Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be a long and stressful process. There are so many factors to consider and so many details to work out. Even if you plan well in advance and do research, it is still easy to overlook certain things, or just not know what to expect, especially if you are planning your first Disney vacation. The whole process can become overwhelming, at times.
To help make this process a bit easier, we have come up with a list of several “rookie mistakes” that we see or hear people making all the time, as they plan their trip. Here’s our list of Disney World “rookie mistakes”, as well as our suggestions to make your trip more enjoyable:
- Not reserving FastPasses in advance. If you’ve read our previous post about FastPasses, you know how important it is to reserve them as soon as you are able to do so. If you are staying on WDW property, you can reserve your FastPasses 60 days prior to your trip. If you’re staying off property, you can reserve FastPasses 30 days prior to your trip. Regardless of where you are staying, you will want to reserve your FastPasses as early as you are able to do so. If you wait and try to reserve them closer to the time of your trip, or even the day you are going to the parks, you will likely be disappointed to find out the FastPasses you want are no longer available. You may get lucky and find your desired FastPasses available the day of your park visit, but don’t count on it. We can’t stress enough how important it is to reserve them in advance.
- Not making dining reservations in advance is another major mistake people tend to make. Dining reservations can be made 180 days prior to your trip. If you plan to dine at one of the more popular table service restaurants in the parks, as is the case with FastPasses, you will likely be disappointed if you don’t make a reservation well in advance. Once in a while, you may be able to get a table at one of these restaurants by just walking up, if another party cancels last minute, but this is not a likely scenario typically.
- Not taking advantage of everything Disney Springs has to offer. Disney Springs is free. Admission and parking are both free. Disney Springs offers a ton of great options for shopping, dining, drinking, and other entertainment. If you take the time to fully explore the offerings available at Disney Springs, you really could think of a full day there as an additional park day, without having to buy an admission ticket. You are sure to find something for everyone in your party to enjoy at Disney Springs.
- Not preparing for the weather. Florida’s weather is extremely unpredictable. You need to be prepared for anything. Summers here are usually extremely hot and humid. A hot, sunny day can turn stormy, however, in a matter of minutes, without any advance warning. Even on a sunny day, you will want to make sure you have a poncho or a rain jacket with you, just in case you get caught in a pop-up thunderstorm. In the winter, one day could be chilly (or even cold), yet the next day could be hot. For our best tips to beat the heat on your WDW vacation, click here.
- Not bringing your own food and drinks. We will get into this more in-depth in a future post, but many people don’t realize that you can bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages into the parks. Bringing your own food and drinks will save you the time and hassle that can be involved with waiting in line to buy these things, and it will also save you money. Disney allows guests to bring soft-sided coolers without wheels into the parks. Loose ice is no longer allowed to be used in the coolers, however. If you don’t want to carry a cooler around all day, you can rent a locker for the day, as you enter the park.
- Paying for parking multiple times in the same day. Once you pay for parking at one of the parks, make sure to keep your receipt with you, if you plan to visit other parks that same day. When you arrive at a different park, you can show the cast member working the parking lot toll booth your receipt and you will not have to pay for parking again.
- Not planning ahead for the parades and fireworks. Park guests sometimes reserve their desired viewing spot for the parades and fireworks hours in advance. If you think you can just walk up last minute and find the perfect spot, chances are this strategy will not work out very well for you. Once again, sometimes you can get lucky, but we strongly advise reserving your spot well in advance, if these shows are high on your priority list.
- Not taking advantage of shorter wait times during the parades and fireworks. Contrary to our previous tip, if you have already watched the parades and fireworks, or just don’t care to watch them, you will find that the times these shows are taking place are a golden opportunity to enjoy some of the most popular attractions. Since so many people reserve their spot for those shows well in advance, attractions throughout the parks tend to have shorter wait times closer to those show times. In some cases, skipping the shows to enjoy the attractions instead could work out as well as having additional FastPasses.
- Getting stuck in lines while exiting the parks. You can beat the crowds by watching fireworks and parades from strategic locations. If you want to be among the first people to exit the park after the parades or fireworks, you can watch them from the front of the park, and then make a quick exit as soon as the show ends. Danny used to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade at the end of the night at Magic Kingdom from right in front of the train station for this very reason. As soon as the parade passed by, he could exit the park and avoid the lines for the ferryboat or monorail.
- Buying all of your souvenirs and other merchandise in the parks. Although it may seem special to buy merchandise in the parks, depending on how much you buy, this could become a major inconvenience. Carrying bags of merchandise around the parks and back to your hotel is not ideal. You can save yourself the hassle (and save money) by buying your Disney merchandise outside of the parks. You can even buy it online prior to your trip, if you plan ahead.
- Underestimating travel time between parks and inside of the parks. Walt Disney World is massive. WDW property is actually very similar in size to the city of San Francisco. Keep this in mind if you plan to park hop during your vacation. The parks themselves hold tens of thousands of guests on any given day. You will need to be patient and allow yourself plenty of time to navigate the parks, and to go from one park to another. For example, if you plan to take the monorail from Magic Kingdom to Epcot, or vice versa, keep in mind that this process could take an hour.
- Not downloading and utilizing the MyDisneyExperience mobile app. This is a free app that allows you to plan and manage your entire trip, both in advance, and also throughout the trip. Pretty much anything and everything you could need to manage your trip is available through the app, so you will definitely want to use it as much as possible.
There are a few honorable mentions we would like to include, as well:
- Each park has a first aid location for guests who suffer any kind of minor injury or illness while in the parks. Nurses are available during regular park hours to offer bandages, over-the-counter medications, and other quick remedies.
- There are also baby care centers available in each of the parks. The baby care centers offer private nursing rooms with rocking chairs, a kitchen with a microwave and sink, a feeding area with highchairs, a changing room with tables and a women’s restroom, and a main room containing a television, table, and seating. There is also an on-site shop that has formula, baby food, juice, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, over-the-counter medications, and clothing for purchase.
Knowing what to expect when planning your Disney vacation can be quite difficult, but we hope this list will help you out in your trip planning process.
What do you think of this list? Are there more “rookie mistakes” that we did not include in our list? Feel free to let us know in the comments. Thank you for reading, and we hope this helps, as you plan your next Walt Disney World vacation!!
XOXO, Halie and Danny