Stop Wasting Time at Disney: Avoid These 5 Mistakes

Photo By: Sofía Morales

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“Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.” – Vern Law

It’s crazy to me to think that just seven years ago, I was battling recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility, and then – just like that – I was celebrating our rainbow baby’s fifth birthday with two other tiny humans in tow! I spent the eighteen months leading up to her birthday researching what I had hoped would be an epic birthday for our firstborn, and epic it was. We spent ten days in April in sunny Orlando celebrating at none other than Disney World. All the planning in the world could not have prepared me for the madness, but had I not planned, I imagine my brain would have imploded and I would have had a gigantic meltdown right in the middle of Main Street on Day One. I don’t do well with crowds. Or chaos. Or clutter. It was sheer insanity from start to finish, and I’m happy to report we will be returning in just a few months for a Take-Two. Sans Insanity. Maybe. Hopefully.

While our first trip was definitely overwhelming and the logistical planning (mostly) paid off, there were experiences I had that I will not be recreating for our next adventure to the most magical place on earth.


Photo By: Jacoby Clarke

Those eighteen months of research included literally hundreds of hours researching the best places to eat. I spent days combing through The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World reviewing statistical analyses of each restaurant, planning our days according to the Undercover Tourist crowd calendar, looping back to TouringPlans to determine where we’d be and when based on their recommended flow paths (this all occurred pre-Genie launch). Our plans looked more like something from a true crime detective series than a family vacation in progress. We did all the things with food in mind – including booking a DVC Vacation Club rental through Dave’s so we could save money on food on the days we decided not to tour. But the one thing I didn’t even consider looking into? Takeout. Let’s be real – when we arrived at our condo-style room, I was more than happy to prepare breakfast and pack lunches/snacks in our bento boxes. Still, I had absolutely zero desire to prepare dinner for our traveling party, which consisted of seven people. Not pre-researching takeout options proved to be a gigantic waste of our vacation time. Have you ever sat down to watch a movie with your significant other, scrolled through fifteen movies, and watched just as many trailers, only to throw in the towel and watch trashy TV because you’re so overwhelmed? Yeah. That happened. ON OUR VACATION! Usually, with little people that needed to be fed an hour ago and chewing through time, we could have otherwise enjoyed the pool or done literally anything else. Don’t do it. Don’t make that mistake. If you’re headed to Disney soon, find at least two takeout places you’d like to try (and that your traveling party will likely eat), then do yourself a *flavor* and save it in Google Maps. Don’t spend a single second more than you must navigating your phone. Life is for living.

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The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2023 (Unofficial Guides)

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11/28/2023 04:55 pm GMT


Photo By: Ekaterina Belinskaya

Every park is not for every person and Hollywood Studios is definitely not for me. In the slightest. Hollywood Studios was both overwhelming and underwhelming all at the same time. It honestly reminded me of a giant concrete parking lot. Maybe it was the fact that my youngest (10 months at the time) had a MASSIVE blowout in the security area on the way out, but yeah. No thanks. Let’s start with the fact that there were virtually no rides. There were seven. Total. Our crew only qualified for one due to height requirements. There were also miscellaneous shows, some of which were closed and others we just couldn’t make due to time constraints with naps. We did go into the Disney Junior Play and Dance and I could not have been more skeeved out. They had everyone sitting on the floor. Listen. I know Disney does a good job of cleaning and those Imagineers are hard at work every night. But are they disinfecting the floor? Probably not. I’ve seen enough clean room floors in my day to know that even THOSE are disgusting, forget a place where people have been traipsing through airports and walking around Orlando and then onto that floor. It’s amazing that the show hasn’t been a super spreader for any and all types of childhood diseases. Skeeve aside, I felt like the show was a high-speed conveyor belt – like I Love Lucy at the Chocolate Factory. We were barely in there for twenty minutes total, long enough to pick up a communicable disease, but not long enough for my kids to get comfortable and enjoy the show.

My takeaway is Hollywood Studios is great for character meet and greets that you can’t get elsewhere (IE Olaf, as well as Disney Junior characters like Fancy Nancy, Doc, and Vampirina), but that’s about it. From all the reviews I’ve read, the dining is terrible and since there just aren’t that many other rides, it’ll be a hard pass for my crew this time around. If you absolutely must go, go toward the end of your trip and plan for a two or three-day incubation time, so your kids are getting sick when they get home, as opposed to mid-trip or during your flight.


Let’s start with how INSANE park tickets are and some basic park math. For one day at Magic Kingdom, you’re looking at $159.00 for the day, just for entry. Disney is gracious enough to discount you $5 for children, so kids 3-9 enter for $154.00, despite not being able to access more than half the rides.

Ticket Distributor1-Day Ticket1-Day WIth Park Hopper2-Day Ticket
Photo By: David Guerrero

Obviously, with these prices, you would want to take advantage of every ride, attraction, and parade. And with good reason! But all the books tell you to go back to your hotel to “take a rest.” I think – yeah – you should absolutely do this. But I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest or expect that a bunch of kids (and parents) will feel up to traipsing back to that park for the day. For example, we stayed at Beach Club (review coming soon). Beach Club is 13 minutes from Magic Kingdom. We had three children ranging in age from 0-5, which require strollers, Bento boxes, multiple water bottles, two coolers, a diaper bag, and multiple car seat checks. My husband and I are basically ninjas at this point, but by the time we pack, unload, and get moving, we’ve added an extra fifteen to thirty minutes to our day. Then to go “rest,” we need to do the same in reverse. At this point, we are up to ninety minutes in shuffling and commuting. And yeah, I guess we could’ve taken a Minnie Van or whatever flavor of the day public transit is available (thereby avoiding the car seat checks) – but I am not trying to torture the driver and other patrons with my children who are some combination of overwhelmed, exhausted, and hungry. If you’ve never felt the urge to hitchhike on an unknown highway in the middle of the day in Florida – I assure you, being trapped with my kids in that situation would, at minimum, have you considering your options. The point I’m making with this is there is far too much money on the line to waste an hour or two or three commuting to parks for a midday rest OR powering through and not enjoying them. Staying somewhere like Beach Club, I would rather tour for one day less and get to enjoy the whole day than spend the extra money on another half or three-quarter day. This way, we have the option of abandoning ship midday, getting a reprieve from the parks, and still going to Epcot for dining and fireworks in the evening. Then, when my kids are tired and cranky, I can walk our carcasses back to the hotel before one of my kids gets us banned from Disney before they’ve graduated kindergarten.


Photo By: David Guerrero

Why I thought this was a good idea is beyond me. I think I figured: this may be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so let’s see as much as we can. Wrong. We didn’t end up seeing much of anything at Magic Kingdom. We decided to do Magic Kingdom on Day 1. I do not recommend this. It’s good to do something lower-key and less “high stakes,” if you will, before attempting Magic Kingdom. The reason for this is primarily so you can get a feel for the My Disney Experience app in a less chaotic environment. My husband has a degree in computer engineering and works with complicated validation software and probes and gigantic steam sterilizers on a daily basis. It took him a minute to understand how to best navigate My Disney Experience. And by a minute – I mean the entire day at Magic Kingdom plus a few hours in the evening so we could salvage our vacation. My recommendation? Spend AT LEAST two days at Magic Kingdom, if not three. Lines are crazy and even with a crowd calendar and touring plans, there is still a lot to see and do.


I’m sure this will forever be known as the “gasp heard ’round the world.” Then again, you never know what’s coming next with me, so I’m sure more shocking revelations are still to come.

Photo By: Rick Han

Exactly sixty days before our departure, I woke up before the sun and logged into the My Disney Experience app exactly thirty minutes before I could even begin to start signing up for dining options. Cinderella’s Royal Table was on my list and I was able to get our party of seven in for a reasonably timed lunch (in my world this is around 11:30 AM). The day came and, of course, one of my humans fell asleep in the stroller, and when we checked in there was a bit of confusion about getting the stroller upstairs and whether we wanted to wake up said sleeping beauty. No. No, I did not.

We entered through the doors into a rather large room and came around the corner and there was Cinderella! She played her part magnificently, but I am admittedly very awkward with face characters and my oldest daughter basically froze. She (Cinderella) handled it well. What I didn’t handle well was the fact we had spent a large sum of money both for the lunch ($67 per adult / $39 per child) and our actual interaction time with her was in line with any of the other character interactions we had for free dollars.

Alas, we headed upstairs to the dining room. Let me tell you – the photos on the internet are extremely misleading. The dining room area felt more like a dungeon made into a dingy ballroom than the magical fairytale-Esque establishment pictured on the Disney site. The carpets seemed like they hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned in years, let alone changed, and the whole place smelled… musty. I’m not sure if this was one of those scent things Disney does, but I was not feeling it. The dining tables were pretty squished in there, and even the corridor to the bathrooms was a bit tight – with people needing to turn to get past one another without bumping sweaty bodies. There was a changing table, but it was right out in the open. I don’t know about you, but this makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I don’t care that I’m changing a baby/toddler – they’re still people and ultimately I don’t want to normalize being naked in front of strangers.

The food was fine. It wasn’t bad or terrible, and definitely above average, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t have created in my own kitchen with a couple of hours of child-free time. Because this is a prix fixe menu, an appetizer, entree, and dessert are covered in the cost (which should be expected to increase now that Princesses are expected to return in February 2023). I felt like each portion on its own left us a little wanting, but by the end of the meal, we walked away satisfied. This being said, we did have to wait a while for our food, which meant we spent a ton of time in the restaurant and that cut into our touring time in a big way. The dessert was delicious – hands down could not have created this in my own kitchen. I’m a pretty skilled cook but baking is better left to someone else. I had “The Clock Strikes Twelve.” I love chocolate, so it was a huge win, and I do wish the dessert would’ve been larger. Of the four adults who made up our seven-person dining party, three (75%) voted not to return. Of course, the one person who is normally asking to speak to a manager after virtually every meal was blown away by this place. So, take that for what you will. And probably a grain of salt and a shot of tequila.

All in all, I would say our first experience at Disney was a success. No amount of planning could have prepared me for actually living it. As Oprah says: “turn your wounds into wisdom;” this year I can assure you we will be purchasing a park hopper, spending two days at Magic Kingdom, exchanging Hollywood Studios for Animal Kingdom, enjoying takeout from 4Rivers Smokehouse, and avoiding Cinderella’s Royal Table.

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