A Newbie's Perspective...Top 10 things I learned on my Disney trip

I wanted to share a few things that I learned our first ever Disney trip.

  1. Photo Pass was a great buy. My DH said absolutely not; most of you said absolutely yes. So, I cancelled an ADR and chose to use part of our gift cards (for dining since we weren’t on the dining plan) to purchase the photo pass. Great decision. We didn’t use it as much as we could have, but DH saw that they used the same equipment he uses and that they were really friendly and didn’t care at all about him also taking pictures. He thanked them over and over and let them know how much he appreciated them taking our picture, but then also letting us take pictures. He was glad we purchased it and saw the value in it from a photographer’s standpoint.

  2. Dining Plan is not for everyone. Unless it’s free the next time we go, there’s just no way we would save money. There were days we just ate snacks and one or two meals. We budgeted $1500 for meals- ADRs, snacks and QS. We didn’t use all of it so ended up using some of our gift cards for souvenirs, which was a nice surprise.

  3. Use the distripplanner dining calculator. I used it to budget for our meals. We ate everywhere we wanted to, including the Storybook Dining at Artist Point. Their suggested tips were spot on. I had the tips in envelopes all marked with the restaurant, so that on that day, I just had the tip money and the gift card I was using to pay for that meal. It worked every time. I also didn’t get caught up on the cost of a meal. I had a budget, and plugged in the meals we were going to eat.

  4. ADR meals are fabulous. Granted, we could have saved money by not having at least one of these a day, but the AC and break was blissful. We didn’t get our money’s worth out of all of them, but boy did we love them! I see a lot of people that don’t like some restaurants. We ate at AP, LTT, Sci Fi, TH and Be Our Guest. I don’t regret any of them. We had fantastic food.

  5. Order your own snacks and water, but don’t go overboard. I ordered way too much food from Prime. I bought 24 bottles of water and Propel individual powder packets- perfect! I bought way too many snacks. My kids just wanted dole whip and the random snacks we saw, lol. No one wanted my seeds and fruit packets or BelVita bars (that they eat all the time at home). We ended up shoving them into our luggage at the end of our trip, lol. *At MCO security: "Do you have food in your bags? “Uh, yes…do I need to take it out?” “Do you have a lot?” “What do you mean by a lot?” :rofl::rofl::rofl:

  6. I get why people plan midday breaks There were many days that we had full days in the parks. There was no way around it since we were there for an event, however, if we ever plan another trip, I will add on days just so we can have midday breaks. We felt so much better on those days that we could go rest and return.

  7. Park hopping is great!. We have older kids, so park hopping was easy. I would absolutely upgrade to a PH ticket in the future. I loved being able to hop around to the parks and it wasn’t as much as a time sucker as I was afraid it’d be.

  8. Some extras are good, but they aren’t necessary. Some of you told me this, but I didn’t believe you. As usual, you were right. My DD11 appreciated the EMM at MK. She literally thanked me a dozen times. The rest of my family…not so much. They are more of the “stroll through the parks and enjoy” type. I do think they would have liked the AH at MK, but it didn’t work for us this time around. ROL dining package was great and I feel like we got great seats. If you’re on the dining plan, do it. If you’re not, you could probably save a few bucks, but I’d do it again. I was super bummed about cancelling the FoLK Tier 1 package a few months ago, but I’m glad I did. We enjoyed all the components of the package minus the dining at Tiffins and had a great experience. I’ll think about it next time, but I don’t think it’s a must do in order to enjoy a day at AK. I bought the dessert party for Fantasmic! which was cancelled. Not gonna lie…I’m still really sad I missed out on it, but my DH said he was almost glad the party was cancelled…lots of upset tummies from different foods at this point in our trip.

  9. There’s no such thing as over planning. We had 28 plans for 5 days. I had memorized the maps (and I still got lost, lol). I was SO thankful that I took the time to ask questions, make plans, evaluate, optimize and copy plans. I paid attention to what everyone’s favorites and least favorites were. I have a lot of anxiety over crowds…not a great mix for Disney in June, so planning really helped me to see the next step in our day, not the crowd between points A and B…not sure if that makes sense. The planning was half the fun!

  10. I understand why people do split stays and spend more than a week at Disney. I had a hard time wrapping my head around wanting to spend more than a week at Disney and the appeal of staying in more than one hotel. After walking around Wilderness Lodge the first night we were at Disney prior to our ADR, I wanted to stay there so badly! I can see the value in spending a couple nights in a pricey resort if you’ll have the time to enjoy it and then spend the rest of the time in a value resort. I really liked Pop, but I wouldn’t have wanted to take a couple “rest” days and spend the entire day there (absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I would have enjoyed a rest day at Wilderness Lodge more). The only thing I regret about our vacation is that I didn’t add on an additional day or 2. We really could have used a big ol’ rest day in the middle of our vaca. DH didn’t want to spend the extra money and I respected that, but I wish I would have argued the case a little more. And I think next time, he’ll be more willing to spend a couple extra days if it means a more relaxed trip.

Again, thank you all so much for making our trip amazing. Your comments, opinions, banter with one another, trip reports, reality checks…all incredibly helpful! I went into this trip planning for a once in a lifetime trip, but I really want to go again and again. I wouldn’t have had the same experience without this forum.


Sounds like you had a great time. Love this post and the feedback! Glad you found this place so helpful!! Now stick around and give back!!!

Regarding future plans, keep in mind that for a split say, usually nicer to go from value to deluxe, rather than the other direction.


September is our 15th WDW trip, and I AGREE with all your points. Spot on.

As far as planning … we do both. I over-plan before we go, then when we are there, we are flexible to follow the plan - or - not. My adult daughter likes to run through the parks spontaneously. But inevitably, the day disintegrates into aimless wondering, so we fall back to “the plan” regularly.

Dining Plan or No Dining Plan is usually the toughest decision of each trip planning for us. Since it is merely a pre-paid convenience, no real savings for how we use it, we pass on it 65% of the time. Its only attractive to us, if we are doing SEVERAL table service meals (or in the case of our September trip … Free Dining Plan).

We found that park hopping becomes less important for us, as we get more park experience, and can focus our planning on what we want to accomplish. On a few of our trips, we had the hopper option and never used it, or only used it because we had the option (not the best use of Disney budget). So this is one of those EXTRA’s to consider. (#8 on your list)

You didn’t mention, but since you had a dining plan, I can assume you stayed ON-PROPERTY. I would add that as #11 on your list.

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They weren’t on a dining plan and stayed at Pop. :slight_smile:

Great list! I agree with @OBNurseNH, stay at value then deluxe (in that order). We did that in December, and it was great. I talked DH into having a no-park day on Christmas Day, and he thanked me profusely afterwards for that. We were at AKL for most of our trip, and it was quite nice to veg there.

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We didn’t have the dining plan, but we did stay at Pop. I absolutely loved staying on property! I suppose the extras would hold more value if you were not staying on property, but I loved being “in the bubble”.

So, #11…Staying on property was fantastic!

1000% agree with this! The one time we did a split from a deluxe to a moderate it was a bit of a bummer. There are five of us so the smaller room was really difficult to deal with after enjoying so much space at the Deluxe hotel. The last few times we have travelled to Disney, we have done 3 days at a moderate and 3 at a deluxe. It is lovely!