Going to Walt Disney World for the first time and your head’s going in a million different directions? Or maybe you’re at the point where you’ve planned so much for your first visit that everything’s jumbling together? No worries, we’ve got you covered. From what not to do with FastPasses to what freebies to never forget, don’t make these 10 first time Disney World visit mistakes.
I really wish I would have listened to the dozens of blogs I read and the friends I talked to about Walt Disney World before my family’s first trip. Stuck in my little Disney bubble at home, I checked and re-checked itineraries, planned dining reservations down to the minute, and packed and re-packed our suitcases. With the time that it took to do all of that, I should have paid more attention to what they were telling me and took many of their tips to heart.
So, I’m telling you. I did make mistakes on my family’s first trip to Walt Disney World. Big ones. Looking back I have to laugh at some of them, but Disney vacations are definitely a learning experience and we learn more about what and what not to do with every trip. Here are my top 10 mistakes and how to never make them. Let’s go!
1. Don’t Forget to Sign Up for Discounts Before You Go
This one was a little under the radar when I began planning my family’s first Disney World vacation. By signing up for a free Disney vacation planning packet including a park DVD, you’ll be placed on the Disney lists- and may even score a pin code.
What’s a pin code? It’s an exclusive code attached to your name and address. I was able to score free dining (which saved us hundreds of dollars!) for our vacation. Sometimes it’s a room discount, sometimes a ticket discount.
It’s also an easy way to get on the Disney radar. If I’m even considering another Disney World vacation, the first thing I do is check to see if there’s a pin code attached to my account. All you have to do is call WDW vacation planning (1-407-939-1936) and ask. A Castmember will ask for your email and address. Once you’re connected to a Castmember, it doesn’t take but five minutes to find out.
I’ve also heard that by creating a My Disney Experience account and planning a trip via the official website, but leaving the vacation in your online cart, it may cause WDW to throw a discount your way.
Do: Create a My Disney Experience account well in advance of your trip. In fact, make one even if you’re not planning a trip anytime soon. It’s fun to use and you can always shop via the app and have items sent to your home in the meantime.
2. Don’t Forget to Check Out Crowd Calendars
This one’s a snap to do and can save you some precious time in standby queues. There are several crowd calendars online (Undercover Tourist is my fave), and many of them are free. They run all of the stats, factor in peak times and special events, and come up with a calendar that lets you know which parks are expected to have high crowds and which have low ones.
We like to hit the park with the lowest crowd level each day- less crowds equals less time waiting for rides, transportation, and dining. Except for our first day at the parks. It always has to be Magic Kingdom even if it’s crowded. Don’t judge.
Do: Plan your park days based on crowd calendars. Not only will the lower crowds help your park navigation, you’ll save time in lines!
3. Don’t Forget Your Favorite Pair of Comfortable Shoes
Fashion over function, I always used to say. No more. On our first visit, I was more concerned about looking cute than visiting for comfort. Remember that 80’s phrase, “It’s better to look good than to feel good?” Yep, that was me. Even The Kid wore flippies to the parks- only to realize her feet were killing her after only a couple of hours.
There’s a reason why most Walt Disney World guests are dressed for comfort. After our third or fourth day straight in the parks, and even with really good walking shoes, our feet scream at us with each step.
Do: some research and find the best walking shoes- ones that will persevere and cushion. After all, it’s hard to have fun in a Disney park when you’re wincing with every step. Break them in before you go, too. Make sure they’re exactly what you need in a walking shoe.
4. Don’t Go All Day Without a Break
There’s nothing wrong with admitting defeat in a Disney park and taking a midday break. Head back to the resort, swim at one of the resort pools or nap, and then head back to the parks refreshed and ready to rock.
Can’t bear to tear yourselves away? Find a bench or even a curb, grab a snack, and watch a show or parade.
Do: Take a midday break, even if only for an hour or two. I have friends that like to plan a resort day where they don’t even hit the parks. It’s a fun mid-trip way to relax.
5. Don’t Wait to Plan FastPass+ Selections Until You Arrive
If you have purchased theme park tickets before your first day of arrival, you can start making Fastpass+ selections 30 days out. Have a Walt Disney World Resort reservation? That gives you even more time to begin making choices. If you book a resort stay and tickets, Walt Disney World allows its guests to begin choosing FastPass+ selections at 60 days out from their first day.
Bonus for staying on property: you’ll also get a 10 day grace period if you stay on property. Translation: you can plan up to 10 days of Fastpasses beginning 60 days out from your first vacation day.
Do: Mark your calendar for the first available day for Fastpasses for your trip. If you really want to ride the popular rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Toy Story Mania, make sure you start selection on the first day they’re available so you can have the best time option for your family.
6. Save Shop Until the End of the Day if You Plan on Buying a Lot
We were definitely guilty of this on our first visit. We couldn’t wait to hit the shops and spend, spend, spend! What did that leave us? A handful of shopping bags to carry around the parks all day.
Here’s what we’ve learned. Purchase all of your souvenirs right before you leave the park each day to avoid carrying them around. OR (and this is a great one), if you really must shop during the day and are staying on-property, Disney stores will send your items back to your resort for free!
Keep in mind that you may not receive them until the next day, but if you’re not in any hurry it’s a great alternative to carrying them around.
Do: Wait until the end of day to purchase souvenirs, unless it’s a must-have-right-now kind of item.
7. Do the Math for the Disney Dining Plan
If you ask Mr. Locke, one of the main reasons he loves to visit WDW is for the food. With more than 135 choices (no kidding), we could visit the parks for a month straight ordering three meals a day and not overlap on dining once!
If you really want to try sit down restaurants for three meals a day, the deluxe dining plan is the way to go to save some serious cash. Only plan on dining in one sit down a day? Go for the Disney Dining Plan. Light eaters? Disney Quick-Service is probably your best bet.
And don’t forget to check for pin codes!
Do: Keep an eye out for free dining plan offers. They can save you hundreds of dollars. If you already have a vacation planned and an offer comes out, call WDW Vacation Planning and ask if you can switch to a Free Dining Offer.
8. Don’t Forget All of the Disney World Freebies
After all of the money you spend on a Disney vacation, it’s nice to know that there are free things at Walt Disney World, right? Here’s my favorites:
- Free Cups of ice water
- Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Game
- Common medical supplies
- Stickers and buttons
- Balloons at resort desks
There’s so many more than that, but those our our favorites.
Do: check this post for my favorite freebies. There are plenty of free things at Walt Disney World that can save you plenty of $.
9. Don’t Forget to Take Advantage of Rope Drop
Ahh, rope drop. It’s the time of the morning when the park opens for the day. It also tends to be the least crowded. As a family, I never plan any FastPasses for the first two hours after rope drop because the lines are decent and most rides have minimal wait (apart from major holidays, of course).
Do: Hit the park at rope drop and use the first two hours to your advantage. Plan FP+ reservations for mid-morning and later.
10. Don’t Discount Extra Magic Hours
I love Extra Magic Hours (EMH) and not at the same time. Why I love them: it’s the time of day where at least one WDW theme park offers either an hour before the park opens or an hour or two after the park closes just to guests staying on property.
But here’s why I’m not a fan as well (and a way around it): parks with EMH tend to be busier for the entire day. how we get around it, especially for Morning EMH? I’ll take my family to the park with morning EMH and stay for the first two hours of park opening. Then we’ll park hop to another less-crowded park.
Do: Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours if you’re staying on property. If you have Park Hopper tickets, use them to your advantage to head to a less crowded park.
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