You’ve already got work, school, kids, family life, groceries, meal prep, your dying plants that you need to somehow revive. Add onto that planning a Disney trip with its complications about Park Passes, Genie+, dining reservations made 60 days in advance, and it can be…a lot. 😬
Truly, planning a Disney World vacation can be a daunting task. There are some things you might forget to do, or that you don’t know you need to do, or that you just DON’T do that could ruin your vacation. But don’t worry. Don’t stress out. As the song says, “you’ve got a friend in me!” Today we’re sharing our words of warning, along with lots of tips, to help you avoid those big mistakes that could ruin your trip!
Here are a list of some of the top mistakes to avoid when you’re visiting Disney World (and our tips on how to address them).
Not Establishing a Budget
Yes, Disney World is expensive. 💰 But it can be even more expensive if you don’t decide on a budget upfront! Sure, you might have figured out what the trip itself might cost, but have you budgeted for food, souvenirs, impromptu rideshare splurges, and other expenses that might pop up DURING the trip?
Trust us — if you don’t have a budget set up (and if you don’t stick to it), you have a good chance of ending up in shock at the end of your trip after realizing how much money you spent. 😱 It might seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort. Take the time to look at the menus of the restaurants you plan to eat at, check out the prices for the souvenirs you think you might want, and add on a bit extra for tips for those table service meals and miscellaneous expenses.
Want help with that budget? Check out our posts below!
- See what Disney World tickets really cost
- Learn why Disney World will cost you thousands more in 2022
- Is Disney World too expensive for average families? Find out
- Get an idea for how much it would cost a family of 4 to do Disney World in 2022
- Check out 9 FREE things to do in Disney World in 2022
- 9 of the best budget-friendly lunches in Disney World
Not Making Advance Dining Reservations
If you have restaurants you absolutely MUST dine at in Disney World, you’ll want to make sure that you make advance dining reservations (ADRs) as soon as you can! You can currently make reservations 60 days in advance of your check-in day, plus those staying at Disney World hotels can make reservations for their entire stay up to ten days.
Our advice? Make your restaurant list, set your alarm, and make sure you’re up and ready to make those reservations! You can call (407) WDW-DINE, make the reservations online through Disney’s website, or use the My Disney Experience app. Not sure what restaurants to pick? We’ve got LOTS of reviews to help you decide. Our DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2022 could also be a great place to start!
Our guide has over 700 pages of Disney Dining and Planning information, tips, and more. Plus, we’ve got a 5-step guide designed to help you set up your dining reservations so you can get those worries out of the way!
Here’s an additional dining tip: don’t schedule TOO many ADRs — be sure to leave yourself some time to enjoy the parks (and Disney World’s great counter-service restaurants).
If you can’t score the reservation of your dreams, keep checking back as there are often cancellations! And don’t forget to use things like Mobile Dine Walk-Up Waitlist to potentially get a spot at a restaurant that didn’t otherwise show availability.
Not Making Park Pass Reservations (Or Not Making Them Early Enough)
If you haven’t been to Disney World in a while, you might not know about Park Pass reservations, but these are crucial to know about now. Basically, you have to reserve your spot at specific parks in order to get in. You can’t just show up with a ticket and get in. You’ll need a valid ticket AND a Park Pass reservation to enter a Disney World theme park.
We suggest you plan out your days well in advance, and as soon as you can, make those Park Pass reservations so you can actually get into the parks you want to get into. Don’t wait too late to book your Park Pass reservations — they can and do fill up and the ones you want might be gone by the time you get around to doing it.
If the passes for the parks you want to visit aren’t available by the time you get to booking them, our advice is to book whatever is available. At least you’ll be able to get into some of the parks, rather than none. If you have a Park Hopper pass, you can then hop to another park (as long as there’s availability) or you can continuously check to see if there are cancellations or changes to the availability calendar.
Not Checking Park Hours and Special Event Times
Once you know you’re going to Disney World, be sure to check the official calendar on the Disney World website to see when parks are going to be open. Also, you’ll want to check for the dates of any potential special events. If, for example, you’ll be visiting during a time when a park will be hosting a special event and will be closing EARLY for regular guests, that’s something you’ll want to know about (you’ll generally see it marked on the calendar).
Park hours can be really critical, especially if you don’t have a Park Hopper pass. If you aren’t careful, you could accidentally plan to spend your one day in Magic Kingdom on a day when it will be closing hours earlier, or you could miss out on some longer hours it might have on another day.
Keep in mind, though, that park hours can and do change. Sometimes they might change ahead of your trip, or you might find that they’ll change in the middle of your vacation! Be sure to check those times each day to make sure you’re maximizing your time in the Most Magical Place on Earth!
We share weekly Park Hours and Park Pass updates, so be sure to subscribe to the DFB newsletter for the most up to date info!
Underestimating How Much Walking You Will Do
Believe us when we say you will walk MILES at Disney World without even realizing it. And that doesn’t even factor all of the time you’ll just spend STANDING in lines. Track your steps during your trip and we have a feeling you’ll be shocked at what the tracker tells you.
If you’re not up to a lot of walking, that that into account and make sure to take breaks throughout the day to give your body some rest or plan to only spend half days in the parks and schedule your time out appropriately. It IS a lot.
We also recommend planning your days at each park to minimize crossing back and forth a lot from one end of the park to another. You can get a lot more done (with a lot less walking) by focusing your ride priorities in one land or area and then moving on when you’re done there.
You might also want to do a bit of walking before your trip. Even just a few walks around the block can help your legs get ready — just so you don’t go from 0 to hero in no time flat. (It’s not as easy as Hercules made it look!)
Also, make sure you break in those shoes in advance. Do NOT start your trip by using a brand new pair of shoes — no one wants a blister during vacation! And carefully pick out the shoes you choose to wear. Wearing the “wrong” pair of shoes for your feet can set your trip up for disaster (and the need for a lot of Advil 😂).
Not Considering Transportation Times
If you’re trying to get to the park at a certain time or trying to be at a specific restaurant at a certain time, a good rule of thumb is to add at least an additional hour to when you need to leave wherever you’ll be before that to account for transportation.
Disney World transportation can undoubtedly be convenient, but it can also be very busy and take a long time! Especially if you’re traveling during a busy time, you may find yourself standing in long lines that could mean it’ll be a WHILE before you even get on that bus, boat, Skyliner, or Monorail.
Give yourself plenty of time to get to where you need to be so you don’t run late and you don’t get too stressed. That may mean heading toward the front of the park about 90 minutes before your scheduled dining reservation at a resort or Disney Springs. Better to be there early and have extra time than feel like you’ve only got seconds before your reservation time arrives.
And be sure to take this transportation time into account when leaving at the end of the day. If you know your family will start hitting its breaking point at 10PM, consider leaving the park earlier so you can be back in your cozy, air conditioned room before a full meltdown ensues!
Wearing the Wrong Shoes and Clothing
There’s a lot that factors into your Disney World outfit. You might want to look cute and feel stylish for all of those photos you’ll definitely put up on your Instagram. Or you might have that matching shirt thing going on, which can be a lot of fun! But, remember that you have to get practical about your clothing too! Unfortunately, Disney is not housed in a weather controlled dome.
Before you leave home, check the weather forecast! 🌧️ Believe it or not, it can often get a bit chilly in Florida (especially in January), and you might need a light jacket or sweater. (Okay, so maybe it’s not THAT cold for all you Northern folks who casually deal with 4 degree weather, but the 40s can be cold for some people! 🤣)
Likewise, it can get VERY hot in the summer. We’re talking some serious heat folks — it’s no joke! ☀️ You don’t want to be running around in a sweatshirt during 90 degree weather, trust us. If it looks like the weather will be a mix of things, come prepared! Bring layers and pack them in your bag so you can change things out as you see fit. We write a weekly weather report each week, so keep your eye on our newsletter for weather details!
Another important tip? ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS (we repeat ALWAYS) bring rain gear. Unless you visit during those especially cold days or sporadic days during the year when it doesn’t rain a drop in Central Florida, you’ve got a pretty high chance of hitting some rain at least once during your trip (even if the forecast doesn’t call for rain during your trip!). Don’t bring the rain gear and you’ll be stuck shelling out some serious cash for raincoats and umbrellas in the park.
And (as we mentioned above) think very carefully about the shoes you bring. You’ll want something comfortable, already broken into, and able of handling a lot of walking on pavement. Again we say, Disney World is NOT where you want to break in a new pair of shoes!
And bring a spare pair of shoes if you can! Remember those rain showers we mentioned? It can be really nice to have a spare pair of super dry shoes to wear the next day, so you don’t have to walk around in soggy shoes for multiple days (also a good tip if you’re a fan of water rides like Splash Mountain or Kali River Rapids)! Or consider packing waterproof shoes — things like Crocs or other shoes that can handle the water just fine. Aside from water concerns, changing your shoes can also just give your feet a bit of a change and help them not feel too worn out.
Oh gosh, and the SOCKS! How can we forget about the socks?! Socks can ruin your trip if they’re too tight, too small (and lead to blisters), or get soggy from rain. Bring more socks than you think you’ll need, just in case!
You’ll also want to take comfort into account. Hate itchy tags on your shirts? Cut them off? Don’t spend your Disney World trip uncomfortable and miserable because you’re wearing a scratchy shirt. Look for comfortable and breathable material (unless you’ll be coming during those colder times).
Need help packing? We’ve got you covered!
- Click here for the ultimate packing list for newborns in Disney World
- Check out our packing list from 2021
- See 8 of the most obscure things people bring to Disney World
- 10 Disney World essentials you can get on Amazon
- 14 Disney hotel room essentials
Not Setting an Alarm to Get Lightning Lane Passes on Genie+
Disney Genie+ is an optional paid service that has essentially replaced FastPass+. Disney Genie+ allows you to bypass standby lines and enter the Lightning Lane (previously known as the FastPass+ line) at select attractions — thereby getting you on your favorite attractions without the long waits. Genie+ costs $15 per day, per ticket at Disney World. (Tax not included.)
Essentially, with Genie+ you’ll get to see the next available return times for a bunch of different attractions. You’ll select the return time for the attraction that you want, and when that return time arrives you’ll get to skip the standby line and go through the Lightning Lane. Then, you’ll make your next selection and so on and so forth (though there are some special rules you’ll want to know about when it comes to Genie+ and making your next selection).
While many rides are included in that $15 per day, per ticket price, some are NOT available through the standard Genie+ service. Instead, if you want to skip the lines at some of the really popular rides (like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance) you’ll have to pay to skip those lines individually through Individual Attraction Selection.
Regardless of whether you buy Genie+ in advance of your trip or the day of your park visit, you won’t be able to make your first Genie+ Lightning Lane selection until 7AM on the morning of your visit. Also, if you choose to use Individual Attraction Selection, Disney World hotel guests can make their pay-per-ride selections at 7AM, but other guests cannot do so until the park opens.
If you miss that 7AM (or park opening) wake-up call, it could mean that some of the more popular attractions won’t have Lightning Lane availability until later in the afternoon or evening, or they might not have Lightning Lane availability at all (at least not unless more availability pops up). Some selections can sell out (at least initially), which means you might just be stuck using the standby line to get on that ride.
If you’re gonna fork out an extra $15 per person, per day for Genie+ to have the chance to skip some of the lines of your favorite attractions, don’t let something as simple as accidentally sleeping in get in the way of getting you top picks of the Lightning Lane options!
Be sure to set those alarms and get up in time to make your Genie+ and Individual Attraction Selection picks as soon as you can so you get the best chance of skipping the lines at your must-do rides.
Not Linking Your Family and Friends on My Disney Experience
You’re going to find yourself dealing with a big headache if you don’t have all members of your family or group linked together on the My Disney Experience App. This will especially come in handy when you’re trying to nab those Genie+ Lightning Lanes or Individual Attraction Selections.
Well ahead of your trip, download the My Disney Experience app. Make sure you’ve set up your own account in it and linked your hotel reservations, Park Pass reservations, and ticket information. Then, make sure you’ve got all of your family and friends connected.
If your family and friends have their own My Disney Experience profiles, you can link to them to set up your family and friends list. Make sure they have all of their information linked with their account! If you’ve got members of the group who don’t have their own profiles, either ask them to download the app and create their profiles, or you can create profiles for them and manage their plans. Again, just make sure all tickets, etc. are linked.
Getting everything linked and arranged will help you be able to make plans for the full group!
Not Drinking Enough Water
It can get hot in Florida, and you will need to stay hydrated if you want to stay healthy in the parks. It’s SO important to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Passing out from dehydration is probably not on your ideal Disney vacation itinerary, so set alarms to drink that water or otherwise make sure it is a top priority!
Planning For “YOUR” Dream Vacation and Not Including Your Group
You probably have the ideal Disney World vacation in mind — we all do! But if you’re going to Disney World with family, friends, or another group, you’re going to want to work together to get the dream vacation that EVERYONE in your party wants, or at least a vacation that takes everyone’s wants into account.
That means including your family or travel pals in some of those key planning stages. Before you make that hotel reservation and book 50 dining reservations (an exaggeration, of course!) talk to your group. Is there a hotel they’ve got their heart set on staying in? Is there a restaurant they absolutely MUST eat in this trip? What rides do they want to get on? What rides will they absolutely NOT ride?
Knowing each person’s priorities, likes, dislikes, and goals for their trip can help you plan a trip that’ll make everyone happy! It’s tempting to fully take over planning a trip for the whole group and just running the show. But if you’re just living your dream and everyone else is miserable, you’ll end up miserable too.
Sleeping In (Sometimes)
We get it — for some people, part of the fun of vacation is getting to relax and sleep in. But you’re not going on a regular vacation, friend, you’re going to DISNEY WORLD — the land of churros, Mickey Mouse, and…no sleep! 😂
In all seriousness, you can sleep in and take your Disney World vacation as it comes if you’re not worried about getting on those top priority rides and you’re just there to walk around. If you’re truly “going with the flow,” then you can live that life — but know that it will generally come with longer waits, larger crowds, hotter temperatures, and (generally) missed opportunities to accomplish more during your stay.
Here are some reasons why you might want to wake up early and sacrifice a few hours of that precious sleep:
1 — It could help you get those top-priority picks for Genie+ and Individual Attraction Selection either at 7AM or park open, as applicable.
2 — It could help you take advantage of special benefits like Early Theme Park Entry (available for all Disney World hotel guests and select other hotel guests). Early Entry gets you into the parks 30 minutes early — giving you bonus time to get on those rides without the full crowds. (But note that night owls staying at Disney Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villas can take advantage of Extended Evening Hours as well.)
3 — Getting to the parks right when (or even before) they open means that you will be some of the first guests in the parks and may get the chance to ride some of the most popular attractions before the lines get too long and the day gets too hot.
There are a lot of good reasons why getting up early can be beneficial in the Most Magical Place on Earth.
And hey, if you really need that extra sleep, consider taking a midday break back at the hotel for a nap — believe us, we’ve done it. Then you’ll be rested up enough to tackle more time in the parks later!
Not Knowing How to Use the QR Codes
You’re going to see QR codes EVERYWHERE at Disney World, and if you don’t already know how to use them, you’ll definitely want to learn! They will save you a lot of time — whether you’re just needing to see a restaurant menu quickly, or you want to quickly shop without having to go through the regular checkout lane, or you need to reserve a spot in a virtual line.
Yes, QR codes are your friends. Most restaurants have menus on their websites that you can find on your mobile device, but just scanning the QR code provided can save you some extra steps (or even some frustration!) so why not do yourself a favor and get familiar with your friend, the QR code. It’s generally as simple as pointing your smart phone’s camera at the QR code and tapping the link that pops up (at least on an iPhone). And, of course, feel free to ask any Cast Member for some help to master this new digital pal.
Not Becoming Familiar with My Disney Experience in Advance
If you’re one of those folks who refuses to use your phone during a vacation, we apologize in advance. In many ways, your phone AND the My Disney Experience app are critical to enjoying your Disney World trip.
You’ll generally end up using your phone and the app for a lot of things during your trip, including unlocking your hotel room door, ordering food through Mobile Order (which is, in many spots, essentially required), checking ride wait times, having your tickets handy, making dining reservations on the go, making Genie+ and Individual Attraction Selection picks, using Mobile Merchandise Check-Out, joining a mobile dine waitlist, checking-in to your dining reservation, and SO. MUCH. MORE.
Yes, there are usually other ways of doing some of those things, but they might end up taking MORE time than using the app.
So, our advice? Download the app at home before your trip and start learning how to use it in advance. Set up your account, link Park Passes, hotel reservations, and park tickets, and play around with the app’s features so you can be familiar with it. And if you need any helpful tips about the My Disney Experience app, we’ve got some right here!
Pushing Too Hard To Do Everything
The first thing you need to remember about Disney World is that there is really no way for you to do EVERYTHING in the parks and resorts in one trip. In fact, you may go on 100 trips to Disney World and still not do it all. There are specialty tours, tons of rides, shows and experiences to see, SO many restaurants, and gazillions of snacks available. No matter how hard you push yourself, you won’t see it ALL in one go.
There is just SO MUCH to see and do, and Disney keeps adding more to the parks! So take a deep breath, accept that there will always be more to do and see, and relax. Pick out the main things that are on your must-do list for your trip and if you get in a few extra things, cool! If not, ALSO cool!
We’ve seen way too many families at the parks who have been going non-stop from park opening to close without stopping for a break. And while that might be okay for some, we’ve seen a good number of parents having a meltdown right alongside their kids. Disney is a LOT for anyone. Be sure to slow down, take time to enjoy the memories you’re creating, and don’t push yourself too hard. Remember, whatever you don’t get a chance to experience this trip is just another justification to book another magical vacation! 😉
Waiting Too Long To Decide What To Eat
Although Disney World does have a lot of options for eating on the go, the best way to avoid getting HANGRY is knowing what you want to eat and where you want to go. Even when using counter service, you’ll probably need to Mobile Order food (it’s essentially required in many places or heavily encouraged), and if you don’t plan ahead, you might find yourself waiting a long time to eat.
If you wait until the second you’re hungry to place that Mobile Order, you may find that the next pick-up time isn’t for a WHILE. That means you’ll be stuck being hangry for a bit before your pick-up time arrives. And then you might have to wait in another decently sized line to actually get your hands on that food.
Our advice? Think about those mealtimes earlier in the day. We know it might sound like a bit much, but place those Mobile Orders as soon as you can (even really early in the morning!) so you can select the pick-up time that works best for you and your food can be ready well before you reach peak level hangriness!
Not Reviewing Menus First
We’ve all got picky eaters in the family! Or maybe you or others in your party have allergies or other food sensitivities. That’s why it’s important to look over Disney World menus ahead of time so you know where you and your family can and can’t eat. You can access every Disney World restaurant’s menu on the official Disney World website and through the My Disney Experience app.
Generally, you will find allergy-friendly menu options and picky eater-friendly selections at many restaurants in Disney World. But it’s good to look at things in advance so you can have a plan of attack for those who do have special dietary needs.
Know before you go — that’s a rule to live by when visiting Disney World!
We hope that this post has helped you learn about some of the biggest mistakes you can make in Disney World that could ruin your trip, and we hope our tips help you avoid making those errors! We’ll continue to give you all our best tips AND tricks to make the most of your Disney World vacation, so stay tuned.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made at Disney World? Let us know in the comments!