Planning a trip to Walt Disney World is no small feat. There are hotel rooms to reserve, tickets to purchase, dining reservations to secure…and that’s all several months before you even leave for the Orlando, Florida, theme park. As your vacation gets closer, you’ll need to also decide what to pack, which parks to visit, and how to fill your Disney days. You want to get the planning just right and Disney just so happens to have a team of experts who can help you make it happen.
planDisney is an online resource for tips, tricks, and planning questions and each panelist is hand-picked for their Disney knowledge and enthusiasm for the parks. Fodor’s reached out to the planDisney team to find out some of the biggest planning mistakes they see people make, and their tips to help you avoid these common traps.
Create a Realistic Itinerary
One of the biggest blunders they come across is overplanning—essentially trying to cram everything Disney World has to offer in one trip. To combat this, panelist Angie G. recommends having everyone in your travel party make a priority list of the top three things they want to see, do, and experience on your trip. “The responses I have received from my family have ranged from restaurants where they want to eat to a request to sleep in late one morning. This helps me to ensure that while we’re unable to do everything, we can do the things that mean the most to each one of us while on vacation,” Angie told Fodor’s.
Keeping your itinerary in check also leaves space for spontaneity. Panelist Lauren B. advised that “part of the magic of being at the Walt Disney World Resort is the atmosphere and the energy. Rushing around tends to take away from that, so we really try to focus on being present.”
Of course, too little planning can lead to the opposite issue. According to Betsy S., “A few moments of spontaneous wandering can be a fun change of pace. An entire vacation like that is stressful!” Sticking to the aforementioned priority list should allow you to hit up all your favorites without missing out on the little details that make Disney so special.
Another common mistake is not factoring in time to rest and recharge. Depending on the length of your vacation, this could be a day off in the middle of a five-day visit or even just a half-day for shorter trips. On a day off from the parks, Betsy S. suggests you “sleep late, go for a long morning walk, and enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee on your balcony or patio. Then, relax poolside and have lunch at your resort before you dress up for a nice dinner.”
Disney’s resort hotels have some awesome activities and amenities, like outdoor movies, Disney trivia, pool parties, and other family-friendly activities. Each hotel is a little different, but you can usually pick up an activity calendar at check-in.
Shantel G. shared a slightly different approach that allows you to branch out and discover new hotels you might want to stay in on your next visit. “I always recommend scheduling a breakfast or dinner at a resort you have not yet stayed at yet. It’s a perfect way to check out the resort and enjoy a nice meal.”
Plan Your Meals
While on the topic of food, there are hundreds of dining options at Disney World and even the planDisney team members have made some common mistakes (they’ve since learned from). Tabitha D. remembers, “On the first Walt Disney World Resort vacation my husband and I enjoyed together, we had dining reservations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. We tried so many delicious dining locations and enjoyed every last drop of it…but we were stuffed!”
To avoid getting stuck in the trap of spending your entire vacation in a restaurant, Tabitha now recommends planning only one or two (or some days none at all) table service meals per day and fill in the gaps with “snacks, quick-service meals, and lots of treats.” She also prefers to save her sit-down meals for some of Disney World’s more unique dining options, like character meals, dining in a 50s-style car at Sci-Fi Dine-In, or watching Irish musicians and dancers at Raglan Road.
The planDisney team also shared a lot of helpful packing tips. If you’ve ever been to Florida, you know the sun can be scorching and monsoons can pop up out of nowhere. You can also walk upward of 10 miles a day while exploring the parks, so packing essentials like comfortable shoes and sunscreen is, well, essential. “Never, ever be tempted to wear brand new shoes during a day at Walt Disney World Resort,” Jane D. cautioned, “even if they are super cute and totally match your Minnie ears.”
Tabitha D.’s packing list always includes “ponchos, small handheld fans, a light jacket for cool evenings or air-conditioned spaces, and extra socks. And don’t forget sunscreen, because the sun can make an appearance at any time, even on the cloudiest of days!”
You can also walk upward of 10 miles a day while exploring the parks, so packing essentials like comfortable shoes and sunscreen is, well, essential.
Of course, you aren’t required to lug every item around with you everywhere you go. Shantel G. likes to pack her park bag the evening before or in the morning before visiting the parks. “Check the weather, think about what you wish you had the day before, and what you could do without. As an overpacker myself, I have found that repacking my personal bag and diaper bag each morning before hitting the parks has me feeling 100% more prepared for the day.”
Even if you do forget to pack your toothbrush or a swimsuit, you won’t have any trouble finding what you need after you arrive. When Angie G. found herself in this situation, she searched the resort gift shop(s) and the stores at Disney Springs for what she needed. “Also, Front Desk Cast Members are always extremely helpful in pointing guests in the right direction to find the items they require,” Angie added.
With so much to see and do, there’s no one right way to “do Disney,” but these expert tips will help you steer clear of some of the most common Disney planning mistakes to ensure your vacation is maxed out on the magic.