You guys know I’m a gusher. I enjoy nothing more than going on and on about the things I love and there is a really wonderful long list of those from this trip. But I would be remiss not to share some of the hiccups we encountered too. So today I want to share with you the mistakes we made on our first Disney World trip (that you can avoid)!
Thinking transportation is always reliable.
We chose to stay on property (more on that tomorrow!) and on the monorail to make travel to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot as easy as possible for our young kids. Good in theory, but the one early morning we had (breakfast at Cinderella’s castle), the monorail was not running. They sent us to the Polynesian boat, which also turned out not to be running yet. Our reservation was at 8:05 am and we were still at the Polynesian at 7:55 am. This is when my meltdown happened. We snagged a bus and realized we were not alone in our frustration, as many people on board were late because of transportation mishaps. When we arrived at the castles, people were being turned away, being told they missed their reservation. They tried to re-book them for lunch but by some Disney miracle, David got us in at 8:45 am.
Another time, as we were leaving Epcot, a monorail couldn’t pull out of the station, so they sent for a tow monorail and redirected all of us to buses, adding about another 45 minutes to our trip. Yes, it’s a first world problem, but when you have a reservation it can cause some stress.
Solution: Leave plenty of time to make it places and always double check on transportation the day before and the morning of days when you have places to be at specific times.
Believing a “5” means super light crowds.
You could also file this under “setting expectations too high.” David and I chose to go to Disney now for two reasons: 1) Under 3 is free so we wanted to go before Kaitlyn hit that mark and 2) it was supposedly one of the lightest times of the year.
We used Touring Plans which I highly recommend checking out. It ranks each parks’ crowds on a scale of 1-10 for each day, tells you line wait for each ride in live time, and helps direct you whether to ride now or wait. It does a lot more than that too, but we mostly used it to choose which parks to go to on which days. When we arrived at the Magic Kingdom on a Monday that was rated a “5” we expected to wander through at our leisure. No dice. There were truly areas we couldn’t walk through because they were so packed. The unexpected crowds completely threw us for a loop. We rode our fast passes, but honestly felt overwhelmed.
Once we readjusted our expectations and better utilized our fast passes and rider swap strategies, the next day was light years better than the first. I had several people weigh in on instagram saying that there really aren’t any “light” days anymore, but for me (slightly agoraphobic), I think I will only visit again on times marked 5 or below. The idea of being there at a 10 (which one of my best friends really enjoys and thrives at so to each their own) makes me want to cry.
Solution: Certainly try to aim for the lighter days, but expect it to be somewhat crowded no matter when you go. For the busier times, plan the fast passes you really want well in advance, utilize ride swap if applicable, get to the park early and head straight to the ride you want but don’t have fast passes for.
Hoping they won’t take height seriously.
I mean, of course they do, but since Kaitlyn is 36-ish” I was curious if she might be able to slip onto a 40″ ride. Ha, sweet ignorance. They measure anyone that looks even close to the height mark before you even get in line. There is no chance a child is getting on a ride they aren’t fully tall enough for.
Solution: Know which rides your child is tall enough ahead of time or wait until your child is at least 40″ when they can ride almost everything.
Not knowing that Snow White is kind of a jerk.
There. I said it. I know I’m ridiculous, but Kaitlyn LOVES Snow White and so I had high hopes of meeting her at the princess breakfast. For those that are new to the character meals setup, each princess present comes to every table. Well Snow White stopped at ours and was gone in the blink of an eye. I seriously tripped over my chair trying to get up in time to snap a pic.
She wasn’t warm and honestly was even a little rude. I wouldn’t have cared (I guess princesses even have off days) if Kaitlyn wouldn’t have loved her so much. She seriously went chasing after her and Snow White never looked back.
When I mentioned this to my BFF who is a Disney guru she cracked up laughing saying that yes, Snow White is always like that. Supposedly it’s just her persona. Still, a heads up for those Snow White fans out there.
Solution: Visit Jasmine instead. 😉
Expecting high priced food to be worth the cost.
Yes, I know, we’re paying for the experience and the characters but we paid over $250 (we didn’t do the meal plan, but if you do, it takes TWO sit down meal credits per person) and my breakfast looked like this:
Whomp whomp. Honestly the castle breakfast food was one of the worst meals I ate. Maybe I ordered wrong, but certainly underwhelming.
I’ve received some comments that people loved the food at the parks, so this one is certainly a matter of opinion! Like I said, I loved the dinner at the Beast’s Castle, but other than that I found everything to be what you’d expect for park quality and produced in mass food. On the plus side, the Safari Amber is quite good, as is the ice cream!
Solution: Bring your own food or just enjoy the food for what it is. My chicken sandwich and fries was just fine!
Having too high of expectations.
Our whole approach to the Disney trip was pretty chill. We certainly spent some hours researching the language (fast pass, rider swaps, etc) and the rides/restaurants that most appealed to us, but we were really mindful that we weren’t going to be able to do everything. The last thing we wanted was to rush and drag our kids all over. That’s not fun for anyone. I’m so glad we embraced that philosophy.
I felt my expectations going in were reasonable (and they were for the most part), but I’ve had multiple friends (read my friend Melissa’s funny take on how Disney is like giving birth) end up in tears at thwarted expectations. The reality is that it’s going to be hot, your kids are going to get overwhelmed and tired at times, it is expensive, and the wait times really do creep into the 200+ minute territory (insanity), BUT there is real magic too.
Solution: Go in expecting a few hiccups and let the magic moments exceed your expectations. There are mental snapshots that will be in my heart for the rest of my life. I will smile for years to come about Hailey’s awe at Fantasmic or Kaitlyn’s excitement after meeting Russell from UP. And if you can keep your expectations in check, you’re more likely to experience and appreciate these moments of bliss.
Remember, I’ve only been once, so I’m no expert, but being a first timer, I feel I learned a lot of valuable info. Next up I’m going to share the things we did right and my BEST tips for first timers!
But for today– those that have been to Disney, did you make any mistakes?
Would you have done anything differently?
Please share! I think it could be really helpful to all those with upcoming trips!
We went the week before you! We noticed a huge difference in the park crowds on the weekend (it makes sense) but we weren’t expecting it! I can’t even imagine going during a busy time! My sister is going in April for the first time and I keep telling her don’t go in thinking you can do it all.. go in thinking you will go back, just do what you can do and have fun!
Brittany Dixon says
Were you there with all the cheerleaders too?? Craziness! I hope you still had a wonderful trip 🙂 And great advice for your sister! I’d so much rather have low expectations and have them blown away then vice versa.
We were there with the cheerleaders – insane!!! Some of them were so rude too!! There were also huge international teen groups there. Way too many teens! We made many of your mistakes as well but overall… the magic was worth it!
Brittany Dixon says
For sure, magic was worth it, but man those swarms of cheerleaders were no joke! Haha!
Nadia North says
We have been to Disney many times! We’ve stayed on the property, and away. On our last trip, we stayed on the property in hopes of easy transportation- we have two kids and a grandma who needed a wheelchair. After many, many issues and total lack of “easy transportation”, on our first day when they told us to “have a magical day”, I was wondering if my totally non-violent husband was going to punch them in the face!
Needless to say, if we go back, we will stay off-site at condos called the “Floridays”. We have stayed there several times – they have units with multiple bedrooms (everyone gets their own room), and they are beautifully maintained. We did have a rental car (because we did not want to use their shuttle), and even though we had to pay for parking at the Disney parks – we came and left at our leisure. And not surrounded by ALL THE PEOPLE. (On our last trip, we were stuck on a non-moving, non-air conditioned monorail, and I was beginning to question if I would survive our Disney trip!) We ate breakfast in our condo (full kitchen), and I packed our lunches and snacks. I was able to do laundry in our room at night, as well.
I have no affiliation with “Floridays”, but just wanted to share our experience!
Brittany Dixon says
So funny that you mentioned Floridays! We actually stayed there Thursday night when we decided to just go ahead and drive the entire distance. Like you said, it’s huge and everyone had their own room for a very reasonable rate. Plus, I could do laundry! It worked out perfectly for us for that night and could see how that would be a good option for families wanting to save money and have more space. Great tip!!
I think when you travel with young kids it’s best to let them lead a bit. Hit the attractions you know they will love and skip ones that are more for you. We went back to our resort for rest/lunch when park crowds were at their peak. We found Fast passes to be most useful at magic kingdom so we would do magic kingdom in the morning and then when you use your fast passes book a new one for later at another park and head to that one. We are going again in October but will be taking our 3 year old twins, 5 year old, and baby…so may not be as smooth as our first trip when we only took our oldest.
Love all the tips! We’ve decided to save Disney World for when our kids are a bit older, but are heading to Disney Land this spring. We figure it’s a nice alternative and a good way to test the waters. We’re lucky that my parents live in San Diego so it helps keep our cost down. 😉 I think the hardest part for me will be to just remember to go with the flow and accept that we will only get through a small portion of the park and to just enjoy the kids’ excitement over all of the little things.
Erin Antonsen says
The great thing about Disneyland is it’s so much smaller than WDW and much more manageable. Highly recommend California Adventure, too (right across the courtyard).
My tip is to choose your 2-3 “must dos”, and then anything else you do is icing on the cake.
What were your thoughts on not having a meal plan? The first rime we went we had a meal plan and when we go back are thinkong about not getting one. With the kids we thought they could share food.
We went the end of September two years ago. It was lower than a 5 and I thought still so crowded! We stayed at Port Orleans and had to use the buses. They sucked. Everybody had told us its no problem, but everybody that had said that didnt have 3 kids under 5 and a huge gigantic double stroller. It was so hard getting it on and off and then waiting for the busses at night when the park closed, (the wait was awful) and sometimes we wouldnt even have a seat on the busses and would have to stand. We drove pur car to magic kindom the last day but you still have to ride on something from the parking lot! But I would definitely just drive my car to the other parks. I would much rather be in my car when the meltdowns happen instead of on the bus! Lol
Daily reader, first time commenting. What better time than my favorite subject, Disney! I think you nailed it about expectations, keep them low (especially with the crowds). We were first timers in October and it was supposed to be a 6 for crowds. I would dread anything higher. The food is another expection to keep low. We actually heard that tip or just decided on our own, but we packed lunch every day which was fabulous! We knew the kids would eat it, it was cheap, we could eat anywhere/anytime. We once ate while in line to see Buzz which really helped us save some time. We also had delays with transportation. We stayed off site and chose to take shuttles on some days. This greatly increased our travel time and I wish we had parked each day. The $20 is worth it after all the time and money invested.
I am crying for you about Snow White! I have boys so we didn’t see her, but after seeing all the ways Disney goes above and beyond to make each guest feel special, I’m sad to hear she’s a jerk :/
Overall take away — keep those expectations low. Seriously.
What are your thoughts on the ideal age to visit with kids? My daughter is also 5, and we really wanted to go this year, but decided to postpone until next year since our second child is only 6 months. I am afraid of waiting too long, and that by the time we get there, it won’t be quite as magical!
What are your thoughts on the ideal age to visit with kids? My daughter is also 5, and we really wanted to go this year, but decided to postpone until next year since our second is only 6 months. I am afraid of waiting too long, and that by the time we get there, it won’t be quite as magical for her!
This is so helpful! I didn’t know about Touring Plans, but am definitely going to check that out.
I think the food at Epcot is by far the best. Some of those restaurants are really good! I agree, the character breakfasts are definitely more about the experience than the food. I would be so mad about Snow White, that is so rude!
Funny reading all this since we did this venture 4 times when our son was growing up and each time I THOUGHT it would get easier. Boy, was I wrong which made us finally just give up.
I will say, I agree with staying off site….we did both and off site was much easier, better, cheaper and more convenient to come and go.
Today, we often go on vacation to eventually come home and need a vacation from our vacation. This is what it sounds like you may need. Maybe grandma/pa can come to the rescue and you and David can escape for a quick over nighter close to home just to recover:-)
Hi I saw that your girls got haircuts on insta. I was wonderin if they were able to donate their hair, I think its such a good way to teach them about sick kids and what happens with cancer treatment. Then they could visit sick kids in hospital and teach them to appreciate their health. Good tip for home schooling.
Brittany Dixon says
Hi Nancy! Oh I love Locks of Love- what an amazing program. If Hailey would like to do that when she’s older (maybe 8-10?) I would fully support her. However, I feel age 5 is a little young for her to grasp the concept and having her see much about cancer at this age would scare her. She’s already a worrier and I know it would add fuel to her fire. But down the line, I would love to support her choice to do that.
Glad you all had fun, wish we could have met but glad the girls got their ears 🙂 That weekend/week was the perfect storm of crowds. The massive cheerleading competition (I think touring plans forgot about or any other site that claims it is low) It always happens around then and it always adds 2000+ people in the park, so without that, it would be a lower time but the crowds were around a typical 7-8. Then you had the people coming for Valentines Day, then the people coming for President’s Day, so, it was not a 5-6, it was a 7-8 🙂 My husband travels so we get to go several times a year and have been a 3’s and 10’s (NYE). They also don’t factor in, people walk slow and having a double wide stroller slows up everything lol. The food at most Character Meals are not good, reminds me of Applebees lol but they do have great food ( just at non-character meals!) Even when we stay on the Loop (GF, Poly, Contemp) we always leave an hour before we need to be anywhere as you never know. We go straight to the must do rides and save fast passes for later. With kids we do mornings, eat early lunch, go back and rest during hot times, then back in the evenings and have been able to accomplish alot. Just 2 adults, we hit all 4 parks and rode all rides during July 4th (Crowd-9) it was an 8am-11pm day lol but we lived through it.. We’ve only stayed on property for the sheer factor of convienice, being able to come and go as we please and magic hours. We never leave at closing due to the craziness, just a bit before. We can catch the fireworks from the resorts we stay at to avoid the crowds too. Always a resort day is a must to break up the week. We’ve never done the dining plan as we’ve always added up the places we would eat and such and never spead that much vs. the dining plan plus we are not pop/soda drinkers so that has no use for us. And don’t have to have desert at every meal 🙂 I could go on and on lol. If you ever need any advice or tips or anything just let me know 🙂 I will be starting a blog on it soon too!
I totally agree about the transportation – especially the monorail as it’s supposed to be the most convenient and “magical”! Disney was hyped up so much for me by my fiance, who went every year growing up, that I absolutely had unrealistic expectations about how seamless and perfect everything would be on our first trip. I’ve enjoyed our subsequent trips much more now that I know what to expect. I definitely consider myself a “Disney person” now, which is something I never thought I would say a few years ago 🙂
Your Snow White comment made me laugh. We went in the 80s when my sister was 3 & I was 5 and stayed at the Polynesian. One day at MK, my parents witnessed Snow White cussing out another cast member. They had to put their hands over our ears. Not much has changed. Ha ha.
How did it seem to go with the double stroller? When we go next October we will have a 4 year old and a 13 month old so im already starting to think about what will be best for us. Renting one there? a side by side or the one with one in front and one in back? Thanks!
Haha I saw your cheerleader comment above. The only times I’ve been to Disney was AS a cheerleader in middle and high school. We are just starting to plan our trip for Spring 2018 to take advantage of my son being under 3 as well. I’m already overwhelmed and frustrated so I’ll definitely have to check my expectations a bit. Your girls looked like they had a great time!
You can try calling Disney. We just came back from a trip in December where we missed the fireworks because we got stuck on a monorail. Disney gave everyone in our party a free one-day pass to any park that doesn’t expire!
Brittany Dixon says
Oh wow, good for Disney!! They gave us a free ride pass too when Splash Mountain broke right before we got on. It’s nice to see companies do good by its customers 🙂
Yes, I definitely remember the transportation being less than “magical”. You’re right, though, about adjusting your expectations & planning ahead to allow for extra time. The second year we came back & knew what to expect, it was much less stressful. We always did the dining plan when we went mainly because it’s much cheaper than paying outright for the character experience meals (even though those oftentimes charge you for 2 meals per person). Most of the (regular) meals give you quite a large quantity so that I could oftentimes share w/ my daughter, & I was always able to make up for the character meals that charged us for 2 by the end of the week (even on trips where we did up to 3 character meals). I def thought the dining plans were well worth it!
Entertaining post! The part about Snow White made me laugh! I do not foresee making the Disney pilgrimage with my two boys. I haven’t run the numbers but I’m fairly certain the overall cost, when accounting for plane tickets, would rival that of a budget friendly European vacation. Our vacations as of late have been centered around National Parks, which can get busy in their own right, but still probably nothing compared to Disney.
I was there with my husband and 1, 3 and 5 year olds the week before you! From your pictures it looks like we had pretty similar itineraries 🙂 Although we had quite the opposite experience with Snow White at CRT. She actually spent a good amount of time at our table, even joking with my 5 year old son that she had a friend just as Bashful as he was 🙂 It was very cute. I’m sorry you didn’t have the same experience for poor Kaitlyn (and I agree with you on the food). I think our best character experience was at Garden Grill at EPCOT though. A total hidden gem. We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge and it was amazing. The ferry straight to the MK was sooo nice (no folding up the strollers, especially when kids were sleeping – amazing). The monorail was broken down one entire day for us too. We walked from breakfast at Chef Mickey’s to the MK that day and my 5 year old was so sad we missed the monorail. Glad you had a great trip, can’t wait to read about the rest of it!
Brittany Dixon says
The Wilderness Lodge was at the top of our favorites list of places we would want to stay- so glad to hear you loved it! Also glad you had a better experience with Snow White than we did- ha! At least we had Jasmine and Tiana- they were fab 😉
Next time, I recommend using a Travel Agent (not just because I am one), but it’s free and there are so many ins and outs that we can help you with to make your trip less stressful!
We’ve been 10+ times with kids! We LOVE LOVE LOVE Disney! We are from NC and have annual passes and DVC owners! I will say about the monorail. When you went they had JUST put them on brand new software. 40 year old monorails with 2017 software was known to have kinks (this being the slowest time before summer is why they did it then) the whole week we were there they were having random issues. Never have had issues like that before so really the timing was perfect 😂 We will be back in a couple weeks and see if they have resolved those issues!
We have stayed at almost every property and by far contemporary is our favorite! With the monorail
Issue we were only a 5 minute walk to the resort so we didn’t have to miss our CRT reservations!
Brittany Dixon says
Were you there the same time I was? Too funny!!
Yes, I figured with 40 year old monorails there would be an issue or two. Luckily we still look back on the whole experience with smiles of fond memories! The magic prevailed! 🙂