1. Not Booking Your Disney Vacation At Least Six Months in Advance
We hate to be cliché, but when it comes to planning a Disney vacation, the early bird most certainly gets the worm. Disney Cruise Line’s rates are cheapest, on average, right when their booking window opens — often a year in advance. Disney World® allows you to begin making dining reservations six months in advance, and Disneyland® two months in advance.
If you want the best deals, and the best chances of securing reservations at the most popular restaurants, book your Disney vacation as early as possible. And if you’re thinking, “I can’t pay for my Disney vacation in full, up front.” — don’t worry. Disney deposit guidelines are extremely affordable, and you can almost always change/modify your arrival and departure dates.
2. Not Booking Through Disney or a Disney Travel Agency Directly
Some third-party suppliers of Disney vacations are reputable — but many aren’t. And even if they are, most of the time their tickets and packages are non-refundable, non-transferrable, and can’t be modified. That’s why we suggest never using them.
And if you do try to modify them, like changing three-day tickets to four-day tickets, Disney will make you pay the price difference between the third-party supplier and Disney on the three-day tickets AND the upgrade for the four-day tickets. Talk about a bummer. Save yourself unnecessary headaches and always make sure your purchase is through Disney directly. The peace of mind and flexibility is more important than the few bucks you might save.
3. Going Over Budget
It’s no secret that Disney vacations can add up in terms of cost. But this is something that you can easily plan and budget for. Most families do a decent job of this in terms of lodging, park tickets, and food. (That’s one of the reasons we’re big proponents of the Disney dining plan – it allows you to know your food budget up front and take it into account.) However, many fail when it comes to discretionary spending — extra snacks and, more importantly, souvenirs.
Our recommendation — set a budget for your discretionary spending and buy Disney gift cards for that amount. Once those gift cards are depleted, that’s it. It will help you stay within your budget and give you peace of mind. (Bonus tip: Some Disney souvenirs are way cheaper if you buy them in advance, online. Pack them in your bag and surprise your family with them on different mornings.)
4. Trying to Cram Too Much into One Day
It’s supposed to be a vacation! Why ruin it by turning it into the Amazing Race? You’re not going to win a million dollars by doing everything in one day. Pace yourself. And give yourself enough time to enjoy all the sights, sounds, and Imagineering that only Disney has to offer. Prepare yourself to do some waiting for attractions. Even more specific, limit the park hopping. It takes time to travel between the parks. In some respects, it’s better to stay in one park for an entire day.
5. Not Allowing Enough Travel Time Between Parks and Hotels
While this one is slightly more specific to Disney World, it still holds true to Disneyland. Going to and from your hotel to the parks (or park hopping) takes more time than you’d imagine. While Disney transportation is extremely reliable and convenient, it’s not fast.
Buses usually depart from the hotels or parks every twenty minutes. That means, if you just miss your bus, you’ll have to wait twenty minutes before the next one arrives. Then you need to add on the average ride time of an additional twenty minutes. And then you need to add on walking time to your destination (even longer if you’re going through park security). It’s reasonable to say traveling from the park back to a hotel, or vice versa, can take up to an hour. You definitely want to take this into account when traveling to dining reservations.
6. Not Preparing for the Weather
At Disneyland®, it gets cold at night; and at Disney World®, it rains a lot. And for Disney Cruises there’s hurricane season. Make sure you’re checking the weather forecast before your trip and planning ahead of time. Nothing is worse than walking around the Magic Kingdom in soggy socks and shoes because you didn’t brink an extra pair, or not enjoying The World of Color because your teeth are chattering.
7. Making Promises You Can’t Guarantee
On any vacation, things happen that are simply out of your control. That’s why you should never make specific promises to your kids, significant other, or anyone else on vacation with you about what they’ll see or do.
Imagine promising your five-year-old that they’ll see the Pixar Play Parade at Disneyland®, only to have it canceled due to inclement weather, and it’s on the last day of your trip. Or promising your parents that you’ll take them to see Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios, but you arrive too late and are turned away because the amphitheater has reached capacity. (That happened to us!) Instead of making promises, use the words “I hope we’ll…” That way, if someone gets the stomach flu, there are no broken promises.