Most Disney World planning advice isn’t one-size-fits-all!
When planning a Disney World vacation, you’ll probably hear a LOT of suggestions from family and friends. And while there are a few things that pretty much everyone should keep in mind for their trip, there are some tips that you may want to completely ignore. Here’s the Disney World advice we DON’T follow!
If you’re chatting about your upcoming Disney World vacay, chances are pretty good that you’ll hear comments like “you HAVE to eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table” or “if you don’t ride Space Mountain, you basically didn’t even go to Disney World!”
We’d like to politely disagree. And hey, we’re definitely guilty of saying things like that when talking with our personal friends and family too. We know first-hand how passionate Disney fans can get about their favorites!
There are certainly some quintessential Disney World rides, restaurants, and experiences, but just because something is super popular, or at the top of someone else’s list, doesn’t mean it will be a fit for your vacation. Just because eeeeeeveryone says you HAVE to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios…actually…doesn’t mean you have to. In fact, you might not care about this ride at all and find much more joy elsewhere. Just remember when others offer advice: it’s not THEIR trip, it’s YOUR trip. Remember that.
If you’re traveling with kiddos that struggle with spooky things or dark places, you might want to skip attractions that others consider a “must-do” like Haunted Mansion or Tower of Terror. Or heck, maybe your kids are infants and you’d rather focus on rides everyone in your family can do.
There’s no one-size-fits-all Disney World trip, so don’t feel like you have to do something just because someone else said it was their favorite. Do your research and talk to the rest of your travel party to decide on YOUR must-dos…and must-skips!
Load Up Your Park Bag
There are some essentials that we pretty much always have on us in the parks like a phone charger, water bottle, and rain gear. And we try to keep you prepared for anything by suggesting things to bring in the parks with you but…it can be a LOT. Don’t want to lug around a backpack full of gear? No problem. Maybe you like it easy breezy and NO bag, purse, or otherwise. That works too. (See, we’re back on the “It’s your trip. Do what works for you” kick!)
Even though there are a lot of useful items to bring each day, that doesn’t mean we pack an entire suitcase worth of gear in our park bags. You’ll be walking A LOT, so be reasonable with the items you put in your park bag and only bring the things that you think you’ll actually need.
Keep in mind that you can buy some essentials at the gift shops, first aid, and baby care centers in the parks too, so it’s not the end of the world if you end up needing something you didn’t bring. We make a habit of checking the contents of our park bag each day and adjusting for the new day ahead.
Basically, if we’ll definitely or probably need it, it goes in our park bag. But if not, it stays in the room — or at home!
Plan Out Your ENTIRE Trip
It’s true that there’s a decent amount of planning that goes into a Disney World vacation. BUT, overplanning your trip is a recipe for disaster. And the fear of missing out (FOMO) seems to get concentrated around a Disney trip. After all, you’re spending a lot of money to have a “magical” vacation, you want to squeeze every ounce of pixie dust out of every moment, right?
If you plan too much, you’ll find yourself rushing around the parks and potentially missing out on some of your plans. In addition to all of the extra stress and exhaustion, this can even cost you money in some cases, like missing an Advance Dining Reservation. Not to mention you will likely run your family and/or yourself ragged.
Talk to everyone you’re traveling with ahead of the trip to figure out everyone’s must-do rides, restaurants, and experiences. Plan those things into your trip to make sure you hit them and then everything else you get to is icing on the cake! (And you know how much we like icing….well, and cake!)
Also, be sure to leave yourself some downtime without anything planned. That way, you’ll have time for things like re-riding attractions you loved, hitting things that you missed due to unexpected closures, or just getting some much-needed rest!
Hit the Most Popular Attractions First
One strategy lots of guests use is to head to the most park’s most popular attraction right when the park opens (or at “rope drop” in Disney-speak).
But here’s the problem: this is SUCH a common strategy that a LOT of folks do it each day. And if you aren’t literally one of the first people at the ride, you might end up waiting even longer for the ride than you would later in the day.
If you are heading out for rope drop, consider starting your day with a top-tier attraction that’s not quite as popular as the newest headliners. For example, in Magic Kingdom, head to Splash Mountain or Space Mountain instead of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
The one important exception here is in the case of outdoor attractions. Since outdoor rides close during inclement weather, it still may be worth rope-dropping it if it’s a must-do attraction for you. Storms will often hit in the early afternoon, and you don’t want to risk missing out on your favorite ride, even if that does mean waiting in a long line!
Remember that you can hop in line for an attraction all the way up until the moment the park closes, so for rides with steadily long wait times like Flight of Passage, you could hold off until the very end of the day to avoid spending your park time in line. But again, unexpected closures do happen occasionally, so only use this strategy for rides you won’t be heartbroken if you miss!
Make It To Rope Drop Every Day
Speaking of rope drop, don’t feel like you have to be one of the first people in the parks every day (or any day!) of your trip.
It’s important to build in some time to rest, sleep in, and recharge during your trip, especially if you have a longer vacation!
And if your travel party really isn’t into the early mornings, you might not want to head out for rope drop at all if everyone will end up grumpy for the rest of the day. It’s not worth dealing with meltdowns all day just to fit in a few extra rides!
Remember that advice above to not overplan your days? We’ve seen it too many times where families push themselves to stay until park close, THEN have a late dinner reservation, THEN up and at ’em first thing in the morning to rope drop a park. (Are you tired just reading that sentence??)
If you’re not a ray of sunshine first thing in the morning or the idea of peeling your kids out of bed before the sun is up sounds, well, horrible…DON’T DO IT! You can typically still take advantage of slightly lower crowds in the few hours before park close if evenings are more your jam!
Park Hopping is a Must
Some guests love the flexibility of being able to hop from park to park. But, much like everything else in Disney World, that doesn’t mean park hopping will work for YOUR specific party!
Transportation between parks can take a LONG time — sometimes upwards of an hour — so remember that if you do park hop, you’ll be spending a portion of your day in transit. Especially if you try to hop around peak times, like when park hopping hours begin or shortly before one park is about to close.
There’s a TON to take in at each of the parks, even outside of the attractions. Sometimes we prefer to dedicate our day to one park so we can take it slow and soak everything in!
Also, consider the physical needs of everyone you’re traveling with. Do you have nappers? People with limited mobility? If so, it may be better for you to plan on spending shorter park days anyway, which makes hopping an unnecessary add-on. We know plenty of folks that Park Hopping is a necessity to how they plan their days in Disney World and others that could never use it and be perfectly content. Just depends on your family’s preferences! Foregoing the Park Hopper option saves some money, too — which is always nice!
Planning a Disney World trip can feel overwhelming at times. OK, most of the time TBH. Especially if you’re getting overloaded with suggestions from family and friends! (Be nice — they mean well 😉) Keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all Disney World vacation, and your plans should be about what’s best for YOU and your travel party. These are the pieces of advice we take with a grain of salt…so plan accordingly! Sometimes the best part of doing your research is knowing which attractions or experiences you CAN SKIP without regrets.
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What common Disney World planning advice do you ignore? Let us know in the comments!