We have taken a vacation to Walt Disney World 3 times since 2013. Each trip was magical in its own way. We have learned over the years how to make the most of our Disney vacation.
Here are 7 mistakes and 5 things we did right on our Disney World vacations.
- Not taking a break during the day.
This is probably one of the biggest mistakes we made on 2 out of 3 of our trips. Everyone needs to take a break. If you plan on going from park opening to park closing, you need to try to go back to the hotel room and take a nap. Otherwise meltdowns will happen. Even now that the kids are a little older (7 and 10), they still need to rest. The kids begged to not go back to the room on our Magic Kingdom day on our last trip. We stayed and I regretted it when my 7 year old son was having a huge meltdown. No fun!
- Not having enough time to get from place to place using Disney transportation.
Do not underestimate how long it can take to get from place to place on Disney property. First of all, it is HUGE. Second of all, you cannot always predict when the bus, monorail, or ferry will be crowded, or the monorail will break down. Leave yourself plenty of time to get to a reservation. Most of the time this means giving yourself around 2 hours to travel to your location in order to arrive on time. Our last trip was the first time we were without a car. It took us about 2 and ½ hours to get from Art of Animation to Mickey’s Backyard BBQ. Needless to say we were late and would have been a lot less stressed about possibly missing it if we would have left earlier. All the transportation was a lot more crowded at 4:00 than we had anticipated. Always give yourself plenty of extra time when dealing with Disney transportation.
- Picking the Monorail instead of the Ferry just because the monorail transportation is more fun.
Just because the monorail seems faster (and looks like it is a lot of fun) does not mean that it is always the best form of transportation for your needs. We should have picked the ferry instead of the monorail several times. It really depends on where you are traveling and what the crowds are like. Try to scope out the lines and crowds before picking which form of transportation to take.
- Not getting Memory Maker.
One of the ways we tried to save money on our first two trips was not purchasing the Memory Maker Photography package. After purchasing it on our last trip I really regret not getting it earlier. We still have many pictures from our first two trips. However, the pictures are missing some of those magical touches. Plus, we ended up with a lot more pictures of the whole family when we purchased Memory Maker.
- Standing in line too long to meet characters.
Unfortunately we have made this mistake more than once. It is a good idea to really prioritize what characters you would like to see on your trip. Also, make sure you research what times of day have the shortest wait time to visit the characters you want to see. There is so much to do and see in Walt Disney World. You don’t want to waste all of your time waiting in line to meet a character.
- Not checking our receipts after every meal to make sure your meal credits are correct.
An unfortunate incident on our trip in 2015 where we were double charged meal credits and double charged for our tip taught us this lesson. We did not find this out until our last night at Disney when we tried to use our meal credits to pay for our last meal. Trying to get all of it sorted out ruined the magic of our last night. If we had double checked our meal credits and receipts each time we could have corrected this sooner. On our last trip in 2016 we didn’t have any issues.
- Not taking advantage of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and so on Fast Passes.
The Fastpass system is constantly evolving and changing at Disney. In 2013 there were still paper Fastpass tickets. In 2015 we had magic bands with the Fastpasses on them. We had to visit the Fastpass kiosk to get our 4th, 5th, 6th, etc. Fastpasses. Now (and on our last visit) you can book your next Fastpass on the My Disney Experience App. This makes it so much easier to continue using the Fastpass system after using your first 3 Fastpasses. We went on a ton of rides with a minimal wait this way.
5 Things We Did Right
- Getting the Meal Plan.
I know that the meal plan is not for everyone, but it has worked out really well for our family. I feel we get our money’s worth out of it (especially on our last trip in Nov) and it is one less thing we have to worry about on our trip since it is already paid for. It was so nice to tell my son if he didn’t like what a restaurant had for dessert: “That’s ok you can use a snack credit to get a Mickey Bar”.
- Adding on at least one extra magical experience.
On the past two trips I paid for one magical experience during the trip that the kids did not know about until it was happening. It was a great way to add a little bit of extra magic and ends up being one of the highlights of our trip. In 2015 we booked The Pirates League and in November we went on The Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage. They were wonderful experiences and I have wonderful memories from both.
- Booking the next fast pass while in line for the current ride with a Fastpass.
As stated above, it is to your advantage to book as many Fastpasses as possible throughout the day. As soon as we scanned our magic bands in the Fastpass line we would start looking for the next Fastpass while walking through the Fastpass queue. We were able to go on back to back to back Fastpass rides this way.
- Having a screenshot of our daily plan on my phone, as well as our daily plan printed out for the day.
This really helped us to navigate the park and get the most of our time during the day. We had a laminated printout of the schedule in our bag and a screenshot of it on my phone. It was easy to refer to and also saved a lot of the battery life on my phone.
- Using Disney gift cards to help us budget for souvenirs.
This helped us to easily stay on budget for our souvenir buying. Each kid had their own gift card and new exactly how much was on it to spend. They spent a lot more conservatively and thought more about their purchases because it was “their” money. I even had gift cards for myself to help control my spending.
Basically being prepared at Disney helps the whole trip to be a lot more enjoyable. Plus, to me the planning is half the fun!