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Mistakes happen, but what if they could be avoided? What if you were armed with knowledge others were not? Here are 15 Disney World mistakes you do not want to make. So, sit back and let these sink in as you plan your all-important vacation.
You did it. You are preparing to go to Disney World. But, a Disney World vacation is like no other. Do you know how to make the most of it? Are you armed with sound advice on how to visit the parks? Many first-timers say ‘I wish I would have known….’ when they realize something didn’t work out quite right.
Don’t let that be you. Read these Disney World mistakes and be one step ahead of the others.
1. Not checking the crowd calendars before you plan your trip
Want to know how busy Disney World will be? Interested in knowing which park is better to visit on a particular day?
Then, you need to check a Disney crowd calendar. There are two that I use. Undercover Tourist has a free one, while Touring Plans is a subscription service that also allows you to create a park touring plan (if you have the Unofficial Guide to Disney World, you qualify for a discount).
This should be one of the first things you do before you even book your trip – don’t let this be one of your first Disney World mistakes. If you can’t handle crowds, then you definitely don’t want to go when the crowd is projected to be at its peak.
I have been there and done that. However, I knew that going during Spring Break would be nothing but crowds, but at the time that was our only choice.
Knowledge is power. If you have that knowledge going in, you can adjust your plan to accommodate difficulties. In this case, maybe that means leaving the park in the afternoon when it’s hot and the crowd level is unbearable.
2. Not securing FastPasses ahead of time
Fastpasses are free. Think of them as your ‘get out of line’ card. Every ticket allows three FastPasses to be booked initially. With these, you can skip the long stand-by line. Read more about what your Epcot FastPass strategy should be.
Staying at an onsite Disney resort, the Swan/Dolphin or a select Disney Springs resort? Book your FastPasses 60 days ahead of your check-in date.
Everyone else can book 30 days out from the specific date you plan to visit the park.
Reserve these on My Disney Experience once your window opens and get a jump start on preparing for Disney World.
3. Not buying your park tickets ahead of time
In order to reserve your FastPasses, you need tickets to link them to. Do not wait until you get to the Disney gate to buy your tickets.
Undercover Tourist is an authorized Disney reseller and they often times can beat the gate prices.
I have used Undercover Tourist for ten years and have never had a problem. In addition, I had to call them once and received top-notch service. I can’t recommend them enough. I continue to use them all the time. – even to make Disney hotel reservations.
4. Missing rope drop – big Disney World mistake
It’s not so much missing the Welcome Parade or seeing the cast members drop the ropes as it is missing out on the least crowded time at the park.
Aim for getting to the park thirty minutes before it opens. Depending on where you are originating, you may need to go through security at the park which could take 5-10 minutes at this time of day.
Disney now lets you on to Main Street up to the Castle, but not beyond its spokes until the park officially opens.
This is the absolute best time to be at the parks because many people are not there yet. Often times, you can get on several rides immediately. We usually head to the Mine Cars and ride it 3 times in a row!
Use this time to ride those attractions you didn’t get FastPasses for. The park will start to fill up 1.5 – 2 hours after opening, so make good use of this early time.
5. Buying all your snacks at the parks
Disney is expensive; everyone knows that. Lessen the price by bringing in food and drink (no glass containers).
In fact, we usually take Southwest Airlines which allows each passenger to check two bags for free. One of our checked luggage usually contains nothing but food!
We pack oatmeal, granola bars, animal crackers, juice boxes, tea bags and instant coffee just to name a few things.
While everyone enjoys splurging on Mickey ice cream bars or that wonderful popcorn, especially while watching the parade, save some cash and bring along some items you know your kids will munch on (goldfish, anyone?).
Read more on ways to save money at Disney.
6. Not reserving ADR’s (advanced dining reservations) ahead of time
If you plan to go out to a nice Disney restaurant or one that features Disney characters, you need to make an advance reservation.
Please don’t assume you can get one only days ahead. While it is probable that you can snag one on short notice, it may not be the one you wanted.
Disney dining reservations open 180 days prior. Yes, believe it or not, many people reserve this far in advance, myself included.
However, on a trip I just planned for 4 months out, I easily made reservations at the exact location I wanted. Did I luck out? Maybe. I know I have also been excluded from making ones I wanted at 170 days out. You just never know.
Reservations require a $10 hold which is only applied if don’t cancel 24 hours ahead of your reserved time or you are a no-show.
If you know you want that reservation, make it as early as possible. You can continue to revise your plans as your vacation approaches.
7. Wearing sandals with heels
Yes, I’m talking about those women. I can’t comprehend how some people can walk in 3-4 inch heels at Disney. I mean, you are walking continuously! How do some people do that?
Personally, I don’t like wearing tennis shoes or running shoes. I would much rather be in sandals. But, I came to realize that your feet don’t hurt as much when you have a nice cushion around your foot.
So, I invested in 2 pair of Skechers that, for the most part, I only use at Disney!
You need to bring good walking shoes.
Oh, and those strollers! I am always thinking someone is going to bump into the back of my feet among the masses of people and strollers, especially at park closing time.
8. Forgetting to check the weather ahead of time
I know, it’s Florida. You expect it to always be pleasant. But, that may not be the case. Showers are plentiful, even though they may only last a few minutes. Nothing a few rain ponchos won’t tackle.
However, I am talking more extreme. Seven years ago, we visited Disney World in December and they were having a heat wave in the ’90s.
The following year, we went in November and had to stop at Walgreens and buy blankets (for the strollers), hats, scarves and mittens. I wasn’t prepared and it cost extra money when I could have brought those items from home had I realized it was going to be 40 degrees!
9. Continuously buying water at the parks
Yes, you need to stay hydrated in the Florida heat and humidity. However, you can either ask any quick service or counter service restaurant for an ice water cup (for free) or take a reusable water bottle.
There are so many more things you could spend money on. Save it and buy something else. Water bottles add up, especially if you are buying them for your entire family.
Water fountains are typically located near the restrooms at the Disney parks.
10. Finding a seat for the parade at the last minute
Disney does parades well. Kids love getting to see their favorite characters and enjoy their favorite Disney songs.
Do you want to be in the front row with a birds-eye view so you can sit on the ground? If so, you need to plan to get there 20-30 minutes ahead of time.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking no one will sit and watch the parade. This is high time for snacking too! The Dole Whip line by The Magic Carpets of Aladdin can easily be a 20-minute wait.
Know the Festival of Fantasy parade route before you go in order to grab the best seats.
11. Assuming you will come back for something
I have made this Disney World mistake a couple of times. There was a set of animal print glasses I found at Animal Kingdom I really liked. I made the incorrect assumption I would find them again.
Never did. Not at that park nor at any of the parks.
If you see something you like, purchase it on the spot because you may not find it later. If you are staying on Disney property, you can have it delivered to the gift shop of your resort.
Likewise, if an attraction has a 30-minute wait that deters you into thinking it will get shorter later, it may not. Disney lines tend to get longer throughout the day until just before closing.
Be prepared at Disney World – don’t think you will come back to something later – do it when you can!
12. Assuming your child does not need a stroller
Your son or daughter may not be using a stroller at home anymore, but that doesn’t mean one isn’t needed for those long days at Disney.
If your child is 6 or under, I would definitely suggest renting or bringing a stroller. While we didn’t use one at The Magic Kingdom, I did rent one at Epcot when Little K was 6 because we had plans to stay for their nighttime holiday performance, therefore we would be at the park for almost 12 hours.
Add together a long, hot day, overstimulation and miles of walking and you have the making for some very tired kids. I have seen many parents carry their child at closing, but with a 5 or 6-year-old, that’s hard to do. Rent the stroller for the day and make it easier.
13. Not doing the things you want first
Do you or anyone in your traveling party have any must do’s or must see while at Disney? Does your child have their heart set on meeting a favorite character?
Get that out of the way as soon as possible. Lines can get long, rides can shut down due to a mechanical issue and characters may only be greeting guests for a short time.
Hit the most important items first, then you won’t be spending your last day rushing around trying to do something.
On one of Little K’s first trips to Disney World, I didn’t realize she wanted pictures by all the princesses. In the end, we rushed to find both Tianna and Jasmine and made it our mission!
14. Going without a plan
This may be controversial for those free-wheelers that don’t like to be tied down to a plan. That’s fine, I understand. Not everyone likes to stick to a plan.
But, you need to have some idea of when you are going to each park or if you want to have a character reservation. Because plenty of people are doing this and you run the risk of being locked out if you think you can reserve once you get to the park.
If you’ve read some of my other Disney posts, you know I create touring plans. With these, you input what rides and attractions you would like to visit along with your dates.
A report is generated showing you the best plan for your day. It includes an order for you to follow allowing you to maximize the number of rides and attractions you visit.
Generic touring plans are in the Unofficial Guide to Disney, but you can purchase a subscription (touringplans.com – same as the crowd calendar) and receive custom touring plans. Remember, there is a discount code if you have the book.
In addition, keep track of all your plans in the Disney Trip Organizer. It’s absolutely free and you can get it below.
15. Thinking you need to do it all
Disney World encompasses 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, an ESPN zone and a Disney Springs shopping and entertainment area. Please do not even begin to think you can see all of this in a week.
While I am a big proponent of planning, I am also a proponent of moderation. We had been to Disney World four times before we kept Little K up for the night parade.
I figured eight hours in the parks each day was enough for a young child. It’s tiring on adults, too!
In addition, we have rest days. On these days, we have a character dining reservation somewhere outside the parks and then spend the rest of the day at Disney Springs or a waterpark.
At Disney, you don’t want to make the mistake of being go-go-go all the time because it’s exhausting. Naps and rests are important, especially if it’s hot. Temper tantrums are common and you start to see them more around 6 pm as the young kids have had enough.
Don’t worry about not seeing or doing everything. Better to enjoy your trip and bask in the Disney glow than in your child’s cries and tears.
Disney World Mistakes – Lessons learned
Disney really is a vacation like no other. Don’t be surprised when everyone else around you has made plans – you learn that immediately. It takes practice and planning. Use this list of Disney World mistakes as your guide to enjoying your trip to the fullest!
There are other ways to prepare for Disney World, as well, but I felt this list covered the important items. Don’t forget to consult a Disney World packing list in order to remember sunscreen, autograph books and mouse ears!
Any other mistakes you made at Disney World you wish you knew the first time you went? Are you preparing for Disney World before you go? Let me know in the comments!
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