I worked at Disney World. Here are 11 mistakes that could be ruining your vacation.

Disney World Cinderella's Castle crowd Magic Kingdom
Try going during the off-season, when the crowds are smaller. Kim Renfro/INSIDER
  • As both a former employee and a frequent guest, I’ve seen lots of tourists ruin Disney vacations.
  • Going during peak season, missing rope drop, and misplanning FastPasses can waste time.
  • All four parks are worth the visit, and I saw too many people ignore all there is to do at Epcot.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Visiting the parks during the peak seasons can be a waste of time and money.
Disney crowds
Avoid visiting Disney during spring break and the winter holidays. Aly Song/Reuters
After working at Disney World and making frequent trips as a tourist, I’ve noticed that scheduling a trip during spring break or around holidays not only costs more money but also seriously impacts the quality of a trip.

Lines are longer, people are typically grumpier, and dealing with the Florida heat in a swarm of crowds is no joke.

Generally, the least-crowded and cheapest times to visit are January through February and August through September — as long as you avoid Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Labor Day.

People tend to focus on doing all the rides, but don’t forget about the shows and parades.
Festival of fantasy
Don’t miss out on Disney’s many parades. Matt Stroshane/Disney
Although some people spend all their time focusing on the rides, you shouldn’t skip out on the park’s other entertainment options. 

The Disney parks have some incredible shows, parades, and street performances.

I tend to plan for a show after lunch. When it’s running, an indoor, air-conditioned option like Animal Kingdom’s “Finding Nemo – The Musical” is a refreshing, 40-minute break from the afternoon heat.

It’s easy to overindulge on all the sweets at the parks.
Disney dole whip
It’s easy to overdo it with sweets and snacks at Disney. Mithrax/Shutterstock
From churros and Mickey waffles to ice cream and Dole Whips, sugary treats are everywhere at the parks.

They’re all tempting, but as someone who’s suffered more than her fair share of sugar crashes at Disney, I always encourage tourists to indulge sparingly.

Packing some non-sugary snacks and having a good serving of protein with your meals can be a lifesaver in between treats.

Disney tourists should always be prepared for rain.
Sun peeking through the clouds above the disney world entrance sign in orlando florida
No matter when you visit, there’s always going to be a chance of rain. Gregg Newton/Reuters
If you visit Florida in the summer, it’s almost guaranteed that it’s going to rain for a short burst in the afternoon. 

Whether you’re visiting the parks in the rainy season or not, it’s always good to be prepared so you’re not caught off guard by a change in weather.

Pack rain jackets, ponchos, or small umbrellas, and have an indoor backup plan — like a show or a meal — so a little shower doesn’t ruin your whole day at the parks.

You don’t want to miss out on experiencing “rope drop” at Magic Kingdom.
Magic kingdom wdw reopen
It’s best to get to the park early. Disney Parks
Every morning at Magic Kingdom, there’s usually a “rope drop” ceremony that welcomes guests to the park when it opens.

I won’t spoil all the details, but it’s the perfect way to start your day. Plus, it doesn’t change much from day to day, so you only have to worry about getting up extra early once during your trip.

Being there at the park opening can also help you make it to your first ride before a big line forms.

I’ve seen way too many people wear uncomfortable shoes for a day of walking.
Maria disney
Don’t try to wear heels for a full day at the park. Handout/Getty Images
Spending a day in a Disney park is no easy physical feat.

Even though you’re sure to see plenty of people wearing unsupportive sandals or flip-flops, or even high heels if they’re going for a dapper look, I always recommend opting for sneakers or other shoes that you know you’ll be comfortable walking around in all day.

By the end of the day when you’re tiredly waiting for transportation out of the parks, your feet will thank you. 

Don’t forget to plan your big dining reservations in advance.
Disney character dining
It’s especially important to make reservations if you want to do any character dining. Matt Stroshane/Disney
Disney has effectively made it so that you absolutely have to make dining reservations in advance, especially if you’re planning on eating dinner at the parks or resorts.

These slots usually open up around 180 days ahead of time, and some of the more popular restaurants can fill up that far in advance.

Planning six months before your trip will give you the most options, but just try to make them as soon as you can.

Spending all your time in the parks can be tiring and expensive, but there are other options.
Disney Springs
Disney Springs and the resorts have a lot to offer, too. DavidMartinPhotos/Shutterstock
The parks are the main event of a Disney vacation, but there are so many other things to do on the property.

Plan some time to enjoy the entertainment and activities at the Disney resorts, Disney Springs, mini-golf courses, and water parks

When they’re available, some of my favorite activities outside of the parks are the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness Resort, Yehaa Bob Jackson’s show at Port Orleans’ River Roost Lounge, and Magic Kingdom fireworks viewing at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

Improperly scheduling FastPasses can throw off your whole day.
Expedition everest
FastPasses can help you make time for your favorite roller coasters. AP Photo/John Raoux
Over the years, Disney has offered different iterations of its FastPass system, where guests can enter shorter lines at a number of attractions.

Although it was temporarily suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, the most recent iteration required that passes be scheduled in advance using the My Disney Experience app or kiosks around the parks.

At the start of any day at the parks, you could schedule three FastPasses, but you had to use all of them before you can make more.

To optimize your time, it’s best to schedule all three early in the day so there’s a chance you can make more. It’s also a good idea to look at your meal reservations and general plans for the day so you’re not constantly rushing from one side of the park to the other to catch a FastPass window. 

Don’t spend all your time at Magic Kingdom because the other parks have a lot to offer.
Animal kingdom
I think Animal Kingdom is an underrated park at Disney World. David Roark/Disney
As a park employee, I often had to sell people on Animal Kingdom when they thought it was a glorified zoo or convince others that Hollywood Studios actually has rides and shows for kids.

Those parks don’t have quite the same reputation as Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but they’ll add so much fun to your trip.

Make sure you schedule enough time to experience everything at Epcot.
Epcot
The park is huge and has different sections. David Roark/Disney Parks
Because Epcot’s two main sections are so different from each other — and they’re both equally large — it can be easy to misjudge how much time you’ll actually need to spend there to experience all the rides, shows, and dining experiences. 

The first half of the park is dedicated to technology, space, and the Earth, and the back half is a showcase of 11 different countries.

It’s definitely a park you can spend a whole day at, so if you only plan for a half day, you may be scrambling.