In years and years of planning Disney World trips, we’ve made some mistakes.
And you will too.
You can read and research to plan your trip, however some of what you learn will be gained just by going there and figuring things out in person.
In fact, the original title of this post was 5 mistakes, but in the years since we originally wrote it, we’ve found a few more common hiccups that we want to help others learn from.
Here’s 7 of the most common mistakes made when planning Disney World trips, with tips on what you should do instead.
Mistake #1: Not allowing enough time for transportation
You may read that the distance between any 2 points at Disney World is just a few miles, so you might assume that it’ll just take a few minutes to get there.
Nothing at Disney World takes a few minutes.
When using Disney transportation, allow for at least 60 minutes (and 90 minutes is even better!) to get anywhere. It may not end up taking that long, but oftentimes, it does.
On our first trip, we had young children so I planned an afternoon break each day but a dining reservation around 5. By the time we left the parks around 1 or 2, got back to the hotel, laid down for a few minutes, it was time to go again!
Do this instead
Because of how long Disney transportation can take, we suggest considering taking a taxi or Lyft/Uber or even a Minnie Van to alleviate some of the long travel times.
Times when taxis/Ubers make a lot of sense include:
- Traveling between many resorts
- After a nighttime show when the bus line is really long
- When your schedule is tight, and you need to save some time
To help you understand what all your transportation options are, we have a handy Transportation Navigator that you can use.
Mistake #2: Eating all over the place
There are a LOT of places to eat at Disney World.
Our mistake was reading about a fun place to eat and adding it to our plans without considering where it was located.
And remember up above where we discussed how long using Disney transportation can take?
If you are spending 60-90 minutes each way to get to a dining reservation, you’re wasting a lot of time that you could have been spending doing something else way more fun.
Do this instead
Instead of choosing your dining first, you should start by deciding where you’ll be each day and then selecting your dining near there.
To help you make sure you do things in the right order, we’ve made that step 3 in our 7 step planning process. Make sure you check that out as you plan your trip.
Mistake #3: Planning too much
The top thing that we recommend to people is that they pare down their plans.
It’s super tempting to want to do it all, but trust us, you won’t. It’s important to be realistic and allow some free time to be flexible.
Planning too much means you spend your trip being frantic to get to the next thing, rather than enjoying things as you do them.
And when your schedule is packed, you remove the opportunity for the space and time needed to slow down and experience the magic of the parks.
Do this instead
Instead of packing every minute of every day, we recommend that you try to limit rigid planning to no more than 1/2 of each day. And, we never, ever recommend you plan your days minute-by-minute.
Instead, we recommend you group things by hour, which should help keep you from feeling like you have to run from attraction to attraction.
So, if you plan to Rope Drop, the goal should be to plan out your morning, but then keep the afternoon and evening more loose. Sure, you may return to the parks for more rides, a dinner reservation, or nighttime entertainment, but leave lots of time in the other half of your day to be flexible.
Mistake #4: Not using PhotoPass photographers
After our first Disney World trips, we realized we didn’t have many pics with our entire families in them.
Now whenever we go with our families, we make sure to seek out the handy PhotoPass Photographers, so we can have pictures of everyone all together.
Learn more about PhotoPass photographers.
Do this instead
Even if you haven’t purchased Memory Maker, we still recommend you get some shots from the PhotoPass photographers. You can always just purchase a print or 2 if there is one you love.
And remember – they’ll take photos with your phone or camera, too. That doubles your chances for a good whole group picture to remember your trip.
Mistake #5: Booking flights based on cost alone
This is sort of a general mistake, but after getting stuck at Ohare well into the wee hours of the morning after a Disney trip, we really suggest not doing this with your Disney trips.
Most people book flights based on cost, which is why the airlines know they can get away with not offering much seat space or any extras.
If they do offer extras and charge more, people will still always be looking for the best deal.
Do this instead
Flights really need to be chosen based on a combo of things, including schedule and price.
If you can book direct flights, do that. That reduces the possibility of delays and allows you to start and end your Disney World trip with less stress.
And, when looking at flights, make sure you are comparing apples to apples.
To learn more about booking flights for your Disney World trip, read our article on finding the best flights.
Mistake #6: Not making time to enjoy your resort
Making time to enjoy our onsite hotels at Walt Disney World are one of the things we now love the most about our trips. But, on our first few visits with our families, we didn’t leave enough time to really enjoy all our resorts had to offer.
And can we talk about the pools? If you are traveling with a kid who likes to swim, don’t be surprised if they’d rather head back to the resort for some pool time vs. staying in the parks for one more ride.
Even if you aren’t staying onsite, many of the nearby offsite resorts have lovely pool areas and amenities you aren’t going to get inside your home and it can be a shame if you never have time to check them out.
Do this instead
It will be really easy to think you need to maximize the money you forked over on your tickets by spending as much time as possible in the parks.
But, if you do that, you’ll be missing out the fun that you can find at your resort.
We recommend that you be intentional about scheduling resort time, whether it be a few hours at a time, or even an entire day.
Mistake #7: Forgetting to make Advanced Dining Reservations
This is something we tend to do more now than we did when we first started going, but we hear enough from other visitors to know that it can happen to anyone.
Trust us: whether you are a Disney vet or you’re planning your very first visit, it can be easy to forget to make Advanced Dining Reservations.
We have had far too many trips where we forget to set a reminder for ourselves, and we wind up missing the opening of our Advanced Dining Reservation window.
You’d think with all the restaurants you can find at Walt Disney World that it would be relatively easy to get reservations. But the truth is that some of the restaurants are extremely competitive, and the best way to guarantee you’ll get to dine there is to book them on the morning when your Advanced Dining Reservations open up.
And while it isn’t impossible to get some of those highly coveted reservations closer to your trip, you do make it a lot more difficult on yourself because even with some of the pay-to-use services that can help you get reservations, you are likely going to be stuck on “hunting for a reservation” mode for days or weeks vs. getting them all knocked out in 1 morning.
Do this instead
Instead of scrambling last minute, set a reminder for yourself and then be ready right at 5:45 a.m. EST on the morning your window opens up. If you have any question as to when your 60 day date is, we track them on our Monthly Crowd Calendars.
If you are staying onsite, that date is 60 days from the day you check-in to your resort. At that time, you’ll be able to book up to 10 days worth of reservations.
For even more great tips, check out our guide on How to Snag Hard-to-Get Dining Reservations.
VIDEO: Mistakes not to make when planning your WDW trip!
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Saturday 25th of February 2023
Once you have decided the parks you want to attend and your meal times reservations then you make you plans on what rides you want go on at each park. Keep in mind based on crowds rides may change and organize your park schedule so your not going back and forth from one end of the park to the other stay in one location and then move on this will save a lot of time. Once you have completed everything you want to do type up an itinerary and each member of your party gets a copy.
Monday 18th of September 2017
Can anyone tell me how long check-in at Magic Kingdom takes if you get there 1st thing in the morning?
Friday 21st of November 2014
Mistakes 2 and 3 - GUILTY as charged! So many things I would have done differently if I got a do over. Mainly I would have made a better daily plan that allowed us to prioritize things accordingly.
Tuesday 25th of March 2014
ProTip: when using the Photopass services ask them to take an additional photo with your camera (you can do this without paying for Photopass, but I don't, because it's nice having 2 copies.)
Thursday 3rd of October 2013
We are traveling Nov 14-18 and I booked 3 hours of downtime after lunch - this includes travel from a morning park and then to an afternoon park. Basically one hour of round trip travel and 2 hours to rest. Do you think I need to add more time? We are staying at Pop.
Friday 4th of October 2013
Yeah, I allowed for 4 hours and still found it a bit tight.