Planning your first Walt Disney World vacation? If so, I want to help you avoid some of the Disney first-timer mistakes I often see made by guests on their initial trip. In other words – I want to help flatten your Walt Disney World learning curve a bit.
In this post, I cover common mistakes made in the pre-booking phase of Disney trip planning. We’ll cover other phases in later posts, but getting this phase right plays a big part in the success of your trip. Let’s dive in!
Booking Last Minute
I can’t fault you for jumping at the chance to book a last-minute Disney vacation. I’ve done it plenty of times. The downside? You’ll likely have limited options for accommodations, discounts, dining, special events, and potentially even park passes.
The fix is pretty simple – if your situation allows, start your planning well ahead of time (I recommend around six months depending on the time of year you plan to visit) and get everything finalized as much as possible. Your future vacation self will thank you!
Rushing Ticket Selection
A major part of your Disney vacation cost is park tickets. I see a lot of guests rushing this step and either overspending – adding park hoppers without considering itinerary – or underspending – not adding extra days when the additional cost is minimal. I also see people selecting ticket start dates without consideration of potentially lower-priced start dates.
As such, I recommend first taking the time to check ticket pricing around your potential travel dates for the cheapest start date. Then, initially buying base tickets with the idea of potentially adding on park hoppers later as you flesh out your itinerary.
No Resort Research
Let’s get one thing straight – if you’ve chosen a Disney resort hotel for your vacation, you’ve already made a good decision. Not all Disney resorts, however, are created equal and there are pros and cons that come along with each resort choice. The mistake I see many make is choosing a resort on price point alone.
One example – Pop Century is priced higher than other value resorts because it is on the Disney Skyliner route. If that’s not a transportation option you need, you’re better off spending less to stay at a lower-priced value resort that offers the same quality of room, recreation, and dining amenities.
Having a resort priority list and, as always, doing the research is an easy way to avoid this mistake
If you hop on disneyworld.com and book a vacation package, there’s a pretty high likelihood you’ve just paid more than you needed to for the said trip. While Disney doesn’t necessarily hide discounts, they don’t go the extra mile and proactively apply discounts for your booking.
The great thing is, there are usually always discounts to be had for your travel dates. As with ticketing and resort choice, you need to dig around a bit and research the discount that best applies to your booking.
I always recommend taking a moment early in your Disney vacation planning to crunch the numbers – maybe even crunching them a second or third time. Setting a practical budget is key to enjoying a stress-free Disney vacation. I would even call it the most important of the Disney first-timer mistakes to avoid. Skipping this step lead to overspending and unwanted financial stress leading up to and during your trip.
The trick is to include all of your potential expenses – not just the biggies like tickets, hotel, dining, etc. It’s the little things – even down to toll charges if driving – that add to both the budget, stress level, and your overall perception of trip value.
Ignoring Water Parks
While the theme parks clearly steal the spotlight, I often see the Disney water parks – Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach – overlooked by most. If visiting during a warmer time of the year, I would definitely consider visiting either one to add a splash of relaxation to your itinerary. Also, compared to the cost of the theme parks, the Disney water parks are a relative ticket add-on bargain.
Disney-ing On Holiday
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard – We’d really like to take our family to Disney World for Christmas this year! I also can’t tell you the number of times I’ve replied – Are you sure about that? While it definitely sounds great on paper, I think many are unprepared for the high cost and crowds associated with visiting Walt Disney World during peak holiday dates (e.g. the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s).
I almost always try to steer folks toward a Disney Christmas trip that occurs in late November or early December. You still get all of the Christmas events and decor – just less cost and crowding.
Passing on Special Events
There’s always a lot going on at Walt Disney World. From after-hours parties to season-long festivals, special events can have a big impact on how and when you visit. For example, even if you skip the Halloween party at Magic Kingdom, an early park closing for the party on many September and October dates affects your itinerary. A seasonal festival like Food & Wine at Epcot that results in larger weekend crowds also potentially affects your itinerary. On the other hand, special events happening is also an opportunity for additional fun on your travel dates.
Either way, it’s a mistake to not take a look at all special events – large and small – happening during your travel dates to decide if it’s a potential itinerary add-on or avoid.
Ignoring Relative Cost
Is a Disney World vacation expensive? Yes. Are all theme park vacations expensive in the year 2023? Relatively speaking, yes.
I don’t think, one of the more common Disney first-timer mistakes is thinking a visit to Disney World has to be overly expensive. Avoiding the booking blunders I’ve listed above can go a long way toward picking the vacation experience that both fits your budget and value proposition – all without sacrificing the fun. And let’s be honest…even if it does cost more than other theme park vacations, is that a surprising? The truth is, there’s objectively no theme park in the same league as Disney. I love Universal parks, but there’s still a gap there when it comes to the entirely of the experience.
Guaranteed Blunder Avoidance
A lot of my advice regarding the above Disney first-timer mistakes is avoidance through research. Maybe you simply don’t have time to do the research or just need an extra hand navigating the process. If so, I’ve spent years learning the ins and outs of theme park vacation planning and would love to help you plan your next visit to Walt Disney World at no additional cost to you.
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