5 things not to do at Disney World

Disney world road sign
5 things not to do at Disney World

I'm currently knee-deep in packing, but I'm betting that the contents of my suitcase don't exactly represent the norm. An extravagant Cinderella dress is in one pile, with two princess autograph books buried beneath it.

That's right, we're going to Disney World! And being that I'm only a few short hours from taking my two little ones to see the world's most famous mouse, you can bet that I've done my homework.

If you've got your sights set on Disney World, there are plenty of ways to have a smooth, stress-free trip that won't break the bank—that is, of course, you don't make these five rookie mistakes. Here are a few things not to do at Disney World.

1. Buy your tickets at the park

To avoid spending the beginning of your trip tied up in long queues, do yourself a favour and purchase your tickets ahead of time. My husband and I went through the Disney ticket portal for our upcoming trip, snagging a Florida resident discount in the process since we live in these parts.

The last time we visited Disneyland in California a few years back, we made the mistake of waiting to buy our tickets at the park. Between bathroom breaks for the kids, applying sunscreen, and getting our tickets in order, we wasted a good hour that we could have spent on exploring the park. Just be sure to make your purchase through an authorised dealer to avoid getting caught in a scam.

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2. Forgo FastPasses for popular attractions

The most popular attractions obviously draw in the heaviest crowds. The good news is that you can actually reserve access to select attractions way ahead of time—and at no extra charge. If you're within 30 days of your visit, you can go online and book up to three FastPasses for each single theme park day. From there, you'll be given a designated time to redeem them. (Easy, right?)

In our family's experience, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan's Flight, and meeting Frozen's Elsa and Anna are the first FastPasses to get snatched up.

3. Visit during peak season

Jam-packed crowds and sweltering heat is the worst combination while visiting a theme park, and Disney World is no exception. According to Undercover Tourist, September is one of the best months to visit. Weekdays in October, November and December (with the exception of holidays) are also optimal times to experience the park in all its glory.

On the flip side, they say the worst time to visit is at any point during the summer months, as well as during holidays like spring break, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Walt Disney World during the high summer season. Photo: istockphoto

4. Buy your souvenirs while you're there

Souvenirs are tremendously marked up at Disney World. To avoid getting suckered into paying top dollar for stuffed animals and other goodies, buy them before you leave home. It's a safe bet that you'll find the same items at a much lower price at either your local Disney store or online. Alternatively, Orlando-area retailers like Walmart are packed with reasonably priced souvenirs. We usually pick them up ahead of time, then surprise our kids with them when we get to the hotel. (This also means you'll have less to carry while you're at the park.)

5. Eat exclusively at the park

One of the biggest pitfalls of visiting Disney World is that you're bound to spend a fortune on food and drinks—and waste a ton of time in the process. What some don't know is that you're actually allowed to bring food and drinks into the park. By opting to bring in our own bottled water and snacks after eating a big breakfast, our family saves money and also avoids the huge crowds and mediocre lunch options at the park. Doing this also frees up more cash to splurge on a totally worth-it dinner, like a visit to the Be Our Guest restaurant at Magic Kingdom.

Got any clever Disney hacks of your own?

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Read more: The world's best theme parks that aren't Disneyland