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7 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Disney Vacation

Going to Disney can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned travelers. So much to remember and so much more to learn! But I find that I can have just as much fun in the planning stages as in the actual vacation itself. Last year my family and I (all seasoned Disneyland travelers) took our first last-minute trip to Walt Disney World and made *ahem*,  many mistakes! It happens to the best of us. If this is your first time planning a Disney vacation you have your hopes up that everything will go well…And it will!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing some common Disney mistakes and how you can avoid them.

In order to make your vacation go as smoothly as possible, check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

7 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Disney Vacation

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Mistake #1: “Surprise! We’re Going to Disney…Right NOW!!”

It sounds like a great idea, right? You’ll take them to the airport or pop them in the car for the road trip and surprise them with a trip to Disney! They’ll be so happy, right?? Depending upon your kids, this surprise of a lifetime could go either way. And you’ll really have to know your kids to know how a big surprise like that would go down.

For my two older children, a surprise vacation would not be welcome and might indeed spark a meltdown. They both like to know early-on what’s going to happen and be totally prepared so a surprise Disney trip would not be the best idea. However, my 4-year old would be thrilled! He tends to roll-with-the-punches a little better and doesn’t mind a few changes in his routine. Only you know how your kids might react.

7 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Disney Vacation

What kind of reaction are you expecting?

Instead of surprising the kids just as you’re leaving, consider a surprise early on in the planning stages of the vacation. This still gives you the excitement of “Wow, we’re going to Disney?!” but allows them time to let the idea of a big vacation sink in. They’ll also be able to properly prepare and help you plan the trip as well and give input on what rides and attractions they’d like to see.

I like the idea of a surprise that includes a Disney Vacation Planning DVD (you can order one free through this link) so they can watch and take notes on what to expect during their trip. Throw in a planning guide book so that you and the kids can start planning your trip before you leave including what shows, rides and attractions you want to experience.

For Walt Disney World: Birnbaum’s 2017 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2017

For Disneyland: Birnbaum’s 2017 Disneyland Resort: The Official Guide and The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2017


Mistake #2: “Why Is It So Crowded?”

If you plan on visiting Disney on a weekend, summertime, holiday season or pretty-much anytime that kids are out of school, you’ll need to be prepared that the Parks will be crowded. Be sure to take a look at the calendar before booking your trip to make sure an avoid three-day weekends and holidays if you want to visit when the Park crowds are lighter.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

See my posts about the Best Times of the Year to Visit Disneyland and Dates to Avoid When Planning a Disneyland Vacation

Best times         Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

Mistake #3: “Where Am I? I Am Totally Lost”

Finding yourself directionally challenged once you pass Main St. U.S.A? Take some time in your pre-vacation planning to study the maps of each Park.  You can find the maps on the Disney Parks websites.

Each of the Disney Parks are large and have lots of nooks and crannies to explore. If you have a general idea of the layout of the “Lands” then at least you won’t be looking for the Haunted Mansion in Tomorrowland.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Purchase your discounted Disney Park tickets from Park Savers before your trip and SAVE MONEY!

Park Savers affiliate link

Mistake #4: “I Thought I’d Be Able to See ALL the Characters”

At any given moment, you might find a dozen characters meeting and greeting guests throughout the Park. Will you find your favorite? Maybe!

Not all characters meet guests year-round. Some you’ll be sure to see, like Mickey and the “fab five” throughout the day at the Parks and others only come out for special occasions. You’ll get an idea of which characters will be out that day from the Entertainment Times Guide you receive at the front gate. There are also special appearances that aren’t in the schedule and of course you can see characters in the shows and parades as well.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Be sure to see my post on Traveling Mom, Ways to Meet Mickey and Other Characters for more details on how to see your favorites along with tips for having the best character meet n’ greet experience!

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Mistake #5: “What Are We Going to Eat? I’m STARVING!!”

Waiting until your vacation day to decide on your Disney meals is a mistake. Even if you only plan on grab & go counter service meals, you should still plan ahead of time what food you’ll be eating. This not only saves you time deciding on the spot, time spent zig-zagging across the Park to get to the restaurant and time perusing the menu deciding on your meal.

With such a large family, I always print off a few of the restaurant menus online so we can decide what we’ll be ordering before our trip. We can decide early about sharing platters of food, budgeting for meals and it saves us time in line trying to decide. One of us orders and the other gets the table and it’s a much more expedited process!

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Gaston’s Tavern is open, just stop in!

In the case of full-service dining, much of the dining at Disney is considered an “experience”. And at Walt Disney World especially, you’ll need Advance Dining Reservations (ADR) to get into these restaurants.

When we were checking in for our reservation at 50’s Prime Time Cafe, there were a half-dozen people trying to get in to the booked restaurant without any luck. You’ll definitely need ADR if you plan on full-service. You can play it by ear at Disneyland for the most past, save for Character meals and peak season.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Dining at Be Our Guest requires Advance Dining Reservations

Check out these posts about Sharing Meals at Disneyland and Dining at Disneyland without ADR.

Sharing Meals-PIN         ADR-PIN

Mistake #6: “I Should Have Brought the…”

Regretting that you forgot to bring something with you into the Parks? Having a packing list ready before your trip will help you to remember everything you’ll need to pack up in your day bag. I find that jotting down essentials as I recall them in the weeks leading up to the trip will help me better than if I go off the top of my head when I’m loading up the suitcase.

Certainly there are a lot of things you can buy inside the Disney Parks gift shops from antacids to flip-flops but the prices will be higher as well. At least at Disneyland, there are convenience stores within walking distance of the front gates.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Thought you wouldn’t need a stroller and now you regret not bringing it? Fortunately you can rent one in the Parks.

See these posts about What to Bring to Disney, Expectant Mom’s Packing List and the Disney Packing List for Kids

What to bring -PIN     Expectant Mom's Disney Packing List-PIN     Disney Trip Packing List-PIN

Mistake #7: “Why Are the Kids So Cranky?! This is Supposed to be the Happiest Place on Earth!”

Disney Parks are chock full of entertainment from rope drop to midnight, and beyond. For most kids, the constant activity combined with a disruption in their usual routine (and nap schedule) can cause tantrums like you’ve never seen before! For other kids, anxiety about all the new noises, sights and smells might put them into stress-mode.

Be sure to work in some downtime into your Disney vacation schedule. A mid-trip “off day” will give everyone a chance to sleep in, relax and unwind a bit before getting back into the theme-park frenzy again.

Check out these 7 rookie mistakes to avoid when you plan your Disney vacation.

Someone was ready for a break

Here are a few handy posts about Avoiding the Disneyland MeltdownCalming Anxious Children and Things to Do on an Off-Day.

Meltdown-PIN (2)     Scared kids-PIN     Off-Day thumbnail

Planning a Disney vacation and you need more help?

Be sure to check out this post about the 5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Trip for more travel planning tips!

5 Things You Need to Do

For more ways to avoid mistakes at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | Disney Mistakes & How to Avoid Them Loop:

These are the top 7 tips for Disney vacation rookies & what first-timer mistakes to avoid when planning a Disney vacation.

5 replies
  1. Rosanne
    Rosanne says:

    Great tips Julie! I surprised my husband with a Disney trip and it was honestly way too much work. I should’ve just done the “surprise, everything is planned and we’re going to Disney” surprise.

    One thing I regretted not bringing with me on my son’s first trip- a thermometer. It meant an Uber trip to a pharmacy and a lot of stress.

  2. Mary
    Mary says:

    Great tips. Especially about the parks maps and understanding what is where. More than once we have had to explain to people we have met along the way that a ride is not in the park they are in. Their faces just fall and then they realize they have to figure out the buses!!

  3. Becca
    Becca says:

    These are some great tips! I couldn’t agree more about taking some down time. I was always the mean parent that made my kid nap at Disney. We would put the full five point harness on, recline the stroller and pull down the shade and even cover any openiga with a light blanket (of course leaving enough for airflow) and push him around to fall asleep.

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