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Top 5 Disney Newbie Mistakes to Avoid

Your first trip to Disney World is probably a big deal, and a big financial investment! This can add a whole new level of intensity to your vacation planning and execution. There are some common newbie mistakes associated with intense vacationing and they can really ruin what would otherwise be a pleasant trip.
Don't make these 5, easy to avoid, newbie mistakes! | DIScierge | DIStinctive Disney World vacation planning help

Make sure you're not making these mistakes in your zeal to plan the perfect Disney World vacation!

1. Letting Your Vacation Manage You

This can happen from the moment you decide you want to take a vacation until the moment you get home. Don't let it!

With a Disney vacation it's even more likely to take over your life (if you let it) because you have so many options. Plus, a Disney vacation really is NOT done best by the seat of your pants. However, if you manage it correctly, a Disney vacation can be wrapped up in a nice little all-included package so you actually have LESS to deal with. This will not happen by chance, though.

A great solution for this problem is to use a travel agent. In the interest of full disclosure, after starting this blog, a friend saw it and asked me to become an associate at her Cruise Planners franchise (i.e. a travel agent). It didn't take long for me to say "yes." Before that, I was just a Disney lover that LOVED planning our Disney vacations. So I've done the plan-it-all-yourself route and only now have learned how much easier an agent could have made this!

Quickly, let me hit the top reasons people think they should NOT use a travel agent for their Disney vacation. Number one is they think they have to pay the agent, or pay them for certain services. Except in very special circumstances, travel agents are not paid outright by the traveler. They are paid by the travel companies.

This is exactly how bloggers earn money from affiliate sales. If you read many blogs, you've seen the affiliate sales statements "I make a commission, you pay the same." That's how using a travel agent works.

When people do know how travel agents are paid, they often worry they will get the "used car salesman" experience. A hard sell pushing them towards a product they don't want.

That's just bad business. Most people take multiple trips so a (good) travel agent wants you to come back to them. Sure, there are bad or careless agents out there, but you've got lots of great choices (and I'd love to be your choice for your Disney World vacation).

I thought both of these things before I became an agent (osee my "About Me" page to get the full story). I wish I had used an agent for some of our trips. Sometimes I needed to do the research myself to know what I really wanted (hey, I like vacation planning so it wasn't a huge burden to me), but sometimes I knew what I wanted and it would have been awesome to just write it down and let someone else do the work!

If you know what you want, or don't want to do all the research, use a professional travel agent. By using an agent (instead of a helpful friend), you'll get the advantage of the agent keeping you up to date on what you need to know. And I don't just mean, "time to book your dining" kind of updates.

The travel vendors (whoever the agent booked the travel through) will communicate with the agent if there is urgent information. Your agent can then deal with the situation or get you involved, if necessary. You don't get this with the helpful friend. The travel vendor will not communicate with some random person (i.e. not an agent and not a member of the travel party). You will HAVE to deal with anything additional that comes up.

This hard-to-describe service is probably my favorite "feature" of using a travel agent (both as a client and as an agent). It's all those little things that end up managing you instead of you managing them. If there's a problem, it's not going to be convenient to deal with it.

A professional travel agent handles all of this for you, for free. Think of it like having a personal assistant for travel that you don't have to pay but gives you the level of service of a paid assistant (because they are paid, just not out of your pocket, out of the travel company's pocket---in this case, Disney).

The great thing with a Disney World vacation is, you can still have full control through My Disney Experience to tweak the "add ons," like dining and special tours or experiences. Your agent can also handle all of this for you. It works great either way!

If you enjoy, or just have a need, to do all the research for your Disney vacation yourself, go for it. You absolutely can do it yourself. It won't save you any money (and will cost a lot more time) than using a travel agent but I know some people just need to be in control of their vacation decision making.

But don't let your vacation manage you!

If it stops being enjoyable, you feel overwhelmed, or just can't figure it out, use a professional travel agent (someone specializing in Disney World is best but if you have a trusted agent, use them if it makes you more comfortable).

Whether you book your trip yourself or use an agent, there are some other mistakes newbies make and no professional (travel agent, concierge, witch doctor, or even fairy godmother) can fix these problems for you. It's up to you.

2. Being Inflexible

Once again, this will get you from the planning stages until the actual vacation. One way for me to explain this is to say, treat your Disney vacation like an adventure. Plan for it, but be prepared to just roll with it and see what happens. Instead of taking a "my way or the highway" approach, see where your vacation takes you.

I know you're just in one little section of Florida, maybe even one park. Seeing where the vacation takes you isn't the same as adventuring in the jungle and coming out at a different ocean. And that's also a good thing. It's OK to see what happens. You won't get lost in the jungle, either. You won't starve, and worst case, you'll pay too much for a poncho if the weather turns.

I can tell you this. If you plan a rigid vacation, with every aspect mapped out, your plan will fail. Something will go wrong. My advice is, don't plan every tiny detail. Make a comprehensive plan (whatever that means to you) knowing it won't happen exactly. Gather as much information as you want.

How much planning you do is a personal preference, not a rigid standard.
The minimum for a successful Disney vacation is knowing how you will get there and get around, where you'll stay (because Orlando is a place where you might not find a room if you just showed up), AND you need to know what happens if you don't make more plans.

Basically, understand the consequences of not making dining reservations or FastPass+ choices. If you don't like being on a schedule, you can absolutely do that, just have yourself prepared for what you won't be able to do or how long you will wait to do it. If you're really that laid back, it'll be fine, there will be plenty of other options.

If you NEED a schedule, you instead need to prepare (mentally) for what it'll take to make you happy when your perfectly laid out plan goes wrong. In most sitautions, you're being preapred to be flexible.

If you do use a professional travel agent, they can help you plan as much as you want. If they are knowledgeable enough, they can also give you some advice on "plan B" options. No one has control over the weather and Disney takes your safety very seriously. Both of these can lead to schedule changes during your vacation. On one of our trips, it rained so much they repeatedly had to shut down the monorail for safety. An alternative transportation choice can change your timetable if you've figured it out exactly (we didn't so it was no big deal).

You might follow your plan as best as possible or scrap it from the start. What's important is you (and your traveling party) enjoy yourselves. I have little kids so often for us, that means doing a lot less. Take a long time looking at things. Take some more photos. See where a walkway goes.

One of the things that is great about all the Disney parks is they are all very detailed. You know when you go to a museum, the hallway to the bathroom probably isn't part of the museum. It's boring. At Disney, the design goes right up to the bathroom door (and in some of the bathrooms!). Slow down and enjoy just being "in" another world.

Being flexible (and happy with how you have to flex) will lead to a better and more relaxing vacation.

3. Counting on the Weather

Just because it's called the sunshine state, doesn't guarantee anything.

Ah, central Florida. It always seems to be raining or a drought. I lived on the other central Florida coast as a child and the entire time, we were in a drought. My oldest child's first trip to Disney World, it poured rain for four days straight. It then got very hot! My first adult trip, it was so unseasonably cold, we almost froze. The strawberries did freeze.

Just like any other vacation, you should check the average weather and be prepared for the not-so-average. Weather is also pretty personal. I am from the south, I don't really get surprised or put off by Florida weather. If you are from a dry climate, it can be shockingly different.

Also, if you're thinking Disney World will be like the nearby beach you are familiar with, think again. This is farther in and cemented. That means less breeze to no breeze plus the hard surface (and large number of bodies) making hot days hotter.

When it comes to rain, the hard surface is good news, though. You aren't going to be dealing with mud, but it can pour buckets. Make sure you have some type of shoe for this situation.

Pack ponchos (and a bag---disposable ziptop is fine---to put the wet ponchos in) and shoes besides a pair of sneakers (which will be soaked for days if they are drenched).

Bring a jacket, sweatshirt, or coat depending on when you're going. Even in the midst of summer, southern air conditioning can be cold. It's because of the humidity. Air conditioning doesn't just cool the air, it removes the humidity, which is why you'll find places so "over" air conditioned in the southeast.

You're unlikely to get the "average" predicted for your trip. What exactly you will get varies. It could be wet or dry. Some people can't bare the humidity, others love it (I do). You won't freeze during the summer months, except maybe inside!

Do some research and be prepared for the unexpected!

4. Expecting picture perfect

The one thing I hate about Disney advertising is the unrealistic "pictures" and interactions they portray. Unless you win some type of personal, pre-opening experience, you will not get the picture perfect experiences you see in the advertising. What you will get is just fine, just don't expect the crowd-less scenes you see in advertisements with your child running into Mickey's arms.

This applies to actual pictures and things like character interactions. The busier the season when you visit, the less "picture perfect" it will be. Just think about this for a moment and it should make sense and your expectations will be adjusted. (Also, take a look at the pictures on Pinterest from Disney bloggers. Many are their own photos, those are the types of "scenes" you'll be getting, crowds and all).

This is a super easy "mistake" to avoid, it's only about your expectations. Just don't expect picture perfect and you've fixed the problem.

5. Doing it all

This gets back to number one in a way. You can't do everything you want (unless it's just insanely reasonable). One of the things I love about Disney World is I can just keep going back and there's more to do. They don't even have to add anything, there are things I haven't had a chance to do, yet.

Trying to do too much will make you tired and you won't enjoy yourself. Be flexible but also be realistic with what you "really" want to do. If this is the only trip you can plan to take and it's short (less than five days), reducing your "must dos" can make you enjoy your vacation more.

Lots of people making a short, one-time trip are traveling during one of the peak seasons, particularly summer. You will get the least done when the parks are the most crowded and you are hot and sticky.

If you can't make one of the following adjustments, you should aim for doing less than you think you have time for. Ideally, you should instead:
  • plan a second trip, even in a few years; 
  • travel at a less crowded time; 
  • take a longer trip; 
  • all of the above. 
I know these aren't options for everyone but if it's so important to go that you are making a peak season, short trip, don't you want to enjoy it? Aim for "doing" less and enjoying everything more.

Consider aiming for experiences like seeing the castle the first time instead of experiences like riding a ride or meeting a character. If you go to Magic Kingdom, you will see the castle. Rides and characters involve lines.

I know in my family there's always the issue of "getting your money's worth" which is what leads many people to trying to do too much. Sitting and enjoying an iconic Disney view is not something you can do anywhere else in the world. Soaking in the magic is part of what you're paying for. Rushing past all the "hidden" design and miserably standing in line is not getting your money's worth.

Slow down. Look around. Create memories you can enjoy over and over again.

A memory you can enjoy for the rest of your life (especially if you can enjoy it with your loved ones) is probably worth the cost of the trip even if you don't ride a single thing or meet a single character.

Slow down, do less, and enjoy everything about your Disney World vacation more | DIScierge | DIStinctive planning help for your Disney World vacation

I hope these five newbie mistakes are things you aren't guilty of. But if they are, hopefully you can see how easy it is to fix them.
  1. If your vacation is trying to manage you, enlist professional help. It's free! If only hiring a maid worked the same way I might manage dust bunnies better!
  2. Being inflexible is a choice. The easy solution is simply choosing to be satisfied (or better yet, happy) with the vacation you are having. Something won't go according to plan, don't let it "ruin" your vacation.
  3. Counting on the weather is an extension of being inflexible. The difference is you can plan to pack items (soakable shoes, ponchos, sweater) to deal with the most likely unexpected weather.
  4. Expecting picture perfect is the easiest mistake to avoid. There's nothing special to pack or steps to take once on vacation. Simply be aware you are going to see crowds, wait in line for character interactions, and generally NOT have an experience designed for a commercial.
    I want to give you one more example for this item as it's probably the most depressing mistake. Our best character experience so far was actually when we had to wait even longer while the characters took a break. I am SOOOOO glad they didn't squeeze us in as the last family before the break. Goofy and Pluto came back skipping through the park (that actually was probably worth putting in a commercial) and then proceeded to be extremely goofy for the kids. It was priceless but required a less than picture perfect wait.
  5. Doing it all is the hardest mistake to avoid even for experienced Disney goers. Whether you have a long bucket list of just feel the need to "do" to get your money's worth, it's hard to adjust your thinking. Work on not doing too much. It's worth it because you will return from your vacation more refreshed and create better memories when you aren't rushing around.
    The most important action item for this mistake is try and remind yourself---while on the vacation---to slow down. I always intend to do less and then start getting caught up in squeezing things in. I have to stop and enjoy the hidden Mickeys and the vacation usually gets much more enjoyable. That priceless interaction with Goofy and Pluto. It only happened because we decided to scrap our plan, skip our FastPasses (yes, we canceled them so others could claim them), and just slow down. It was our best day at Disney, ever.
A Disney World vacation is a financial investment. You are investing in your family or friends (whoever you are traveling with). Even if you travel alone, you are investing in quality time. The investment only pays off if you enjoy yourself.

The great news is, you can get the best return on your investment by putting effort into enjoying yourself. I don't mean putting effort into planning things to do or packing the perfect park bag (no offense to perfect park bags, you can enjoy that, too). I mean simply making an effort to be happy and enjoy what happens. It's the easiest part of planning and executing a Disney vacation, so don't skip it!

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