10 Mistakes People Make When Planning Their Disney World Vacation

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Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation takes some thought, some work, and most of all some time.  However, there are times when mistakes can be made, and in some cases, you learn the hard way.  You want every part of your trip to be absolutely magical and wonderful.  So, today I’m going to share with you 10 Mistakes People Make When Planning Their Disney World Vacation.  Hopefully, you’ll be able to avoid these mistakes, or even chime in with some friendly and helpful advice for others!

Mistake #1:  Staying off site at a Good Neighbor Hotel.  First, don’t get me wrong.  Good Neighbor hotels can be wonderful for many people.  However, these can add unplanned costs to your trip.  You may need to rent a car, their transportation is often scheduled whereas Disney’s runs continuously, and some have nightly parking fees, and you ‘ll need to pay a parking fee at the theme parks.  Staying on Walt Disney World property is one of the best moves you can make when planning your trip.

Mistake #2:  Not making Advance Dining Reservations.  Even if you don’t get your reservations made at the 180 day mark, try to make some for your trip.  You’d be surprised what becomes available the closer you get to your travel time.  Could you imagine, with all the popular restaurants and the crowds, what a mess the Disney parks would be if they didn’t take reservations?  ADRs can be a huge timesaver as well.  The time you spend going from restaurant to restaurant trying to get a walk up table could be well spent sitting down and enjoying a nice meal.

Mistake #3:  Not utilizing FastPass and FastPass+.  With all the fun and fuss surrounding FastPass+ recently, you’ll want to utilize these options when in the parks.  FastPass+ can easily be changed at kiosks in the parks, but it’s a good idea to add some FastPass+ to your Magic Bands prior to your arrival.  MagicBands and FastPass Plus are part of Disney’s very near future for guests, so you might as well utilize them.

Mistake #4:  Entering the parks without a plan.  Disney makes maps very readily available on their website, and if you are working with a travel agent, they should provide you with park maps prior to your visit.  Take some time to look at them, and be aware of what attractions are in which areas of the parks.  If you want to do Goofy’s Barnstormer, and Pirates of the Caribbean in one day, that’s doable.  But don’t go from Storybook Circus ALL the way over to the other side of the park to Adventureland without enjoying the attractions in between.  Our family will often do Tomorrowland, Storybook Circus, and Fantasyland at the front of our day.  After some lunch or a resort pool break, we’ll come back and enjoy Adventureland and Frontierland in the evening.  Our last activity is usually the Main Street Electrical Parade and/or Wishes.  With a good spot on Main Street USA, you can enjoy both of these and then make a quick exit of the park.

Mistake #5:  Arrive at the parks after 10 am.  If you arrive at your first, and possibly only, park of the day after 10 am, you’ll be in for long lines, crowds, and the possibility of missing out on that all important mid day break at the pool.  The earlier you can get to the parks, the better off you will be.  Even if it’s for just two or three days of your stay.

Mistake #6:  Not using a Disney Travel Agent.  I know a lot of people who don’t use travel agents-particularly Disney travel agents-and I used to be one of them.  After 5 vacations of planning my own, I finally turned it over to one and I’m so glad I did.  They are someone to bounce ideas off of, get itinerary suggestions, watch for dining reservation times, and not to mention the discounts we all love and wait for!  In fact, I just heard from a friend the other day who booked through a large commercial travel agency, and she didn’t get Free Dining.  She got their agency discount they offer for Disney vacations, but it was nowhere near the money she would’ve saved had she sought the help of a Disney Travel agent.

Mistake #7: Not utilizing Extra Magic Hours. Another great perk of staying on Walt Disney World property is taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours.  The late night hours are our family’s favorite.  Staying at Magic Kingdom, well past bedtime, is so much fun!  Seriously, our kids love it.  And so do we!  This is a great idea, especially if you’ve taken advantage of the all important midday hotel/pool/shopping at Downtown Disney break.  Getting into the parks early, like at Animal Kingdom at 8 am, can be awesome as well.  You can easily tour Animal Kingdom and be done by early afternoon if you get there for morning Extra Magic Hours.

Mistake #8:  Renting a stroller directly from the Disney parks.  As a visitor to the Disney parks many times, the strollers can be annoying for others.  They’re bulky, they don’t steer well where there are parade tracks, and for what you get they’re expensive.   Consider Kingdom Strollers, or another outside stroller rental company.  They’ll bring the stroller directly to and pick it up from your resort for you. They rent name brand strollrs-such as City Mini and BOB-which are way more comfortable than the hard plastic ones at the parks.

Mistake #9:  Realize that you can’t do it all in one trip.  I’ve been 5 times, and I still have yet to see the Nemo show at Animal Kingdom, enjoy Fantasia Mini Golf,  and yet to enjoy breakfast at O’hana.  Disney parks aren’t the size of your local Six Flags or Knott’s Berry Farms.  They’re huge! Not to mention the fun to be had off site, like at Downtown Disney or the Boardwalk area.  Narrow down your top attractions or restaurants before you go.  That will allow you to have time to do other things, yet feel good that you accomplished and visited the attractions on your “must do” list.

Mistake #10:  Asking everyone and their brother for Disney travel advice.  I think that asking for Disney advice is like asking for potty training advice.  You get too many opinions, and before you know it, you are just as confused as you were when you started.  Ask a few trusted friends, sites like here on Chip and Co, or even again a Disney travel agent.  It’ll keep you focused, and then your brain isn’t swimming with everyone else’s thoughts and opinions.

I’m always ready to help you plan your next Disney vacation, to offer advice, and even save you some time and money. Let me know how I can help you!  Email me at carrie@destinationsinflorida.com or find me on Facebook!

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24 thoughts on “10 Mistakes People Make When Planning Their Disney World Vacation

  1. MyMagic+ news

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    Disney’s Pop Century Resort to provide MagicBands and no Key to the World card from this week

    Nov 12, 2013 | 2:51pm EDT

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    We reported back at the end of October that Walt Disney World resort hotel guests will soon be issued with only MagicBands and no Key to the World Card. MyMagic+ is now about to take another step forward as MagicBands become the default option at one of Disney’s largest hotels.

    During the past few weeks this has been tested with cast members and a limited number of guests, but from later this week, all guests at Disney’s Pop Century Resort will only be issued with MagicBands.

    The MagicBands will give access to all hotel and park functions, including touch-to-enter, FastPass+, and touch-to-pay. Key to the World Cards can be requested, however, the magnetic strip will not be activated, meaning it cannot be used for traditional FASTPASS, only FastPass+.

    Expect to see the MagicBand-only program to roll out to all resorts over the coming months.

  2. These are some great tips! Thanks for sharing them with us. I agree with your tips and have used most of them myself. Last November when we took our son we also went with friends and for the first time we used a travel agent who saved us almost $1000! She was a seasoned Micky veteran and gave us lots of different tips on what we should and should not do. Because of her help we were able to get the dining plan for free as well as see a lot of the shows that we wanted to and we got all the reservations that we wanted.

  3. Our family enjoys staying off site we can stay much longer for way less money our last trip we stayed for 16 days include our gas down from Missouri our food hotel ( 1 bedroom condo) and tickets for less than 3000

  4. I disagree with number 1 as well. We have priced out Disney value resorts vs. offsite, and we save money every time … even when paying for parking. Our family of six, plus my parents, stayed at a rental house…with pool and game room, for 100 bucks a night! We saved additional money by eating several meals there as well.

  5. Making FastPass+ (FP+) an onsite only perk certainly was one of the options being considered at the beginning of 2013 but, at that time, Disney had “settled” on making FP+ available to everyone. Later, we learned that onsite guests could book FP+ experiences at 60 days plus length of day, presumably giving onsite guests a slight booking advantage, similar to Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR).

    Extra Magic Hours (EMH) are an expensive onsite perk and plans were to reduce and eventually eliminate it to bring down operating expensive. FP+ is a logical choice to act as an onsite perk replacement. Why keep EMH if onsite guests can cut lines during normal park hours?

    What’s been disappointing is the reported 30% pre-arrival participation rate in FP+. In other words, during testing, only about 30% of test subjects bothered to make their FP+ selections before arriving. I’ve been told that, despite Disney’s desire to the contrary, a lot of onsite guests still resist preplanning their vacations. So far, FP+ has not turned everyone into uber planners as originally hoped for.

    There also was negative feedback to Disney’s plans to limit FP+ selections. Onsite guests don’t want to be forced to use a FP+ selection for less popular attractions. If they are going to be limited to 3 per day, they want them for the 3 “best” attractions possible.

    One could imagine a lot of onsite guests staying at WDW’s highly profitable resorts being pretty upset if they arrived at WDW and all the “good” FP+ selections were unavailable.

    Making FP+ an onsite only perk would mirror Universal’s successful Express Pass perk for onsite guests, so such a scheme is not without precedent.

    Still, to cut out all non-onsite guests would be highly unusual for WDW and upset a lot of local AP holders. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of moves suggesting Disney no longer values AP holders in high regard. Making FP+ an onsite only perk would be the coup de grâce for local AP holders.

    One thing I know for certain is Disney is taking FP+ feedback seriously and is using that feedback to “improve” the system. Whether you consider it an “improvement”, well, that’s a different matter.

  6. Fast Pass Plus and regular Fast Passes
    Discussion in ‘Using MyMagic+, FastPass+ and My Disney Experience’ started by LovinMK, Wednesday at 10:55 AM.
    LovinMKNew Member
    Joined:Sep 25, 2013
    Messages:4
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    We are going to Disney World in December and have already scheduled our 3 fast passes for each day. Will there still be regualar paper fast passes at the parks that we can use too?
    LovinMK, Wednesday at 10:55 AM
    #1

    wdwmagicAdministratorModerator
    Joined:Jun 4, 2001
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    Regular FASTPASS is being phased out, and some resort guests are being discouraged or prevented from using regular FASTPASS. The exact situation is unclear at the moment, but plan on using just 3 FP+, then if you do get regular FP it will be a bonus.
    wdwmagic, Wednesday at 10:57 AM
    #2
    wdisney9000 likes this.
    Weather_LadyWell-Known Member
    Joined:Apr 16, 2012
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    LovinMK said: ↑
    We are going to Disney World in December and have already scheduled our 3 fast passes for each day. Will there still be regualar paper fast passes at the parks that we can use too?I don’t think the “offical full roll-out date” for converting entirely from FP to FP+ has been announced yet. I was told by a CM on the Disney phone line that it would occur “by the end of this calendar year,” but phone line CMs are a source whose authoritativeness is roughly equal to that of your average carnival fortune teller.
    Weather_Lady, Wednesday at 10:59 AM
    #3
    wrpdndprsd and wdisney9000 like this.
    DasnowzActive Member
    Joined:Aug 20, 2012
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    starting oct 27 kttw ,at certain resorts as a roll out, are being phased out and magic band only issued. they are being limited to the 3 fp per day.
    Dasnowz, Wednesday at 11:07 AM
    #4

    Mr.SkunkapeWell-Known Member
    Joined:Apr 5, 2010
    Messages:414
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    Going to miss the old paper FP and trick to beating them.

  7. Those are the most popular rides at the parks for fastpasses. If you don’t get there when the park opens and go straight to the attractions and have them in your hand within an hour or two of park opening, most likely you won’t get one.

  8. Another after 10 arrival at parks here as well. We have only once seen a rope drop (and that was from behind the line leaving breakfast at Epcot). We normally arrive at a park between 9:30-10:30, on the other hand, we aren’t in bed until the wee hours of the morning as well. And a lot of those people who arrive for rope drop, return to their hotels mid day while we are just getting going in the parks. Then many switch to a different park. The only time we saw really long lines was in Hollywood studios for star wars weekend. Otherwise, we rarely have long waits (though we tend to avoid rides that are super crowded, unless we FP them). Also, we have both hit the early and the later parades. The earlier ones tend to draw the vast majority of families with younger kids, so the rides can clear out. And the later parades don’t seem to be as packed because you have less families and those families that do stay in park tend to have older kids that may not be as interested in watching

    As for on versus off site. I know people that fight tooth and nail that their way is the right way. But an AP is twice the cost of tickets for a typical stay. If your making one trip an AP makes no sense. 4 10 day adult tickets costs $1400 (w/ PH $1600), AP for 4 would be $2400. We stay on sight because we like to be there. We don’t want to drive back and forth (last trip we had our own car and it stayed parked the entire time) and we don’t want really long commute back and forth or have to wait in long lines to get in (Hence why we avoid the all star resorts as well). Or jump through multiple transports. I get picked up at one door and dropped off at another.

  9. I agree Leslie and even argued this in my last article for Chip as well that for some, staying off resort is a big money saver. We’re passholders and live 10 hours away, but we still drive all but one trip a year, so we get free parking and with my husband being disabled, the parking is actually better than where we’d get let off for the bus in all parks but Magic Kingdom obviously. And we’ve been so many times that we know the best ways to beat traffic and we almost always end up at the parks faster than we would by taking a Disney bus from a resort (we’d never take one of the buses from an off-resort hotel though since they’re very limited). We hate evening EMH at parks like Epcot, as they are a disaster (as someone else commented as well). We do like morning EMH and that’s about the only park we’d get from staying on resort and it’s not really worth several hundred more dollars to get that perk. We’ve never had any ‘magical extras’ unfortunately staying on resort. Our one and only time using ME was a nightmare, we don’t get towel animals most of the time, the buses have long waits, etc, so I guess we’ve just been unfortunate to not feel that ‘magic’ that staying on resort may provide.

    When we do stay on resort, we just stay at Pop and we only stay on resort because we fly that one trip and it’s our ‘splurge’ trip. But we spend twice as much on that one trip as we spend making two trips the rest of the year by staying off resort. We also usually travel with our dog, so it saves us several hundred dollars on a pet sitter for the week we’re gone if we stay at an off-resort pet friendly hotel. But again, as I always tell people, if you can afford to stay on resort or if you only make one trip a year at most, then by all means, stay on resort. But for us passholders, it’s not worth the extra $ to stay on resort every time.

  10. I don’t agree with not taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours or arriving at the park past 10AM. My husband and I always travel to WDW in September when the parks are not as crowded. We regularly arrive at the parks between 10-11AM and have never missed out on any attractions or had ridiculously long lines except for Toy Story Midway Mania. Crowds do tend to thin out by midday which makes it even easier to get on rides and enjoy a leisurely meal. As for night time Extra Magic Hours I’ve personally found the lines for attractions to be longer than during normal park hours particularly considering only select attractions are open during Extra Magic Hours. I’ve also found the buses and bus stops to be an overcrowded disorganized nightmare. Obviously this is only my opinion based on personal experience and others may have different opinions.

  11. Hi, Leslie. Thanks for reading :). Good point, from an Annual Passholder perspective. There are some nice perks to be enjoyed with an AP. There are some nice hotels in the area, but in my opinion, there is nothing like staying at a Disney resort with all those magical extras!

  12. That is great advice, Holly. People don’t think of travel time to and from their Good Neighbor Hotel. Even if you make a Disney hotel your “home base” and visit other Orlando attractions, you’re still doing yourself a huge favor!

  13. britlightyearActive Member
    Joined:Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:364
    Likes Received:52
    A friend of mine is currently at WDW with his family and just posted that there are no (paper) fastpasses available for Toy Story Mania, Soarin’ or Test Track. He said that they are currently unable to add the rides to their magic band accounts and that there is quite a crowd of very unhappy people gathering in front of TSM. Anybody know what’s going on today? Is this a sign of things to come?

  14. mistake 11 using mistake number 3 which is no bueno no good its broken and most of the cast members dont scan your bands anyway,

    Mistake #3: Not utilizing FastPass and FastPass+. With all the fun and fuss surrounding FastPass+ recently, you’ll want to utilize these options when in the parks. FastPass+ can easily be changed at kiosks in the parks, but it’s a good idea to add some FastPass+ to your Magic Bands prior to your arrival. MagicBands and FastPass Plus are part of Disney’s very near future for guests, so you might as well utilize them.

  15. I also agree with number one. Most Disney visitors are not annual passholders and unless you live in South Georgia or Florida and can go multiple times it’s not worth it to become one. I have stayed at a good neighbor hotel before and even though it was one mile from the Disney front gate, dealing with traffic was horrendous, I had to pay for parking and, on the day I was going to Magic Kingdom, I had to park, go to the transportation and ticket center then wait to board the boat or monorail with the other 10000 people at that very moment trying to get into the park. That part alone added at least 30 minutes to my ‘getting there’ time. Plus by staying off property you are cheating yourself out of the extra magic hours (not available to ‘good neighbor’ guests) and a big part of the Disney experience you could still be enjoying after you leave the park. There’s nothing like coming back from the parks and still being surrounded by all things Disney, especially at places like Art of Animation, The All Star Resorts, or Pop Century. Thanks but I’ll throw a roll of Angel Soft in my bag and enjoy the Disney resorts!

  16. I completely disagree with number 1 for many families. I myself stay offsite as often as I stay onsite. If you purchase an Annual Pass you won’t pay for parking at the parks you will have even more intantaneous transportation and you can get a 3 or even 4 star hotel for the price of a Value onsite. If you are not using many of the Disney amenities staying onsite is just ridiculously expensive for what you get. Their beds are sub-par. Their towels are rough. Their toilet paper is atrocious. If you enjoy a higher quality bed and in room amenities staying onsite is NOT the way to go. Even the Polynesian Hotel leaves much to be desired for the price.

    I travel the country and have stayed in hotels in 30 major cities and the Disney hotels are not up to snuff.

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