It’s easy to know what you should do on a Disney vacation. No matter what time of year you go, you should definitely plan ahead, you should definitely ride Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World, and you should definitely get that perfect picture in front of the castle. It’s a lot harder to figure out the things that you should not do.
But don’t worry, we’re here to help you from making some rookie Disney travel mistakes. For instance, traveling to Walt Disney World or Disneyland over a long holiday weekend may seem like a good idea. You have off work and your kids are off school. However, the parks will be packed to the brim with other, similarly-minded guests, and hotels will be way, way more expensive. Or, perhaps you think it’s a great idea to plan out every minute of every day you’re going to be in the parks. Right down to the exact churro cart you’re going to get your limited-edition dessert from. But planning your vacation down to the very last small detail would also be a big mistake.
There are plenty of things that’ll make your Disney vacation run smoothly, but not doing these 20 things will make your vacation all the more magical.
You may think that you have this whole Disney vacation thing down. You went all the time as a kid, you know where Splash Mountain is relative to Space Mountain, and you know that you can’t wait to get your hands on a Mickey Premium Bar. But so many things have changed in recent years. Before you even go on a Disney vacation, make sure you know the best place to stay for you and your family, how to book your Fastpasses, the best places to eat, and what the park openings and closures will be when you’re on vacation.
It may be tempting to book everything straight through Disney, but before you pay exorbitant prices for your hotel, food, and park tickets, shop around. You never know where you may find discounts, and using a site like Undercover Tourist for tickets is a smart and easy way to save money at Disney.
When you know you’ll be spending long days at the Disney parks, be sure to check the weather before heading out and pick up anything you may need beforehand. Things like plastic ponchos, for instance, will cost more once you’re in the park and you’ll probably throw them out (or lose them) later in the day.
You may want to look cute for that perfect snapshot with Mickey, but the most important thing is to dress comfortably. Ditch the heels, and tie those sneakers. Dress appropriately for the temperature outside, because you’ll be walking around for a long while.
It may be tempting to eat every meal at Epcot’s best restaurants or book that coveted dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant, but eating every meal in the parks adds up quickly. Orlando is a burgeoning culinary destination and we all know LA is a foodie paradise, so consider leaving the Disney bubble and hitting the town.
Waiting in line is a drag, so don’t forget to take advantage of the park Fastpasses. The systems work differently on each coast. At Walt Disney World, you can reserve three Fastpasses per day at one park in advance. Guests staying at a Disney resort can book their Fastpasses 60 days in advance; off-site guests and annual passholders have 30 days. At Disneyland, head to Fastpass distribution points at select attractions or sign up for MaxPass. There’s no better feeling than breezing past others in line, especially for popular rides with notoriously long lines, like Peter Pan or Space Mountain.
Stay hydrated. It’s easy to forget about basic necessities when you’re hopping from ride to ride and having fun, but you can quickly get overheated. Bring a bottle of water for each person at the beginning of the day and fill them up at water fountains around the parks. If you forgot the water bottles, just head to any quick service dining location. They have cups of free ice water for all guests.
You won’t want to stop for a break every time someone in your group gets hungry, so throw a few snacks in your bag in the morning. Small items like granola bars and fruit should do the trick. Bringing snacks with you as opposed to buying them in the park will be cheaper and healthier.
Regardless of the time of year you go, if you’re spending an entire day at the park you’re going to get a lot of sun — even if it’s overcast or cloudy. Protect your skin and put on some sunscreen before leaving your hotel in the morning. Bring some along with you and reapply throughout the day.
Walking all over the park and standing in lines outside quickly becomes a draining event. Carve out time in your day to take a much-needed break. Whether you head back to the hotel and take a dip in the pool or a nap or simply sit in the shade and eat an ice-cold Dole Whip in the park, sitting down and relaxing will make your day much more enjoyable.
Head to any Disney theme park, and you’ll see it: A family entering the gates with a massive three-ring binder in hand with breakdowns of the best use of a Disney Dining Plan snack credit, a timetable for when to go on Pirates of the Carribean and when to go on Jungle Cruise, and a strict dollar-by-dollar breakdown of the difference between a Disney T-Shirt and a tank top. While it’s smart to plan ahead and book dining and Fastpasses, keeping yourself on a strict plan will lead you only to disappointment. Be sure to be flexible.
Just because you don’t want to have a minute-by-minute timeline of your day at Disney doesn’t mean that you should purely wing it. Pre-planning roughly when you’ll be in each land, booking Fastpasses, and having an idea of where you’d like to eat can save you from feeling overwhelmed or frazzled.
Assuming that you’re going on vacation with children, remember that this trip is really exciting for them. What you think they’ll want to do may not be what they actually want to do, so be sure to ask. If they’re happy, you’ll be happy, and no one wants a child throwing a tantrum in the happiest place on earth.
Each park at Walt Disney World and Disneyland is full of rich details. If you spend your time running from one dark ride to another, you’re going to miss all of the little, magical touches that make these theme parks so special. Slow down. Stroll down Main Street slowly and look up at the windows to see the names of legendary Imagineers, look for all of the hidden Mickeys throughout the park, and enjoy the immersive theming. The attractions (as amazing as they may be) are only half of what Disney has to offer.
Just because this happy, magical vacation is perfect for families doesn’t mean that it has to be 100 percent about the kids. Be sure to utilize ride swap so you can still go on Splash Mountain and Tower of Terror. Also don’t be afraid to leave the kids with a babysitter for an evening and have a date night at Disney Springs or Downtown Disney.
You’re never going to be able to do everything there is to do at Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Even park veterans have new places to explore and things to experience. If you expect to ride every ride, try every snack, or meet every character, you’re going to be disappointed. Be sure to manage your expectations and enjoy the time you have and things you do in the park.
Get up and out! You didn’t go on vacation to sleep your day away. Also, the earlier you get to the park, the shorter the lines will be, so you can knock out some of the rides you really want to go on before the day gets later and more people arrive.
If you can afford, try to stay at a Disney resort. Doing so has perks like transportation to the parks and early admission before the general public is allowed to enter. This will give you an advantage in knocking out a few rides first thing in the morning — you may even be able to ride your favorites more than once before the lines get ridiculously long.
The Disney theme parks are family parks, but not everything is meant for people of all ages. Even seemingly lighthearted rides and shows like Pirates of the Carribean, Spaceship Earth, Haunted Mansion, and It’s Tough to Be a Bug may seem appropriate for all ages, but they’re dark and scary for little ones. Older park guests may have back troubles after taking a ride on Space Mountain or the Matterhorn. Find out about each ride individually and make sure it’s a good fit for everyone in your party.
The parks will be a madhouse anytime you go, but nothing compares to the misery of going during a holiday weekend. Although it might seem to make sense, since children are off from school and adults have off work during holidays, every other family is thinking the same thing, and the parks become overcrowded, making it much more difficult to complete your Disney parks bucket list.
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