This is your Disney World Checklist of 15 Mistakes to Avoid at the Parks
Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can get overwhelming. With such a vast number of attractions, restaurants, experiences, resorts, perks, and more, you are bound to try and dot every “i” and cross every “t” on your vacation to the happiest place on earth. But there are mistakes that are made that should be avoided to give you the best experience possible. Here is my Disney World checklist of 15 mistakes you should try to avoid when you plan your Disney trip.
1 – Staying off the Resort
So, I do understand if you are on a budget and cannot afford to stay on resort. I have stayed on and off the resort and must tell you that the hotels outside of the Disney complex is such a pain in the arse! Not only does it take DOUBLE the amount of time to get to the parks via public transportation, rental car, Uber etc., but it can be so stressful to get home as well. The conveniences of staying on resort with Disney’s fleet of buses, transport to the airport, amenities included in your vacation, and top notch customer service make the additional cost that much more worthwhile.
Lastly, if you are visiting the Magic Kingdom, and are not staying on the resort, you need to grab the ferry to the park entrance. If on the resort, you get dropped off at the door by the buses. The ferry is such a headache! Not only are you on a boat that stuffs guests on like sardines, but the time wasted on the ferry could be spent waiting in line and going through security.
If you cannot afford to stay on a budget resort right now, perhaps postpone your trip until you have saved enough, or wait until they have one of their awesome sales.
2- Taking a Taxi to and from the Parks
So I made this mistake. When I made mistake #1, staying off resort, I lined up for one of the taxis at the post in the Walt Disney World parking lot. Their tariffs are exorbitant amounts and will have you racking up transportation costs very quickly if you opt for this service each day of your trip. The solution: Uber or Lyft. Disney has embraced this new transportation service and provides a waiting post specifically for drivers to pick up customers. The cost per ride is significantly lower than the cabs hired by Disney.
Pro-tip: There is no WI-FI on the other side of the ferry. Make sure you order your Uber or Lyft while on the Magic Kingdom side before boarding the ferry. If you are at the other parks, this does not pose an issue.
3 – Making too many reservations
Now, you do need to make reservations for dining. It’s actually IMPERATIVE. Dining at Disney World is in high demand, especially for character dining restaurants. However, reserving restaurants for three meals a day is really too much. The portion size of meals is excessive here at Disney World so after enjoying breakfast or lunch, you may not be hungry enough to have another full meal. We made this mistake. Our days were controlled by reservation times and we constantly felt rushed and that we didn’t see as much as we wanted with the reservations dictating where we had to be. This is especially difficult when you make reservations in resorts outside of the parks. The solution we came up with even on the dining plan, is to book one meal a day – whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, and enjoy quick service for the other meals.
4 – Booking Your initial Fast Passes too far apart
I am seriously talking from experience here. When you are planning your Disney trip, chances are choosing your 3 initial fast passes is on your Disney World checklist. Make sure you book them close together! The reason for this is that if you have one fast pass at 9 am and then your second one at 3 pm, you have to wait to complete your first 3 before you can book any more during the day. This sucks as you will need to wait in lengthy lines for other attractions where you quite possibly could have scheduled a fast pass. We made this mistake at Epcot the first time we were there and didn’t see nearly as much as we wanted. This is also very important if you want to enjoy the most sought after fast passes like the rides in the new Avatar area of the Animal Kingdom.
5 – Buying All your Souvenirs at the beginning of the day
I HIGHLY recommend doing all your shopping right before the fireworks instead of at the beginning of your day. This recommendation is mainly for those who are not staying on the resort (mistake #1) as if you are staying on the resort, you can have your purchases shipped back to your resort’s lobby to pick up. (Note – this is only possible if you have 48 hours left in your stay though.). The reason I recommend doing the bulk of your shopping later in the day is because you will have to carry it around all day. Plus, if you go on any rides (ESPECIALLY Space Mountain where the cars are tiny!) you have to bring all your stuff on the ride with you. We struggled with backpacks on Space Mountain. The cast members will not hold on to your stuff and most rides have the exit in a different spot from the entrance.
6 – Not wearing comfortable Walking Shoes
So even with comfortable shoes you will feel it at the end of the day. However, Disney World is NOT the place for stilettos (watch Modern Family when they go to Disneyland and Gloria wears Minnie slippers all day), flip flops with no arch support, or breaking in new shoes. My pedometer keeps track of my steps each day and it recorded in my 8-day trip more than 120,000 steps! My feet were pretty sore, but would have been much worse if I wore anything other than appropriate walking shoes. I suggest wearing your favourite walking shoes, sneakers, or even crocs if you are insistent on wearing more of a sandal style of shoe while at the parks.
7 – Not Using your Snack Credits Throughout your Trip
So if you are on the Disney Dining plan (soooo worth it!) you get daily snack credits. I made the mistake of saving them to use on snacks that seemed to be of better value than a coffee or piece of fruit. I ended up with too many on my last day to use before midnight. I have read about guests having over 90 (!!) credits to cash in on the last day and using them for crazy things like waters, chips and other things they wouldn’t have chosen if used throughout the trip. So if you don’t want to lose the value of the snack credits, having them expire (waste of your money), or having to use up so many on your final few days, try to spread them out and use them daily for even something small like a piece of fruit, a latte or cookie.
8 – Over-packing
So we all do this. A great rule of thumb is to pack everything you think you’ll need and then cut that amount of stuff in half. This is what you will actually use. Plus, with all the stuff you will be buying (don’t shake your head. You have No IDEA how much stuff you will be confronted with, you will need space in your suitcase to bring it all home. Do yourself a favour and check the weather forecast for the week (or 2!) that you will be at the parks and pack accordingly. When I went in January, it was ridiculously cold for Florida so I had to pack a few hoodies. But if you are going in the summer, it should be a safe bet that the hoodies can be left at home.
9 – Skipping the Shows
I get that many families with young children may struggle at having them sit still for the duration of a show. However, some of the most incredible experiences at the Walt Disney World parks are the productions. Whether the Finding Nemo show at Animal Kingdom or Star Wars show in Hollywood Studios, they are all such incredible attractions you should not miss. Many make the mistake of rushing through the parks and not stopping to see all the incredible details the imagineers have worked hard to create and implement in each and every attraction. Do yourself a favour and use the time of a show to relax and refresh to have that attention to detail to spot and discover the hidden Mickeys, secrets, and additional magic.
10 – Skipping Past Main Street USA
I LOVE the details of Main Street USA. It is a replica of Colonial America and has all the details to make guests feel as if they were back in that turn of the century world. The mistake guests make is rushing past this glorious entry to the park to get to the other lands within the complex. Main Street USA is a treasure trove of activities, details, facts, experiences, and more. Get your haircut at the old fashioned barber, sign up to be a sorcerer, take the early morning horse and buggy ride, pay a visit to Tinkerbell and Mickey Mouse, and trade pins at Guest Relations. These are only a few things to look forward to on Main Street USA.
11 – Eating only at Character Dining Restaurants
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the character dining restaurants! I particularly love Ohana (review coming soon!) and meeting Beast at Be Our Guest. But the one thing I do notice is that the focus in these restaurants is more on the experience than the food quality. At the Crystal Palace, a restaurant featuring Winnie the Pooh and Friends, there is a buffet for guests to eat all they care to enjoy. When dining here, my focus is more on not missing my chance to meet the characters than actually eating my meal and enjoying the entire experience. Plus, there are sooooo many amazing restaurants that are not character dining, but themed to various subjects and eras. One of my FAVOURITE restaurants in Disney Magic Kingdom is Liberty Tavern. It is right in the heart of Liberty Village across from the Hall of Presidents and serves an incredible family style meal. It isn’t difficult to nab a reservation here as most guests focus on the character dining options or fine dining. Seriously consider other restaurant options and mix it up a little to have both character dining and those which are simply table service.
12 – Not Buying the Memory Maker
Another perk that may not go with those on a budget, but the Memory Maker is seriously one of the best investments of a vacation here and should be on your Disney World Checklist. I am sure most would want to take home the ride photos from the attractions offering them – Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Frozen Ever After, Tower of Terror, etc. when you purchase the Memory maker before you arrive for $149, you get ALL the ride photos, surprise videos, stock photos, and all the photographs you take around the parks with characters or with amazing Disney backdrops. The photos alone would cost so much money and the pressure of taking photos with your own camera is eased. I would never travel to Disney World without the Memory Maker. It really is an economical purchase that everyone in your party can use.
13 – Forgetting Sunscreen
If you burn easily, than you need to make sure you bring sunscreen! There is nothing worse than nabbing a nasty sunburn early into your vacation and being in pain for the rest of it. This is especially important at the water parks. Make sure sun protection is on your Disney World Checklist when planning your trip!
14 – The Park Hopper Ticket Option
Many, many, many Disney enthusiasts will probably disagree, but this is my list of mistakes from experience. The Park Hopper option of being able to go from one park to another in one day is in my mind a mistake and an extra expensive perk that rarely works. At Walt Disney World the parks are very far from each other – the Magic Kingdom requires a ferry if you come by rental car, taxi, Uber, or Lyft. By the time you leave one park and travel to another, so much time is wasted during the commute. Many want pack in as much as they can into their Disney World vacations and think the Park Hopper is the way to go. It is better to immerse yourself into one park per day and that way you will have a better chance of seeing everything you wish to see (within reason).
15- Skipping Epcot
Many think that Epcot is the park to skip. HELL NO. The impression that it is not a park for kids is total rubbish and should not be believed when said. The park is divided into 2 main parts – Future World and the World Showcase. Now, the World Showcase does have some more adult-style features including beer tents, educational movies, and fine dining options; however, the passport for stamps, the Frozen Ever After ride, the Mexico boat ride with the Three Cabelleros, meeting Anna and Elsa in Norway, and character dining in Akershus are examples of reasons to ensure it is part of your planning Disney World Checklist. Added bonuses: In England, you get to meet Alice and Mary Poppins (only place for Mary), in China you can meet Mulan (The only spot to meet her), In Germany you can meet Snow White, in France Princess Aurora and Belle appear, Donald appears for photos and autographs in Mexico in his poncho, and in Morocco Jasmine appears. And in Future World, there is SO MUCH for kids and adults including Spaceship Earth, Test Track, Finding Nemo, and of course, Figment the adorable purple dragon. Just don’t skip it. I actually advise on dedicating 2 full days at Epcot to see as much of this magnificent park as possible.
So there you have my round up for your Disney World Checklist of mistakes to avoid when heading on your vacation. Which of these have you made on your vacation?
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