Don’t Make These 8 First-Timer Disney Mistakes!

We understand that planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be incredibly exciting — and overwhelming! With four theme parks, two water parks, more than 25 resorts, Disney Springs, and who knows what else — there is a lot to do!

Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

While lots of people will tell you all the “must-do’s” (like 10 of our recommendations here!), really, as long as you do your research and plan a few key things, your trip will be magical. Here are eight mistakes that first-time visitors often make — don’t you be one of those!

  1. Not Making Dining Reservations 180 Days in Advance
Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom

Dining in Disney is one of the most magical parts of the vacation. From incredible signature dining to character meals, there are a lot of great options. But if you want to secure these reservations, you need to do so as early as possible. Dining reservations open up 180 days in advance — that’s SIX MONTHS early. If you are staying at a Disney resort, you can make reservations for your whole stay (up to 10 days), starting 180 days out from the first day of your trip.

So do your research, and figure out where you absolutely want to eat! Some of the most popular restaurants (and hardest to get reservations) include Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom, Le Cellier at Epcot, Chef Mickey’s and California Grill at the Contemporary Resort, and ‘Ohana at the Polynesian Village Resort.

For more information on Disney Dining, check out or expansive dining planning pages!


2. Not Booking FastPasses ASAP

Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Just like booking your dining is very important, so is booking your FastPasses as soon as possible! Lots of first-time Disney vacationers don’t realize they can book them in advance — or that FastPass even exists.

FastPass+ is a FREE service that allows you to reserve your spot in line at three attractions, shows, or character experiences a day. We have a detailed post about how to book your FastPasses+ here.

FastPass+ can be booked 60 days before the start of your vacation if you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, and 30 days out if you are not. Keep in mind that you have to have valid tickets to reserve FastPass+ for every person in the party.

Some of the most popular FastPass+ offerings include:

Magic Kingdom: Peter Pan’s Flight, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Princess Fairytale Hall

Epcot: Soarin’ Around the World, Frozen Ever After

Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania, Rock n’ Roller Coaster

Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Avatar Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safaris

Just like with dining, it’s important you do research before your 60- or 30-day mark. This way you know what are the must-do’s for your family and can secure those FastPasses! Do not wait until you get there — there’s a very high chance many on your list will not be available.

3. Waiting Until Your Last Day to Buy Souvenirs 

Haunted Mansion Spirit Jersey ©Disney

This is a tip A LOT of people will give you. They will say, “Just wait until the last day and go to World of Disney at Disney Springs! They have EVERYTHING and you can get it all in one go.” And while World of Disney is the largest Disney store in the world, they do not have everything.

If you see a piece of merchandise specific to a certain attraction or park, it’s most likely you can only get it there. Additionally, new items pop up all the time, and have been known to sell out. It would be a real bummer if you saw an awesome Haunted Mansion shirt that you had to have, to later discover it’s only for sale in Magic Kingdom.

If you’re worried about lugging around your items all day, do not stress! Disney has the answer: Package Pick-up. Anything bought at a Disney shop can be sent to a location at the front of the park, for you to pick up on your way out. Or if you’re staying at a Disney resort, you can have your package sent to your resort’s gift shop. Just ask the merchandise Cast Member. This simple (and free) service allows you to snag that exclusive knick-knack, and carry on with your day!

4. Waiting in Super Long Lines for Characters

Ariel at Akershus in Epcot

Characters are a big part of your Disney vacation, even if you don’t have children in tow! There are lots of favorites to be seen — from princesses to galactic heroes, and of course Mickey! And while I absolutely recommend meeting your favorite, you might not have to spend a long time in line to do so.

From Winnie the Pooh and friends to classics like Chip N’ Dale, a whole host of popular characters can be found at Character Dining Locations. We have a handy guide by character, so you can hopefully find your favorite! Character Dining is a great way to meet several characters at once, while enjoying a nice meal (and air conditioning).

Another way to avoid the long lines for characters is by booking FastPasses for them. The royals at Princess Fairytale Hall, Ariel, Tinker Bell, Mickey & Minnie, as well as other classic favorites can all be met using  FastPass+!

Meeting characters is another big reason you want to book your dining and FastPasses as soon as possible. While not every character can be found at one of these locations, this will help you save time for the most popular ones!

5. Skipping the Sunscreen

Typhoon Lagoon

Here’s one mistake we see a lot: People assume if they aren’t going to a water park or spending a day at the pool, then they don’t need to pack sunscreen. Florida is hot and sunny — simple as that! You are going to be outside in the sun for several days on your trip, and you should absolutely wear sunscreen. Every day. Yes, even in the parks.

So go ahead and buy a few bottles before you arrive. They do have it for sale at the resorts and theme parks, but it’s very expensive. Trust me, your wallet (and your skin) will thank us later!

6. Only Planning a Half-Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom 

Rivers of Light

At one point in time, this was actually very good advice. When Animal Kingdom first opened, it usually closed around 5 p.m. — much earlier than the other parks — so it was very feasible to pop in and do the highlights in a half-day.

Now, this is far from the truth! Kilimanjaro Safaris is open late for nighttime safaris, and favorites such as Expedition Everest are super-exciting to ride at night. Plus, the newest land, Pandora, actually lights up at night, making it completely different from the daytime. Animal Kingdom also has its very own nighttime spectacular now, Rivers of Light, which is an amazing combination of light effects, music, and live performances.

7. Assuming Magic Kingdom is Only for Families with Little Kids

Space Mountain

While Magic Kingdom is very geared toward families, it is certainly not limited to those with little kids! If Disney is good at one thing, it’s providing high quality entertainment for the whole gang – from the tallest to the smallest.

There are plenty of thrill rides, such as Space Mountain or Splash Mountain, that big kids and adults will love. There are quintessential Disney attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, which are beloved by all. Plus, the nighttime spectacular Happily Ever After is incredible and should top anyone’s must-do list. And, let’s be honest, are you really ever too old to fly with Dumbo or soar over Neverland? We certainly don’t think so!


8. Wearing Uncomfortable Shoes

Minnie Mouse in Hollywood Studios

Minnie Mouse may be able to rock heels all day in the parks, however we do not recommend you try! If you take one piece of advice away from this article, let it be this: WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES.

You will walk on average anywhere from five to 10 miles A DAY when visiting the parks. That’s a long time on your feet! Make sure you find some shoes that will be comfortable to trek around in all day, and be sure they are well broken-in by the time you arrive. Disney World is not the place to soften up that new pair of sneakers.

And there you have it! Eight mistakes First-Timers tend to make, and how to avoid them. Make sure to also check out our extensive Disney World Planning Page where we answer all of your questions about tickets, resorts, and more!

Did you pick up some new tips for your first visit? Let us know in the comments!

Remember! When you’re in Disney tag @allearsnet in your photos!

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Molly is a lifelong Disney enthusiast, and former Walt Disney World Guest Relations Cast Member and tour guide. Her Walt Disney World favorites include Festival of the Lion King, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Fantasmic!, Mickey-shaped pretzels and rice krispie treats, and anything with Buzz Lightyear! She lives in Orlando with her husband (who she met in Guest Relations) and their two rescue dogs, Kronk and Cruella de Vil (Ella for short!)

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