A Disney travel agent who's been to the parks over 1,000 times shares 7 big mistakes people make, from forgetting reservations to not knowing new rules
From celebrities to budget travelers, Greg Antonelle has booked Disney trips for thousands of people.
In the last few years, Disney has made many changes to its parks, and visitors are still adapting.
From new technology to forgetting a park reservation, he shared common mistakes guests make.
Greg Antonelle has planned Disney vacations for visitors for over a decade. While he's seen travelers make plenty of mistakes, the last three years have brought an entirely new set of them.
In 2011, Greg and Elyssa Antonelle launched MickeyTravels, a Disney travel agency.
Since opening their company, Antonelle told Insider he's booked tens of thousands of trips for everyone from famous musicians and professional athletes to budget travelers.
In 2021 alone, Antonelle said his team of 250 travel agents planned 10,000 Disney trips ranging from Disney cruises to theme-park getaways.
"Disney has changed so much since the pandemic began," Antonelle said, adding that changes are still happening today.
From virtual queues to new reservation systems, the way people explore Disney has drastically shifted, Antonelle said. And with those changes, Antonelle's seen travelers make plenty of mistakes.
Here are the seven most common mistakes he sees Disney visitors make when visiting the theme parks right now.
One major mistake happens before you even get to Disney, by not budgeting enough time for travel.
Traveling to Disney is the first step to kicking off a Disney vacation, and Antonelle said it's key to leave room for error. Especially if you're flying during a popular time like spring break or Christmas, he added.
"Lines at airports, ports, customs, and other foreign destinations require you to wait longer than usual in many cases," Antonelle said.
Budget extra time for traveling, prepare any documents you might need, and be prepared with a backup plan if something goes wrong, Antonelle said.
The last thing Antonelle said a traveler wants is their Disney trip to be shortened — or canceled altogether — because of a long security line or missed flight.
Some travelers don't realize that you need a reservation and a ticket to get into the park, he said.
When Walt Disney World Resort reopened its parks in 2020, it added a new Park Pass reservation system that requires visitors to reserve a spot at a park, according to Inside the Magic. Prior to the system, guests could buy a ticket and visit whichever park they wanted, Inside the Magic reported.
Since implementing the Park Pass reservation system, some visitors have been turned away from the parks when they didn't have a reservation in addition to a ticket, according to Inside the Magic.
"We see it every day, people trying to get in the park and they don't have a Park Pass reservation," Antonelle said.
Antonelle suggested that the moment you start looking into a Disney vacation, check the Park Pass reservation system to confirm that there are still park openings.
Once your trip is planned, reserve your Park Passes as soon as possible, Antonelle said, especially since the park is known to reach capacity during popular times like spring break and summer.
On top of a reservation system, Antonelle said some travelers aren't prepared for Disney's technology changes.
Antonelle said one of Disney's biggest pandemic-related changes is its new reliance on technology and phones.
"[Disney] has really gone through a big technology phase," Antonelle said. "Mobile ordering. Mobile dining. You can get into your room with your phone, you don't need a key."
Before the pandemic, some things like mobile dining were available but not necessary for guests. Today, you can't even enter the park unless you've downloaded the My Disney Experience app, which is where a visitor's park reservation is held, Antonelle said.
Disney also launched new platforms like MagicMobile during the pandemic. MagicMobile, which went live in March 2021, is part of the My Disney Experience app, according to Travel Weekly, and is a contactless way to access MagicBand features, like theme park entry, PhotoPass photos, and to enter virtual queues.
Antonelle suggested travelers have patience when it comes to new technology since they might face a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using the app.
Antonelle said guests often don't know about the virtual queue for select attractions.
On the My Disney Experience app, guests can find a virtual queue for select attractions.
Antonelle said that this allows visitors to reserve a spot on an attraction or experience later in the day.
The virtual queue has its advantages, Antonelle explained. It allows guests to explore the park without waiting in line. But if an attraction has a virtual queue, there is no physical standby line, Disney's website states. Guests can only ride the ride if they have a spot in the virtual queue.
And often, guests don't realize that, Antonelle said.
Recently, Antonelle and his wife were chatting with visitors at EPCOT, who hoped to experience Disney's Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
The couple had planned to stand in line, but "when we told them they couldn't just walk on, that they needed a virtual queue, they were flabbergasted. They had no idea what a virtual queue even was."
By the time Antonelle told them about the virtual queue, it was too late and the couple had missed the opportunity to go on the ride.
Travelers also might not realize you should reserve most dining ahead of time.
It's not surprising that Disney's popular restaurants like Oga's Cantina in Galaxy's Edge at Hollywood Studios and Space 220 Restaurant at Epcot require reservations weeks in advance, but Antonelle said some visitors don't realize that all table-service Disney restaurants require reservations, as well.
"To dine at an in-park, table-service restaurant, you need a confirmed dining reservation for the total number of guests — regardless of age — along with a park reservation and valid admission for the same park on that same date for each guest ages three and up," Disney's website states.
Antonelle said Disney's reservation system existed before COVID-19, but today, a reservation is necessary if you want to get a table.
"They won't take walk-ups unless somebody happens to cancel, which is rare," Antonelle said.
Before the pandemic, reservations opened 180 days in advance; today, reservations can be made up 60 days ahead of your trip, according to Disney. Antonelle said travelers should book their reservations as soon as their 60-day window opens.
While the park's lounges and quick-service restaurants do not have reservations, according to Disney's website, many of the quick-service restaurants have a new reliance on mobile dining, where visitors order their meals via the Disney app.
Another common mistake Antonelle said he sees is visitors not doing enough research before their trip.
Antonelle said that if there's a Disney experience you're eager to have, check before your trip to make sure it's still happening and whether or not you need reservations for it.
For instance, Antonelle said he was at Magic Kingdom in April 2021 when he ran into a family that was waiting for the fireworks show. Both Disney World and Disneyland had nightly fireworks shows and performances before COVID-19.
But the show was put on pause due to the pandemic (it restarted in July 2021, according to Fortune Magazine). The family didn't know about those changes and were disappointed they had scheduled their day around the show, Antonelle said.
Similar Disney experiences like character meet-and-greets, parades, and performances have also changed in the last two years, so do your research beforehand, Antonelle said.
Finally, Antonelle said the biggest mistake people make is not using a travel agent.
Even if you do plenty of research leading up to your trip, Antonelle said it's still smart to use a travel agent to help you plan your Disney trip.
"Unfortunately, people utilize Google and Facebook groups so much these days, but sadly they are not always up to date," he said.
A travel agent will help you make sure you're prepared and familiar with all the new changes across Disney parks. Plus, they can help you reserve sought-after dinner reservations, get deals on Disney hotels, strategize travel dates so you can visit Disney when it's less crowded, and help you book a VIP tour of the parks.
"I don't recommend anybody doing [a Disney trip] without a travel agent who is experienced and knows everything. Otherwise, you're going to be disappointed," Antonelle said.
Plus, if something goes wrong, you'll have an advocate and planner there to help, he said.
Read the original article on Insider