Every time I visit Disney World, I make mistakes. Some are small, like forgetting rain ponchos. Others are big and dumb, like trying to bring a bomb-like Disney toy through airport security. I’ve wasted precious money and time, and I don’t want you to do the same thing. Many of the TravelingMom bloggers are Disney experts and give excellent advice on what to do at Disney. Here’s what NOT to do.
I’ve made a ton of mistakes at Walt Disney World, so you don’t have to! Doing Disney World right takes practice. So read on and learn. Because like Oprah always says, “When you know better, you do better.”
Mistake: Not bringing rain ponchos or wearing fast-drying shoes
What happened: We forgot to pack our rain ponchos on our way to the new Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios. No big deal, we thought. The weather forecast said the storms wouldn’t hit until late afternoon. Well, the monsoon-like rain began around noon, trapping us under a tiny umbrella near the new Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster. When it didn’t let up after 30 minutes (that felt like an hour, even though the kids were dancing in the rain), we eventually had to venture out into the pouring rain and walk a long distance. Everyone got soaked. Sure, it made for cute photos. But the novelty of walking around for hours in wet clothes – including our undies and socks – wore off fast.
Lesson learned: It rains A LOT in Florida, especially in the summer. So regardless of what the weather forecast says, you should always, always, always carry a few Dollar Store rain ponchos and flip flops. You’ll stay relatively dry and avoid paying $10 per person for Disney rain ponchos. If it’s a long-lasting downpour, the flip flops can replace your gym shoes and socks (which will take forever to dry if they get soaked). A good shoe option is quick-drying sandals like Tevas or Keens. Costco sells some similar styles that are less than $15 per pair (hat tip to TravelingMom Kendra Pierson for that find!).
Mistake: Paying a grocery delivery fee
What happened: Eating at Disney is expensive. To save money, we always pre-order some groceries to our hotel through a local grocery delivery service. There’s a $40 minimum order, a $15 delivery fee, and a five-day advance order requirement. After the bellhop retrieved our delivery from the fridge, he gave us this tip: order from Amazon Fresh next time. They deliver to the Disney resorts. If you’re an Amazon Prime member (which we are), there’s no delivery fee and they usually can do same-day delivery. They also offer lots of promos, so you can get at least $20 off your first order. Even just things like a six pack of pop, a few snacks, cereal and milk, or stuff for PB& J sandwiches will save you a ton of money.
Lesson learned: I don’t like that Amazon is taking over the world, but ordering groceries this way can save money and time.
Mistake: Bringing Disney toys through airport security
What happened: The Buzz Lightyear bubble maker I got at Disney was too big to pack into my suitcase, so I decided to carry it with me on the plane. Big mistake. The liquid bubble-filled base freaked out the TSA. I ended up waiting an extra 30 minutes as they sliced open the new box, dismantled the toy, swabbed (and ruined) the entire package, and gave both me and my luggage a thorough pat-down in front of all the other passengers.
Lesson learned: Any toy that might attract the TSA’s attention should be put in your checked luggage. That could include things like plastic Pirates of the Caribbean swords or anything with liquid in it. While TSA is inconsistent about what it examines, you don’t want to risk it. It’s also helpful to read TravelingMom Becca Robins’ post on banned items at Disney (selfie sticks, etc.).
Mistake: Having Disney’s Magic Express deliver our bags to the room
What happened: When Disney’s Magic Express (DME) offered to deliver our bags from the airport to our hotel room for no charge, we said, “Sure! Why not!” They warned it might take three hours, but we figured, eh, by the time we got to the hotel, plopped down in our room, and checked out the Animal Kingdom Lodge (which is gorgeous), three hours will have passed. Well, two hours later, the kids were clamoring to go to the pool and we didn’t have our bags with the bathing suits. Three and a half hours later, at 10 p.m., everyone was tired from the day of travel and wanted to change into their PJs and go to bed, but still no bags. After 4 hours and a few nagging phone calls, our bags finally arrived. It felt like an eternity.
Lesson learned: If you can, bring your bags with you when taking the DME. It’s way, way faster. We only had a few roller bags that we could have easily taken with us. Next time, that’s what we’ll do.
Mistake: Trying to do too much in one day
What happened: This is the most common mistake. You’ve come all this way, and spent all this money, so you’re going to see it all, damn it! Everyone ends up exhausted, overheated, and crabby.
Lesson learned: Disney World is enormous. You are not going to see and do everything. Accept that. I have been there 5 times and STILL haven’t seen all there is to see. Two parks in one day is A LOT, so don’t do that every day. Also, Disney World is exhausting. According to my phone’s health app, we walked more than 8 miles each day. Add in the Florida heat, and it’s a real workout. As the saying goes, there’s tired, and then there’s “Disney tired.” Build a non-park day into your itinerary, or at least take a half-day mid-trip where you do nothing but chill at the hotel pool.
Mistake: Not syncing restaurant choices with parks
What happened: The only available reservation for the Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater Restaurant in Hollywood Studios – my favorite restaurant at Disney World – was at 2:40 p.m. Since we’d already been to Hollywood Studios, we went to Animal Kingdom with plans to just “zip over” to Hollywood Studios for lunch. Bad plan. That zip took almost an hour each way. It added a ton of walking in hot weather, and wasted precious time.
Lesson learned: Going between parks for meals wastes time. As TravelingMom Dia Adams wisely advised: “Make sure you know how long it takes to get from point A to B. People have no idea that Disney World is the size of San Francisco. We were guilty of this on our first trip with two kids and spent too much time worrying about being late.” Make your restaurant reservations based on what park you will be in. Missing reservations, or canceling day-of reservations, is a $10 per person fee.
Mistake: Not taking air conditioned breaks
What happened: The Florida summer heat is not for amateurs (or Chicagoans like me). The heat wilted us, and whiny kids prompted us to go back to the hotel to cool down. Wasted a ton of time.
Lesson learned: In order to comfortably stay in the parks all day, it is critical to take what we called “air conditioning breaks.” That could mean ducking into an air conditioned souvenir store for 10 minutes, or going to an indoor show. Best idea? Make restaurant reservations during the hottest and wettest hours of the day (mid-afternoon).
Mistake: Not wearing sunscreen
What happened: We figured, the kids don’t need sunscreen to go to the pool for an hour. Flash forward 5 hours later, and we were lathering them in sunburn relief aloe lotion.
Lesson learned: Don’t underestimate the Florida sun. It will burn you.
Mistake: Not spending time on the My Disney Experience app before arriving
What happened: The My Disney Experience app helps you find your way around, keep track of your reservations, check ride and resort bus wait times and more. One of the TravelingMoms admits she didn’t log into the app, or play around with it, until she got to the parks. As a result, she spent a lot of time standing in the parks on her phone, figuring out how to navigate the app and discover all of its great features.
Lesson learned: It’s worth your while to spend 20 minutes on the My Disney Experience app before you arrive. You might also want to consider downloading the new Play Disney Parks app, designed to help kill time while waiting in line, with games, scavenger hunts, trivia competitions and other distractions.
Mistake: Going to Disney during New Year’s week
What happened: There is some debate about this among the TravelingMom Disney experts, some of whom love visiting Disney World during the holidays and others who loathe it. But the majority say the crowds during the week between Christmas and New Years are insane, and it will be difficult to enjoy your visit.
Lesson learned: Visit at your own risk during the winter holidays.
For more Disney World mistakes, check out my previous list of dumb things I did at Disney.
Do you have a mistake of your own which people can learn from? Post it below!