Five Rookie Mistakes of the First-Time Traveler to Disney World

If you really think about it, any trip to Walt Disney World is something that very few people would turn down. If it’s your first time visiting this massive and magical destination, it’s likely that you’re going to do a few things that you could have done better. Most of the time you won’t even know it, but some of the time you may find yourself thinking: “there must be a better way.”

To help eliminate at least a few of those situations, here are five rookie mistakes that I see and hear about consistently from first-time visitors who have just returned from their first Disney World vacation.

Be Our Guest, West Wing, Rose

Be Our Guest Restaurant in Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park is one of the toughest reservations to get at Walt Disney World. If you want to dine in the West Wing of the Beast’s Castle and see the rose first-hand, you’ll need to plan ahead and make your reservation far in advance of your vacation.

Rookie Mistake #1: Not researching where to dine
I am always amazed when travelers come home from Walt Disney World and tell me that while they loved it there, they weren’t very impressed with the food. This baffles me because there are some really excellent and fun restaurants at Disney World (and the food is one of the things that I look forward to most of all). Usually when I ask where they ate, the “best” restaurant that they name does not even make my list of the top 20. Everybody’s tastes are different, but without question there are some must-dine places at Walt Disney World and there are even more that can best be avoided. So if it’s your first time, spend some time researching Disney restaurants and make sure to get yourself booked into at least two or three of the more highly recommended establishments. It can really help to make a good Disney vacation even better and give you a much needed break from the quick service level. I have a several blog entries on dining and a recommended section on the main website, so be sure to check those as well.

Rookie Mistake #2: Arriving at a park at 11:00 a.m.
The number one tip that I share with people is to get to the Disney parks for opening. You will basically have the run of the place for one to two hours and you can see and do a heck of a lot in that time. Rookie travellers who don’t know this arrive at the park around 11:00 a.m. and end up spending many wasted hours waiting in line-ups that could have been avoided by arriving earlier. You effectively cut in half the amount of experiences that you can see or do when you arrive at a Disney Park later in the morning. Crowds are heavy, the sun is hotter, lines are longer and patience wears thin much faster. Avoid this by getting everyone up early (they may whine, but they’ll thank you later) and make the most of your Disney vacation. You’ll have plenty of time to kick back and relax at the resort in the afternoon.

Rookie Mistake #3: Not bringing strollers for little ones
Everyone know that a stroller is a must-have item for little little ones, but what about for your four to six-year-olds? Unless you know that your child can easily keep up with you for 10 miles a day every day for a week in the hot sun, do yourself a favor and bring or rent a stroller for your little one. Little feet get tired fast in the hot sun and little tempers become big too. If you do bring a stroller from home, make sure it folds because you will need a folding stroller for boats and monorails. You should at least be sure to consider this point and make a decision before leaving home. It can be a real rookie mistake to think that because your child has been out of a stroller for six months at home, that he or she won’t need one for the miles of hot pavement at Walt Disney World in Florida.

Rookie Mistake #4: Not booking dining far in advance
It’s not fear mongering, it’s really true that the most popular Disney World restaurants can book up as far out as six months in advance. So heed the advice you’ve heard and make some dining reservations as soon as you can in advance of your trip. Even if you just make reservations for a few of your top choices you will ease stress and avoid disappointment onsite when everything is booked except the less-than-desirable choices.

Rookie Mistake #5: Not having a plan for your week
If you are the type of traveler who prefers a freestyle approach to the family vacation, throw that thinking out the window when it comes to Walt Disney World. I am not going to advocate the military-style over planning that some popular planning sites would have you follow (that can ruin the Disney experience in my opinion), but I will suggest that at the very least you should know in advance which parks you plan to visit on which mornings and also what are your top five attractions that you want to see in each park. The advent of the FastPass+ system has helped to force the hand on this one to some degree and I think that that’s a good thing. Keep your afternoons free, but take some time to plan ahead at least to this level. That will help to ensure that you get to see and do most (if not all) of what you hope to enjoy on your Walt Disney World vacation.

What are your best tips for mistakes to avoid on a Walt Disney World vacation?

~ Mike Belobradic