10 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid on Disney Vacations
Your trip will be even more magical if you avoid these rookie moves.
Not taking into account the weather
If you're still in the planning stages of your Disney vacation, don't make the rookie mistake of underestimating the weather. Kristen Heptinstall, a Disney writer and travel agent with Sager Fairytale Getaways, says that the heat and rain in Orlando are especially oppressive. And while Disneyland is more temperate, Southern California can get hot too! For families that may not be as heat tolerant, look up average highs and lows for the dates you are thinking of traveling, recommends Heptinstall. "Consider a different time of year, especially if you have elderly family members or very young children in your group," says Heptinstall. "Heat and humidity can really ruin a fun time."
Going during peak seasons
Sometimes it's impossible to avoid going to Disney during peak seasons, but you should always take into account how the huge crowds could impact your trip. "At certain times of the year, Disney parks are absolutely packed and completely miserable," says Heptinstall. The busiest times are the week between Christmas and New Years, and the week of Independence Day, according to Heptinstall. Angela Rice, the co-founder of Boutique Travel Advisors, adds that summer is also relatively busy for Disney vacations, whereas there are typically fewer crowds in the fall. There are a few apps and websites Heptinstall recommends that can help predict crowd levels including touringplans.com and magicguides.com. No matter when you plan your trip for, don't waste precious suitcase space on these 18 everyday items that are banned from Disney parks.
Only planning the basics
OK, you have your plane tickets, your Disney passes, and a hotel booked. These are big steps in the process, but don't forget about planning beyond the basics. Heptinstall says a rookie mistake is not pre-planning for dining and attractions. "Dining can be booked 180 days out and attractions 60 days out," she says. "If you fail to do so, you'll be left waiting in very long lines for new and popular attractions, or missing out on dinner at your restaurant of choice," adds Heptinstall. Instead, spend time with the Walt Disney World app, or enlist a travel agent to book your trip and make the dining and attraction bookings for you.
Relying on the meal plans
The meal plans at Disney are not for everybody. "Some of the meal plans include multiple courses and beverages that equate to unnecessary spending," says Rice. "The benefits will depend on whether you will consume all that is included in the package." Three dining plan levels include a certain number of snacks and different types of meals. If your family doesn't use all of these each day, you'll lose money. Whether or not you opt for a meal plan, you'll still want to make a reservation way in advance for the hardest restaurant to get reservations at in Disney World.
Disney vacations could be overwhelming, so don't over-schedule yourself. Remember, this is still a vacation, and everyone needs a little downtime and spontaneity. "Not every day of your vacation needs to be spent at the park," says Rice. Consider adding on a beach or shopping day. You might even want to take advantage of hotel amenities like spas, too.
Not having a safety plan
Establish meeting places, especially when traveling in a large group to Disney. "Wearing matching themed clothes, preferably Disney themed in nature, is a common occurrence at Disney and does help to find each other," says Rice. You can also remember what everyone is wearing by taking a picture on your phone at the beginning of each day." It's also a good idea to make sure everyone knows these two codewords you never want to hear in Disney parks.
Booking your room based on the nightly rate
There are advantages to staying at one of the best Disney resorts for a family vacation. Neighboring hotels, however, also often offer shuttle services to the parks and could be good options, too. Don't assume that hotels within walking distance are the most convenient. It's better to consider all the variables and your specific needs and agenda—before booking a room, according to Rice. "Free parking or affordable parking, room categories and configurations, as well as other hotel amenities such as complimentary breakfast, and pool or workout facilities are other factors that may weigh into your decision," says Rice.
Skipping the extras
Disney offers some perks and extras that more travelers should take advantage of including the FASTPASS+ and Extra Magic Hours. The FASTPASS+ is a ticket system that allows people to "skip the line" on three attractions at one park per day by picking the rides in advance of your trip—and it's totally free. This also makes it easier to double up on the three rides every Disney World visitor should go on twice. Each park also has Extra Magic Hours for guests staying on-site. This free perk lets guests enter a Disney theme park an hour earlier or stay in a park two hours later than the official operating hours on select days.
Buying Disney gear at the park
Merchandise prices are much higher at the parks than online. It's actually OK to buy your Disney gear before your trip, Rice notes. "You will likely avoid the impulse to buy too much while on your trip if you purchase your Disney attire prior to your vacation," says Rice. Investing time in prepping for your Disney trip with these purchases and is a great way to extend the anticipation of a vacation, too. For families on a tight budget, you'll want to read our guide about the best free things in Disney world.
Sleeping in too much
One more mistake rookies often make when they visit Disney is sleeping in late. "Sure, relaxing should be part of your vacation, but being at the park when it opens at 'rope drop' can really maximize your day and help your family enjoy more attractions," says Heptinstall. Plus, if it's hot, you can take a break to go back to your resort and dip in the pool before coming back for more. Make sure to set your alarm clocks and get to bed a decent time the night before.