If you have small children, or even if you don’t, odds are you’re going to eventually end up at Disney World. It’s been written about all over the internet, and covered very well here at Saverocity by Joe, Haley and Dia. If you are planning your first or tenth trip to Disney World, you should read everything they’ve written about the planning process. I did, and we had a great time as a result. Nonetheless, every once in a while I need to come out of blogger hibernation to add something to the conversation, and today my best contribution is going to surround what I did not like about Disney World.
We can get this out of the way up front: You should still go to Disney World if you are already inclined to go. You should probably go even if you aren’t inclined to go. I will certainly return, hopefully in a not-too-distant future. My goal is to temper a few expectations, propose some tips on avoiding the pain points, and maybe even be slightly funny about it. If not funny, sarcastic will do.
Cast Members, Not Employees
During my (approximately) fifth trip to Disney World, but the first with a child of my own, it finally occurred to me that they’re called cast members because they’re actors. Some of them are even bad actors getting a bit to literal with the script. Before I go too far with this, I should mention that I did not meet a single Cast Member at Disney World who I didn’t find to be a genuinely nice person – security staff excepted. But I’d love to get my hands on the Cast Member script somewhere. It must require that all children are to be referred to “Prince” or “Princess” without deviation – it’s charming at first, and entirely artificial by the end of the first day. And let me be the 1,000,000th person to wish you, at the end of that first day, to “Have a Magical Day!” I shared this in my post-trip survey and I think it’s fair to repeat here, but my recommendation to Disney management would be to loosen up on the cast members a bit and let them just be real people talking to other real people for a bit. It’s great to sprinkle in the Disney bits, and I think that approach would give more authenticity to it than the deluge of Disneyisms you face from arrival to departure.
Survival tip: Avoid these words in your own vocabulary.
What’s Up With The Burnout?
Speaking of those cast members, I did get a sense of unhappiness from many. A lot of folks looked truly tired, and the last week of January is about as slow as it gets in Disney World. Maybe it has to do with maintaining character, or they aren’t paid that well, or whatever else. It’s noticeable, though, and contributes to the somewhat robotic facets of Cast Member interaction. I will give some serious high marks to the Cast Members themselves, though, especially the in-park characters – I never once saw anyone break character, not even for a second, not when the college kids are being obnoxious about taking pictures while Aurora gets out of the rain, or when the little boy with the sword melted down while his mother corralled him to take a picture with Cinderella. I was a little annoyed with my own child wanting to wait in the character lines, only to decide she wouldn’t smile at all in any of the pictures, but Doc McStuffins didn’t care – she made it work! I’m sure there’s a lot to deal with in this line of work, so kudos to the characters for making it happen. Now come on management, do better for them.
Survival tip: Be really nice to the characters and other employees. That’s more a tip for their survival than your own, but you’d be surprised how much some folks appreciate a little bit of banter that isn’t directly requiring them to do something for you. Nice goes a long way.
Healthy Food Penalties
As with most of the Disney World hotels, the Beach Club has a market just off the lobby that sells some small meals, essentials, groceries, etc. At this market, a small bag containing approximately 9 grapes costs the same as a whole bundle of Mickey lollipops or a bag of chips – $4.99. Want a banana, apple or orange? That’ll be $1.89 please. Each. We’re captive. We stay at the hotel for $300 a night, spend $400 each on a week of park admission and swipe those Magic Bands for 3 meals a day in the parks and resorts. Come on Disney, give us a break on the things we actually want our kids to eat. I promise that selling me that banana a little over cost won’t put a dent in my Ears and Wands budget. Maybe I’ll even celebrate our arrangement with a $8 pounder of Red Stripe.
Survival tip: Uber to the grocery store and get a few things. Most Disney World rooms have refrigerators.
Things The TSA Would Envy
Disney World has inexplicably strict security entering the parks. I say it’s inexplicable because it reaches a level of inconsistency that borders upon theatre, much like you’d find in the parks themselves, or at the airport. As you roll the stroller up, you will pull up to a table and a Disney Security Cast Member will go through your bags. What are they looking for? Not sure, nobody would tell me, not if I asked seriously, jokingly, sarcastically, or in any other manner. But they will go through your bags. Some will open the top, peek in, and send you on your way. Others will take everything out, some may help you put it back in. And then some will ask you to disassemble and reassemble, all on your own, while other guests wait in line at the table you cannot vacate. One day we encountered a guard who was determined to have zero verbal interaction, no response from him to “hello,” “good morning,” or any of that nonsense. He decided he was going to inspect the contents of everything inside the bag, including what he thought was my wife’s wallet. “That’s personal.” Continues to open. “Those are tampons. Would you like to unwrap one and I can explain how to use it?” Moments like that make me really proud of my wife.
Now the theater part kicks in when I mention that at no point is anyone asked to empty their pockets.
Survival tip: You can either pack light or stop caring and have stronger antisocial tendencies than the people opening your bags. I will add that most of them are pleasant and really don’t hold you up too long, but this is about the things I didn’t like, remember?
Even Philadelphians Think These Busses Are Lousy
As one person commented to me on the bus, “You can be certain they’ll run these busses in the most efficient way possible.” That efficiency appears to extend to 15-20 minute intervals even at peak park times like opening and closing. The gentleman standing in the aisle next to me holding a sleeping infant can probably attest to that. I wanted to high five him, but he didn’t have a hand free.
Survival tip: If you’re not lugging car seats, $20 gets you between almost any two points in Disney World or
Downtown Disney Disney Springs in a cab or using Uber. This is especially worth it at closing time when the busses will be packed, doubly so if you have a stroller since there’s no onboard storage for those. We’re still in the car seat years, and if that’ you, the best tip I can offer is that it’s better to be first than last on the bus, even if you have to wait. If it’s almost full and they’re encouraging you to get on, let some people behind you brave that mess and just wait 15 minutes for the next bus where you can get a seat. And if you want to be nice to that aforementioned guy holding the sleeping infant while standing in the aisle, have your kid sit in your lap and offer him a seat.
I’m definitely going back. I still had a blast. I’ll follow up with a post on a few things I loved, from which there are many to choose. But it’s raining on top of snow here today, so this post goes up first!
Have at it – what drove you nuts about Disney World?
Talk about it in the comments or join us in the forum.