Learn from My Disney Vacation Mistakes!
I have a confession to make.
Even though I’ve been providing Disney advice for the past decade, I still mess up my own trips sometimes.
Still, I believe that the best way to learn is through transparency and honesty.
So, here are the mistakes I made this past trip and the better tactics I should have employed.
Lack of Planning on Mobile Ordering
When you visit Walt Disney World, you’ll spend plenty of time in line no matter what. That’s just the reality of the situation.
However, something I tend to do is admire the scenery, which is nice. That’s what Imagineers want me to do.
These Disney experts craft immersive realms intended to bring Disney stories to life. So, you should look…some.
What you shouldn’t do is stand in line for 30 minutes, exit the ride, say “I’m hungry,” and then debate where to eat.
Friends, I can say from far too much experience that the worst conversation in the world includes the words, “I dunno. What do you want to eat?”
That happened to us far too often during this trip. Historically, we’ve eaten 90 percent of our meals at Table Service restaurants.
With the Disney Dining Plan unavailable, we had more of a 50/50 split.
Even worse, we were part of a group of polite people, none of whom wanted to impose their will on others.
That’s lovely in theory. In execution, it leads to a lot of aimlessness when we’re standing in the middle of the park while everyone debates where to go.
What we should have done while standing in line was take five minutes to decide the kind of meal everyone wanted. Then, we should have settled on a place.
Afterward, we should have passed around a phone so that everyone could order their meal.
To our credit, we got better about this as a group after a couple of days. But we should have done it starting with the first meal.
Mobile Ordering is your friend. Use it early and often!
Poor Restaurant Reservation Times
When we did choose Table Service restaurants, we bumped into some standard problems these days.
During the pandemic, Disney reduced the timeline for Advanced Dining Reservations from 180 days to 60 days.
Few people on this planet are sickos like me, folks willing to plan a meal six months in advance.
Conversely, MANY Disney guests are willing to think 60 days ahead. So, competition is fierce for the hottest reservations.
Since we knew that we would eat at a couple of places no matter what, we took what we could get.
I can confirm that a 4:10 p.m. dinner reservation makes a lot more sense two months before your vacation than it does when you’re at the park.
Juggling Disney Genie+ bookings, a Lightning Lane, and an early dinner proved challenging. It’s the Disney equivalent of juggling three flaming chainsaws.
Disney’s current digital line queue system can get kinda messy due to the sheer volume of guests in the parks between lunch and dinner.
We learned a valuable lesson about the perils of early dinners, one we won’t soon forget. I’m emphatic about not booking anything before 6 p.m. from now on.
Subpar Disney Genie+ Usage
I just referenced this, but I’ll go into additional detail. As someone who provides plenty of advice about Disney Genie+, I’m theoretically an expert.
I’ve used the service a lot, and I’ve done tons of research on the best practices. Sometimes, I’ve even performed my own little tests to verify tendencies.
During this trip, I realized that I’ve always overlooked two vital aspects of a park visit. 1) You’re mentally fatigued and 2) You’re distracted by all the Disney stuff.
For these reasons, you can easily forget to stay on top of Disney Genie+ opportunities.
Theoretically, the system will remind you when it’s time to book. Unfortunately, in my experience, you couldn’t rely on it to do so.
In fact, I’ll publish another article soon about Disney’s current tech woes.
A method I used successfully after my first couple of days was a virtual assistant reminder.
You must wait for two hours until your next Disney Genie+ booking window opens.
So, I’d schedule something and then ask Siri on my iPhone to remind me when two hours had passed.
This strategy proved much more effective than counting on My Disney Experience’s tech the first few days.
The other thing to keep in mind, something I did well, is that you can book another Disney Genie+ reservation as soon as you tap your MagicBand for the current one.
Let’s say you’re in line for Frozen Ever After. As soon as the cast member asks you to tap your MagicBand, you can pull out your phone and book something else.
Remembering that is essential to maximizing your Disney Genie+ purchase.
Terrible Lightning Lane Times
I also just mentioned this with reservations, but it’s imperative that you consider this potential sticking point during your visit.
Disney will assign you a Lightning Lane at the next available time it shows. The system doesn’t think about your itinerary or the party’s traveling needs.
You may plan to go swimming in the afternoon, making a 3 p.m. Lightning Lane terrible for your purposes.
In our case, the Lightning Lane that we purchased at 7 a.m. conflicted with our plans to book Disney’s Hollywood Studios before 2 p.m.
My Disney Experience scheduled us for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at 12:50 p.m. initially.
Alas, after the system glitched on completing our transaction, we got stuck with a 2:50 p.m. window.
Then, our problems cascaded when Rise of the Resistance went down at 11:30 a.m. and then stayed down for the rest of the afternoon.
Hilariously, when this happens, cast members at the park can’t even cancel your Lightning Lane!
We asked, and a lovely person tried to help. The system wouldn’t let her, though.
What we learned from this experience is that we need to give ourselves a hard out on Lightning Lane purchases.
No matter how much we want to ride something, we won’t book anything more than four hours beyond the current time.
You simply cannot know how your Disney park day will unfold and shouldn’t lock yourself into anything several hours down the road.
Too Much Resort Hopping
Hoo boy, this was the biggie for us. Historically, we have gleefully Resort Hopped throughout our trip.
For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s when you stay at multiple Disney resorts during the same vacation.
As a rule, I love this strategy because it allows us to spend the night at a hotel that’s right beside the place where we have a Park Pass the following day.
The logistics on that are amazing in theory. However, in practice, we spent waaaaaay too much time without our luggage.
Here’s how Resort Hopping works. On the day you switch resorts, you take your luggage to Bell Services. They transfer these items to your destination hotel.
Unfortunately, the practice takes several hours. You usually won’t regain your bags until 4 p.m. or later.
Since checkout at most Disney resorts is at 11 a.m., you’ll probably drop off your luggage MUCH earlier. We generally arrived at Bell Services in the 7 a.m. range.
So, that’s nine hours out of the day when we didn’t have access to most of our stuff. It wasn’t just inconvenient in that regard, either.
When you’re ready for your luggage, you must call Bell Services to bring it to your hotel room. That process takes 30-45 minutes.
Simply stated, Resort Hopping takes up too much of our time and negates all the advantages of staying at a resort that’s a five-minute walk from the parks.
Next time, we’ll probably pick one place and stay there for the majority of our trip.
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