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The Worst Mistake Disney Newbies Make

I love to plan but there's nothing I hate more, especially on vacation, than being over-scheduled.

That is sooooo easy to do at Walt Disney World.

There are so many amazing things to do and you want to avoid long waits (or no seats) so you get your FastPasses and dining reservations. And then...

Yup, you're over-scheduled.

Even if you are a "no-plan" vacationer, at Disney you can have some serious disappointment. Everyone else got their FastPasses and dining reservations and now you can't get in to do what you want.

Over-scheduled or locked out?

Are those your only choices? No!

Luckily, it's pretty easy to manage either situation and avoid the mistake of bad (or no) planning.

Solve It with This Tool

I've got a pretty, free tool for you!

The tool is the core printable. It's a super simple, 3-day, daily scheduler. If your vacation is more than three days, just use multiple sheets. The size of this scheduler is one of its features so it only comes in the one size (letter size for three days). At the moment, it only comes in my "classic" color palette. Let me know what colors you'd like to see in future in the comments.

How to Use the Printable

The idea behind this scheduler is to block off all the time that is "claimed." Obviously, you need to list your FastPasses and dining reservations. Make sure you show when you HAVE to show up, not just the "start" time. Also include transportation time, wait time, time to eat meals, any time where you can't do something else.

You can also just use this as a way to note what you want to do when or as a classic day planner. It's simple so it's flexible. I don't include every little detail when I use this but I leave blocks of time for the variables like "commuting" from one location to another. Then I can see that I'll probably get some place much later than I thought and maybe I should reconsider.


If you have young kids, I've started the scheduler at 6 a.m. because I know how long it takes to get your family together and out the door. If you want to be at a park at 8 a.m. for Extra Magic Hours, you want to make sure there's time to feed hungry preschoolers and change the baby's diaper.

Yeah, we forget things like that and end up late.

Feel free to include "sleep" at either end if you need to make sure everyone gets enough zzzzs. There's nothing worse than cranky kids because you got them up too early and kept them out too late. It's easy to forget if you're not worried about following your everyday schedule.

If you do plan to follow your everyday schedule, this can help you double check that it's reasonable. It's not as bad as cranky kids, but who wants to spend money to sleep during your Disney vacation? You've got to find the happy medium and sometimes you just need to look carefully at your schedule BEFORE you go.


I'm not going to try and give you all the information about how long to account for transportation or similar items. That is easily it's own post and you may need to check out several posts and message boards to fit your situation (when you're going, where you're staying, what time of year, etc.).

If you're driving yourself, you probably need to try out Google maps (you know you can see the estimated time with traffic if you're using the web version, right?).

If you're using Disney transportation, you just have to consider how much time you're going to give yourself, anyway. If you're going to allow an hour and a half to get to your reservation at 'Ohana by bus, you need to enter an hour and a half on your scheduler. If you get there early, check out the resort (I love the shopping at the Polynesian). This doesn't affect if you're overscheduled, you can't go somewhere else if you're early.

"Seeing" a Problem

Seeing you need an hour and a half plus time to freshen up in your room before you go, that's when you start to see how full your schedule really is. We are actually starting to limit how many dining reservations we make. We have a number of restaurants we're happy to eat at every trip, but if we have to have a reservation, it controls what else we can do.

We have the luxury of going another time.

This may be your only trip or the only trip with a specific person. If doing certain activities is really important, you want to be prepared. If you don't want to feel like you're on your work schedule---with more walking, more sun, and more children---cut back on scheduled events.

It's your vacation.

Keep in mind, you can change things. Nothing is in stone.

Pre-Trip Advantage

Having a general idea ahead of time is helpful. Your scheduler will help you decide how flexible you want to be about different events.

I think of the kind of planning you do with this scheduler as knowledge, not a plan. The purpose is to look for problems before they occur and be ready to make changes when necessary.

Finally, since this is something you do ahead of time (and whether you look at it once you're on your vacation is up to you), use it for as much scheduling as you need.

Do you need to kennel a pet? Start your scheduler that day and enter what you have to do (especially if you need to drop off your pet and then drive to Disney).

Include the drive time on your arrival day, check-in time, etc. Maybe you want to look at two versions, one where your drive/flight goes smoothly and another if it takes an extra hour (or two or three).

This printable isn't fancy in itself. Using it for more than just writing down what time your reservations and FastPasses are can be vacation changing. If you just want a bare bones look at your schedule (just the times you have to be someplace) that you'll carry with you, I suggest going with something smaller, like a small notepad or your calendar app on your phone.

My Disney Experience includes your schedule and you can add non-reserved events like parades. It may not display events in chronological order. This may vary by the version you are using (iPhone, Android, etc.), I haven't used all of them.

My Disney Experience is useless if you want to include transportation times but saves you re-entering your reserved events (and you make new FastPass reservations through it once you've used your initial ones). Realize it's a tool you probably want to use in the Parks if you can.

Go Get It!

I hope the 3-day Magical Day Planner (in "classic" colors) helps you get excited about your vacation and "plan" a schedule that works for you. Even if you don't want to follow a schedule, the knowledge of how long things will take can help you be prepared. Disney is a great place to just wander and enjoy the ambiance. You don't have to spend every moment waiting in line to do something.

More about the printable.

This is an extended PDF which means you can type into it and save it even with Adobe Reader. If you're using a different PDF viewer it may function differently (I've heard there's no way to use the extended features when viewing a PDF in Dropbox, for example), test one cell and see if it saves before you NEED to save.

The printable is designed to work if you want to write by hand, too. Just make sure you delete the sample text, first. You may just want to type the headers and then print to fill out by hand (and with art supplies!). Do what works for you.

How to avoid this common newbie mistake

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