14 Rookie Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make On Your Disney World Vacation

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rookie mistakes

Once upon a time, each of us was a Disney World newbie. And we made rookie mistakes. Here, we share ours to help you avoid them:

1. Not checking the refurbishment schedule. Disney lets you know ahead of time if your favorite attraction, the pool at your hotel, or that restaurant you really want to go to won’t be available during your trip.

2. Thinking your hotel will cost the same any date. Holidays, summers, basically any time children aren’t in school will cost more matter where you stay. Compare several dates that you can travel to pick the best rate.

3. Not looking for hotel discounts. Disney will discount hotel rates from time to time, and you can rebook if a new, better one comes out.

4. Thinking you’ll buy your tickets when you arrive. The most expensive price you’ll pay for park tickets is at the ticket window in front of the theme park. Here’s some more information about Disney park tickets.

5. Not checking park hours. Park hours change every day, so check them ahead of time.

6. Thinking you can walk into a popular restaurant and get a table without a reservation. The most popular restaurants book up well ahead of time (months) and even those taking walk-ins may have a long wait.

7. Not looking at a map until you’re in the park. Park maps are available online and help you get an idea of the lay of the land before you’re being passed right and left by guests who do know where they’re going.

8. Thinking your resort is “just a place to sleep.” If you’re staying at a Disney resort, at any level, you’re paying a premium to be there. Take time to review your resort’s activities (often free!) and look around. After all, you’re paying for it.

9. Booking a hotel “in Orlando.” TouringPlans recommends staying in a Disney resort for your first trip. But if that’s not in the cards, and Walt Disney World is the main reason for your trip, check a map and Google traffic during rush hours. I4 can have back ups any time of day that say anything but “vacation.” And Orlando is a fairly large city. Stay as close as you can.

10. Thinking your off site hotel shuttle is an efficient way to travel back and forth between the parks and your hotel. Rent a car or use Uber/Lyft.

11. Not learning about MyDisneyExperience. No matter where you stay, MDE is the key to your trip. Create an account, download the app (you can use it on wi-fi in the parks to save cellular data charges), and use it.

12. Assuming FastPass+ is something you pay for. Unlike Universal Orlando, Disney does not charge for its ride reservation service. With park tickets, each person in your party can make 3 ride reservations per day in advance. Learn more about FastPass+.

13. Thinking the time posted at an attraction is the amount of time you’ll really wait. For the most part, Disney wants to under-promise and over-deliver on wait times. If you wait 15 minutes after thinking your wait will be half an hour, you’re going be pleasantly surprised. On the other hand, if that 15 minutes is 3 times longer that you thought it would be, you won’t be happy. Same wait, two difference reactions. You can guess which one Disney wants. Be especially skeptical of posted wait times near the end of the night. These are consistently inflated to discourage guests from getting in line (which delays closing the attraction after the park closes).

14. Believing everything you read on the internet about how to vacation at Disney World. Everyone has an opinion and many of them conflict. You can drive yourself crazy trying to have the vacation someone else thinks you should have (even the vacation TouringPlans thinks you should have).

Have fun and don’t worry. Even a trip with some “mistakes” is better than staying home.

OK, readers, what are your rookie mistakes? Share them here and help people out.

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Laurel Stewart

Laurel has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1971 when she was negative-15 years old and running the Disney races since 2007. Her favorite attraction is Big Thunder Mountain.

35 thoughts on “14 Rookie Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make On Your Disney World Vacation

  • May 1, 2017 at 9:32 am
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    Not asking for help- both before you leave and once you get there. Before you leave ask friends and family that have been before and know your family what they suggest for you and once you get there don’t be afraid to ask cast members for help- they are more than willing to do so!

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    • May 1, 2017 at 10:27 am
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      So true!

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  • May 1, 2017 at 10:16 am
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    My friend’s 3 biggest mistakes on their first (? and maybe only) trip to WDW:
    1. Not asking advice of friends who they know are WDW nerds (which lead to #2)
    2. Not using Touring Plans’ services. Even in off-season it alleviates indecision & encourages vacationers to consider ahead of time what each person in their party wants out of the trip, where they will eat, and when (or if) they’ll take rest breaks.
    3. Staying off site. Families w/small children can efficiently go nap @ hottest part of the day; families w/mixed age or older kids can split up – some can rest while others stay & play. Someone’s feeling badly? The entire group doesn’t have to leave. Daddy’s cranky? Send him to a quiet time-out in the hotel room. Late sleepers driving early risers crazy? Meet up for early lunch.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 10:28 am
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      Thanks for the shout-out. I thought about adding to use TouringPlans, but it felt too self-serving 🙂

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      • May 1, 2017 at 5:03 pm
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        I don’t think mentioning TouringPlans would’ve been too self-serving at all, Laurel. Your product is inexpensive and makes a world of difference in the trip experience. Maybe you can edit the blog to include the recommendation and note that your fans are demanding it! 🙂

  • May 1, 2017 at 10:25 am
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    Mistake: planning to visit all 4 parks from open to close on 4 consecutive days. Sometime on day 3 (or maybe even sooner), you will hit a wall.
    Take mid-day breaks. Add an additional day to your hotel stay and take a pool day. If you can afford the additional time and cost, plan to take Magic Kingdom and EPCOT over 2 days each instead of a single day each.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 10:30 am
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      Yes. Thinking you can do it all (impossible) and not experience vacation breakdown (we’ve all see these families, and it ain’t pretty) is dangerous.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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      Also knowing that not everyone in your party will have the same tolerance for staying in the parks that you do. You may be okay to stay Open to Close but other folks may not or cannot.

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      • May 9, 2017 at 10:38 am
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        Also one of the biggest advantages of traveling to WDW Solo! 🙂

    • May 1, 2017 at 1:45 pm
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      This may be the most important piece of advise that one can give first timers. It is counter intuitive, but can completely transform a WDW vacation.

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  • May 1, 2017 at 11:02 am
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    Problem is you can get bad advice from people who are supposed to know better. years ago when the wife and I were there on vacation, we used a travel agent. The above post was pretty much a checklist of the mistakes they made.

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  • May 1, 2017 at 11:16 am
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    Rookie mistake – using GPS to drive to Magic Kingdom. On our first trip, we didn’t understand that you can’t actually park at the MK, you have to park at the Ticket and Transportation Center and either monorail, boat, or bus to the park. When I tried to use the GPS, we got hopelessly lost! We were driving around on service roads near Space Mountain, but didn’t know how to park. We finally stopped and asked what to do, and were directed to the right place. The next day, we asked the hotel desk for directions and did much better!
    Now that we’ve been several times, my advice would actually be to just use Disney transportation and leave the car behind.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 11:20 am
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      Plus road construction around Disney World is crazy right now. It’s a little scary after dark because of the lane shifts and closures. I agree on not using GPS. Just follow the purple signs instead.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 1:17 pm
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      This may be why we occasionally see guests driving their cars through the resort bus loading loops. The police really hate these guys. Guests waiting for a bus get a good gasp and maybe a laugh depending on the reaction of the driver.

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  • May 1, 2017 at 11:25 am
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    One big mistake that Disneyland vets make at WDW is assuming you can get from place to place in a relatively short amount of time. I read a stat that the entire Disneyland resort can fit in the parking lot of the Magic Kingdom – that is a good reality check! Unlike DLR where everything is a short walk, plan on at least an hour to get from one park to another. Then enjoy the ride!

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    • May 1, 2017 at 5:40 pm
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      An hour, and then some, just in case. I was late on time meeting Laurel, Len and Jim Hill because my MK-Epcot monorail stopped for 20 minutes just to let another train get on the track. V. Annoying.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 7:16 pm
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      And it’s not just the time, it’s also the distance and methods. Misunderstanding which places are connected by a given set of boats (e.g. MK resorts vs. DS vs. Boardwalk area parks/resorts) or monorails. Thinking everything can be simply walked to, even if it takes awhile. I encourage people to look at satellite views to really understand the size and scope.

      Reply
  • May 1, 2017 at 1:14 pm
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    Assuming that every attraction is open for Extra Magic Hours. I overheard a guy asking why Great Movie Ride wasn’t open at 8. When another guest told him it would open at 9, he doubled down with ANOTHER mistake: jumping to conclusions. “Oh I SEE. So the PARK is open an hour early but the RIDES aren’t,” he said, all cynical annoyance. And so his day was off to a bad start. If he’d looked at which attractions are open for EMH, on TouringPlans or on Disney’s site, he could have been riding Rock n Roller Coaster or Toy Story Midway Mania instead of standing in front of GMR complaining.

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  • May 1, 2017 at 1:23 pm
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    Thinking that you can just wing it on your first visit, with absolutely no planning ahead of time beyond MK on first day because it has the castle. You plan to just do the rides as you come to them, as if it were your county fair.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 1:35 pm
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      Expanding on this one. Come with a plan to the park and alter that plan when necessary. (Insert Touring Plans app plug here.) You can waste a lot of time standing around wondering, “What should we do next?” You can be much more efficient by planning ahead of your trip and keep planning while in lines for other rides or attractions as the day’s demands necessitate.

      Reply
  • May 1, 2017 at 2:34 pm
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    Our rookie mistake first trip with our own kids was not understanding FastPass+. This was early 2014, so it was new(ish) to everyone. Made at least 3 frustrating mistakes:

    1) Not booking FP+ 60 days out.
    2) Wasting FP+ on Tomorrowland Speedway at 9am. AAAAAHHHH! Can hardly type that without getting angry at myself.
    3) Thinking that you can replace a used FP+ right away. In other words, before all 3 are used and standing in a kiosk line just to find out what a dummy I was.

    Didn’t take long to become a relative expert on FP+ for our subsequent trips. No doubt, Touring Plans, is THE best site for touring. Use it! Pay for the subscription!

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    • May 3, 2017 at 7:31 am
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      I am feeling for you – your #2 must indeed have been a very painful realization… If Tomorrowland Speedway MUST be ridden (like it was 3x on our son’s first visit in 2011), it can be smart to do it with a FP (which we did at least once), or first thing which we also did at least once – with Grandpa taking grandson on the ride while I was collecting (original) FPs, or me taking son on ride while my wife collected FPs somewhere across the park.

      I had been using the Unofficial Guide for occasional trips since well before there was a website, but one rookie mistake way back when was picking out and settling down in a nice spot to watch the evening parade at a table on a Frontierland veranda without realizing that later-arrivers were going to simply fill in what little space there was between our table and the street. Plan B, to stand on the chairs, was quickly vetoed by a Cast Member.

      My rookie mistake a number of years later with our very first use of the paper FASTPASSes, Kilimanjaro Safaris, trying to be very quick to get the FPs and get to the Pangani Forest trail before the crowds – not realizing how easy it would be to put six park admission tickets one by one into the machine, collecting each of the six FASTPASSes as they came out, and leaving the FASTPASS machine immediately after grabbing the last FASTPASS but without actually having waited until the last park ticket came back out… Happily did the trail and something else, rode the Safaris, and didn’t discover the problem until pulling out the tickets a little later to get FPs for Expedition Everest. Didn’t need all the tickets for that one (Grandma & Grandpa weren’t going to ride EE), but of course the big problem was losing the park ticket on the first day of a 6- or 7-day ticket. Quickly deduced what must have happened, RAN back to Kilimanjaro, and found a VERY helpful Cast Member at the entrance, who happened to have a good handful of park tickets (making me feel better about my mistake – though we then had to figure out which one was the one I was missing, despite the lack of a photograph of the back and a fairly illegible signature. All turned out well, though we lost valuable time both at this point and later when the same ticket ended up no longer working in FP machines so we had to exchange it for a working one at Guest Relations. Can’t say enough good things, though, about not only the Cast Member(s) who took care of us and the missing ticket but also the kind fellow visitor who obviously found and turned in the missing ticket!

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    • May 3, 2017 at 7:43 am
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      Meant to make the point on the Speedway that the mistake isn’t using FP for it, or riding it at 9 AM, but just in doing both of those at the same time…

      Reply
  • May 1, 2017 at 3:42 pm
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    Thinking you can save money buying food instead of using the meal plan. The cash process are RIDICULOUS,and at the end of our stay, we filled bags with snacks for the ride home, trying to use up our meal allowance!

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    • May 1, 2017 at 4:08 pm
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      I think the Disney Dining Plan is confusing to the first time visitor, not priced to save you money, and adds unneeded layers of planning and regimentation to a trip. I would never recommend it to someone who hasn’t been to WDW before.

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      • May 2, 2017 at 9:48 am
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        Completely agree, Lauren! The DDP MIGHT save you money, depending on your party size, ages, eating habits, etc. It most certainly does not save my family money, as all my children are Disney “adults” but usually prefer to order from the kids menu or just order a side item or share a meal. We tried it once (back when it included gratuity, so a much better value at the time) and didn’t like how the DDP drove our touring. It completely changed the way we ate and toured. Definitely adds another layer of planning and regimentation! In order to maximize the value of the plan, or even come out slightly ahead of even, I think one would need a bit of experience in eating/prices at WDW which newbies would not have. So my corollary rookie mistake would be getting the DDP on your first trip because someone told you you should or you think it will save you money — might, might not. Those who like the DDP feel that “it makes dining easier and less complicated”. I could not disagree more!

      • May 8, 2017 at 9:38 am
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        See.. I feel differently on this, I think it would be a great benefit if you learned how the dining plan works before you go. As an adult I have never been without one.

        Going in June and getting deluxe again as always, I have added up what we would eat normally, and I am spending 100 more cash than with the deluxe plan, and that doesn’t include snacks… so to think I am saving 100.00 plus getting 2 snacks per day… I would saying the dining plan works for my 4 person family.

  • May 1, 2017 at 5:35 pm
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    Not having reasonable expectations. (Number of attractions you can see, how much you have to walk…)
    coupled with
    Thinking that getting to the parks at 10.30 a.m. or 11 is the same as getting in at rope drop.

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  • May 1, 2017 at 9:39 pm
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    Buying tickets to the Halloween and Christmas parties (rookie mistake I made twice, but have definitely learned my lesson now!), and spending the early part of the day in the parks on a regular ticket. We were toast halfway through the parties, and everybody was pretty grumpy too. Next time going to spend the day relaxing at the resort, and then head to Magic Kingdom at 4 (or whenever the earliest time is that they let you in). Also good to have late lunch or early supper before the party, and not waste party time eating supper!

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  • May 1, 2017 at 9:58 pm
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    I feel like I made a lot of rookie mistakes on our last Disney World trip in March, but thankfully they weren’t on your list. These are true rookie mistakes, but I see a lot of guests every time that make them. FastPass especially still baffles some people. I understand it given how it was in the past, but it can limit a trip for sure.

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  • May 2, 2017 at 8:27 am
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    I think websites advertising WDW tickets saying that THEIR tickets have FP+ included sort of implies that not all tickets do. I think this is completely confusing to rookies.
    I agree that rookies may believe that it can all be done in one holiday. We have been almost every year at least once since 2002 and every year we do something we have never done before – and there are still lots of things to choose from!!! And that’s why a lot of people who have never been to WDW wonder why on earth we go to the same place every year – they don’t appreciate how much there is to see and do and how things are constantly changing!

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  • May 2, 2017 at 12:21 pm
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    At a family gathering, I couldn’t help but overhear two members of my DW family talking about separate trips to WDW. The first would mention about the long lines and the second would mention about getting up early for EMH. The first would mention the heat and crowds in the middle of the day; the second would mention cooling off by the pool back at the hotel.
    This went on for a few minutes when the second one said, “Next time you go, be sure to ask Chris for advice. He knows everything to do to have a great trip.”
    Sure wish I had a video to play back for the wife and kids when I go into Alpha Planner mode…but all the credit really goes to Touring Plans and The Unofficial Guide books.

    Thank you all for the Team Effort that makes me look so smart!
    (Of course, this only applies to Disney Trips; I’m still a husband.)

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  • May 2, 2017 at 5:26 pm
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    Realizing that the portions are huge at most restaurants. Most of the main dishes can easily be split between two people with normal appetites and sharing an appetizer and desert.

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  • May 4, 2017 at 4:58 pm
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    Staying on-site.

    If you stay on-site you will pay anywhere from 1.5x to 10x or more for a small room than you would pay for a 3-bedroom 3-bath town home with a full kitchen and living room AND your own private splash pool. We also routinely keep track of how fast it takes us to get to a given park compared to friends who insist on staying on-site. More than half the time driving to the parks from the nearby town home is *faster* than their trip via Disney transport from their on-site hotel.

    There is no way for us that the higher price of a Disney room is worth the extra cost for a much, much smaller place to stay (which might also be much louder). We stayed in the Poly for a couple of nights on our honeymoon before moving to the VRBO, and Robin stayed on-site many times (before we met) before she discovered how nice the VRBOs were. I’m glad she knew about them, because I never would have guessed. I think many here (including many TouringPlans staff) are in the same boat.

    Reply

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