5 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida
We recently returned from our annual vacation. This year, after a 12-year hiatus, we went on a whirlwind trip to magical Disney World. And it really is just that, with happy reminders of childhood and imagination around every corner. This was our fourth trip, though only the second with our daughter.
Things have changed a lot since the last time we went in 2006. Maybe it's because we are older and were hoping for that nostalgic feeling, but certain things seemed to have lost a little bit of their luster because of some mistakes we made.
While we still had a wonderful time, some of the experiences weren't quite as special as they could have been, so I thought I'd document the issues we ran across in the hope that other people can avoid them.
Our Trip Specifics
Before I get to the list, here are some specifics of our trip. There are an infinite amount of ways to do Disney, so I think it's important to lay out our itinerary with respect to the issues we had.
- Duration of trip: 7 nights, 6 full days
- Accommodation: Mid-price Disney resort—Port Orleans French Quarter
- Transportation: Flew in, so relied on Disney transportation
- Dining: Regular plan
- Traveling party: 2 adults and 1 teenager
- Visit time: Mid August
These are the mistakes we made based on our trip, but everyone's experiences are going to be different.
Note: We took our trip in August 2018, and this article is based on the policies and products in place at that time.
Mistake 1: Going in the Summer
I realize that many people can't go at any other time of the year, but if there is any possible way to do it, avoid going in the summer. To put things in perspective, the other times we have gone were in February and March, when the temperatures were mild and the crowds were smaller.
There are two huge reasons not to go in the summer.
- Crowds: We knew it would be crowded, but we had no idea how bad it would be. There were people around every corner. If we hadn't planned out our passes for rides, we would have been in lines for hours just to ride one thing. If we wanted to sit down for a few minutes we couldn't because everywhere we looked there were people. It was crazy.
- Heat: We live in North West Pennsylvania, so we aren't used to the heat. Wow, is it hot in Florida in August. And the humidity makes it that much worse. We kept an eye on our weather app, and most days were in the low 90s, but it felt like 103 or 104 degrees. Thankfully many of the rides have air-conditioned lines and there are plenty of shows and shops pumping out icy-cold air to help cool people down.
In hindsight, I really regret not pulling my daughter out of school and going in the late winter or early spring. We all agreed that we won't be going back in the summer.
Best Bathroom in the Park
Hidden in the back of the Norway pavilion in Epcot is a roomy, clean, and delightfully empty women's restroom. It was icy cold and I have to admit that I took a long time washing my hands just to savor the atmosphere before heading back out into the hubbub.
Mistake 2: Bringing Too Few Clothes
Make sure to bring enough clothes for each day, and then pack some more. It sounds counterintuitive to overpack, but we all ran out of clean clothes by the end of the week, and we had packed extras to begin with.
We were drenched in sweat by about 11 am, and by the time we got back to the hotel room, we had to change. It was uncomfortable to be in damp clothes, and I pity anyone who was near us on the bus after our long days. At one point I spilled orange juice all over my shirt, but since I had nothing left to wear, I walked around with stains the rest of the day. Both my husband and my daughter ended up buying t-shirts just to be more comfortable after particularly warm mornings.
The good news is that extra shorts, a t-shirt, and some undergarments don't take up too much room in a suitcase. I just wish we had thrown a clean t-shirt into our park backpacks each day.
Best Thing We Took to the Parks
Buy a few dollar store ponchos and throw them in your day pack. It rained every evening while we were there. Most of the showers didn't amount to much, but a couple were really strong and it was nice to have coverage while taking advantage of the smaller crowds.
Mistake 3: Underestimating Travel Times
Disney has a wonderful transportation system of buses and a monorail. We flew in and didn't have a car and were able to get everywhere we needed with their efficient system.
That being said, we underestimated the travel times between our resort, the parks, and the shopping areas. We learned our lesson very quickly after we missed a lunch reservation. Buses run frequently, but can be full before you can get on, so you may have to wait for the next one.
Best Way to Shop
If you are staying at one of the Disney Resorts you can buy things in the parks and have them sent to your room, if there is enough time. This was a great perk that enabled us to get souvenirs whenever we wanted, without having to worry about carrying them around.
Mistake 4: Overplanning
These days, it's hard not to plan when visiting Disney World. In order to get onto certain rides in a reasonable amount of time, they have a fast-pass system in place. This is a system where visitors can reserve a place in the fast line for rides at a specific time. It's a great way to avoid long lines, but it means you are committed to those times.
If you have the dining plan like we did, you also have to make reservations for the table service dinner each day. We were able to make these reservations a few months in advance.
Basically, we had our days planned out a couple of months before we went. For planners like me, it sounded idyllic, but it wasn't.
After three days we were sick of having to be somewhere at a particular time. It took almost all of the spontaneity out of things. By the fourth day, we were changing reservations and fast pass times. We ended up missing a couple of rides we were looking forward to, and it was very hard to change restaurant reservations, but it was worth it for our sanity.
On the positive side, we saw some things we weren't planning on, and that ended up being loads of fun. Because we were at a resort, and in the dining plan, it was almost impossible not to plan, but we found that changing things a bit wasn't nearly as painful as we thought it would be.
Best Way to Beat the Heat
If the heat really gets to you, find out which parks are open early and which ones are open late. Enjoy the hotel pool during the midday. Not only will you beat a little bit of the heat, the crowds won't be as heavy.
Mistake 5: Packing Snacks From Home to Save Money
When researching our trip, I read many articles that suggested bringing snacks from home to save money. That may be good for families with young children, but it was a complete waste for us.
I dutifully went to the store and bought loads of snacks that could easily be packed in the suitcase and then dispersed out to take to the parks. I think we ate one pack of cookies. The rest came home with us and took up valuable suitcase space.
With the dining plan, we got two snacks per day and there were some delicious ones to choose from. Additionally, some days it was too hot to even bother with a snack. Luckily we could get beverages with the plan, so we got those instead.
Let's be honest, the snacks in the parks are far too delicious and tempting to pass up for a dry package of crackers from home. Unless you have specific dietary needs or young ones who like to have snacks all the time, leave the food at home and take advantage of all of the yummy treats.
Our Favorite Rides
Frozen Ever After
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Avatar Flight of Passage
Rock N' Roller Coaster (starring Aerosmith)
It's a Small World
The Seas With Nemo & Friends
Toy Story Mania!
Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
Peter Pan's Flight
Pirates of the Caribbean
For the most part, we are old school with our top rides, but some of the new ones are awesome too. I could have ridden Avatar Flight of Passage many more times. What a great ride!
That's one of the best things about Disney, everyone has their own special memories and experiences, and they are all wonderful, even if you make a couple of mistakes along the way.
If you go, have a magical time!
I'd Love To Hear From You
Are you planning on visiting Disney World in Orlando, Florida?
If You've Been To Disney World...
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© 2018 Claudia Mitchell