So you’ve decided it’s finally time to take the plunge. You’re finally going to Walt Disney World in Florida or Disneyland Resort in California! For a lot of people these trips can be a once in a lifetime event. Lets face it Disney trips are expensive often requiring a year of scrimping and saving just for that week of magic. It’s important to get the most out of your trip and make memories that will last a lifetime. Let’s go over what I consider to be the biggest mistakes you can make when booking or on a Disney vacation. Hit the jump for the list and how to avoid these mistakes.
1. Going in without a plan
This is a big one especially for Walt Disney World. Most people underestimate just how big Disney World truly is. The entire Disney World resort is about 40 square miles, or to put it another way roughly the size of San Fransisco. There are four theme parks with hundreds of attractions & shows. In other words, there is a ton to do. It’s important to have a general game plan of what you want to do and when you’re going to do it. I’m not saying you should plan out your entire day minute-by-minute but you should at least know what day you’re going to do each park and a list of attractions that you’d like to do at each park. You can use our FastPass guide to help determine which attractions you should tackle first to help avoid lines. Also, don’t be afraid to live in the moment and deviate from that plan. You might get tired at the end of the day and decide to rest rather than standing in line for an attraction. That’s OK! Remember that you’re on vacation and to treat it as such!!
2. Not using FastPass
This is a big one for me. I think it boils down to just how confusing both paper FastPasses at Disneyland Resort and FastPass+ at Disney World can be. That’s why I created our FastPass Guide! For those not in the know, FastPasses allow you to “skip the line” by booking a return time for an attraction. The FastPass line is usually shorter than the standby queue and can be a real time saver. I would say that a FastPass could be half or even a quarter of the posted standby wait time. For very popular attractions a FastPass is an absolute must! These include Soarin’, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Dinosaur, Radiator Springs Racers, Indiana Jones and any attraction in Star Wars Land once that becomes a reality.
Now, seeing how valuable using FastPasses can be why would anyone not use them (or not use them correctly). One word, it’s confusing or maybe people just don’t know about them. First of all, Disneyland Resort and Disney World use two completely different FastPass systems. Let’s start with Disneyland Resort. Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure use paper FastPasses. To use them you go up to an attraction (that uses FastPass, not all attractions use the system here) and insert your park ticket or AP to get a FastPass with a return time printed on it. Now here’s where it gets confusing for some people. You can only have one FastPass at a time, BUT in much smaller print near the bottom of your FastPass it lists a time when you can get an additional FastPass. This time is crucial since some FastPasses can be for very late in the day such as Radiator Racers. This means that you can have a FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers at 9 PM but still get FastPasses for other attractions. Also, Disneyland and DCA FastPasses are not linked so you can have a FastPass in both park. See how this can be confusing for someone who is just coming to the park and doesn’t spend all day & night researching Disney like I do!
Walt Disney World uses a quite different system. They use FastPass+ which is completely digital. You book FastPasses on the website or mobile app and they are tied to your Magic Band or park ticket. You can book three FastPasses per day at only one park. However, after you’ve used up those three you can book one more and use it then book another. Rinse and repeat for the rest of the day! That last part is usually not known by most people. In the past you had to visit an in park kiosk for your fourth onward FastPasses, however Disney has now added that functionality to the app so there’s no excuse to not use it! Again, check out our FastPass Guide for tips on how to get the most out of your FastPasses at the parks.
3. Going during the peak seasons
I understand that not everyone can go to the Disney parks in February or September, but if you have some flexibility in your travel dates then it’s very important to do some research on the time of year you’re planning to visit! If you’re going during Summer vacation or the Christmas holidays expect the parks to be very crowded. There are some crowd calendars on the web. These are not completely accurate every day but will give you a general sense of which days to visit each park. I prefer to go in early Spring or early Fall. If you’re really wanting to be in a Disney park during the holidays then plan to go in November. The parks are still dressed up for Christmas and you won’t get the insane crowd levels you would closer to Christmas. Remember, it’s not uncommon for Magic Kingdom and Disneyland to reach capacity the days after Christmas & New Years so just think about that before booking a trip. A friend of mine when to Disney World for her first time the day after Christmas and had a horrible time thanks to the crowds. She didn’t know about the seasons at Disney and thought that’s just how it was!
4. Not experiencing all the parks
This is actually more common than you would think. I’ve heard countless people ask me why I would go to Disneyland when I’ve been to Walt Disney World so many times. Let me get this out of the way. Each and every Disney park is unique. Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom are not the same thing! One of the things I loved about Disneyland was spotting the differences between the two! The parks may share some attractions, but there are even small differences in those! Take the Space Mountain photo below for example. Same attraction, different ride vehicles. I know it’s a small difference for most people, but hardcore Disney fans have a preference for one over the other!
If you’re in Disney World don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience all four parks just because you think you’ve already seen it elsewhere. You haven’t. Visiting all six of the domestic Disney parks should be a must-do for every Disney parks fan.
5. Trying to do absolutely everything
As I mentioned above a Disney vacation is still a vacation! It may not be the relax on the beach with a drink and good book type of vacation but you should still feel “recharged” after a Disney visit! Don’t try to do everything in one visit, it just isn’t possible unless you’re there for a couple of weeks. There are still things at Walt Disney World that I haven’t experienced. That’s part of what keeps the parks feeling fresh for me! It’s also important to get some rest during your trip. I know how hard it is to not go all out on the first day of your trip. We walked over 11 miles on the first half day we were at Disneyland. It certainly didn’t feel like that and we paid for it the following days. If you’re comfortable walking that much during a day and know it won’t impact the rest of your trip then by all means do it! Just remember a Disneyland trip is a marathon not a quick dash!
Also, plan your park hours according to what you know is best for you! If you’re a morning person and don’t plan to say in the parks until closing then rope dropping the parks would be a good idea for you. Some people rope drop and stay until closing at Magic Kingdom. This can sometimes be 15 hours days depending on park hours. I’m more of a night owl and prefer to stay until closing (there’s nothing quite like Disney parks at night!) so rope dropping is very very rare for me. I’ll usually plan to rope drop a park and then the night before talk myself out of it in favor of a few more hours of sleep. Sleep is very very important during a Disney vacation, so don’t skimp just to save some time waiting in line!!