Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Disney Vacation
The planning process is underway, you are taking the time to grow your Disney knowledge, and hoping to soon be enjoying your most magical vacation yet. You have high expectations for your Disney theme park vacation and rightfully so! A Disney trip is a major event in which you invest your time, heart, and money.
In our experience, there are several common mistakes we see guests make that negatively impact their Disney vacation experience. These mistakes are not limited to first-timers. With all the changes Disney has made in recent years, from the addition of Genie+ to the park pass reservation system, it is easy to make a wrong choice that may end up costing you.
To help ensure you do not fall victim to a common Disney vacation blunder we have compiled a list of the top 10 vacation mistakes and how to avoid them.
10. Misusing Genie+
We get it, Genie+ can be incredibly confusing. Gone are the days of paper Fast Passes. Hello digital age. To utilize Genie+ you must download the My Disney Experience app on your phone. There is no other way to use the service. Genie+ is a paid for line reservation service. You can begin making ride reservations for Genie+ attractions at 7am at Disney World. While at Disneyland you must be inside the theme park to make your first selection.
For Genie+ you book one ride at a time and cannot book another until you have completed the first OR two hours have passed. Whichever comes first. We frequently hear and see guests utilizing Genie+ ineffectively because either they forget to book their next attraction when the time comes (we suggest setting a phone alarm) and/or they waste a reservation on the wrong attraction. As a general rule we DO NOT recommend using Genie+ for character meet and greets or shows. You are not going to have trouble getting a seat for the Frozen Singalong or Festival of the Lion King, but if you do not use your first Genie+ reservation for Slinky Dog or Jungle Cruise (for example) then chances are you will be waiting in the general standby queue to ride because all ride slots will be reserved.
Be sure to spend time in your My Disney Experience app before your vacation. Do not wait until your first park day to familiarize yourself with the Genie tip board. Go in ahead of time and take the time to customize your tip board. When you do this the attractions at the top of your tip board will be the attractions you are the most interested in riding, which will save you valuable time. We recommend selecting your top two to three attractions for each theme park when customizing your tip board.
9. Not Taking Advantage of Extended Hours
Currently, Disney World and Disneyland theme parks provide early entry to all guests staying at a Disney resort. Each theme park will open approximately 30 minutes early to Disney resort guests only (a major reason to stay on property!). With the addition of paid for line skipping services, utilizing early entry is the best way to take advantage of shorter lines and lower crowds without having to pay more. As an example, when we arrive for early entry on a typical day at Magic Kingdom we are able to complete 2 or 3 popular rides AND take a few pictures in front of Cinderella Castle without tons of people in the background.
At Walt Disney World, guests staying at Deluxe level resorts have extended evening hours at select parks on select nights. Evening hours last much longer than the early morning 30 minutes, and are a huge bonus for Disney Deluxe guests. Hotels offering extended evening hours include: Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk, Beach & Yacht, Riviera, Animal Kingdom, Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and The Swan & Dolphin properties.
8. Not Paying Attention to Park Hours or Special Events
This is a biggie! Park hours for each theme park can change daily. It is important to check in your My Disney Experience account for the most up to date park hours. This is especially important if hoping to take advantage of extended hours for Disney resort guests, but also if staying off property and wanting to rope drop aka be present as soon as the park opens.
Seasonally, Disney also has special ticketed events, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom for instance. If you do not have tickets for the special events then you will have to exit the park early. This can be a big bummer when being kicked out of the park could have been avoided if you had been aware and planned your park days differently. Always check park hours and Disney’s special event calendar when planning your park days and making your park pass reservations.
7. Not Planning a Resort/Rest Day
Let us start off by saying we love Disney resorts! We cannot speak highly enough about how much value staying at a Disney resort can bring to your vacation. From being inside the Disney bubble to the proximity to the parks, we always recommend booking your hotel stay on property.
Every Disney resort offers daily activities in addition to multiple pools, playgrounds, arcades, shopping, and dining. If you can spare an extra day for your vacation to enjoy your resort we promise you will not regret it. Not only can a rest day give you a break from exhausting park days, but it also gives you the opportunity to take advantage of everything your Disney resort has to give. A non-theme park day also gives you time to visit Disney Springs, go explore other resorts/restaurants, enjoy a water park, play mini golf, or another activity only available outside the parks.
6. Skipping a Park
A question we are constantly asked is ‘Should we do all the parks?’ ‘Should we skip Epcot?’ ‘Or Animal Kingdom?’ Our response every time: DO NOT SKIP A PARK!!!
Each theme park is so incredibly different and absolutely worth your time. You may find you have a favorite park, but that does not mean you should make the mistake of skipping an entire park all together without giving it a chance. If you are traveling all the way to Disney World or Disneyland then we suggest you get the full experience and visit everything each destination has to offer.
5. Buying the Wrong Park Tickets
Disney offers several different theme park ticket options and it is important to consider your plans when making your purchase.
At both Disney World and Disneyland you have the option to purchase park hoppers with your tickets. This gives you the ability to visit more than one theme park on a given day. With a park hopper at Disneyland you can visit the other park anytime after 1pm. At Disney World you can visit your next park beginning at 2pm. You do not need park pass reservations for the next park you plan to visit, only for your first park of the day.
Disneyland gives you the option to pre-purchase Genie+ (line skipping ride reservation service) with your ticket purchase. At Disney World you can add Genie+ manually each day of your trip, but can no longer purchase in advance with your tickets.
Disney World also has two water parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. If you wish to visit the water parks during your vacation then you need to purchase the Water Parks, Sports, and More ticket. You have the option to purchase this ticket type with park hoppers or without.
The most common mistake is purchasing base park tickets (1 park per day) and not realizing this means you cannot park hop to another park. If you wish to visit more than 1 park in a day then be sure to add park hoppers to your tickets.
4. Not Making Park Pass Reservations
During the COVID-19 pandemic Disney created a new system to track and limit the amount of guests in each theme park. The park pass reservation system is still in effect and looks to be sticking around for the foreseeable future. What this means for you as a Disney guest is that you cannot enter a theme park with a ticket alone. You must have a park pass reservation for the theme park you plan to visit each day. Theme park reservations can be made in your My Disney Experience account and we recommend taking care of this as soon as your tickets are purchased. Why? Because you do not want to run the risk of forgetting or waiting too long and then finding yourself unable to make a reservation if they fill-up. This is particularly important if you are traveling during peak times like the holidays or spring break season. Park pass reservations can be modified if availability allows, so it is always best to get something reserved and change later rather than postponing the process and ending up unable to visit a theme park during your vacation.
3. Booking Too Many Dining Reservations
We absolutely encourage making advanced dining reservations for your Disney vacation! In fact, there are many restaurants you will be unlikely to experience unless you book the reservation as soon as your dining window opens (60 days out) or continuously keep checking for cancelations. So planning in advance and making reservations is key!
Our recommendation with dining reservations is to be smart about it. How do you do this? Be sure to book your dining reservations for wherever you plan to be that day. For instance, if going to Animal Kingdom you do not want to book a meal in the middle of the day at Chef Mickey’s. Keep it simple and book your dining close or within the same theme park you are visiting each day. You also do not want to make the mistake of booking a dining reservation for every single meal. This is too much and not necessary! Not only does Disney have amazing quick service restaurants and snack options at both Disney World and Disneyland (check out: Castle Coaches Quick-Service Picks You Must Try), but also having too many scheduled meals can take away from your ability to enjoy your time and experience the parks. If planning to utilize Genie+ then you will have ride reservation time slots to contend with as well. Try not to overcomplicate your limited vacation time with scheduling all the table service meals. We recommend choosing your absolute must-do’s and booking no more than one maybe two table service advance dining reservations a day.
2. Taking Advice From EVERYONE Rather Than Creating Your Own Experience
Let’s face it, we live in a technological world where there is a Facebook group or message board for most everything. Including Disney trips! Everyone also has those people in our lives that love to insert their opinion or give ‘helpful advice’ for our vacations. While all the advice is certainly well-meaning, it can also quickly become overwhelming and suddenly you find yourself planning a vacation with everyone else’s thoughts and feelings taken into consideration but your own. Do not make this mistake. We repeat: DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE.
Just because cousin Rick loves Star Wars and thinks it’s absolutely imperative you book that Savi’s Lightsaber appointment or your friend Rachel thinks your trip is ruined if you don’t score a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique reservation does not make it true! One of the reasons we stress working with a trusted travel advisor is because we help you create a custom trip FOR YOU. Not a trip based on anyone else’s priorities, only your own.
It is important to take the information you read from message boards and well intentioned friends/family with a grain of salt. Disney information and offerings change at a moment’s notice. Seriously. For example prior to October 12th, 2022 pricing for Genie+ at Disney World was $15 per person per day every single day. Then overnight Disney’s policy changed to allow for dynamic pricing meaning each day the price will change based on demand. Message boards and friends are often unaware of such quick changes because it is not their job to stay on top of the latest Disney info (but it is ours!). Be aware the advice you are receiving could be outdated or inaccurate.
1. Not Working with a Castle Coach
Did you know it costs you the same amount to book your Disney vacation package on your own as it does to book with a Castle Coach?! Our services are 100% complimentary when we book your package. In other words, it costs you NOTHING EXTRA to have your own personal Castle Coach to plan and guide you on your vacation. When you work with a Castle Coach you receive personalized care from start to finish. Services include but are not limited to: answering all your questions, working within your budget, making all dining and special event reservations, providing you with a touring guide/itinerary, and assisting with all your travel needs. Why plan a Disney trip on your own when you can receive custom planning from Disney experts?
Planning a Disney vacation? Learn more about Disney World Resorts in our post on Which Disney World resort category is right for you. Read about The Most Difficult Dining Reservations and Castle Coach Quick Service Recommendations to discover more about Disney dining. Check out our First Disney World Vacation Must-Do's to learn more about what you don't want to miss out on during your vacation. Read our Disney in 2023 post to learn more about important updates and changes to Walt Disney World.
For the best personalized planning assistance for your vacation reach out to a Castle Coach and let one of our agents specializing in Disney destinations guide you to the magical vacation of your dreams.