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Arrival Day Options

What in the World?
A weekly peek at Walt Disney World

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The anticipation before your Walt Disney World vacation can be unbearable at times.  Excitement and anxiety often plague those of us heading to Orlando for vacation.  So when the day comes and you touch down in Orlando you are eager to just dive in and soak up as much Disney as possible.  But there is often a question that hits vacation-goers when they plan their vacations, and that is – how should I spend my first day? 

Planning activities for your arrival day usually takes into consideration what time you arrive in Orlando.  The earlier you arrive in Orlando, the more options you have than if you were to arrive later in the day.  When I travelled to Walt Disney World, I usually arrived in the morning so I could take advantage of the entire day.  For instance, on a trip I took in 2007, I arrived in Orlando at about 6:00 am and had the entire Magical Express motorcoach to myself.  This alone was enough for me to plan subsequent trips so that I could arrive in Orlando in the morning.  But of course, some people don’t have that flexibility.  For them, I offer this non-exhaustive article on what you can do on your first day.

Morning Arrival.  Arriving in the morning allows you to travel to your resort, check your bags into the bell desk, and start your vacation with the most flexibility.  I, for one, usually head toward the bus station or my rental car so I can hit the parks without delay.  I like to spend this time soaking the environment in and getting reacquainted with the World.  I’ll usually people watch, ride an attraction or two, and grab a bite to eat.  It is the easiest answer to the “what can I do on my first day” question, and you’ll find many people agree.

Another popular option if you arrive in the morning is to see experience something new.  For those fortunate enough to go to Walt Disney World multiple times, it is usually important to find something new to experience. One of my favorite things to do is to head down to Downtown Disney and check out the shops.  While this may not be somewhere new to go, I find there is enough to do and see there that it is worth the trip.  It’s free (usually you end up dropping some of your hard-earned money like I usually do) and is a great way to experience what Disney has to offer early on.  Make your way from the Marketplace to the West Side.  Take in a movie or check out the wacky LEGO sculptures.  Whatever you decide to do, whether it be at Downtown Disney or not, try and take the time to do something you wouldn’t normally do.  Change things up – it might be the perfect way to start your stay in the World.

Afternoon Arrival.  Let’s say you get off the plane at noon, make your way down to the Magical Express counter or rental car and finally walk into the lobby of your favorite resort by 1:30 pm.  What do you do now?  Fortunately your options are still pretty numerous.   In the past, my room has been ready so when I get to the resort in the afternoon, I head over to the registration counter and check-in.   With my key card in hand, I head straight for my room.

While chores might not be your idea of a good time on your first day, arriving in the afternoon really gives you an opportunity to accomplish a lot before you formally jump into your vacation.  For example, putting away the clothes, stocking up on food and drinks, and purchasing anything you might have forgotten can save you time later.  When the chores are done, it is always a good idea to walk around resort to take everything in.  This is especially important if you have never stayed at the resort before.  The first time I stayed at the Wilderness Lodge, I was in such a rush to get to the parks, I couldn’t even find the bus stop.  Moreover, it was only when I returned from the parks did I realize where the resort store was located.  There’s something to be said about knowing your surroundings (especially if you are staying in a larger resort like the Carribean Beach or Coronado Springs). And besides, this time can also be devoted to admire the time and effort Disney Imagineers put into these wonderfully themed resorts.

If chores are not to your liking, no fret!  A lot of what was said in the Morning Arrival section applies here as well.  Why not try some miniature golf?  Or how about resort hopping around the Seven Seas Lagoon?  If touring the parks is more to your taste, just note that you will be paying for a ticket for less than an entire day.  This however, is usually never a problem as the advantage (and the ingenuity of Disney execs) of buying a park pass for multiple days is that after a certain day, the cost of the next day’s admission is very inexpensive.

Evening Arrival: The problem about planning your arrival day really comes when you arrive at night.  If you check-in by 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm, what can you do?  Well with a little planning ahead, you can spend your first evening in style.

Before my arrival on Disney property at night, I usually have already made an advanced dining reservation.  So after I check-in, throw the bags on the bed, I have had the luxury of walking into my favorite resort restaurant with little or no wait.  There really is no better way to wind down after a long day of air, train, or car travel than with a nice meal in a great place.  Take your time, enjoy your food, and relish in the fact that you are vacation.

After the meal, depending on where you are staying, check out Wishes from the beach at the Polynesian, or enjoy the Electrical Water Pageant from the dock at the Wilderness Lodge.  When I stayed at the Beach Club, I spent the evening walking around the Epcot resorts.  I took my time to enjoy the Boardwalk, the rather large water fountain in front of the Dolphin hotel, and marveled at how detailed and large Stormalong Bay was.  It really was a nice way to end the evening.

Whatever it is you decide to do – take it easy because you will want a full night’s sleep for the next day and the vacation ahead!

Whenever you arrive on Walt Disney World property, there are so many options and ways to spend the first few hours of your vacation.  Never feel obligated to hit the parks right away as there is so much more to do and enjoy.