I made my first visit to Walt Disney World last May at the age of 26. First of all, I thought I was too old to enjoy a visit to Disney World and that I’d just have to wait until I had kids someday to enjoy the parks. I quickly learned that Disney is for all ages and I can’t wait to return again in 2017 with my family.
I made the trip with my boyfriend who has visited the parks countless times, so I didn’t put much research into the already last-minute vacation. I had an amazing time, but looking back there are a few things I wish I would have done differently. I”ll share them below so hopefully you won’t repeat my mistakes!
Mistake #1: Not Using Package Pickup
Did you know when you purchase merchandise at the Disney shops you can have it delivered to a designated location near the front entrance for convenient pick-up when you leave the park. Genius, right?! I was so worried about carrying bags of items around that I waited until the end of the day on my final day at the park to do all my shopping. Which leads me to my second mistake…
Mistake #2: Not Purchasing Gifts When I Saw Them
This one is so obvious, but many of the items in certain parks will only be for sale at that park. For example, I came across some cute Muppets-themed gifts in the Hollywood Studios park and didn’t buy it immediately since I had just started my trip. Later I was unable to find anything Muppets-themed in the other parks and since I didn’t have Park Hopper passes I couldn’t make it back to Hollywood Studios. So remember, purchase your souvenirs right when you see them!
Mistake #3: Not Taking More Breaks
Being able-bodied and not having kids made it easy for me and my boyfriend to do a TON of walking around the parks for hours on end without taking any breaks. We were able to cover a lot of sightseeing and attractions, but I was always ready to crash at the end of the day. It being my first visit, I was afraid to miss out on things and wanted to fit as much as possible into one day. At the end of our vacation, I felt like I needed a second one just for relaxing! My suggestion is to incorporate breaks into your schedule. Inside Disney there is so much to see that you can certainly grab a seat somewhere and still enjoy people watching. And don’t be afraid to take a mid-day break from the park and return later for the evening.
Mistake #4: Not Arriving For a Rope Drop (At Least Once)
There is no actual “rope drop” at the Disney parks, however, the term refers to being at the park right when it opens for the day. After every long day and late night enjoying everything Orlando has to offer, my boyfriend and I struggled to get out of bed before 8 a.m. and typically made it to the parks just before lunchtime. We were lucky that the time of year we visited was not at all busy, so we never experienced really long waits. However, arriving earlier in the day could have allowed us some more time to explore without crowds and for that, I plan on arriving for the rope drop at least once during my next Disney visit. Are there any of the parks you prefer to make the rope drop for? I imagine arriving early to Magic Kingdom would be best.
Mistake #5: Not Easing Into Riding Rollercoasters
This might just be a very personal mistake, but I hadn’t rode a rollercoaster in probably ten years before I made this trip to Disney. I live in Cincinnati, but hadn’t made it to Kings Island since 5th grade when I was too short for half the rollercoasters anyway. So, we got to Disney and I was psyching myself up for the rollercoasters since I knew deep down that I was actually pretty nervous about them. The first ride we went to was Tower of Terror. I suppose that’s technically not a rollercoaster, but OMG it was terrifying! That feeling of my stomach dropping and free-falling was insane and unfortunately, much worse than I imagined it would be. Then immediately after, we got on the Aerosmith Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster which features a 0 to 57 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds start. Yikes! Afterwards, I had to sit down on a bench for 20 minutes until my stomach settled. I laugh about it now, but at the time it really messed up our plans. Now that I’ve had more experience with rollercoasters, I know what’s best for me. I start with some smaller coasters before getting on the super fast ones and I generally avoid anything similar to Tower of Terror. 🙂 My advice is to know what’s best for you and your stomach. But don’t be too afraid to try something scary because overall, I’m glad I got over my fear of coasters since they are such a huge part of the attractions at Disney and Universal Studios.
Mistake #6: Not Booking Disney FastPass+ in Advance
Another negative of making this a last-minute trip was that we didn’t book our FastPass+ options until the day before we went to the parks. FastPass+ essentially lets you choose 3 rides or attractions to skip the line for within a specific time frame. However, you can make your selections up to 30 days in advance of your visit with a ticket purchase and up to 60 days in advance if you’re also staying at a Disney park resort. The earlier you make your selections the better choices you’ll have. We still enjoyed the FastPass+ selections we received, but sometimes the only options left weren’t that desirable. So once you purchase your tickets, schedule your FastPass+ ASAP. And if you think your plans will change, you can change your FP selections.
Now that I’ve made my first visit to Walt Disney World I can’t wait to return. I’m already planning a trip for 2017. Let me know of any “mistakes” you made during your visit or any other Disney advice you’d like to share.
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Casey is the founder of Casey La Vie & has been running this travel and lifestyle blog since 2016. She's on a mission to balance her career as a social media manager with exploring her home of New York City and seeing more of the world.