The mistakes that Disney Newbies make when planning their first Disney vacation aren’t made on purpose, or because they didn’t read enough blog posts. Sometimes you can’t tell problems are problems until you’re wandering around at 9 pm at night trying to figure out where you can take your family for dinner or how much you’ll have to spend. Here are the 10 mistakes we hear about most often when chatting with people about their vacations.
Plan Your Disney Vacation Ahead of Time
They Don’t Plan (book adr, fastpasses, etc)
It’s important to consider all the Disney planning that needs to get done ahead of time. Yes, Disney is a theme park, but not like any other. If you don’t plan you are setting yourself up for disaster on a rather pricey vacation. Without planning you’ll have to wait in long lines, miss some dining and ride options completely, wait longer than needed at restaurants, pay more than needed for most things, miss your favorite characters and essentially leave Disney wondering why you spent all that money in the first place.
Ok, ok, we know! Planning a Disney vacation is a full time job, and you’ll definitely need a good week to try and figure everything out. What could happen if you just show up? Surely it wouldn’t be the end of the world, right? Surely, you can just wing it, right? Wrong. Disney planning is not something to skimp on at any stage of your Disney vacationing experience, let alone on your first or only Disney trip. Making sure you have dining reserved, your 3 fast passes a day booked, transportation figured out and all those things you have to do ahead of time like booking the hotel, choosing your magic bands and packing the right shoes. Check out the post on how to plan a Disney Vacation in 12 steps if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It really can be simple and fun.
PRO TIP: Make it fun. Pick a day to put aside some time for the Disney planning. Choose which park on which day, Book the restaurants, book the fast passes, Plan your Disney budget. Get a notebook, sit down and just do it.
Stop and Watch a Disney Show
They Don’t Stop and Watch the Shows, Parades, Etc.
Disney newbies tend to feel the call of doing “all the things”!!! Chances are you’ve waited a long time to get to Disney and since you’re spending the money will want to make the most of this vacation by shoving every last thing into it. This means you’re getting up early, staying out late, and checking off a list. This isn’t really what Disney dreams are made of. What if you thought for a minute that this wouldn’t be your only Disney vacation? What if you decided right now that you could easily go back to Disney every couple years? No, this isn’t a sales pitch for the DVC, its just a mindset shift that feels a whole lot better. Instead, why not plan on sitting to watch a daytime show or a parade? They’ll happen a few times a day and there’s no harm in taking an hour out of your schedule to really enjoy the Dapper Dans, or Main Street Trolley Dancers.
PRO TIP: Check the Disney Parks Schedule for parade and show times ahead of time, or grab a times guide at the park entrance.
Be Smarter With Your Vacation Money
They Think It’s All About Money And Spend Too Much as A Result
We totally get that this trip is costing a lot. We do. Disney newbies either budget too tightly or not at all. Both tactics will get you into trouble. For a true budget you can work with check out our Disney on a budget post. As a Disney newbie you won’t be thinking about the extra money you’ll need for tips or snacks or last minute transportation. And if you’re just winging your finances you’ll end up with a somewhat large credit card bill on the other side of this trip.
PRO TIP: Don’t attach your credit or debit card to your magic band. By day 3 of your vacation you’ll have given in to purchasing whatever. By having your Disney dollars on a Disney gift card you can control expenses.
Pack Your Disney Day Bag With Less
They Bring Everything They Own into the Parks
Disney newbies lug in strollers, backpacks, tote bags, you name it. While there are definitely instances where you will need a stroller if you’re toting little ones, know that it doesn’t need to be huge or packed with absolutely everything. You won’t need your resort mugs, they’re not refillable in the parks. You don’t need a 24 pack of water, bring one empty water bottle for each person in your party instead and refill throughout the parks. If you’re packing your own lunch, bring a small cooler bag and stash it in the lockers at the front of the park. The struggle you will have to endure at each ride, each restaurant, each show, and each character meet and greet is simply not worth it, just to have all your stuff nearby.
PRO TIP: Aim for one backpack ( and one stroller if needed). If the little ones want to wear little backpacks with a water bottle, poncho and their autograph books that could be helpful. Otherwise you can fit it all in one backpack, we’ve seen it done many times, we promise.
Stray From The Ordinary
They Don’t Leave the Parks
Part of the Disney newbie plight is that they’re often so focused on the money they spent and getting the most bang for their buck in their parks that they don’t really take it all in, Heck this may be their only ever Disney vacation, so we get that! But… when you’re this acutely focused on making it the most magical trip ever you miss the things that actually make it magical. Visiting the Disney resorts is one of our favorite ways to spend time at Disney. Having tea at the Grand Floridian, or breakfast with Stitch at The Polynesian, or trying the beignets at Port Orleans ( obviously our magic includes food) is what makes Disney different and special. Hop aboard the boat to Wilderness Lodge from Magic Kingdom or visit Animal Kingdom Lodge to watch the animals roam on the savanna or have s’mores on the terrace. The point here is Disney is so much more than a theme park with on-site lodging. Travel around and see what the fuss is all about.
PRO TIP: Plan a resort day so you save money by not having to pay for the parks one day. You can happily fit in all the monorail resorts if you want easy access. Or hop over to Port Orleans and Disney Springs accessible each way by boat. Whichever resorts you’re interested in, make a day of it.
Mobile Order Your Disney Meals
They Don’t Mobile Order Food
I can’t tell you how many poor unfortunate souls we see standing in food lines at Satuli Canteen, Columbia Harbor House, Be Our Guest and a slew of other popular restaurants. These are our same Disney newbie friends who really want to make the most of this vacation and deserve to have the best vacay ever! Why are they waiting in lines when mobile ordering could have had their food waiting on a counter when they walked in? Most people don’t know about mobile ordering yet, so we totally get that this info may have slipped through the cracks, but really there is no reason not to do it.
PRO TIP: Try mobile ordering from at least one place, that way you can see if it is for you. It really is quite awesome to be able to walk in someplace with the line out the door and get your food. We placed our order from the exit line at Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom and walked straight to satuli canteen to pick up our lunch. Pretty magical.
Don’t Waste Time Standing in Lines
They Spend Time Standing in Lines
Again, we feel so bad for the people standing in lines! Mainly because there really is so much to do at Disney that you shouldn’t spend time standing in lines unless you want to. We usually figure these are the folks that didn’t know about fastpasses, didn’t know how they worked, or forgot to book them completely. This little annoyance could have been fixed with a few clicks of the button on your My Disney Experience app at the right time.
PRO TIP: Book the Fast Passes that have the longest wait. Check out our best stuff in all four parks post to see which rides will absolutely need a fast pass.
Relax You’re On Vacation!
They Don’t Take Down Time
First-Time Disney vacationers are usually pretty focused on stuff; rides, restaurants, shows, etc. Much like our advice on taking a resort day, if your Disney experience is going to be all about doing all the things and fitting it all in you may have well just gone to a regular amusement park without the extra magic, or right back to your job which would surely give you a similar experience. So what are we saying? Take down time. Grab a coffee and sit on the hub grass at Magic Kingdom. Here you’ll see the main street dancers, get great views of the castle and have a much needed rest for your feet. Find a hidden alcove in Animal Kingdom to have a snack. Go on a lazy ride like Living with the Land in Epcot. Stop by the Grand Floridian to lounge about and listen to the piano player. Whatever you do make it relaxing.
PRO TIP: Appreciating how amazing Disney is involves taking a moment to realize what’s happening in between the hustle and bustle. Plan at least one thing during your trip that can constitute as relaxation time, that way you can still check it off your list and won’t feel like you’ve “wasted” time.
Florida is Hot and Rainy and Crowded…but lovely.
They’re Not Prepared for Florida
Whether its the heat, the rain, the long Disney days, the walking, or the sun… chances are there is something the Disney newbie is not expecting and won’t have any control over. It’s ok! Pack a poncho, bring the best tennis shoes, sunscreen and a water bottle. You’ll need all those things to survive Florida.
PRO TIP: We’ll definitely be doing a separate post on this one… but you’ll also want to bring ibuprofen, band aids, some vaseline to soothe your feet, lots of sunblock, maybe some tea and be sure to grab those ponchos at wal-mart or amazon beforehand so you don’t have to buy the 12 dollar ponchos at the Disney gift shop.
What if This isn’t Your Only Disney Trip?
They Try to Fit Everything In
This is more of a mindset shift than anything. We’ve alluded to this all throughout the post, but the “do all the things” strategy is not the Disney newbie’s best strategy. Instead of treating this trip like your first trip or your only trip…treat it just like “a trip!” Don’t put so much weight on it. On our first trip to Disney there was a hovering feeling that we needed to fit everything in because god only knows when or if we’d ever be back. I can’t even tell you the amount of stress we carried around for those first few days of vacation. Then on day 4 we asked “what if this wasn’t our only trip and what if we decided to just come back once a year.”We didn’t know how we’d do it, or afford it, or if we’d have to work three jobs to make it happen, but just thinking about the possibility helped. And what do you know? The stress went away and we actually enjoyed the rest of our vacation.
PRO TIP: Play “what if” and try believing that this first trip will be one of many, or at least a few Disney trips you’ll take in your life. By making everything less of a big deal, you’ll enjoy it more.