10 First Time Disney World Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

10 First Time Disney World Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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 trying to figure out where you can take your family for dinner.  Or how much you’ll have to spend when you do finally find somewhere to eat. Here are the 10 Disney World mistakes we hear about most often when chatting with people about their vacations.

One of the big Disney World mistakes newbies make is they Don’t Plan. 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 and miss the best dining and ride options completely. You 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.

Disney World Castle Cinderella Castle

Make a Plan For Each Day

Ok, ok, we know! Planning a Disney vacation is a full-time job. Thankfully, we have a Walt Disney World printable planner to help you out and make it easy. Look at it this way. 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 vacation. Making sure you have dining reserved, or at least a plan is key.

Figuring out transportation ahead of time helps too. From booking the hotel to 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, and come up with your Disney Ride Strategy. 

disney day shows

Watch the Street Shows

Disney newbies don’t even realize there are shows or parades! So how could they plan for it? Many vacationers 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. So a normal Disney World mistake is just shoving every last thing you can into every single day. This means you’re getting up early, staying out late, and checking off a list. Not that we don’t love Disney checklists. 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. You can also access all the details on showtimes, ride times, park hours and more on the My Disney Experience App. 

using a disney travel agent

Set the Right Budget

We couldn’t have Disney World mistakes that didn’t involve money. Many Disney newbies focus too much on the money and as a result, actually spend MORE!!! We totally get that this trip is costing a lot. We do. You either budget too tightly or not at all. Both tactics will get you into trouble. For a true budget, you can work with checking out our Disney on a budget post, which includes some costs and miscellaneous things you probably didn’t consider. Chances are 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. Plan your Disney budget. Get a notebook or planner, sit down and just do it.

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 you want. And for a variety of reasons; it’s hot out, the kids are whiny, cheap food is too far away, and if you have to walk into one more gift shop…, etc.  By having your Disney dollars on a Disney gift card you can control expenses. 

polkadotsandpixiedust.com dooney and bourke bags 2017 flower and garden 2017 dooney bag

Pack Less in Your Day Bag

All you need is LESS. This is one of the Disney World mistakes we see A LOT. People bring everything they own into the parks. New Walt Disney World vacationers lug in strollers, backpacks, tote bags, you name it. It’s not another country, just a theme park. 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.

Part of Walt Disney World’s sustainability plan is refillable water bottle stations, so you will see them popping up everywhere soon. 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.

Disney Boardwalk Checklist

Spend Time Outside of Disney Parks

You shouldn’t only spend time in the parks. That’s not really what Walt Disney World is all about. For many the struggle is focused so much on the money spent and getting the most bang for their buck in the parks that everything else is missed. Heck this may be your 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. All important. Obviously our Disney magic includes food, but it 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 head to your resort for s’mores or a movie on the lawn.  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.

Ronto Wraps at Star Wars Galaxy's Edge

Mobile Order Your Disney Meals

We can’t tell you how many poor unfortunate souls we see standing in food lines at Satuli Canteen, Columbia Harbor House, and ABC Commissary and a slew of other popular restaurants, as we stroll past to get our meals. It’s heartbreaking. 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? Make sure you have the My Disney Experience loaded on your phone. In the app, you can find menus, order food and be alerted when it’s ready. 

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 Satu’li canteen to pick up our lunch. Pretty magical.

Disney Hollywood Studios Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway

Don’t Waste Time Standing in Line

Some Disney World mistakes that happen to the best of us? Standing in lines! Why? Again, we feel so bad for the people waiting 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. Maybe they didn’t know lines are lowest at mealtimes and could try for favorite rides then? Maybe they didn’t rope drop the important ones in the morning before the crowds showed up. This little annoyance could have been fixed with a few clicks of the button on your My Disney Experience app to check Disney Genie for ride wait times and your best time to try for a low wait!

PRO TIP: If you choose to get Genie+ you get two lightning lane passes included. To reserve your first rides, plan to be on the app at 7 AM so you can pick the first two rides. Try to aim for EARLY times, since you will have to complete riding them before you choose your next ride. This way you can stack your rides and just keeping adding Lightning Lanes all day. Check out our Disney Ride Strategies for other ways to limit your line waits. 

Tea Garden Tour at WAlt Disney World

Relax, You’re On Vacation

Common Disney World mistakes that happen often are not taking a break and not relaxing! 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, then just go to a regular theme park. So what are we saying?

Take downtime. 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:  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.

Disney in the Rain

Be Prepared When it Rains

No one usually sees the Disney World mistakes that will affect a Disney World vacation the most. Mainly because, people are simply never prepared for Florida. Whether it’s 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 beforehand so you don’t have to buy the 12 dollar ponchos at the Disney gift shop.

Festival of Fantasy Minnie Mouse Parade

Don’t Try to Do it All

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. We can’t even tell you the amount of stress we carried around for those first few days of vacation.

Truthfully I think I might have had a breakdown in the gift shop with the realization that I may never be able to come back. Why? Because it’s far, it’s expensive, and I have a job that doesn’t pay for vacations. But 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.” Somehow that felt possible. 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. Like Magic.

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, and feel less pressured to get it all in. We’ve been visiting Disney World for 15 years, and still haven’t gotten it all in. 

Beginner Mistakes at Disney World

Hopefully, this was helpful in level setting all those expectations, common Disney World mistakes and has prepared you for the BEST TRIP ahead. 

Don't get on your disney Vacation without a plan. Read through these top mistakes and see our best suggestions instead. Everything you need to make sure that your disney Vacation is better than most! #polkadotpixies #disneytips #disneymistakes

Co-Founder and Director at Polka Dot Pixie Co LLC | Website

Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.

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