Since I was little, I have been dreaming about visiting Walt Disney World. As a big Disney fan and regular visitor of Disneyland Paris, Disney World was my ultimate happy place. After saving for years, I was finally able to visit the parks when I was just 17 years old, travelling from the Netherlands to the US for the first time.
As I had nobody helping me, I had to plan my entire trip and, of course, made some mistakes along the way. This is what I learned from my first visit to Walt Disney World!
1. Not knowing the best time to go
My first visit to WDW was in July; not the best month to go, I know now. Why? Because it was very hot, humid, and crowded. We waited at least an hour for most of the rides and couldn’t do nearly as much as we had initially planned. That was pretty frustrating after dreaming about and saving for this visit for years.
That’s why my next visits, I have been four times since, were always in late August/early September. It’s still hot and humid, but the crowds are much lower and easier to manage. You will still spend a lot of time in the queues, but a lot less than during the peak summer season.
2. Staying off property
Another thing I really regretted during my first Walt Disney World visit was not staying on Disney property. As I had a very small budget, we opted for a cheap hotel near Old Town – a tourist attraction ten minutes from Magic Kingdom Park.
The hotel was fine and it was nice having a supermarket and other shops nearby, but there was one thing I really disliked: the shuttle bus!
What I didn’t like about the shuttle bus was the schedule. There were a few time slots in the morning, then nothing in the afternoon, and a few in the evening. The latest pick-up from Magic Kingdom Park was at the same time as the start of the fireworks show, so we were never able to see the show without getting an Uber.
Ridesharing services are great around Walt Disney World, with plenty of drivers available throughout the day, but be prepared to wait after the park closes. Also, if you are going to Walt Disney World on a small budget, then it will get costly pretty quickly with all the rides you will have to take.
Getting a rental car is also an option. However, you will need to pay for parking at Disney Parks, which also gets pretty expensive quickly.
That’s why, on my other visits, we have always stayed on the property. Yes, it’s more expensive, and the hotels are probably not worth it, but the location and the transportation certainly are. It was a breeze to take the monorail, boat or shuttle bus to get to and from the parks whenever we wanted.
And even if you prefer a rental car, you can park it for free at the resorts and at the parks when you are staying in a Disney Hotel.
3. Packing for a summer holiday
The next mistake I made was packing the wrong stuff. My suitcase was full of nice summer dresses, shorts, tank tops, bikinis, and flip-flops. I packed for a summer holiday and that was a big mistake!
Don’t get me wrong, it will absolutely feel like a summer day, but you should be packing as if you are going on a hike or walking tour.
Wearing flip-flops was my first mistake, as I had blisters and someone stepped on my toes within the first hour. Those blisters remained painful for my entire stay. We ultimately went to Disney Springs to buy walking shoes and socks that were more appropriate.
Also, those nice summer dresses? They are a literal pain to wear at the parks. Why? Because of something called chafing. In a dress, your inner thighs can freely rub against each other. If you add a little bit of sweat to it, your skin will start to hurt and irritate. This can be pretty painful and damper your fun.
If you want to wear dresses, make sure to wear shorts underneath long enough to make sure your thighs won’t rub against each other. This also applies to wearing too short shorts and other areas on your body where skin can rub against each other. There are jellies you can buy to apply but they didn’t work for me.
4. Not making dining reservations
This one should be familiar to everyone visiting a Disney Park, but without any dining reservations, you probably won’t get into your favourite restaurant. Most, if not all, table service of buffet restaurants require reservations months in advance; if not they are probably sold out when you get there.
On our first visit, we weren’t able to eat at any of the restaurants we wanted because we simply hadn’t made a reservation. We went to guest services but there was nothing they could do.
So on our next visit, we made reservations months in advance, much to the dislike of my husband, who want to pick a restaurant when he was hungry.
5. Buying the wrong tickets
Yes, we bought the wrong tickets on my first Walt Disney World visit. We booked our tickets through Walt Disney World, thinking that was our best option, but now we always book our tickets through the UK Disney Holidays website. Here you get a 14-day ticket for the price of just seven days and it includes water parks and park hopping.
We didn’t have any of those on my first visit. The only ticket I could afford was seven days, meaning I had seven other days in Orlando that I had to fill with other activities. One of the things we did was visit SeaWorld, which was nice, but dreaming of Disney World since I was little and not being able to go when you are so close to it did hurt a bit.
6. Not realizing how expensive it is
Even after saving and budgeting for years, I still underestimated the cost of my Disney World holiday. Our hotel was pretty cheap, and we bought our tickets in advance, but that was just the start of all the spending we would do.
Food is pretty expensive in the parks, that’s why we usually end up sharing something or eating outside of the parks. We also had some unexpected transportation costs, as the shuttle buses from our hotel didn’t run very often. There was also an additional cost for airport transportation, but we had already taken that into account.
And then there are the costs of souvenirs, buying new shoes because I brought only summer shoes (my mistake!), and now you even need to pay for the Fastpass called Lightning Lane, which was still free on our first visit.
In the end, we spend an extra €1000 during our two weeks stay without really splurging on anything.
7. Bringing too much to the parks
And finally, what I also won’t do again is bring too much stuff to any theme park, especially Walt Disney World. During the Summer, you will be sweating a lot and don’t want a heavy backpack making your shirt soggy. I know I felt pretty gross seeing all the sweat dripping on my back.
That wouldn’t be an issue if you actually need the backpack because you are travelling with a baby or need a medical supply. However, we brought the craziest things to the parks that we never used.
- Water bottle? Did you know you can get free ice water at all food locations with a soda fountain?
- Jacket in Florida? Really?
- Snacks? Melted and soggy after an hour
- Gimble, tripod, huge camera? Unless you are a professional vlogger or photographer, your phone will be just fine.
The only thing you will really need, at least during the summer months, is an umbrella as it will rain every day. And not a small drizzle but a complete downpour for a few minutes. If you can’t find shelter, you will be soaked, so bring an umbrella.
I hope my mistakes will help you plan your Disney World Holiday. If you have questions, just send me a message, I am happy to help! And are you planning your stay? Then don’t forget to check out the Walt Disney World deals!