Easy Disney Vacation Mistakes

Little “uh-oh” or colossal error, Disney vacation mistakes are made every day.  Here’s a look at some we’ve made that took little effort yet produced major detractions to our vacation happiness.  Luckily, we’ve learned the error of our ways and you can too.

Easy Disney Vacation MistakesYellow Monorail / Walt Disney World

Underestimating Travel Time – This is big.  We still struggle with this one sometimes.  Getting from place to place in the humongous Disney Bubble can take a lot longer than expected.  If you’re heading to a park for early breakfast reservations or leaving a park for lunch or dinner reservations, plan ahead and know what the worst case scenario will be time-wise.  If you end up arriving early to a restaurant, you can often be seated early.  We once badly underestimated how long it would take to get from Magic Kingdom to Disney Springs (monorail to the Contemporary then bus to Disney Springs) and we were terribly late for our dinner at Raglan Road.  The stress this creates is not good when you’re trying to relax on vacation.Walt Disney World MagicBand

Self-inflicted Sticker Shock – If you choose to use the Magic Band charging feature, you may want to consider limiting it to only the members of your party who are responsible for paying the final bill.  Use budgeting mechanisms such as Disney gift cards for souvenirs or Food & Wine festival booth purchases.  Stay out of gift shops if your willpower is low or if you have trouble saying no to your little prince or princess.  For sure, research restaurant menus online to get an idea about prices before you go.Drink-Menu-Raglan-Road

Dreadful Dehydration – It is ridiculously easy to become dehydrated in Florida.  Dehydration doesn’t just make you thirsty, it can make you cranky, give you a headache, make you feel exhausted and can even make you crave sweets when you’re not even hungry.  Start every day with a big drink of water, carry water with you or take advantage of the free ice water available at quick service counters in the parks.  Snack on fresh fruit and veggies with high water content instead of salty, dry snacks like pretzels, crackers, or chips.  If consuming adult beverages, drink water between servings.These Feet are TIRED

Doubling Back (over and over) – This can add miles of walking to your day.  Whether you’re a super-planner with very structured touring plans or prefer to freestyle it around FastPasses, familiarizing yourself with what rides and attractions are located in which areas of the park is worth a few minutes of research.  You can do this from home within the My Disney Experience app or, if you’re not into major pre-planning and don’t want to fool with the app, simply grab a park map when you arrive.  Try not to go back and forth from one end of the park to the other over and over.  When you have time between FastPasses and want to squeeze in extra attractions, use the app’s wait time feature to find something nearby with a short standby line.Kali River Rapids Boat

Water Ride Woes – This may sound silly to some of you, but others will appreciate this – Consider the damage water rides like Kali River Rapids (Animal Kingdom) and sometimes Splash Mountain (Magic Kingdom) can do to your appearance.  Imagine you’re having a lovely day at Animal Kingdom, looking forward to your dinner at the new signature restaurant, Tiffins.  You can become 100% drenched, I’m talking soaked to the skin, on Kali River Rapids.  Unless you plan ahead and wear a poncho on the ride or come to the park with a complete change of clothes and don’t care about your hair and/or makeup, this ride has the potential to make eating a nice meal less than magical.

we’ve made all of these mistakes and a few more! What lessons have you learned the hard way at Disney World?

Things You Don’t Have to do on a Disney Vacation

RM-Main-Street-USA-Magic-KingdomDo you go on vacation for a little rest and relaxation?  Do you vacation to experience new and special things you can’t find at home? Do your travel plans include NOT cooking or cleaning?  Are you hoping to find fun, adventure and quality time with your family?  Us too!  We are all about getting away from it all and taking a little break from work, stress, and yes, the previously mentioned household chores.

There’s been a lot of negativity going around on the interwebs lately via message boards and the like.  Disney vacations are gaining a bit of a reputation as not being the magical family fun they were once upon a time.  There are a lot of “too’s” attached to those criticisms – it’s too crowded, there’s too much planning and research involved, there’s too much to know, too much technology – the fun is gone.  RM-Fantasyland-CrowdNot true, I say!!!  Disney vacations are our family’s favorite – and have been for many years.  Sure, getting used to the newest developments in customer care may take a minute or two, but new does not necessarily mean bad.  There’s still a lot to recommend about Disney parks & resorts and Disney Cruise Line.  Mainly I’m talking about…

Things you do not have to do on a Disney VacationWalt Disney World Summer Crowd

  1. Plan Every Minute – It’s simply not true that you have to plan too much too far in advance.  Prioritize and decide what’s important to your family.  Sure, if you want to eat at a super-popular table service restaurant or dinner show, you will need to make a reservation 180 days in advance for the best chance to dine there.  Citricos-WindowIf you don’t want to spend (possibly) an hour or more waiting in line for headline attractions, you’ll want to book FastPasses as far in advance as you can.  Planning some things in advance is very helpful, but planning every minute would eliminate spontaneity and be detrimental to the whole “rest and relaxation” part of vacationing.  Which brings me to the next point.RM-Tower-of-Terror
  2. Hurry All The Time – NO!  Sure, if this makes you happy, you’re welcome to hit the ground running and rush all day from attraction to attraction as fast as you can.  Just thinking about that makes me tired!  Better to take the most offered advice around – get up early (see #4) and beat the heaviest crowds of the day.  Then slow it down so you don’t miss the amazing Disney magic all around you.Epcot-Statue
  3. Sweat The Small Stuff – Yes, Disney details (sometimes the tiniest ones) are often the most fantastic parts of a Disney vacation.  BUT, there’s no reason to obsess over what you might be missing if you decide to detour from time to time as the mood strikes.  It’s about being together as a family for us – and maybe, if it’s that way for you too, it’ll be okay to not worry about being a super-parent.  You may think you know what will thrill your little one and it turns out to be 180-degrees the opposite – don’t worry about it!  Go with the flow, eat dessert first, change your plans suddenly – it’ll be okay.Bay-Lake-Tower-Sunrise
  4. Stay Up Late – Early to bed and early to rise does not negatively impact a Disney vacation!  I know this from personal experience – I’ve never taken advantage of any late night Extra Magic Hours and I’m perfectly happy about it.  We go to sleep early and appreciate that early morning is sometimes the most special (and productive) time of the day!Entrance for Toy Story Midway Mania
  5. Do It All – There’s just no way to do it all in one trip.  Here’s where research helps a lot.  Knowing what’s important to you and your travel party can help you prioritize.  Don’t think about what you might be missing at the expense of what you’re enjoying at any given moment.  Weather, heat, distance between activities or attractions can take a toll.  Go in with realistic expectations and a willingness to be flexible – nobody wants you to be a bossy, crabby vacation dictator.  Do what you can & come back again if you want.  Don’t mar your vacation memories by putting unnecessary pressure on your family.  Don’t do it!

What are your favorite “don’t have to do’s” on a Disney vacation?



Overthinking Your Disney World Vacation

Checking-the-Disney-World-ScheduleMore and more lately I hear people despair (rather than rejoice) over their upcoming Walt Disney World vacation – especially if they’re planning their first trip.  “It’s overwhelming! There’s too much to plan!  We don’t how to choose a place to stay, where to eat, what to ride!”  I’m totally sympathetic – it IS overwhelming.  With dozens (hundreds?) of planning websites offering advice, not to mention Pinterest, Facebook, rumors, false information, a bajillion details to worry about – I can see why it might seem a lot easier (and cheaper!) to just head to the beach!

Part of the problem, caused by information overload, is spending too much time worrying about what you don’t know and what to do with the overwhelming, often contradictory, information you DO know.  This will cause a bad case of…

Overthinking Your Disney World Vacation

For todays Friday Five, I’d like to offer (yet again) more sage (I have reached a pretty ripe old age, I think I qualify for “sage”) advice.  Today’s words of wisdom, according to me (because I’m guilty of several) – five ways to avoid the frustration brought about by the aforementioned overthinking.  Here you go:DSCN2615

1.  Yes, you have to plan, but perhaps not as much as you think.  You should book at least a couple of ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations) in advance.  Six months ahead of your vacation for the most popular restaurants/character dining experiences.  If you have the opportunity to book FastPasses, you should do that (especially during Spring Break, summer, and the holiday season) – plan to ride what you think you’ll enjoy!  Try to avoid the mindset of “It’s SO expensive, I must plan to get my money’s worth!”  Be mindful of height requirements, but other than that, take the reviews and ratings of others with a grain of salt.  I loathe Stitch’s Great Escape, but plenty of people love it.  (Joseph’s not a fan of It’s a Small World, but he’ll always take one for the team.)IMG_1227_face0

2.  When you overthink, you often cause undue pressure – you imagine exactly how your day(s) in Magic Kingdom will be, how everything will happen just as it appears on TV, how you and your children will be blissfully happy, how you’ll see and do everything you watched on YouTube.  This creates unrealistic expectations and leads to disappointment.  When things don’t meet your expectations, your vacation enjoyment is diminished.  It’s best to be open-minded – everyone’s experience is different!  Because we are individuals, what we each find joy in will be unique.  Your 5-year-old may care much less about rides and attractions than they do about the pool at your resort – such was the case with our Megan back in 1996.IMG_2139

3. Under-promise and Over-deliver.  Where your kids are concerned, share vacation details in broad generalizations.  Do NOT promise that they will ride certain rides or meet certain characters.  Even if you have FastPasses booked for Anna and Elsa, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, talking Mickey Mouse, or Splash Mountain – unforeseen factors can spring up at any minute.  Rides break down, crazy summer storms (complete with hail!) spring up, the Florida heat takes a toll, meltdowns (of all types) occur.  You WILL see and do some incredible, magical things – that’s what you should focus on.  Last year, we were in Magic Kingdom when some computer glitch caused many rides to be down at once – we could hear people talking about how they’d promised their family they would ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh on their ONE day at Magic Kingdom.  This computer problem was RUINING their vacation.  Do not be those people.1900 Park Fare / Drizella and Anastasia

4.  Over-planning often costs you magical moments.  Does that sound wrong?  Think about it – you’ve thought out every moment, every contingency, every possible situation – You’ve brought matching tee-shirts, snacks, rain ponchos, Band-Aids, antacid, sunscreen, toys, games, stickers, and so on.  You’ve scheduled meals, rides, attractions, and even photo opportunities – trust me, I know what this is like!  I’m a reformed compulsive over-planner.  WDW Park Touring NecessitiesMost of our happiest vacation memories happened during the UN-planned moments.  Build in time to waste, time to wander, time to experience some things on the spur of the moment – you won’t be disappointed!Volunteering for the Studios Backlot Tour

5.  Use a Travel Agent.  There are excellent Disney travel experts out there and there is absolutely NO cost to you for taking advantage of their expertise.  You can still plan as much (or as little) as you want to, but having someone “in the know” about what resorts and restaurants are really like, what their previous clients’ actual, recent experiences were, what room locations at each resort will best meet your family’s needs, where money savings opportunities exist, and so on, is a tremendous help to avoid overthinking.  I am not a travel agent, but I’ve used one before (and I’m friends with a great one, if you need a recommendation).  As much as I love to plan, it helped having someone to answer my questions, book things for me when I didn’t have time to waste waiting on hold, and help me stay within my budget.

Are you guilty of overthinking a Disney vacation?  Feel free to confess, you’re among friends here.

Disney Vacation Mental Preparation

RM-WDW-EntranceThere’s a lot of discussion on Disney blogs and websites about ideal Disney vacation packing lists.  Packing for the average family can present quite a challenge!  Most of the packing lists I’ve seen are somewhat incomplete though.  There are a few items you must not leave at home if you want your vacation to be as fun, as happy, and as successful as it can possibly be.  We all want our Disney vacations to create lifelong memories, right?  Let’s make sure they’re happy ones, shall we?

Today’s Friday Five:  Five critical packing items for optimum Disney Vacation Mental Preparation.

1. Patience – I cannot stress how important this is!  I don’t know about your kids, but mine march to the beat of a different drum…with a much slower cadence than the one I follow.  In other words, I could easily become frustrated each and every morning of vacation just trying to get out of our resort!  Then there’s the standby lines, the RM-Walkers-Walt-Disney-Worldcounter service restaurant lines, the waiting for a show to start, the waiting for a rain shower to pass, the time between FastPasses – I could go on and on.  Pack extra patience!  You will probably use every bit you have.  Seriously, knowing before you ever leave home that there will most likely be many things on a Disney (or any) vacation that may try your patience and preparing for that eventuality in advance will help you be so much happier!

2. Rose Colored Glasses:  If you pack these, you’ll have a better vacation.  Here’s the deal – negativity is popular.  Whining, complaining, grousing, general discontent – it’s all in vogue!  This is the stuff rotten vacations are made of.  Put on your positive attitude, look for positives and do NOT focus on negatives.  I’m not delusional.  I know that things break, people are rude, beds are uncomfortable, and accidents happen.  It’s how we choose to deal with life’s obstacles that makes the difference, I believe, in being happy or unhappy – in general and on vacation.  Stop and put on those rose DSCN2961colored glasses!  I hear they come in contact lenses now too.

3. Flexibility:  There’s that oft quoted saying – “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.  Yeah, it’s popular for a reason.  So’s Murphy’s Law.  I’m a huge advocate of planning!  I love to plan vacations almost as much as I like to take them – the key to really great planning though, is to allow for changes to the plans.  If you have to get your heart set on anything – try to set it on creating a successful and fun overall experience.  Make those ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations) and FastPass+ Having fun at Old Key Westselections, but be prepared to change course when and if the need arises.  Sometimes blisters, exhaustion, sweating, a stomach ache, a meltdown, a thunderstorm…well, one or all of those can strike at any time!  Great things are out there to be seen and experienced on a Disney vacation.  Some are in unexpected places – be flexible enough to make new discoveries when the chance arises.  Also, know when to call it a day.

4. Sense of Humor:  You can either let a good soaking on Kali River Rapids ruin your day or you PeopleMovercan find humor in the situation.  It’s easy to become cranky, grumpy, grouchy – whatever you favor – when things aren’t the way we want them to be.  If there’s ever a time to look for the silver lining or make lemonade (insert favorite metaphor here) it’s when our children are watching (no matter how old they are) – when our demonstration of how to deal with life’s curve balls shows others how it should be done – with grace and kindness, with as happy a face as we are able to muster.

On our last Disney vacation, Raymond and I caught a bus from Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the late morning and happened to sit near a beautiful family.  The mother, father, and all four young daughters were just an incredibly good-looking bunch.  No one was happy – there was no excited chatter, no smiling, no conversation at all.  As the bus traveled along towards our stop at the Magic Kingdom, the dad said, “First one who catches mom smiling gets a dollar” – I could tell he was just trying to lighten the mood.  The mom spun in her seat and loudly whispered (you know how that sounds), “StopWalt Disney World Summer Crowd IT!” then proceeded in a lower tone to chew him out.  When she was finished, she turned back around (with a lot of drama) and proceeded to cry for the entire rest of the trip.  I would never presume to guess what might have been wrong, but I did think about what kind of example was being set for those four beautiful girls.  Please, if you’re a parent – remember to be the grown-up.

5. A little love for your fellow humans:  People visit Disney parks from all over the world and all fifty of the United States.  There are rude people and sweaty ones, people with frowns, people who cry on busses, people who stop Kali River Rapids / Disney's Animal Kingdomin the middle of the sidewalk, people who ram into you with strollers, ones who film Wishes with an iPad over their heads, Cubs fans, wearers of very large beards, all kinds of people!  People who are completely different from us.  I choose to try to be friendly and embrace the variety of Disney vacationers – I’ve made more friends this way and preserved my sanity at the same time.  Of course, there must be a certain level of safety and mindfulness of “stranger danger”, but looking for the goodness and referring to numbers 1 and 4 on this list helps a lot.  Oh, and some folks?  You just need to move away from.

What about you?  What do you pack to help you mentally prepare for your Disney vacation?