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In order to get the most out of your next, or first, Walt Disney World vacation, there are many pieces to a very fun puzzle that you need to put together. And while planning and getting there is half the fun (well, a third of the fun each), there are some common mistakes that guests should avoid. So this week, we’re going to discuss our Top Ten Mistakes Made by Visitors to Walt Disney World. Whether it’s your first visit or your one thousandth, these are some best practices to help you truly have a magical, memorable time.

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Sit back, relax, and enjoy this week’s episode of the WDW Radio show. Thanks for listening! Be sure to tune in next week!

LouMongello
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QUESTION for YOU from this week’s show: What is YOUR best tip for what mistake first time visitors to Walt Disney World need to avoid? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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30 thoughts on “WDW Radio # 419 – Top Ten Mistakes by First-Time Visitors to Walt Disney World”

  1. Brent Sullivan says:

    I didn’t hear you guys mention the dining plan…

    My first timers tip is to not only get the dining plan that is right for you, but make sure that you spread out the snacks.

    Example: With 2 small kids that don’t do well waiting on food and sitting still, a dining plan with 3 sit down meals probably isn’t the best choice. We got the quick service only and if you plan ahead, there are some amazing quick service places to eat!!!

    mini-tip: spread out the snacks and save them for important times…like getting ice cream in the evening while waiting on the fireworks to start.

    I enjoyed the podcast and look forward to more!

    Brent

  2. Art Mills says:

    Tip for first Timers:

    Don’t be afraid of staying at a Value resort.

    I’ve heard many people say that they don’t want to stay at a Value resort because they don’t have the amenities of the moderate or deluxe resorts and are no better than a roadside motel. However, as the Value resorts are Disney resorts, they have a level of service much higher than a normal motel. Pop Century may be much cheaper than the Grand Floridian, but it is still a Disney hotel.

  3. David White says:

    Tips for first times:
    Bring your own water bottle & ask the restaurants for a cup of water, for refills It’s free, ice cold water.
    At Magic Kingdom, play the Sorcerers card game. It’s a really fun way to wait out the times between fast passes & is a free souvenir.
    Stop by the guest services cart to get you free “first time” button.

  4. Kevin Parrish says:

    Regarding photography, concentrate on taking photos of the people you’re with rather than parades and other things. Unless capturing a unique angle or situation, the casual photographer can find better images online. The other thing you can do is buy postcards; again, much better pictures than most of us can take.

  5. Happy Keller says:

    Lou,

    I think the one tip you all “missed” was…

    If you limit your trip to WDW to strictly the Theme Parks, you are missing out! Some of the best restaurants & shows are not located in the Theme Parks – they are at the Resorts and elsewhere on the property.

    Just My Opinion,

    Hap!

    Happy Keller

  6. Mike Bolger says:

    1st timer mistake – make use of all the busy day guides available to help plan your days. Don’t do what we did the 1st time we went in 2004, which was to only decide what park we were going to visit each morning. So much time was wasted discussing this. This is especially important if you have several people in your party.

  7. Chuck Zitta says:

    Hey first timers!

    Remember, everything is new to you. Unless you have Fast Passes, avoid the more popular attractions and visit the other attractions with smaller lines (if you want to spend more time doing and less time standing). Believe me, there is more to do than you could ever imagine! That also includes live shows, Disney Springs, tours, mini golf, real golf, fishing, boating, biking and much, much more. Take your time and enjoy/explore.

    A worry-free solution to getting everyone in your photos: sign up for Memory Maker. Unlimited photos (including on-ride photos). It’s worth it!

  8. Sarah says:

    Give your kids a Disney gift card for souvenirs, that way they only have a certain amount and once its gone, its gone. Also don’t forget to pin trade and get in on the fun, cast members always have the best pins for kids!!!

  9. Dave T says:

    That was a fantastic list of newbie mistakes, Lou, Tim, and Ron! I loved it. I would like to offer my humble suggestion, however.

    Regardless of whether you go to Disney by yourself or with a dozen friends and family, don’t do your planning alone! Sure, you can take advantage of podcasts such as Lou’s, websites such as the Disney Parks Moms Panel, or the Walt Disney World Parks website itself. I can all but guarantee, however, that someone you know is a Disney Parks geek, and their enthusiasm and knowledge will at a minimum lower the anxiety of a first trip. (Yes, I know this list wasn’t only for first timers, but they’re the ones we need to help most!)

    Us Disney Park geeks are a secretive lot for some reason. I don’t know why, but most of us don’t like to broadcast our love for everything Disney. Okay, it’s true that you can see it in our office decor, our clothing, and our Blu-Ray collection, but it’s like the fact that we don’t talk “baby talk” to our pets in public. You know we do at home.

    It’s not too hard to flush out, though. Just walk through your work place whistling, “Under the Sea.” Go to your kid’s soccer game with the envelop that contained your reservation confirmation sticking out of your pocket. Drive around with a copy of “102 Ways to Save Money For and At Walt Disney World” sitting on your dashboard. (Don’t do that last one too long – we wouldn’t want the cover to fade in the sun!) Like moths to a flame, we will appear.

    My son was playing Horace in his school’s production of _101 Dalmatians_, and I was waiting in line to get in donned in my white Disney World polo with Mickey embroidered on it. The woman behind me asked, “Do you go to Disney very often?” I turned to my wife who was in mid eyeroll. “You’ve done it now,” she said to the woman.
    It turned out that this woman was taking her granddaughter to Disney World on what was to be a very first trip for both of them! She had questions about Magic Bands, how much to fast passes cost (well…free), dining, you name it. As the line started to move, she thanked me and told me how grateful she was that she’d been behind us in line. It had relieved her of a lot of stress.

    Anyway, that’s my tip! Thanks, Lou!

  10. Richard says:

    First timer tips:

    Lou, we did this and saved us a ton of time.

    Tip 1. Use the MDE phone app. It is invaluable especially for locating restrooms

    Tip 2. Do not use the in-park Wi-Fi. Everyone one else is using it and it’s slow. We found our using 4 g cell towers much faster

    Tip 3. When using a kiosk to select your 4th, 5th, 6th fast pass, please don’t stand there forever deciding what you want. Although, the cast members are good at moving you along, if you cannot decide just pick anything. Then go to the app on your phone and browse and change it to what you want. We did this several times and the change shows up instantly. In fact I changed a fast pass right at the entrances and swiped my magic band within 30 seconds and it worked

  11. Tom Berowski says:

    With the focus on the 4 parks, people ofen miss the less obvious opportunities. The various backstage tours, of which there are many, offer experiences that range from educational (backstage at The Land) to fun (steam train / monorail backstage tour) to the out of the ordinary (backwoods Segway tour at Fort Wilderness)just to mention a few. And in the spirit of Lou sneaking in an extra ideas, experiences like the boat ride from Disney Springs to Port Orleans, which winds through Saratoga Springs, the forest, Buena Vista golf course, and DVC treehouses, capped off perhaps by the YeHaa Bob show at Port Orleans.

  12. Lori says:

    I think a tip for anyone is to compliment the cast members when you can. Why not add some magic to their day while they are busy adding magic to yours? If a cast member does a great job for you on a ride, in a restaurant, or anywhere else, stop by Guest Services and let them know!

  13. Diane J says:

    Hi—Some first-timers might avoid going to the Disney parks because of various health issues. I think that is a mistake. I would like to recommend that, if at all possible, they just go. There is no place on earth that is easier to visit when dealing with health issues. One of our sons has asthma and allergies that are thankfully under control now. But, when he was a child we needed a place to vacation where we knew we could bring his medications and nebulizer and have a place to store refrigerated meds with access to an outlet when he needed an updraft treatment. I cannot recommend the First Aid Stations and staff at each park highly enough. Each day we would take our “medical bag” and store it at the First Aid station and then felt free to enjoy the park until shortness of breath and wheezing necessitated our return so that our son could find relief. It was so wonderful to have this all available to us. I don’t think there was any other destination that we could go as a family where we felt that our medical needs would be met whenever necessary. Many families have much more serious medical issues to deal with than we did, but they should just try a vacation to Walt Disney World and experience the comfort of knowing that they can deal with whatever comes along. And there was well-trained medical personnel who could take over if necessary. This gave our family a great deal of peace of mind, and also many happy vacation experiences!

  14. Janice says:

    My husband and I discovered on our last trip that talking to cast members can be one of the most enjoyable and memorable parts of your trip. We have had great conversations with CMs from countries represented in World Showcase who told us more about life where they were from and why they decided to come to Disney. My husband found a cast member from Norway with a shared love for little Orange Bird. We have also talked to lots of servers and park turnstile attendents about their love of Disney and for what they do. So my tip for first timers is not to rush past the cast members on your quest to ride Midway Mania because some of the best stories you hear at Disney might be from one of them.

  15. Emily B. says:

    If you’re not checking bags on your flight and don’t want to schlep tons of mini bottles of toiletries, then buy full size bottles on Amazon and ship it to your Disney hotel before your arrival. Put your name & dates of stay on the address for your specific hotel and Disney will hold your package until you get there. We do this for sunscreen and contact solution.

    Make your own trail mix at home with pretzels, raisins, chocolate pieces (if not traveling in summer!), and other goodies, and pack your portions in individual baggies. This way you have a cheap portable snack for when you’re at the parks and are peckish. Save money for souvenirs 😊

  16. Tim Westfall says:

    First Timer Tip:

    I just did Disney with my family of 4, for the first time at the end of August. I planned and listened to your show, and many other resources for 4 months on every commute to work, to help do exactly what you covered in this show. It helped so much. It saved us so much time, headaches, and heartaches. Thanks for the tons of casts. Keep up the great work!

    My tip (for heavy park attendance):
    I had in my head that while waiting in a FP+ Kiosk queue, and there were ‘ipad’ helpers, near the kiosk (to keep the queues low), you could just take whatever FP+ option they offered, for anything (it doesn’t matter which attraction). Then immediately, walk away, and use your mobile device, use the Disney App to modify the new FP you just obtained. It will potentially list different and greater options that were just offered at the kiosk area. So, you can change your time for the attraction you have, or pick a totally different one.

    Super tip:
    (based on the ‘might already be known’ tip above)
    In my hundreds of hours of prep, I had not heard or read this one…
    Since it was my first time to WDW and using the FP system, I tried to apply this tip above, AT THE KIOSK, and it worked!!! Since you have to go to a kiosk to get new FPs issued, you are there anyway. So…if the queue is short, and there are no ipad helpers at the ‘back’ of the line (on heavier park days), you might ‘have’ to go up to the kiosk. So, when you get your ‘extra’ FP, and then click ‘Done’ (most people at this point just walk away with potentially a ‘non ideal’ FP option, because human mentality just ‘follows the crowds concept’), you IMMEDIATELY before leaving the kiosk, log in a 2nd time, and ‘edit’ the FP you just obtained a few seconds earlier. Every time I did this, it gave me tons more options, and even gave me ‘E ticket’ attraction option(s) that weren’t offered in the original ‘suggested’ offers.
    Recap: THE FP OFFERS you get from the kiosk interface are MERELY SUGGESTION (NOT WHAT IS TRULY AVAILABLE) to help drive park crowds to certain attractions. IF YOU LOGIN a 2ND time, you can immediately get more options (without having to pull out your phone to modify the FP with the Disney app)

    We were at MK on the 20th of August, and the crowd level was a 9 (predicted as 7, actual was 9 out of 10). It was ‘packed’.
    I had a touring plan, got there near rope drop on an extra magic hour, and applied the above tips, and we went on 20 ATTRACTIONS throughout the day (from 8a-9p) with WAIT TIMES less than 5 MINUTES ALL DAY LONG (except for 1 ride, which was about 10 minutes). And this was without truly rushing to anything with 45 mins for lunch and 75 mins for dinner. We had used our 3 allotted FPs by noon, and picked up about 4-5 more throughout the day using the above techniques. A great experience for our first day in a park at WDW, and proof that planning can pay off!

  17. Laura says:

    My best tip was something we discovered on our last trip. On our second night at the MK, I didn’t want to fight the crowds to get up to watch the fireworks in front of the castle again, so decided to skip it. We ended up in fantasyland during Wishes and there are more fireworks done back there behind the castle in the back of fantasy land somewhere (not sure where they are launching them). My husband and I grabbed a seat on the wall in front of Winnie the Pooh and were able to enjoy the fireworks right by the castle and the ones in the back of fantasyland,which were then in front of us, with no huge crowds of people surrounding us. It was a great spot to enjoy Wishes without crowds and was a really magical moment for both of us.

  18. Jennifer says:

    It is called Walt Disney WORLD for a reason, it is huge!!!! My tip is to really research the property. Be aware of how far apart each park is from the others. I have heard people actually ask at check in how long it takes to walk from the Magic Kingdom to EPCOT, or can I get a castle view room and we are at Pop Century LOL. Really research where you are going.

  19. Chris G. says:

    I know Lou loves his food BUT. For a First Timer, DON’T Book more than 1 sit down restaurant per day.
    There is so much do to, first timers will be overwhelmed. And want to see so much.
    But if you book a sit down meal, you’ll be surprised how much time that will take up in your day.
    Especially if the restaurant you choose is outside the park.
    Booking 2 in one day will focus so much time at restaurants you’ll miss so many of the rides you hope to see on that first trip.
    Take time to enjoy the meal, and enjoy the time for the rides.
    Save visiting the other restaurants you missed for that next trip.

  20. Kevin says:

    Lou,

    I’m a Disney veteran, however, I’m not a hard core fan. My wife and I, and our families, love going to Walt Disney World. We love to take extended vacations there, or just doing a one day trip since we live in Florida.

    But now I’m having trouble. The more I go, and the more I hear these complicated podcasts of what to do and what not to do, I am discouraged from going again.

    The first problem is that it has really become pretty expensive for the casual attender.

    My second problem is that the crowds have grown so much, even just over the last ten years.

    The result, as your podcasts point out, is that you just can’t have an enjoyable day without instruction, planning, training, and an increased budget. It’s so complicated and exhausting, that you can’t just show up and have a good time. More than anything else, a day at Disney seems like crowd-avoidance first, penny-pinching second, and enjoyment only comes last.

    Episode 419 is actually upsetting me all over again, because it tells me that the crowds and the cost are skyrocketing beyond the ability to still have fun.

    I’m losing that loving feeling! Your thoughts, please!

    Kevin from Tampa Bay

  21. Joe (Jacknell24) says:

    Top 10 or so Tips

    1)Buy the princess dress/glitter/make up/hair stuff and bring it with you in place of doing the bippity boppity boutique in the park. You can pick them up cheap after Halloween and your kids can dress up daily. The cast members will call them “princess” all day and they will love it.

    2)If you find something large in the park you would like to buy ask and they will ship it to you.

    3)Get a stroller from a company outside of Disney. Make sure you have room in a stroller for anyone less than 8 years old. It sounds old but the parks are huge and the kids will get tired.

    4)Don’t over plan your trip and do things unplanned. If you see something, go check it out. Loosen up and act like a kid. You’ll have fun and your kids will love it.

    5)If you have kids, stay on property. Go to park with Magic hours in the morning. After lunch go back to your room and take a long nap. Get up and go to dinner. Then go to the park with the evening Magic hours. There are so many less people in the parks at this time sometimes it feels like you have the park to yourselves. With the naps, the kids can handle it and enjoy the time as well.

    6)Get some custom t-shirts for the family to makes it easier to track your group down

    7)Buy rain poncho’s at the dollar store prior to getting to DW

    8)Order a Disney DVD/map from the Disney website no charge. The map is great way to see the park

    9)If you have question/need help just ask a cast member either in the park our at your resort

    10)Walk around World Showcase in EPCOT and try a little food and beverages from everywhere.

    11)If you have young kids buy their favorite stuffed Disney character prior to getting to DW, Once everyone leaves the room have mom or dad go back to the room and set out the Disney Character.

    12)Go with a positive attitude. Your kids will remember if you can let loose and go with the flow or if you were a grump the whole time.

  22. Hello First timers.

    If you are looking to save a few dollars I think breakfast is a great time to save. I suggest looking into some of the grocery delivery places and have some breakfast items delivered to the resort. The other thing we have done is bringing our dessert back to the room and having dessert for breakfast. You are on vacation afterall!! Have a magical trip!

  23. Eddie says:

    One of the things a first timer may need to do is to start a “arrival day” tradition. Let’s face it, if it’s your 1st visit it certainly won’t be your last! So why not have some sort of tradition in arrival day?! This could include anything that the kids might like to do first day or the entire family likes to do. Ours is once we fly in we don’t like to go straight to the park, we go to Downtown Disney/Disney Springs for the night. This upcoming trip we will take a visit at the soon to be open Indiana Jones bar in Downtown Disney.

    Or maybe pick a resort with your favorite restaurant, look at the Yachtman’s Steakhouse at the Yacht Club Resort. What better way to kick off your Disney Vacation than heading over and enjoying the best steak on property!

    Whatever it may be, find an arrival day tradition for the family and let that be your go to thing every trip, it builds wonderful memories.

  24. Tim Westfall says:

    I know I already posted once, but, I waited a day… was hoping someone else would post this, but I don’t see it above (apologies if I didn’t catch it)

    This is MUST piece of knowledge for First Timers (especially for those that decide on not buying MemoryMaker):

    You’ll see ‘PhotoPass’ photographers all over the parks, at ‘ideal site’ locations where they can take photographs of your groups.
    You’ll also see ‘Memory Maker’ offered to you in the mail/email.
    I assume that many people just instinctively see both of these terms before their trip, decide not to buy MemoryMaker, get to the parks, see Photopass photographers and assume:
    1) Oh, that’s for people that already bought something in a photography package OR if informed on the difference of PhotoPass vs MemoryMaker
    2) Get a photo taken by that Photopass photographer , then check it out later when we get home, and then decide to buy if they like it…
    But guess what..

    YOU CAN ALSO just hand them your own camera (DSLR, cell phone, anything), and they will GLADLY take your photo WITH YOUR EQUIPMENT!

    (they’ll also take some with their camera for their PhotoPass system, still, that you can check out online later and are NOT obliged to buy, up front or later)

    I’m so glad I knew this before I went (by listening to the podcasts). I was so worried, like a lot of groups, that has the camera user missing from most photos. Now you can easily get TONS of ‘ideal location’ shots with your WHOLE family/group, relatively easily.

    After being there for about 9 days recently, with high crowd numbers, I NEVER saw anyone ever hand their own camera to a Photopass photographer, so I assume no one gets informed of this by ‘seeing’ and then ‘repeating’
    Have fun obtaining photos with everyone in it!!!

  25. Kevin Linn says:

    You had mentioned this in the podcast but I think the best advice any first-time can take is to leave their ego at home and be sure to pack their courtesy and patience.

    If you are coming to Walt Disney World, you are entering a world like no other and if you let yourself go and forget your outside life and just enjoy the immersion. This is your chance to truly reconnect with life as you have always wanted it to be and it takes a little bit of humility to do that.

    That includes how you treat the cast members. Don’t treat them like you would someone at a local big box store or fast food restaurant. These are people who are trained and committed to making your visit as magical as possible but it is a two-way street. You have to be able to suspend all of your stress and worries and just take a deep breath and take everything in.

    Like Lou says, there is nobody at Walt Disney World who is going to be at your office or workplace after you get back. This is your opportunity to be the person you always wanted to be.

    Trust me, and sorry for being smarmy, but having this attitude in the parks will change your life and make you a life-long Walt Disney World fan.

  26. Tim smith says:

    Lou – The first thing I do once Ive chosen the week I will be in WDW (usually a non peak time ) …Is to check the park hours! Since non peak season park hours can vary greatly day to day, I find out which park I will be focusing on each day of my trip, THEN I start making ADRs and go from there. Thanks so much for a GREAT show every week!

  27. Melssa C-W says:

    I loved this episode! I have a couple of tips on how to dress for a day in the parks-

    Stay cool and comfortable and dress to get wet! You don’t want to be afraid to go on water rides and you WILL get caught in those afternoon storms. Wear (and dress your kids in) shoes and clothes will dry quickly. Those same clothes are probably also great at wicking sweat on hot days and may even have some extra SPF built in. I know you guys don’t have to worry about this, but sports bras are a really smart move for a lot of us.
    Also make sure you have good pockets or a wearable lanyard or belt to stow cards and IDs and such (it’s alarming how many women’s clothes don’t have pockets).

    On scheduling your trip-
    For those of us with kids in school, take a look at your calendar and see when your kids are on break and others might not be- Here in Tennessee, for example, our summer break runs really early- the kids are out before memorial day (and back in early august). We booked a trip right after the last day of school in May a couple of years ago and the crowds were quite manageable. I bet it’s the same in early September for those with a later schedule. Also look at fall breaks or other unique regional holidays so you can beat the crowds.

  28. Marla in CA says:

    If your trip involves 5 nights or more, try to schedule a day in between for a non-park day.
    Use this day to either resort hop, enjoy your hotel, spend time and see Disney Springs. Take
    a break from walking so much and spending all day in a park. Rest, enjoy the sites outside.
    Also, if you are making breakfast reservations for restaurants in the park before park opening,
    book two. Maybe an early breakfast time, and then maybe one near 10:00 or so. This way, if the
    park changes their opening hours, you can cancel the first reservation and then park tour for two hours
    or so before and then go to eat. Nothing more frustrating than booking an early morning
    breakfast before park opening, to have the park then change opening hours. Early park
    touring is so crucial to take advantage of. And last, plan, plan, plan… yes, book ADRs and FP, but
    also be willing to be flexible…. say maybe after lunch -leave room for flexibility. Trying to hit the mark all the time will just set you up for let downs.

  29. Ken Munroe says:

    Don’t over-plan. During my first three to four trips to WDW, I planned out the trips with military precision, telling the family to take the line on the left (presumably faster), discussed continuous loading rides (like the Haunted Mansion) versus interval rides (like Pirates of the Caribbean). I also chose the “best” days to go to each park, the best place to view parades and fireworks and the “fastest” places to eat. I had a miserable group of family members behind me who just wanted to let go and relax. As Lou mentions frequently, enjoy the experience including the minor things around the World. For instance Yee Haw Bob at Port Orleans Riverside or just walking around taking in the splendor of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights at the Hollywood Studios. I found out that not only were my loved ones having a great time, so was I. When I see parents hustling crying kids around to get to the next show, I think “that used to be me.”

  30. Ellie says:

    One of the biggest mistakes I have seen from newcomers is their dismay when they do not get a reservation they were hoping for, especially at Be Our Guest or at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Don’t give up trying to get a reservation! Keep calling because people do cancel, and the closer you get to your trip date, the more people will cancel because they don’t want to be charged a cancellation fee. Even if you can’t get a reservation, stop by the restaurant or Boutique! Sometimes there are no-shows and you luck out! It just takes persistence. Try going as early as possible or other people might take your opportunity!

    Same goes for fast passes. Don’t give up if they are not available right away! I can usually score an individual fast pass for Anna and Elsa, Toy Story Midway Mania and Mine Train. As long as everyone in your party is old enough to book a fast pass without an adult (I think the age is 14?), you can book your fast passes separately and try to get the times to overlap. If times still aren’t available, try repeating this process at midnight the night before you want the fast passes. Sometimes additional spots open up!

    It can be time consuming, but for some families, these experiences can make or break a vacation, so it is worth every bit of extra planning!

    Love the show and hope these tips help someone!