Planning a vacation to the most magical place on Earth can be both thrilling and overwhelming. As someone who’s not only a devoted theme park aficionado but also a former Cast Member at EPCOT’s Mexico Pavilion, I’ve seen a lot. Here are my insights into the most significant and costly mistakes people make when planning a trip to Disney Theme Parks.
Mistakes Can Mean Losing Big Bucks at Disney
With over a decade of Disney exploration under my belt, I’ve witnessed families and solo travelers alike make decisions that could lead to a significant dent in their wallets. Whether it’s poor planning, overlooked details, or simply not knowing the best tips and tricks, these mistakes can add up and impact your overall Disney experience and your budget.
One common mistake people make when planning their Disney trip is not doing it well in advance. Let me tell you, booking early can make a world of difference.
When you plan ahead of time, you open the door to great hotel deals and enticing perks. It’s not unusual to find special offers like the Disney Dining Plan for free or thousands of dollars off of specific packages or even adult tickets for the price of children’s admission.
Prices Can Go Up The More You Wait
Conversely, if you leave your planning to the last minute, your budget will pay for it. Hotel rates tend to go up as your arrival date approaches, and deals are often for a limited amount of time.
Theme park ticket prices may also rise as they come closer to reaching capacity. Disney’s pricing model is dynamic, meaning it sets prices high to try and prevent crowds.
Picking a Hotel, That’s Too Far Away
One of the most common mistakes people make when planning their Disney vacation is choosing the wrong hotel. If you’re going to be going to Disney every day of your trip, you need to be as close as possible to the parks.
Here’s the scoop: Many nearby non-Disney hotels partner with Disney World to provide fantastic perks, including park transportation. However, some folks make the blunder of selecting hotels that aren’t close to Disney World. These places can make getting to and from the park a real challenge, especially after a tiring day of Disney adventures. What’s worse, some of these hotels charge a pretty penny but aren’t a match for a Disney-focused vacation.
Look for Hotels Very Close By
Instead, I suggest looking for Disney-friendly neighbor hotels or Disney partner hotels, like the ones at Disney Springs. These accommodations offer a comfortable stay solid perks, and are close by for those early morning or late nights.
Don’t Stay at the Value Disney Resorts
I typically don’t recommend all the Disney hotels because, honestly, they don’t always offer the best quality and perks you’d expect for the price. Avoid Disney’s All-Star Resorts when planning your Disney adventure; the quality might fall short of your expectations.
The Drury Plaza Hotel, Hilton, or The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista are some of the hotels I recommend. These hotels consistently offer superior amenities, frequently surpassing Disney’s own resorts.
Not Making Restaurant Reservations in Advance
One big mistake many Disney visitors make is not booking a Disney restaurant well in advance. Disney allows you to make reservations up to two months ahead, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to take advantage of this.
Disney Dining Restaurants are incredibly popular and always in high demand, especially when they’ve run a free Disney dining offer. Many people make the mistake of trying to secure a table just a week before their vacation or even on the same day they visit the park. Unfortunately, this often results in disappointment because they won’t find any available slots.
Some People Then Turn To Reservation Brokers
Desperation may lead some to search for third-party reservation websites, and trust me, they’re lots of them. These services often charge extra fees, making your Disney experience more expensive than it needs to be. Finding last-minute cancellations is rare and not something to rely on if you’ve promised your family a particular character breakfast or lunch in the castle.
Avoid third-party reservations at all costs; you might even risk getting scammed. Instead, be sure to plan ahead and make your Disney dining reservations early. It’s a small effort that can make a big difference in your Disney experience.
Waiting to Buy Genie+
I highly recommend purchasing the new Disney Genie+ service when the park opens rather than waiting until later in the day. This innovative system lets you plan your ride schedule, ensuring you make the most of your Disney experience. Beat the crowds and hit the most popular Rides, like Tower of Terror, early in the day and then leave your afternoon free for newer rides that often have long lines.
If you delay purchasing Genie+, you might find that many of the prime time slots for popular attractions are already booked, leaving you with only less popular options. This can feel like a waste of money, as you’ve already paid for the service but have limited choices.
Using The Buses
Regarding Disney’s transportation options, I recommend considering alternatives to their buses. While Disney’s bus service is free and convenient, it can consume a significant chunk of your valuable time.
Here’s the deal: If you’re using a Park Hopper ticket and need to move between theme parks, the bus might not be the wisest choice. Through my own experiences, I’ve found that it can take anywhere from a minimum of one hour to sometimes a whopping 90 minutes to get from one park to another. That’s a substantial amount of time that could be better spent on thrilling rides, enjoying shows, and creating magical memories.
What Else Is There?
Instead, consider alternatives like renting a car or using rideshare services like Uber. These options can save you time, help you make the most of your Disney adventure, and ensure your precious time isn’t lost. Time is money, after all, and in Disney World, it’s all about making every moment count for a truly enchanting experience.
Attending the Theme Parks on the 4th of July, Christmas Day, and New Year´s Eve
I strongly advise against visiting Disney World or Disneyland during major holidays like the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve.
During these holidays, theme park prices soar to their highest levels of the year to try to discourage crowds. You’ll be paying a premium to enter. Moreover, the parks operate at their maximum capacity, leading to overcrowding and massive lines. Even quick-service restaurants can have long queues for food, making the experience less enjoyable.
You’ll Pay More and Experience Less During Those Times
If you visit on these popular dates, be prepared for an incredibly frustrating time. The wait times for the most popular and newer rides can stretch to over 2 to 5 hours, which eats up a significant portion of your day.
Forgetting to Pack Snacks and Drinks
Before you embark on your magical journey, consider ordering essential items through services like Garden Grocer or picking things up at an Amazon Locker. Before you head to the parks, think about packing some nonperishable snacks and water bottles. These snacks will come in handy while you’re exploring the magical world of Disney, keeping those hunger pangs at bay and helping you stay refreshed without overspending.
Here’s a little-known secret: You can stroll up to any counter service or snack station within the parks and ask for a cup of ice water. They’ll happily provide it, and it’s an excellent way to stay hydrated without shelling out extra cash. So whatever you do, don’t pay for water!
Time is a precious commodity when you’re at the Theme Parks. Make sure your day includes some free entertainment options like the breathtaking fireworks shows and lively parades. Trust me; it’s a surefire way to keep everyone in good spirits.
And before you even step foot in the park, do yourself a favor and look at the map. Plot out a game plan for the attractions you want to take advantage of, and try to avoid zigzagging around the park aimlessly. It’s a simple but effective trick to make the most of your time and avoid those long lines.
If You Want To Skip Lines, Do This
Here’s a bonus for you: if you want to sidestep even more wait times and become a VIP, consider staying at one of Disney’s affiliated properties. Deluxe resorts offer Extra Magic Hours, while Disney Moderate and Value Resorts give you Early Park Access. These little extras can give you an exclusive 30 minutes or three hours at night to ride the rides with practically no lines.
Buying a Park Hopper in Peak Season or For Small Kids
When you visit a Disney theme park, there’s an abundance of attractions, shows, and experiences to enjoy, and trying to fit everything into one day can be quite a challenge. Each park has so much to offer that it often takes almost a full day to explore it thoroughly.
If you’re not targeting specific attractions that are spread across different parks, opt for a full-day park ticket. This way, you can make the most of your visit and dive deep into the magic of each park.
It’s Really Expensive and Not Worth It
Consider the logistics of moving from one park to another. It takes time, and when you’re traveling with children, it can be even more complicated. You don’t want to waste valuable park time on transportation.
So, my advice is to savor each Disney park fully, one at a time. You’ll get the most out of your visit in terms of experiences and savings.
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If you’re planning on visiting Disney or any other theme park in a warm climate, here’s what you can do to prevent it and what items you should bring to treat it.
The 3 Best Days to Visit Walt Disney World Revealed
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Disney’s No Longer Orlando’s Best Theme Park – Travelers Voted Discovery Cove Into the Top Spot
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It’s not a Florida heat-induced mirage; it’s Discovery Cove Orlando. This unique, all-inclusive, all-day outing offers guests a one-of-a-kind opportunity to swim with dolphins, snorkel among thousands of tropical fish and rays, hand-feed exotic birds, and encounter playful otters—all in a surprisingly stunning tropical atmosphere just 12 miles from Orlando International Airport.
30 Reasons Families Prefer Legoland Florida to Disney World Theme Parks
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After these two trips, our family prefers Legoland, Florida to Disney World. And it turns out we’re not the only ones. After interviewing 25 other families who feel the same, here’s why people are opting for days with Emmet, Lloyd, and Master Wu instead of Elsa, Luke, and Mickey Mouse.
A Disney Travel Agent’s Guide to Animal Kingdom Rides and Attractions (Plus Insider Tips)
Want to experience your best day ever in Animal Kingdom? The key is creating a balance. Enjoy all the best Animal Kingdom rides and shows. But also make time to take a break from the hustle and bustle and soak in the beauty of nature on the trails and at the animal viewing locations.
Stop unexpectedly and join in on some of the singing and dancing of the “Streetmosphere.” Then, catch a glimpse of a Flotilla sailing down the river with your favorite characters. Let’s explore these so you and your family can curate your perfect Animal Kingdom day.