Disney World mistakes and how to avoid them
We made a few Disney World mistakes on our first family trip to Orlando. Today, we share some of these rookie mistakes with the hope that you can avoid making similar mistakes.
This was not our first Disney park experience. We visited Tokyo Disneyland a few years ago. However, this was our first time visiting the original Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
We spent 6 nights at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, which is located near Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s a nice property. We enjoyed our time here and would recommend it. We will write a separate blog post about our experience staying at this Disney World hotel.
Disney World is unlike any other theme park in the world.
It is THE mecca of theme parks, which means it’s very popular, very big and very busy. To get the most out of your Disney World vacation, you need to be strategic and plan ahead. It’s not wise to leave things last minute and expect to walk up to the park entrance looking for Disney World tickets.
A side note, for context: we visited Orlando in mid-October as part of a work conference. This meant that we did not have complete freedom over our schedule. Keep this in mind when we explain our slightly unusual schedule.
1. Not making Magic Kingdom Park reservations in time
It’s not enough to purchase your Disney World tickets online. You must also make a reservation for the theme park and day you would like to visit.
It is recommended to make Disney World reservations immediately after purchasing your admission online. Unfortunately, we did not do this. We waited because we were unsure about what Disney park to visit and what day(s) made the most sense with our schedule.
Fortunately, we decided to get the Disney Park Hopper option.
This option gives admission to more than one park per day, starting after 2:00 pm. There is an additional fee per ticket, but we felt it would be better to visit two parks in one long day.
The original plan was to visit Disney World Magic Kingdom first, then go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios after 2:00 pm. However, when we went to make reservations about two weeks before our arrival, there was no availability for Magic Kingdom (it’s the most popular Walt Disney World park).
So, we went with Hollywood Studios first. Then we visited Magic Kingdom after 2:00 pm.
We expected to spend the evening at Magic Kingdom because the park is open until 10:00 pm (normally). However, that was not case during our visit. We visited in October when Magic Kingdom Park hosts ‘Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party’.
This meant that Magic Kingdom day passes end at 6:00 pm instead of 10:00 pm. We had a max of 4 hours to explore Magic Kingdom, which is certainly not enough time.
Lesson – make reservations immediately after purchasing your tickets. Don’t wait. Make a decision.
2. Early entry for Disney hotel guests
Did you know that guests staying at Disney Resort hotels get a 30 minute early entry into Walt Disney World theme parks? We did not. Of all these Disney World mistakes, this one still stings a little.
Because we were staying at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, we were eligible to take advantage of this early entry. This head start might have allowed us to visit Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Instead, we waited in the general admission line for 45 minutes. Doh! By the time we entered the park, the wait time for Rise of the Resistance was already at 70 minutes.
It would have been nice for the Disney hotel to inform us of this perk at check-in.
Lesson – if you’re staying at one of these Disney Resort hotels, go to the early entry gates and take advantage of this perk.
Related post – Our experience staying at Tokyo Disneyland Resort
3. Not learning the My Disney Experience App BEFORE entering the parks
This is an easy mistake to fix. Rather than wait until the morning of your Disney adventure, it’s wise to play around with the My Disney Experience app and get familiar with its features.
We left this until the moment we were waiting in line to enter Disney Hollywood Studios. This was not a good idea.
It’s a relatively easy app to navigate but there are a few things to learn. You will also need to confirm your Disney tickets are in the app. We left this until last minute and, fortunately, another guest showed us how to pull up the QR codes for the tickets. More info on that here.
Lesson – download the Disney app and get familiar with it BEFORE your Disney experience.
4. Not purchasing Disney Genie+ early in the day
Disney Genie+ is paid add-on feature in the My Disney Experience app. It allows guests to skip the general lines and use the Lightning Lane (previously known as the FastPass). The cost is $15 USD per person, per day at Walt Disney World Resort. For our family of four, the cost is $60 USD plus tax.
At first, we did not see value in paying for this add-on feature.
However, after experiencing a few very long wait times, we decided to purchase the Disney Genie+. It was the right move. Being able to use the Lightning Lane for a few rides allowed us to have more experiences at Magic Kingdom. This became more valuable when we realized that Magic Kingdom was closing at 6:00pm for the Halloween event.
The mistake was not purchasing Disney Genie+ as soon as we entered the park.
We could have skipped a few more lines during our time at Disney Hollywood Studios. We lost valuable time by not making the decision earlier in the day.
Lesson – purchase Disney Genie+ early. It’s worth the extra fee.
5. Not making dinner reservations at the hotel
We learned the hard way that you can’t just show up to restaurants and expect a table. That’s not how things work at Disney World hotels.
I remember feeling very unhappy on our first evening at Disney Coronado Springs Resort. The resort has several restaurants, so we thought the process would be similar to other restaurants. We say to the host, “Table for four, please” and we’re seated or given a wait time.
Not at these Disney restaurants. They were closed to ‘walk in’ guests. You have to make a reservation in order to get a table.
This was very disappointing and frustrating. We had to eat at the cafeteria and pay similar prices to the restaurants. It did not feel like magic.
However, once we figured out the reservation system on the Disney app, it’s actually pretty easy. The following nights we had no problem dining at the restaurants.
Lesson – make dinner reservations as soon as you arrive. Or, if possible, before you arrive at the hotel. The same thing applies for restaurants inside the Disney theme parks.
Above is the Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.
6. Not purchasing the free re-fill cups at Disney hotel
On our first day at Disney Coronado Springs, we purchased multiple soft drinks for our boys. While at the pool, we noticed several guests had these plastic Disney cups with them (pictured above).
After seeing a family refill these cups with fountain drinks, we did some investigating. We learned that these special Disney cups give you unlimited free refills during your stay. The price is $20 USD per cup. Comparatively, a single soft drink costs about $5 USD.
It’s a good deal, especially because we stayed at the resort for 6 nights.
The mistake we made was not purchasing these cups until Day 2. It wasn’t a big deal, but we probably spent an additional $30 USD that we could have avoided. Before returning to our room in the evenings, we would refill the cups.
Lesson – when you arrive at a Disney hotel, look for these free refill cups. It could save you a lot of money, depending on how many days you’re at the resort.
7. Not bringing food and drinks to the Disney hotel (and lunches for inside the theme parks)
Staying at a Disney World hotel is not cheap. Food and drinks are priced at a premium and there’s limited options available. Because most of the the Disney hotels are located within the greater Walt Disney World Resort, there’s not a lot of restaurants or stores that are “non Disney”.
We used Ubers to get around Orlando, making it challenging to stop at a grocery store.
If we could rewind and do it over again, we’d invest in an Uber trip to a grocery store and stock up on our first day. Not only is this more budget friendly, it allows you to purchase items that your kids will actually eat.
Our boys ate so many chicken tenders and fries during our time in Orlando because most restaurants have limited kid-friendly options, which is surprising because Disney World is built for kids.
Related – 100 photos of Tokyo Disneyland
8. Not eating breakfast before entering Disney’s Hollywood Studios
We were still battling a little jetlag on the morning of our visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The goal was to be at the gates by 8:00 am, which meant getting up at 7:00 am. Our internal clocks felt like it was 4:00 am at that time.
Because of this, none of us were hungry when we left the hotel. We skipped breakfast.
As soon as we entered Hollywood Studios we hustled to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge to get in line for Smuggler’s Run. The line was about 45 minutes. By the time we finished the ride, we were getting hungry. We wandered around the Star Wars world looking for food options. It has limited options for young kids, which is kind of annoying.
We spent $60 USD on breakfast at Ronto Roasters (pictured above). It’s serves quirky food options. Our boys were not happy with the menu. They barely ate their food and were still hungry afterwards. It was another expensive Disney World mistakes.
Lesson – bring snacks and food to avoid hangry kids. Disney restaurants are notoriously busy and the food options are intentionally weird.
I ordered the breakfast wrap, but got the Rondo Wrap instead. I thought it was pretty good. Our boys got the plain wrap with just the sausage. They ate some of the bread but did not enjoy the sausage.
9. Spending too much time at the other Orlando theme parks
When researching Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando with our boys, they felt that Universal Studios had more rides and attractions that interest them. See the Universal Studios Orlando map here.
At the time of booking, Universal Studios was offering 2 free days when you purchase a 2 day, 2 park pass. It seemed like a no-brainer. We planned to visit both Universal parks, so why not get two more days included?
However, after spending three days at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, we didn’t feel the need to return for the 4th a day. In fact, we probably would have been fine with only the two days at Universal.
It is expensive and inconvenient to travel from Disney World to Universal Studios. It’s about a 30 minute drive, with light traffic. The Uber price is between $35-$50 USD each way, depending on traffic and time of day.
Above photo is from Jurassic Park at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando.
10. Not spending enough time at Disney theme parks
By choosing to spend more time at Universal Studios, we spent less time at Disney World. We made the decision to skip Epcot and Disney Animal Kingdom because we purchased the 4 day pass at Universal Studios. This was a mistake.
We were staying at a Disney World hotel, which provides easy and free transportation to Disney theme parks. There’s a bus stop 100 meters from our hotel room!
When we researched the distance between Disney World and Universal Studios it didn’t seem too far. But we did not account for traffic and we didn’t realize we’d be spending a minimum of $35 USD each way. It starts to add up.
We regret not spending time at Epcot and/or Magic Kingdom in the evenings.
Lesson – when staying at a Disney World Resort hotel, spend more time at the Disney theme parks and less time at Universal Studios parks.
Have you made any of these Disney World mistakes?
What are your Disney World tips and recommendations? Leave us a comment below.
Things we did right on this Disney World vacation
Although we did make a few Disney World mistakes on this trip to Orlando, we also did a few things that we’d recommend to others.
1. Staying at a Disney World hotel
We enjoyed our time at Disney Coronado Springs Resort and liked being so close to Disney World theme parks. Having free transportation within steps from our hotel room was great. And the early entry is a nice feature, too (assuming you actually take advantage of this perk).
There are ‘non-Disney’ hotels near the parks, but you’re spending at least $15-$20 USD each way, which adds up.
Some of the Disney resorts are expensive, however some are reasonable. Do your research months in advance, when there’s more availability. If possible, try to visit in the shoulder season. There’s more rooms available and prices are less expensive.
When you factor in transportation, you actually might not be saving as much by staying outside Disney World.
2. Having a pool day in between theme park days
We’re glad we scheduled two relaxing pool days in between theme park visits. It’s impossible to do everything when visiting Orlando. It’s the theme park capital of the world, with over a dozen theme parks within a 20 mile radius.
Sure, we would have liked to visit Disney Animal Kingdom, Sea Life Orlando, and SeaWorld Orlando. But we’d probably be cranky if we spent our entire Orlando vacation inside theme parks.
Our boys enjoy swimming and playing in the arcade. We slept in late and switched into chill mode. It was the right call.
Lesson – spend a day at the pool. You’re on vacation, after all!
Have you visited Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando?
Did you make any of these Disney World mistakes? Leave a comment below. Our readers thank you!