1st Trip to Disney? Avoid These 10 Mistakes!

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have a great Disney World vacation

Updated for 2018!

Vacations are designed to whisk you away from reality and give you a break from the ho-hum of every day. A trip to Disney World is very pricey, and if you are not one of the lucky ones who make multiple trips each year, then you are saving and planning for your next your trip for what could be years. Or perhaps it just feels like years. If you make all these plans and pay all this money, how could you possibly screw it up?


People do it all the time.

Read: 120 Walt Disney World DO NOTs: Tips From Real People on How NOT to Screw Up a Disney Vacation!

why you can't always do what you want at Disney World

1. You didn’t bring enough C.A.S.H.

We are not all using Disney Visas or MagicBands (formerly known as “room keys”) with charging abilities. Before you tell me that everybody has a credit card, Statistic Brain.com reports 1/4 of Americans have no credit card at all. Maybe that’s you, or maybe you’re currently trying not to use your credit card. Ever leave your MagicBand in the room or in your car? (Let me raise my hand in guilt on that one.)

You may need cash to make some of your purchase while in Orlando.

I’ve read quite a few Facebook discussions centered on how people didn’t take enough cash to pay for things that required actual physical money on vacation. Imagine not having access to money when you need it.  Ever had trouble locating an ATM in the parks? There are ATMs on Main Street, U.S.A, at the Magic Kingdom and at the entrances to all the other theme parks. But if you are on the other side of the park, that can be a mighty long walk, and your feet will be really angry with you later.

Preventable walking = exhaustion = general miserableness

how much cash do you need on vacation to Disney World

With a large degree of certainty, you will need cash for

  • toll roads
  • dining tips – possibly
  • bell hop tips
  • Mouse Keeping tips
  • anybody else who needs a tip
  • parking – possibly
  • late night snacks when you don’t have your room key or Visa with you (oops- ask me how my hungry kids reacted to this!)

Tip – If you bring ca$h, be sure to tuck it away somewhere so it’s safe from loss or theft. I have a friend that keeps money locked in her car’s glove compartment, because wallets get misplaced, and credit cards can get denied.

Speaking of a Visa card…

Let me reiterate what I said before; everything is expensive at Disney. Do your research, and make sure you have enough money to get you through. I’m not suggesting you rack up a huge Visa bill, but if you generally pay for everything in ca$h, having a Visa available for emergencies is definitely advisable.

Read: Over 20 Disney World Tips for Parents With Younger Children

wy bring cash on vacation at Disney World

2. You do what you want no matter what.

You do everything, see everything, and ride everything you want to do no matter what the group wants to do. You are large and in charge.

Yes, I realize your vacation is costing you an arm and a leg, and I know some of you may not make it back to Orlando for a good long time. The word good here isn’t actually meant as good. But if you want to have good memories from your trip, you’ll need some flexibility. Plans change, even plans that were made six to eleven months in advance.

You can’t do it all. You can’t see it all.

If you have used the new Fastpass+ system, scheduling your passes 60 days before your trip, only to realize plans were changing, then you already realize you need some flexibility.

Being inflexible = unhappy campers = questionable memories 

You won’t make everybody in the family happy by the choices you make, but you can head off a lot of trouble just by being flexible and accepting of the changes that come your way. Try finding a way to reach a happy medium if you are traveling with a large group or people of differing ages and heights.

Read: Do You Have a Favorite Disney Child, and Would You Admit It?

getting along with family on vacation

3. You don’t rest enough.

I know the general notion is to arrive when the parks open and stay all day long. I read comments on the Internet all the time about sleeping when you get home from Orlando. “I’ll sleep when I get back.” Chances are, you know someone who follows that same philosophy – run yourself ragged on a Disney vacation and rest up at home.

Nearly every single planning book I have ever read suggests you arrive first thing in the morning. My dad followed this touring plan when I was growing up in the mid-70s, way before they even had real books or Internet touring guides, and by midnight, we were all completely exhausted. I had a blast, but waking up the next morning was truly brutal. I really don’t suspect my mom had much fun at all, and my parents haven’t been to Disney in 20 years. I’m going to attribute their current lack of interest to Over-Did-Disney exhaustion.

Many of our readers spend all day in the parks, from sun-up to way past sun-down, and they’ll do this for a week straight. This plan works for some, but it certainly it doesn’t work for others.

Read: Ferrytale Wishes Fireworks Dessert Cruise: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

how not to get too tired on vacation

I’ve spent enough time in the Disney theme parks as an adult to see some of the biggest meltdowns from both kids and adults I have ever witnessed in a public place. (You can read about that here, and I’ve been told the quotes are startling: If You Do This on a Disney Vacation, You May Totally Regret It Later.) Tantrums and disagreements in your hometown grocery stores have nothing on meltdowns at Disney.

Lack of sleep + days on end = exhaustion= miserableness. 

Take a cue from your family, and if they can’t handle a 16-hour day in the parks, day after grueling day, change things up.

  • Go in during the morning, go back to the hotel and rest or swim, and come back late that afternoon.
  • Sleep in, do Disney Springs mid-day or swim, and go to the parks late that afternoon.
  • Take a day off and just swim and hang out.

Use this link for a whole list of activities for days when you have no park tickets:  Disney World Tips for Kids: “Free Day” Fun Activities

True, this modified touring schedule may not provide as much park-time as you had hoped for, but it’s better than tears, frustration and shouting. I’ve seen it. Vacation Melt-Down Syndrome is like Disney Villain-kinda ugly.

Read: How to Pack the BEST Disney World Theme Park Bag Ever!

why you need sleep on a Disney World vacation

4. You skipped the sunscreen.  

Think a sunburn won’t happen to you? Web MD.com quotes the CDC as reporting more than one-third of adults and nearly 70% of children admit they’ve gotten sunburned within the past year. While there are lots of shady places on Disney property, you will be in direct sun for the majority of your WDW vacation. “Sunny Orlando” is exactly why you’re here, right, to soak up some of that warm southern sun?  Believe it or not, most people who visit the First Aid Stations at the Disney parks arrive because of sun issues.

How soon a sunburn begins will depend on your skin type, the sun’s intensity, and how much time you spend exposed to the sun. And it can sneak up on you. Serious sunburn can cause the following:

  • Fever, sometimes higher than 102 degrees
  • Chills
  • Severe pain
  • Sunburn blisters
  • Dehydration (dry mouth, thirst, reduced urination, dizziness, and fatigue)

How much fun will that be to deal with on a vacation you’ve been planning for the last year?

Read: The Best of the Best Disney World Shopping Guide

Disney World sunscreen and sunburns

Cheapskate Sunscreen Tips:

  1. Bring sunscreen from home if you don’t want to pay a hefty amount for a bottle from the Mouse, preferably a bottle with an S.P.F of 45 or more.
  2. Make sure you bring a new bottle, because sunscreen can expire, and then you’ll wind up sunburned despite your good efforts.
  3. Apply your sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you head out of your hotel, as sun products need time to take effect.
  4. The sun is at its peak from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., so these are not the best hours to be out in the sunlight, if you can help it.

Burned skin = pain = itchy peeling skin = general miserableness

Spending time tending to a sun burn is time you are not spending playing at the resorts and theme parks. And time is money, honey!

Read: 10 Cheapskate Reasons to Vacation on Disney Property

why you don't want to get sunburned on vacation

 5. You skipped the hand sanitizer.

You skipped washing your hands. You didn’t use hand sanitizer. Someone in the family picked up a nasty bug from one of the thousands of Disney visitors that run their sweaty, sticky, dirty, germy hands all over everything. And now you are all in big trouble. Here we are in 2018 with a flu epidemic that is closing entire school systems and ending in death for people in all age ranges. 

I know there are people who think hand washing in the sink with soap is the only route to go, while other people prefer hand sanitizers. I’m not going to get into the middle of that debate, but I will point out there is no bathroom in line for Space Mountain, and that stand-by wait can last up to 120 minutes or more. You’re standing in line to greet the Frozen gals, stand-by lines that were lasting over four hours after their initial park arrival way back when, and you don’t think the kids will put their hands in their mouths as they eat a snack, in line? I’m headed toward my 50th birthday, but I’ll readily admit I touch everything on vacation from Pirate castle walls to Christmas decorations in gift shops.

And so will your children, if they put their phones down long enough.

Soap and water won’t help you in long lines, on monorails or boats, or unable to locate a restroom within what feels like half a mile.

tips not to get sick at Disney World on vacation

80 percent of common infections, including the H1N1 flu virus, can be spread through contaminated hands. James Scott, a microbiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health said, “A hand sanitizer cleans your hands much better than soap and water, so it reduces the bacterial burden to a much greater extent than soap and water. And your hands tend to stay cleaner longer than if you were to use soap and water.”

Hands = exposure to germs. Germs can = all sorts of illnesses = vomiting miserableness 

I am the first one to admit I abhor most hand sanitizers, and I teach public school, so I have to use it every day. I hate the smell and the texture, but mainly I truly dislike the smell.

I have found $1.50 bottles of Bath & Body Works hand sanitizer to be the best thing going. They come in kid friendly colors, scents like cupcake and strawberry, and you can find them on sale for $1 every now and then, making these a fabulously cheap investment for your vacation. More info: Read: Easy Way to Save Time at Disney World? Hand Sanitizers!

take hand sanitizers on a Disney World vacation

6. You didn’t train for the amount of walking you will do.

Let me raise my guilty hand again, despite knowing how important this one is, because I never seem to walk enough regardless of my good intentions. I pay for it on vacation.

If you think you’ll be casually strolling a couple of miles a day through the parks, I hate to break it to you…10 to 15 miles a day is the norm if you go from sun up past sun down. Thing we’re exaggerating? We asked our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans how many miles they walked on average every day; use this link to see their results: How Many Miles Will You Walk on Vacation in the Disney Parks?

And to handle that amount of mileage, you will absolutely need to do some training.

You will walk your little tootsies off, and so will your kids. They need to be training for Disney as well. I actually paid my own children $.10 for every mile they walked in a three-month period for a trip many years ago. Think that’s crazy and indulgent? It cost me $20 at the most and saved me stress, headaches, and tears, both theirs and mine. It saved my back too, because I didn’t have to physically carry them through the parks.

Get out and do some walking now, and your body will definitely thank you later.

Tired feet + aching muscles = unhappiness and miserableness 

Walking ahead of time is so important, we devoted an entire article to it. I can not over-estimate how much you need to read this one Disney tip. It’s mega Mickey Ears important. Read: The Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Disney Vacation? It’s a Four Letter Word!

Avoid these Walt Disney World vacation Mistakes

7. You vacationed during the worst possible times to travel.

Can you imagine how many people planned their first Disney trip for the worst time of year to go, thinking it was the best? When someone tells me they hate Disney and never want to go back, I immediately ask when they traveled. Guess what? It’s almost always Christmas, anther busy holiday, or summer. I’ve vacationed in Orlando during all those times, and I can’t blame them for disliking the huge crowds. The blame comes with improper planning.

Huge crowds = long lines = standing and waiting = miserableness  

The general Disney rule of thumb is that if the kids are out of school, this is the most crowded time to go, even if scheduling-wise, this is the best time to actually leave town for the vacation. Here are several articles to help you with specific times to visit Disney.

How to avoid the worst times at Disney World

8. You arrived pretty clueless. 

Ok, speaking of planning, Walt Disney World is seriously huge. Resorts, theme parks, water parks, mini-golf, Disney Springs, and so on and on. It’s really too much for you to do in one vacation. There is an entire row of travel books dedicated to Orlando and WDW in Books-A-Million. Why? Because going to Disney these days requires planning and reading and scheming.

What was manageable when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 is now a race to do it all, see it all, and survive to buy the t-shirt, if you can afford the shirt much less the trip.

Do your research.

  • How tall do kids need to be to ride certain rides? Ever watched a child have a tantrum because they couldn’t get on a ride? It’s awful.
  • What are the least busy days for certain parks?
  • What time do the parks open and close while you will be there?
  • Where are the best restaurants for your diverse group?
  • When can you schedule your Advanced Dining Reservations? This varies depending on your accommodations.
  • When can you schedule your three Fastpass+ rides? This varies depending on your accommodations and or your type of tickets.

Boathouse restaurant Disney Springs

Poor planning = wasted time = miserableness

Do your research. Will you feel relaxed planning this vacation? Not always, but it pays to be prepared.

Here are some great websites that can help you plan your next vacation: The Top 10 Best Disney Vacation Planning Web Sites.

This is a great article on where to find cool Disney Parks maps online for free: FREE Disney Virtual Vacation; Check Out the Walt Disney World “Parks” Maps.

Use this link to a guide for our best planning articles: Cheapskate Princess Vacation Planning Tips.

ideas to have a great Disney World vacation

9. You wore the wrong shoes.

I am a people-watcher by nature, so I get a vast amount of amusement when a pretty girl, holding hands with her date, teeters and then totters by me wearing four-inch high heels. Was this a surprise outing to Disney? Those flip-flops with no arch support for miles of walking, was that really the best you could do for 12 hours of theme parking? House shoes? Yes, I have also seen them shuffling down Main Street. You would really be surprised by the number of high heels you will see in the parks as well.

 Walking miles + uncomfortable shoes = blisters + sore feet = unhappiness and miserableness

Bring your comfortable athletic shoes and wear moisture wicking socks to protect your feet from blisters. Bring a couple of band-aids in a backpack.

But just as one vacation plan won’t work for every family visiting Disney, shoes are the same way. What I wear may not be right for you. Certain brands of flip-flops can be great, and some of my readers love their house shoes and their Birkenstocks. As long as you are prepared to walk miles and miles and miles in whatever shoes you bring, you should be fine.

A smart planner will definitely leave the Disney Princess heels at home. What shoes would our readers suggest you wear on vacation Read: What are the Best Shoes to Wear on a Disney World Vacation? We Asked the Fans…

wear the right shoes on a Disney World vacation

10. You left your patience at home.

Vacations are stressful. No matter how much planning you put into your trip, there may still be a time when things go wrong. If you want to make it worse, just leave your patience at home.

You are paying a lot of $$ for this journey, and you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into planning what you know with utmost certainly will be “the perfect vacation.” The problem is almost nothing is ever perfect. And if you go into your trip with the mindset that everything will be perfect, you could be in for a big disappointment.

Crazy expectations + lack of patience = freaking out + tantrums = miserableness for you and everybody around you

Deep breaths, calming thoughts, and a “This too shall pass” attitude will be needed if/when things fall apart. We have some tips for the adults on how to keep your calm during vacations.

Read: A Cheapskate Princess Guide to Less Stress on Vacation

ways to enjoy your Disney World vacation

There are a LOT of great comments our readers have left since we published this article in 2012, so be sure to read those as well. 

Thanks for stopping by. We hope that you can bypass easily avoidable mistakes on your upcoming Disney trip, and we’ll see you applying sunscreen and lacing up those running shoes!

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda, Disney’s Cheapskate Princess


Mike Ellis

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