There is a first Disney visit for everyone, and no matter how prepared you think you are, you are going to make a few mistakes. Even Disney veterans learn a few new tricks each time they plan a new Disney vacation. In order to enjoy your first Disney trip, make sure you don’t fall prey to the top 5 Disney Rookie Mistakes.
1. Not Planning Ahead (or far enough ahead)
If you ask a Disney first-timer, after their trip has come to an end, how they would have done their trip differently, they would almost universally respond: “Plan ahead. WAY ahead.”
Disney is a World of detailed advance planning these days – from the rooms to the rides and attractions to the meals. Newcomers may hear about Chef Mickey’s a few weeks before their trip and think, “Let’s try that.” Some may even assume they can walk up to the podium and just put their name down – worst case, they may innocently think, there might be a bit of a wait a table. (Of course, it is sometimes possible to arrive as a party of “walk-ins” and you just might get a table after waiting 10 minutes. It’s always a good idea to try, if you find yourself in the position of having to change your plans at the last minute. But it’s more likely that you’ll be turned away at the podium since they have no room for walk-ins.)
“There are no more Toy Story Midway Mania FP??” a rookie may exclaim, sitting at his or her computer, logged into MDE at 30 days before their trip. If they’re not staying at a Disney resort, this is the soonest they can book FP, so they may have thought they were early birds by booking FP at 30 days. Of course, Disney World resort guests can (and definitely do) book FP at 60 days prior. By 30 days, the most desirable attractions will be out of FP.
Maybe you think to yourself that all this advance planning is way too stressful – and you’re just going to wing it. You can do that, but plan on waiting in long lines. Of course you’re right, all this required advance planning is over the top. But if you deal with the stress of the planning ahead of time, you won’t have to deal with the stress of waiting in lines at when you’re at Disney World.
2. Spending Too Much Money
Spending too much goes hand in hand with not planning far enough ahead. When you lay your plans far enough in advance, you are more likely to book lower airfare, especially with airlines like Southwest. Their seats with low prices may sell out many months in advance. People who start planning a Disney trip too close to their planned departure may end up spending hundreds of dollars more than their planning-expert brethren for the same flights.
Rookies may not realize that there are a number of avenues for saving money on Disney World park tickets. Planning ahead will also provide increased availability of discounts on Disney resort rooms. When a room class sells out at a given discount, that room may only be available at rack rate – if at all.
Rental car rates can jump up and down like the stock market, but planning in advance gives you time to rebook if the rates go down.
3. Harboring Unrealistic Expectations
Your well-meaning spouse might say, “Let’s just go to Disney at Easter. The kids have days off and it can’t be all that busy.” Not only do your kids have off – everyone’s kids have off. And it definitely can be that busy! Take the time to educate yourself – and don’t just rely on what your know-it-all Cousin Judy says about the Disney trips she took her children on. That may have been 10 years ago – and the Disney planning map has been completely redrawn since then.
If you’ve never been to Disney, you may think of this in the same way you’ve approached other vacations. The trouble is, this isn’t vacation. This is Disney. This isn’t the time to sleep in and be spontaneous. Here you have to be up with the sun at your designated park by “rope drop” when the park opens. It’s you vs. a Tidal Wave of Humanity – and you need to stay a step ahead of the surging masses.
You may feel you need a vacation after a visit to Disney – if you feel that way, you did Disney right! Do you want to sleep in and wait 120 minutes for Spash Mountain and another 120 minutes for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train? Or do you want to arrive at rope drop and ride the Mine Train, Dumbo, Teacups, Peter Pan, small world, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder – all with very short waits and all in the first 120 minutes of the day?
Another unreasonable expectation can involve the weather. Walking around Disney Springs, for instance, on a typical evening in January, you can immediately tell the tourists from the locals. The locals are the ones in the hooded parkas, woolen mittens, and cozy scarves. The tourists are shivering in tropical shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. This isn’t necessarily a mistake on the part of the visitors. After all, if you’ve left sub-zero temps in Minneapolis, Minnesota, then 40 degrees Fahrenheit may feel positively balmy. And if you don’t want to miss a single opportunity of wearing summer clothes on your vacation to the Sunshine State – more power to you! However, be aware that it can be downright cold in Florida in the winter, especially when the sun goes down. The upside to not coming prepared is that you have no choice but to purchase a cute Mickey hoodie for each child and a cute little denim number with Tinker Bell on the back for you.
4. Trying To Do Too Much
First-timers can easily find their Inner Disney Commando emerging when they look over their itinerary and find themselves continually adding items to their plans. They’ve been known to attend an early Extra Magic Hour opening, hop to another park, and stay there until a late night closing. This results in exhaustion and dissatisfaction.
Another form of dissatisfaction which even Disney World experts experience is that torn-between-two-loves feeling. When you’re at the resort, you’re thinking about what you’re missing at the parks. When you’re at a park, you’re thinking about how you can’t bear to be away from that beautiful resort and just want to go back and soak up the atmosphere there. This is something you have to make your own peace with; but don’t decide that the answer is to cram in every item on your wish list.
Don’t forget to factor in the time involved in traveling to or waiting for anything on your list. The Festival of Fantasy Parade may pass in 10 minutes, but you may need to allow an hour’s time to hold your spot on the Main Street USA curb.
Rookies may think they can zip-a-dee-doo-dah from their resort to another resort for a dining reservation in a flash, but Disney bus transportation – while a huge and impressive operation – is sometimes unreliable. Getting from one resort to another can be very time consuming since there are no direct buses between resorts. (Consider investing in a taxi!) Hopping from one park to another can be time consuming as well.
Even if the Disney Transportation gods smile upon you, your family has only so much energy, and you may find that they are too pooped to pop. To avert an un-magical Disney meltdown, schedule some down-time into every day. Afternoon is a good time to go back to the resort and use the pool or take a nap. You can dream of next year’s trip – when you’ll be able to see and do some of the things that you realistically and wisely left off your schedule this year.
5. Bringing the Wrong Shoes
Yes, shoes. Really. If your feet are killing you, your vacation will be dead. One common mistake Disney visitors make is purchasing a new pair of shoes immediately before departure for Florida. They may have felt like a perfect fit when you first tried them on, but shoes don’t reveal their true selves until you’ve worn them on several long walks. Break in your shoes before the trip! This is obviously important for each adult and child in the group.
Another Disney footwear issue is open shoes with leather footbeds, such as Birkenstocks and other sandals. When these get wet, it takes a long time for them to dry out. So make sure your footwear can hold up to the rain – because you’re likely to walk through it at some point during your trip. And in Florida, afternoon rain is often a downpour (even if it only lasts 30 minutes). It’s a good idea to pack a pair of waterproof sandals or clogs – you can wear them to the pool as well as during the time you’re waiting for other shoes to dry out.
Be sure to pack some moleskin (available in pharmacy departments) to protect your feet if a blister does threaten (don’t wait for the blister to develop – use the moleskin as soon as you develop pain). And while you’re in that department, pick up a travel size Gold Bond Powder or some Body Glide which can help with a variety of other heat-related walking issues. Florida may be beautiful, but the heat isn’t pretty.
Want to minimize Disney Rookie mistakes?
Use a Disney travel planner like Mouseketrips. While they can’t stop by your house and help you pick out the right shoes, your Mouseketrips agent can help you plan ahead, make sure you get the best deal possible, get all your plans in place from dining reservations to fast passes and reduce your stress. Plus, remember that Mouseketrips never charges for their services, so you will never pay more for using Mouseketrips over doing all of this work by yourself, and in fact, we often save clients money. If you are interested in using Mouseketrips, just click the big red “GET A FREE QUOTE” button on the left side of this page, fill out the form and one of our agents will get right back to you to help you start your Disney planning.