone who actually read all of this, thanks!:grin:


Welcome to our corner of crazy!!
I think you’ve got it all figured out and are way way ahead of the general crowd. You’ve got this!

I haven’t been to DL in millenia so I can only help you with the mobile order portion of your questions: you can only make one mobile order at a time (i.e. 53 dishes ordered but only at one restaurant). So if you’re planning to tackle several restaurants nearby like you mention, make sure the less hysterical hungry eaters get the last choice. They’ll have to wait until the other restaurants are done.
You go into your MDE and order up, then when you’re at the restaurant you click I’m here and they call your number (Or was it name? Can’t remember) at the mobile order counter and you pick ip. So you can set your order like you mention, before joining a ride line, click I’m here at the restaurant door while you scout for a table and boom! Food!

Regarding characters: I think they are far more controlled and organized than that. They don’t run up and hug kids, they have a line, a handler, a photographer nearby. A little pre-assigned patch of land to stand on. They won’t chase your little ones around ever. Well, I remember someone mentioned that the Queen of Hearts did chase their kiddo and terrify him but… well… villain? Duh!


Okay… going to try to tackle your questions one at a time.

First this was not a question, but I did want to point out that if you are coming from the mid west (I am assuming this, but may be wrong) the time change is in your favor, so your focus on early mornings will be on your side. Even if you end up with high CLs, your early morning strategy will save you. Also, the earlier the Magic morning, the better. 7am ee is far less crowded than a 9am ee. Most people have trouble getting going that early, but it is so worth it. One day in July we were able to accomplish 12 rides and breakfast before 10:30 am.

My strategy for crowds is to hit it hard in the morning, then take a break mid afternoon (much like you have planned), then return for dinner and rides and hit hard for the rest of the night (this may not be an option for you since you have littles). The crowds are always easier to manage in the mornings and late evenings.

As far as Grad night crowds, they will definitely be there, but I find them to be far more manageable than the middle school field trip crowds that show up in the beginning to middle of May. The Grad night crowds are a bit more mature and are more Conscientious than their middle school counterparts (at least This has been my experience).

MaxPass- once you and your FastPass party have been scanned in you are eligible to select a fp. The fp can be in either park and is not limited to what is open for ee/mm. When you select “get FastPass” And select what park you want, it with give you all your choices That are available. You are correct that the return time will be after park opening.


I second the advice above. Your plan seems great. Prioritize a boarding group for RotR and a Fastpass for MFSR if available by the time you go. Otherwise, just block and tackle the parks, create touring plans, and be flexible. Your first day will likely be pretty structured but by day 2 or 3 you will feel like a pro and will be able to follow your whims.

End of May is a great time to go! Some Grad Night attendees are worse than others, but I was actually impressed with their behavior the last time I was there.

Good luck! If we missed one of your questions, feel free to follow up below.



Good to know about the single order at a time in the mobile ordering. Should be able to make it work where we all order from the same place most of the time and, if not, I know to order for the kids first.

Figured that the characters wouldn’t go trying to scare little ones and told me kids that I didn’t expect them to do more than wave if they didn’t engage, but wanted to be more sure.


You are correct about us coming from the midwest (Ohio, specifically), so we will likely be waking up early anyway (I typically find myself waking up by 5am when out in California). If used properly, I find this to be a feature and not a bug when travelling west since you find yourself naturally offset from the crowds by getting everywhere early, getting hungry early, etc.

I would agree that I think I would much rather deal with grad night crowds than with middle school field trip crowds. I can recall my days going to Kings Island growing up and I’d much rather encounter the graduate age version of me to the middle schooler on a field trip version.

Thanks for clarifying the Maxpass on early entry, I will definitely be taking advantage of that.


Thanks. I was feeling like I don’t know what I don’t know as far as planning this sort of trip so I feel better getting some feedback that I’m at least on the right track.

I’ve had the kids sit down and prioritize about a dozen things each so I can make a plan that makes everyone happy without running everyone ragged, but also fully expect that plan to need to change by the middle of the first day.


Some characters are “free-roaming” at DL. They may interact by waving and smiling or in the case of the Evil Queen, making a snide comment. But they will not force an interaction. I love seeing the Evil Queen! She is highly entertaining. Last time we were there, we saw her shepherd a duck across a busy walkway. She did so very haughtily, but even so it wasn’t very “Evil”. Ha ha!

Also, in SWGE, you will see Chewbacca, Rey, Storm Troopers and Kylo Ren walking around. The Storm Troopers will initiate contact with kids, but if yours are uncomfortable you can easily shield them or walk away. They won’t keep going with someone who is not into it. They asked my daughter if they had seen her at a young recruits meeting. She said no, and they replied, “We’d better see you at the next one!” Rey is particularly unthreatening and will often lead a few young people in a confrontation with storm troopers. Using the Force to turn them away from the Rebel Alliance area of the land. These casual character interactions are really fun to be a part of or even just see. I hope your kids find them as fun as I do!


Also with the mobile ordering, sometimes you can order it for ASAP, and sometimes you have to select a time…last weekend the closest time was 45 min away at Flo’s Cafe. Ugh. Other times we walked past a restaurant and decided we wanted something. We’d get on the app instead of getting in line, and we’d be munching on our food long before the person who would’ve been in line in front of us has even ordered. So putting the order in before you get in line for a ride is a good idea. I believe that if you and your wife have the MDE app you could each place an order at different restaurants…so you would be able to place multiple orders like you said you were hoping to do.

When your FIL joins you, you might be able to utilize some previously acquired FP if your daughter has rides that she doesn’t want to ride. IE; you could grab FP for the whole group for Space Mountain, to use during the 10 -2 window, and then your FIL could use your daughter’s FP if she doesn’t want to ride it. OR something like that…I know your daughter wouldn’t want to sit out alone…but she and your wife could do standby for something else.

All of your park tickets should be linked to your MDE account, and you’ll probably be the one scanning in when it’s time to use the FPs. The cast members don’t check to see if the names on the FP match the names of the person entering…it’s just a matter of having the right number of FP.

For parade viewing my favorite spot is behind the Matterhorn (on the NW side), near the bathrooms that are on the back of the castle. There is only one side to this “street,” so all the performers face the crowd that’s there. Also, they’ll close off this walkway just before the parade starts, which means you won’t get people crowding in at the last minute.

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When I was at DCA for my recent solo trip, I opened my app and started mobile order from Corn Dog Castle as soon as I got my first FP after entering the park. I pushed “I’m here” when I was rounding the corner at The Little Mermaid and got the notification that my food was ready right as I walked up to the window. Perfect timing. * chef’s kiss *


I suspected that smile and wave was probably about the extent of it for most characters, but wasn’t sure. Oddly enough, it’s the older one who is doing the whole too cool (or something) for princesses thing that is making a bigger deal over characters trying to talk to him(:man_facepalming:), but it sounds like just telling him to look the other way and let his sister do her thing will be the plan.

I had seen enough videos to suspect possible ‘bad guy’ interactions from the Stormtroopers or Kylo Ren in SWGE, so I had already talked to my daughter about it. She seems fine as long as I (or my wife) is with her so I think we’ll be fine and would definitely want to meet Rey. We’ve talked about bringing along the Princess Leia costume she wore for Halloween so she really gets into it.

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Thanks for all the good advice. I’ll be sure to check the wait times in the ordering and then suggest things to the kids to avoid any meltdowns over waiting when they’re approaching hangry. I was thinking about testing whether putting a different account on my wife’s phone would allow for dual ordering already so I may just try that. Probably for the best to have both phones set up anyway in case of battery or other issues.

I had heard of that FP strategy where you use a different family member’s FP and may utilize it for a second go at some rides where one kid or the other doesn’t want to go while the other is off in a standby ride line. Haven’t sat down to pair stuff up yet. At the very least, if a kid changes their mind upon seeing a ride, may be able to use their FP to let the other do a ride with each parent.


Single Rider for MF bypasses most everything but the chessroom.