The weekend is finally here!
In addition to keeping our readers up-to-date on everything happening at the Disney and Universal theme parks, we hope that along the way we can share some Travel Tips for park visitors. It can be daunting to plan and pull off a fun, stress-free trip to Florida, and that’s why we will be passing along some of our secrets from time to time.
Today’s Travel Tips are meant to help first-time travelers navigate the ins and outs of a Disney trip. These tips are help for Universal too (time management is important no matter where you are!), but for this one, we focused on first time Disney travelers. Take a read and let us know what you think!
Eight Mistakes Rookies Make at Walt Disney World
Planning a Walt Disney World vacation takes time, research, and effort, and even the most careful planner is sure to miss a thing or two getting ready for a trip. However, if you avoid making these eight rookie mistakes, you’re sure to have an amazing trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.
8. Going During Peak Times
There are times during the year that Walt Disney World veterans avoid like the plague – summer, Thanksgiving week, the week before and the week after Christmas, and the weeks surrounding Easter and spring break. These are known as “peak” times, and generally only those who don’t know any better visit Walt Disney World during one of these weeks since the parks are at near capacity during these times. Instead, plan your vacation for one of the low, or “value”, seasons during the year. These seasons are generally found during September to mid-October, early December, and late-January through March – depending on when Easter falls. Visiting during one of the low times will mean cheaper rooms, potentially additional discounts, like free dining, shorter attraction wait times, and fewer crowds, all which mean a happier trip to Disney!
7. Getting the Wrong Kind of Tickets
When planning your Walt Disney World vacation, you’ll be given several options for theme park tickets. For the uninitiated, the descriptions of the various ticket options can sound like a foreign language. The type of vacation you are planning will dictate the kind of tickets you purchase. If you only plan to visit one park per day, then you can purchase base tickets for the number of days you plan to visit the parks. However, if you plan to visit more than one park per day, or make a dining reservation for a different park than you are visiting that day, then be sure to purchase the “park hopper” option in order to be able to jump from park to park during one day. If you think you’ll be interested in visiting one or both of Walt Disney World’s two water parks, it is more cost-effective to then purchase the “water park and more” option. Finally, if you plan to park hop and hit up the water parks, the combined park hopper and water park add-on provides the greatest savings. There’s nothing worse than having to waste a day of your ticket, or miss a reservation, because you failed to plan ahead, so be sure to order right!
6. Failing to Make Advanced Dining Reservations
Nothing ruins a family trip quite like being “hangry.” This combination of hungry and angry truly culminates when families are together for long periods of time without eating much; tensions run high and tolerance can run low. As you may know, Walt Disney World is home to dozens of table service (sit-down) restaurants that serve cuisines from all over the world – the real world that is, not just Walt Disney World. However, given the popularity of the Disney Dining Plan, gone are the days when families can walk up to a restaurant and wait for a table. Instead, reservations must be made weeks ahead of your trip – up to 180 days, in fact – to ensure you and your family won’t be left arguing with each other, because you all are hungry and can’t find a single table service restaurant at which to eat.
5. Forgetting to Plan and Book FastPass+ Reservations
Gone are the days where families can wake up in the morning and spontaneously plan their day. Instead, Disney has ensured guests think about their Walt Disney World vacation up to sixty days before they are scheduled to arrive on property by encouraging guests to schedule FastPass+ reservations before leaving via the MyDisneyExperience website or app. Failure to plan ahead might leave you out in the cold when it comes to the most popular rides and meet and greets, such as Toy Story Mania or the Anna and Elsa meet and greet. But don’t worry, and all is not lost if you fail to plan ahead. You can still try to plan attraction opportunities via the MyDisneyExperience app or the kiosks located throughout the parks. You could also wait for attractions the old-fashioned way – in the stand-by line.
4. Not Designing and/or Syncing Your MagicBand
Nothing screams a Walt Disney World rookie quite like a person wearing a grey MagicBand. These nondescript bracelets simply scream, “We just showed up without doing much planning.” Instead of being relegated to wearing the grey Magic Band, be sure to personalize and choose the color of the band for each person in your party before leaving for your Walt Disney World vacation. Sixty days before their date of arrival, guests with reservations are able to sign on to MyDisneyExperience, choose a color for the Magic Band of each guest and choose a name for the back of the bracelet. Personalized MagicBands will arrive at your doorstep in about two to three weeks before you are scheduled to arrive in Walt Disney World. If you are at least wearing a MagicBand in one of the selectable colors, no one can mistake you for a Disney rookie.
3. Not Taking Breaks
Another Walt Disney World rookie mistake is powering through hours in the parks without stopping to take a break and simply enjoy being in the happiest place on earth. Marching through the parks for hours on end, racing from attraction to attraction, or to catch a parade, is not for the faint of heart. It causes families to get cranky and snap at each other, instead of enjoying each other’s company. So, be sure to account for breaks during your days in the park. A break could be as little as sitting on a bench people watching for a few minutes, lunch or a snack, taking in a show, or a ride on ‘It’s a Small World.” On the other hand, many families enjoy going back to their hotel to rest and swim for the afternoon, and then head back into the parks later that evening. Just be sure to decide what type of break works best for your family, take it, and you’ll be sure to have a magical vacation.
2. Failing to Prepare for the Weather
Checking the weather once or twice before you leave for a vacation on which you spent several months worth of savings, may work for a trip to the beach or a trip to the mountains. However, for a trip to Walt Disney World it is important that you keep a close eye on the developing weather for at least two weeks before you arrive. During some times of the year, you’ll need to prepare for blazing heat, which means shorts, short sleeve shirts, and sunscreen. At other times, temperatures can drop as far as the low thirties overnight, so you’ll need to be prepared with long sleeves and long pants for early morning or late night trips to the parks. Finally, rookie visitors to Walt Disney World fail to plan for the rain that is likely to fall at least once during a weeklong stay in the World. Central Florida is notorious for its quickly arriving and quickly departing rainstorms. So in order to ensure wet clothes don’t ruin your day, pack a poncho or light jacket that you can throw on when the rain comes.
1. Not Budgeting
It’s no secret that a trip to Walt Disney World doesn’t come cheap. It’s better to be aware of this fact before you depart for your vacation, than when you’re standing in the middle of the Emporium on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom and your child is crying for yet another Elsa doll. When planning you trip, be sure to budget for food and souvenir costs in addition to travel and hotel expenses. Theme park food is expensive, and can average about $40 per person per day if you don’t utilize a sit down restaurant, and about $60 per person per day if you choose to sit down to a table service meal. Of course you can alleviate costs by packing your own snacks and drinks, and sharing quick service meals. Some souvenirs can only be found within the parks, so you might want to account for purchasing one or two items per person. However, many families buy Disney themed items at home and pack them in their suitcase to surprise children with after a day in the park. Planning ahead like this will keep your kids and your wallet happy.
So there you have it! If you do your homework, plan ahead, and avoid the aforementioned mistakes, you’re sure to have a magical Walt Disney World vacation!