The 6 Worst Mistakes You Can Make During Your First Disney World Trip

by | May 9, 2024 | WDW Blog

I made these all-too-common Disney World mistakes during my first-ever trip so you don’t have to.

I’m a Disneyland Resort expert – I’ve been visiting the parks in Anaheim for over 30 years, and I know exactly what to do and what to avoid, what to pack and how to maximize my fun. But when it comes to Walt Disney World Resort, I’m less experienced. And when I took my very first trip to Disney World, I made a ton of mistakes.

Most of my mistakes were super common ones that frequently plague first-time guests. A Disney World vacation is a marathon, not a sprint… and as a result, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and arrive under-prepared. But with some expert knowledge, you can have a seamless, successful, and memorable first Disney World trip.

Below, I’m sharing six of the worst mistakes first-time visitors to Disney World make, along with tips and tricks to help you avoid them.

1. Underestimating How Long Disney Transportation Takes

Disney World bus transportation

Photo by Laurie Sapp

One of the biggest perks of staying at a Disney World Resort hotel? Getting around the theme parks and resorts is easy. Thanks to Disney’s various modes of transportation – buses, boats, monorails, and the Skyliner – you can pick up a ride pretty much anywhere across the resort and travel wherever you’d like to go.

Because Disney World transportation is so readily available, I expected it to be as speedy as getting around Disneyland (which, to be fair, really only has parking lot trams and buses). I was surprised to discover that transportation can be pretty slow. I was even more surprised to find out that each route includes multiple stops. After all, Disneyland transportation only goes one place: directly to the parks!

For example, when staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village, every time I boarded a Disney bus, it would make at least two stops along the way. That added a fair amount of travel time to each trip, so I realized after the first two days that I needed to factor travel time into the transportation, especially when trying to rope drop or make set reservation times.

Don’t wind up making a classic mistake – being late! – simply because Disney transportation is so readily available. A bus, Skyliner, or other ride could be quick and include no extra stops. But, depending on the route, it’s more likely that you’re going to have some delays along the way.

2. Attempting to Park Hop Multiple Times Each Day

At Disneyland, park hopping is almost effortless. When you’re done at Disneyland Park, you just walk across the esplanade and into Disney California Adventure Park (or vice versa). The whole process takes a few minutes, which means you can bounce back and forth between the parks all day long.

So, I made a huge mistake during my first Disney World trip: I thought I could park hop just as easily. I made advance Fastpass+ (which, of course, no longer exists) reservations for attractions at multiple parks for each day of my trip. I had only brief breaks in between, during which I figured I’d have no problem hopping from EPCOT to Magic Kingdom, or Hollywood Studios to Animal Kingdom.

I was so, so terribly wrong. Disney World isn’t just massively bigger than Disneyland, but getting around requires driving, taking bus transportation, or using boat transportation. And all of that takes some time. Park hopping requires time and careful planning, as I learned firsthand.

So, avoid this mistake and think about logistics before you pay for Genie+ or any Individual Lightning Lanes and realize you can’t park hop as easily as you think! When you do park hop, build in some transportation time, and try to only park hop to parks that are near one another. The stress of trying to get from theme park to theme park on a tight schedule just isn’t worth it.

3. Leaving Magic Kingdom Right After the Fireworks

Magic Kingdom fireworks, Happily Ever After

Photo by Cliff Wang

If you want to encounter one of the worst traffic jams in all of Disney World, stick around for the post-fireworks crowds at Magic Kingdom Park. Absolutely everyone tries to head out of the park once the fireworks end – and the result is a crush of crowds that can leave you waiting in line for bus, boat, and even monorail transportation for a very long time.

Post-fireworks crowds are a common occurrence at any Disney theme park that offers nighttime spectaculars, and I’m no stranger to the flood of people who try to exit at Disneyland once the show ends. However, the crowds at Magic Kingdom are significantly larger, and you can easily wind up trapped in the middle, trying to get absolutely anywhere else.

I found myself caught in this overwhelming crowd the first time I watched the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, and it’s tough to get out of once you’re on Main Street. If you want to catch the show and avoid the crowds, I suggest heading to an alternate viewing area so you can easily head deeper into the park to ride more attractions afterwards. Or, if you plan on heading back to your hotel, you can hang out away from the crowds until things calm down and thin out.

4. Only Packing Warm-Weather Clothes

Think Florida is home to year-round sunshine and only a few days of rain? That’s a common mistake!

First-time Disney World guests often expect warm and pleasant weather, since Florida doesn’t often see true winter temperatures. However, if you get stuck in inclement weather, it can wreak havoc on your vacation. It’s better to be prepared and pack a few essentials – rain gear and a few warmer items, like long pants and a jacket, are always a good idea, just in case.

During my first trip to Disney World, I encountered the typical warm, sunny, and somewhat humid weather that central Florida is known for… but only for the first three days. By day four, the weather had taken a sudden turn, and temperatures dropped dramatically. Every day of the rest of my trip saw daily highs ranging from 20 to 30 degrees. 

I’d made the typical first-timer mistake of packing only warm-weather clothes (and yes, I’d checked the forecast before packing!). You never know what you’re going to get weather-wise, and things can change suddenly, so be prepared for anything.

5. Eating Every Meal in the Theme Parks

Space 220 Restaurant dining room interior

Photo by Danny Shuster

It’s no secret that visiting Disney World can get expensive fast. From your flights to your hotel stay to expenses like Genie+ or Lightning Lane and souvenirs, the costs add up. Plus, you have to eat while you’re there – and who doesn’t want to try all of the most-hyped restaurants across the theme parks?

During my first Disney World trip, I made advance dining reservations for dinner each day and planned quick-service dining for breakfast and lunch each day. I wound up eating some great food (and some not-so-great), but more importantly, I spent a ton of money. I realized a few days in that I would’ve saved myself a lot of money and time had I cut down on the number of meals I was eating in the parks.

Don’t make this all-too-common mistake, especially if you’re hoping to get the most bang for your buck! Instead, I suggest planning your must-have dining reservations out, picking a few quick-service restaurants you’d like to try, and then planning to have the rest of your meals offsite or at your hotel.

You can easily save money with dining tweaks like:

  • Taking advantage of free breakfast at your hotel (if available)
  • Buying groceries and making breakfast and lunch at your hotel
  • Packing snacks to bring into the theme parks

Another option is pricing out the Disney Dining Plan to see if it makes financial sense for you. Depending on how many meals you’d like to enjoy in the parks and which restaurants you’d like to try, one of the two dining plans may help balance your food costs, so it’s worth considering.

6. Skipping Rest Days

Disney World is absolutely massive in size and scope, so much so that first-time visitors are often shocked at how big it is. Covering roughly 43 square miles, it’s so big that it’s more than twice the size of Manhattan, New York. That’s a lot of ground to cover, especially when you’re walking those theme parks!

So, while it’s important to bring comfortable shoes and prepare for long days on your feet, that isn’t necessarily enough to keep you feeling your best throughout your Disney World vacation. Many guests assume that as long as they’re resting up at night, they’ll be able to handle five to seven days – but that’s a big mistake.

During my first trip to Disney World, I didn’t build a single rest day into my schedule. I was up early for rope drop every single day of the 7-day trip, and I stayed until park close each night. By day four, I was absolutely exhausted. By the trip’s end, I headed home with aches, pains, and general soreness that took over a week to dissipate.

Don’t push yourself that hard! Visiting Disney World should be a vacation, which means you absolutely should build in a rest day or two. Hang out at your resort, or spend a day checking out some of the incredible restaurants at Disney Springs or laying by the pool. You could even spend the entire day in bed! 

But whatever you do, make sure to plan some down time so you don’t make the mistake of overwhelming yourself on your first Disney World trip. Skipping rest days can leave everyone in your party cranky, too, so recharging is great for your body and your morale.

Posts by Heather Adams

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Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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Authored by
Heather Adams

Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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