Sunday, 26 February 2023

10 Mistakes I Made At Disney World ( And Things I'd Do Differently Next Time...)

A trip to Walt Disney World is something so momentous and exciting that planning out how to spend your time can feel overwhelming. I was determined to get the absolute most out of our time there by doing tons of research and making sure we had the most magical time ever! But even with all the planning and research I did, mistakes were made and there is so much that I'd do differently if we were to visit again.

I'm going to share my biggest Disney regrets with you so that you can learn from my mistakes!

I Made Too Many Dining Reservations

Before our trip, I got carried away looking at YouTube videos and blogs all about the many dining experiences on offer. I ended up over-excited and wanting to do all of them - so I booked too many. 
I think we ended up with only 2 days out of 15 where we didn't have a reservation somewhere, and looking back I realise that this actually had a negative impact on our time.

It meant we would often be in the middle of having fun somewhere and wanting to carry on what we were enjoying, only to have to rush off to a dining reservation when we weren't necessarily in the mood for it. 

Disney dining reservations can be hard to come by and it is nice to have the option of dining somewhere fun or fancy if you want to so I can see the appeal of booking all of the restaurants you might want to eat at in the knowledge that you can cancel if you want to - but  it's worth being aware that it's all hassle. You have to keep checking the app to remind yourself of what you've booked and amend the reservations if you change your mind to avoid a $10 per person no-show charge. 

What I'd Do Differently In Future: I'd be much more selective with our reservation choices. I'd choose just a handful of restaurants to book in at, and dine more often at quick service places or off-site  to give us more freedom.

We Did Too Many Table Service Meals

This is sort of linked to the above, but as well as making too many reservations - I just booked far too many table-service meals. 

Table service meals take up a lot more time than counter service ones, sometimes 2 hours or more - when you're doing table service meals every day this becomes a huge chunk of your park time spent in restaurants. For our family, I feel that time would have been better spent enjoying the parks.

As well as the time issue, table service dining means the added expense of tips - in the US you are expected to tip your server between 18-20% of your bill total at table service locations, and given the very high prices in Disney restaurants - this meant we were often paying around $45 in tips per meal. This added up to a LOT of extra money spent.

As well as the tips, the table service restaurants were expensive to begin with and I just didn't think the quality of the food matched the price we paid on most occasions. Although some were worth it for the character interaction or atmosphere, many were not. We paid thousands of dollars at restaurants, and only around 25% of the restaurants were what I would consider truly worth the expense.

What I'd Do Differently In Future: I would pick 2 or 3 character dining experiences for the whole trip, and eat at quick service locations for the rest of the time - this would save a LOT of time and money, as not only are they cheaper but you don't need to pay any tips.


I knew that I'd want to try to fit everything in to our trip because I'm someone who always does that, but even with 25 days spent in Orlando, there was just no way to do it all. There is too much on offer to ever be able to do everything in one trip. 

I always suffer with FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) on trips, especially where Disney is concerned - I want to keep the whole family happy and make sure everyone sees all of the characters and rides all of the rides they want to. But the result can often be an over-scheduled holiday and too much dashing about trying to cram it all in.

Rather than trying to fit as much as possible in to our time - I wish I'd eased up more and allowed us more time to just enjoy what we were doing instead of rushing on to the next thing. 

What I'd Do Differently In Future: I'd still schedule our time somewhat so that we did plenty of things but I would plan in more "free time" days too where we could just see where the day takes us. 

I Expected Things To Be Perfect

This was a big one. When you see Disney World in the movies or look at peoples trip photos on Instagram, you're seeing a highlight reel of the very best moments. What you're not seeing, is all the times that real life gets in the way of your perfectly planned day.

You can plan out the perfect Disney day - but sometimes rides go down for hours at a time and you can't ride them. Sometimes they break down while you're on them, or while you're an hour in to a queue. Sometimes the parade you'd planned to watch is cancelled last minute.  Sometimes it rains incredibly heavily and you end up missing out on your planned last rides to take shelter under Winnie The Pooh's meeting spot for over 2 hours because the storm has shut everything down (that was not how we hoped to spend our last evening at Magic Kingdom but that's exactly happened!).

What I'd Do Differently In Future: I'd do all of the rides, parades and shows that we want to see most early on in the trip to allow for more chances if things go wrong. Planning in more of those "free time days" would be helpful too!

I Didn't Take Real Life Into Account

Going to Disney World with kids is a dream come true, don't get me wrong. But you have to remember that kids are still kids even in Disney World. There will still be all the same tantrums, mood swings, and sibling arguments that you get at home.  This is especially true if you're travelling with children who have sensory issues.

Disney World is crowded, loud, and HOT. It is sensory overload for everyone, let alone for children and children with sensory processing disorder. When you go into this sort of trip expecting it to be happiness on tap, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. 

What I'd Do Differently In Future: I'd go into it knowing that kids will reach their limit at certain points. So will the adults. There will probably be some arguments. There will probably be tears at some point. This means its time to change the plans - go find some air con, get a cool drink and a snack, and reassess your plans. Pushing on isn't always going to get the best results. Sometimes its going to be better to write the day off, head for the pool and try again tomorrow.

I Didn't Take Enough Photos

This one probably sounds a bit silly, especially when you look at my camera reel and see that I took almost 1,000 photos during our trip! But hear me out...

I promised myself before we arrived that I wouldn't be so focused on recording the experience that I forgot to be in the moment enjoying it. I definitely achieved that... BUT...I think that I tried too hard to loosen up on it. I usually record a lot of our holidays, and this time I didn't - but now that we're home, I wish I had more videos to look back on. I wish I'd taken more time over the photos we did take because so many of them are rushed and blurry. 

It's not easy to find the balance between capturing moments and experiencing them fully, but I wish I'd tried a bit harder.

What I'd Do Differently In Future: I'd take more time over photos instead of treating them as an after thought and an inconvenience. If a photo is worth taking, it's worth taking well. Instead of snapping a photo on the fly, I'd stop, clean my lens real quick and focus the photo first! I'd also take more advantage of the Disney photo pass photographers  and get photos taken whenever I saw a short line for them instead of always thinking "We'll come back for that later!"

I Made Too Many Promises

This is a mistake I make pretty often. When I get really excited about a trip, I tell my children about all of the exciting things we'll be able to do - which gets their hopes up! But sometimes, plans change or certain characters can't be found and promises end up being broken which is upsetting. One thing that stands out in my mind is that I promised my son he would be able to try alligator bites at a restaurant we were going to - but when we arrived, they were sold out. These sorts of things can be particularly hard to manage for children with autism, and it can lead to big feelings.

What I'd Do Differently In Future: I'd keep more things a surprise, and try not to make promises I may not be able to keep. 

I Missed Out On Things By Being Too Cautious

I was determined not to spend too much money on things I would never use when I got home, so I tried really hard not to make impulse purchases. Unfortunately this plan backfired on me! There were things I spotted in certain stores that I really wanted to buy but I told myself that I'd come back and get them toward the end of our trip - but of course, I never did. We ended up not returning to the same places or by the time we went back they were sold out, so I missed out on things I really wanted,

What I'd Do Differently In Future: If there's something I like, I would buy it right away! There are rarely second chances for purchases in Disney World, its a now or never situation!

I Tried To Force Things

I had an image in my mind of what our trip would look like and that image involved all of us enjoying rides together as a family, laughing at the ones that scared us and joking about the ones that weren't our favourite. 
In reality, I quickly realised that my youngest two children do not enjoy big rides and have no desire to experience them at all. Instead of letting my perfect image go, I tried to force it - I encouraged them on to rides that they weren't sure about riding and it was not worth it. Just like it wasn't worth trying to encourage them to meet characters they weren't keen on or queuing for things when they were too tired. 

What I'd Do Differently In Future: Accept that people have different ideas of what is fun and it's always better to just split up and do things within our own comfort zones than try to force people out of theirs.

I Didn't Plan Enough Time At Our Resort

Although I knew our Disney resort would be lovely, I didn't realise just how many fun activities would be on offer there or how much my kids would LOVE just hanging out at the pool and chatting to the wonderful cast members who worked at our hotel. I wish I'd allowed more time for us to just enjoy the resort, instead of always rushing off to the parks.

What I'd Do Differently In Future: I'd plan in more down time and give us full afternoons and evenings for hotel activities. It's not a waste of park time, it's a chance to enjoy an equally fun and special element of the holiday.

So those are the mistakes I made that I would love the chance to do differently in the future! What would you do differently on your Disney World trip? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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