We’ve all been there. After spending months planning our magical visit to Walt Disney World, we arrive to find our plans and attitudes crushed by events outside of our control. Instead of experiencing a whole new world with our families, we end up feeling like poor, unfortunate souls—feeling frustrated, a bit angry, and, sometimes, even cheated out of our money.
I know this to be true because, in fact, this is exactly what happened to me and my family during our recent trip to Walt Disney World. Despite our best attempts, we found ourselves struggling to find the Disney magic that we were expecting. Unfortunately, it was only while traveling back home that I began to ask myself, how does one manage to keep alive the Disney magic when it seems all but lost? Now that I’ve had time to reflect on our experiences, I realize that the best way to keep the Disney magic alive is to be flexible in your planning and to remain positive when things don’t go as planned. To put it in the words of Queen Elsa, when things get you frustrated, just “let it go.”
Before detailing our adventures, let me set the stage. This particular trip to Walt Disney World was to be an extra special trip for me. To begin with, it was my daughter’s first visit to Walt Disney World and I’ve dreamed of taking my own kids to the parks since my parents took me. Even though my daughter is not yet 2, I still wanted to be able to introduce her to the wonder and magic that I recall from visiting Disney in my youth. Additionally, we were going to be meeting up with my mom and my aunt (who live several hours from us) and I was greatly looking forward to spending time with them. Finally, because my aunt hadn’t been to Walt Disney World in a long time, I was excited for her to once again be able to experience all that the parks had to offer. So, in my mind, this trip presented a once in a lifetime opportunity and I didn’t want to pass it by.
To make sure that everyone got out of it what I was hoping they would, I eagerly began planning as soon as I was able to. Dining reservations were made months in advance; FastPass times were secured for what I felt were attractions and shows everyone wanted to experience; and itineraries were shared so that everyone knew what to expect. In other words, I made sure we had plans for each and every day. You can therefore imagine my disappointment when things didn’t go as expected. As a result, I let my disappointment in some instances overshadow my ability to be flexible and in others to remain positive. Naturally, this had a tendency to sour the perspective of our trip.
Therefore, I’ve come up with the following tips to help you remain flexible and optimistic in the “Most Magical Place On Earth.”
1. REMEMBER THAT DISNEY CAST MEMBERS ARE ABLE TO HELP
One of the biggest things I forgot during our recent trip is that Disney cast members are there to help. I forgot this simple fact when our first disaster struck as we were happily driving through North Carolina and realized we had forgotten our park tickets. After several minutes of my wife and I thinking the other was surely kidding when they said they didn’t pack the tickets, it finally sank in that this mistake had the potential to cost us hundreds of dollars. Thus, prior to speaking with any cast member, we both jumped to the conclusion that we were out of luck. This quickly stopped the fun we were having.
It was only after our moods turned sour that we thought to call Disney to ask about our options. While we were still left with a feeling of uncertainty as the cast member wasn’t able to confirm, over the phone, one way or the other whether a record of our ticket purchase could be retrieved, the cast member was able to help us by suggesting that we go to Guest Relations once at the parks. Sure enough, the cast members at Guest Relations were able to retrieve all of our purchase records and within 20 minutes our problem was resolved. The cast member additionally helped us by providing us with a thorough overview of the My Disney Experience planning tools and confirmed I had linked all of our tickets together correctly via the My Disney Experience website.
(On the topic of My Disney Experience, I would highly recommend making use of all that this online tool has to offer. As I had registered my tickets with the website prior to traveling, it allowed the Disney cast member to quickly call up all of my information and reservations instantaneously.)
This experience reminded me that Disney cast members are able, and willing, to help guests out. They might not be able to completely solve every problem but they will certainly try their best. In this instance, my wife and I perhaps panicked a little prematurely and a little more than we should have. However, I’d still recommend bringing your tickets…
2. NO MATTER THE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION, PLAN FOR DELAYS
Shortly after realizing we forgot our tickets, my mom called to inform me that her flight was cancelled due to weather and that she and my aunt would be arriving much later than expected. I could tell from the tone of her voice that they were very disappointed, especially as they were hoping to arrive at the parks in time to catch the 4th of July fireworks. With the flight delayed indefinitely, I had to again call Disney—this time to cancel a dining reservation for that evening. Though this instance presented a slight frustration for us, the Disney cast member was again very helpful and understanding and I was able to cancel the reservation without any penalty.
With our mood damped already because of the issue with our forgotten tickets, this was just one more growing frustration that ate away at our fun outlook before we even arrived at the parks. While everything was sorted out in the end, it certainly didn’t make for a great start to the vacation.
What we learned from this instance is the importance of creativity and flexibility when trying to solve travel problems. We had to remind ourselves that we can’t always control our travel situations so all we can do is make the best of what we are presented with. My mom’s flight ended up arriving safely and she and my aunt were able to easily resume our plans as soon as they arrived. Though she missed the 4th of July fireworks, we were still able to view other fireworks at the Disney parks throughout our visit. And, we were able to easily make a new dining reservation to make up for the lost one.
I was also reminded of the importance of trying not to plan too much on travel days. As travel plans can sometimes change, it is best to have a more flexible schedule on these days. There are many things at Disney that are plenty fun that do not require advanced scheduling and planning, such as shopping, swimming, and site-seeing. It’s actually some of these things, such as hanging out at a Disney resort, that have made for the most memorable moments while visiting Disney.
3. UNDERSTAND WHEN YOU’RE GOING
Not to state the obvious, but Walt Disney World is one of the top travel destinations in the world, especially during the summer months and school breaks. This is one of those points that we all know but sometimes overlook.
During this past trip we decided to travel over the 4th of July. While we knew going in July would mean facing not only the heat and late-afternoon storms but also the crowds, we nevertheless let ourselves get discouraged because of both of these things. We let ourselves get easily annoyed by the things we should have been prepared to face, such as long lines and crowded walkways. We were further discouraged when we were caught unprepared for a massive thunderstorm at the Magic Kingdom. Not only did we get soaked, but many of the rides and outdoor activities that we had planned to enjoy were either cancelled or postponed. Thus, we ended up having to rethink our entire day’s schedule and wasted much time standing around cold and wet, thinking about what to do rather than actually doing something fun.
What we learned from this recent experience is that it’s important to understand that your Disney experience will vary a little based on the time of year you visit and the weather. So, remember there are always pros and cons for when you visit. For example, the summer months may be a little busier; however, unlike during the winter months, the parks typically have longer operating hours and there’s less of a chance that a ride or show will be closed for annual maintenance. Also, remember to think about your personal preferences while planning your trip. Try to think of solutions if you think things such as crowds or the summer heat might present a problem. If you are like us (and most of the world) and your trip was dictated by school schedules, try to make the best of the time. For example, use the time waiting in lines to have some fun with your family instead of complaining (like we did). Disney has built new waiting areas for many of its popular attractions that aim to help pass the time. Though waiting in lines can be discouraging, they present a great opportunity to talk with your family and friends. Additionally, if you know time might be an issue, plan accordingly by choosing the most important things to do first. This way you won’t be disappointed when you aren’t able to get to everything.
Now, we all know we can’t control Mother Nature. Although there is nothing you can do about the weather, it’s a known fact that central Florida will almost certainly experience rain at some time during your visit, so always be prepared with a rain jacket or poncho. Most stores in the parks will sell them, but when a storm comes on fast, it’s best to have your own readily accessible. Staying dry will allow you to stay at the parks longer when most of the crowd exits seeking shelter in their hotel rooms. Remember you can pass the time while waiting for the rain to stop by grabbing a bite to eat or browsing the many shopping venues. Rainy days are also a good opportunity to explore the resorts located on the monorails near the Magic Kingdom, which also have several dining and shopping options. Or maybe you can check out where you would like to stay the next time you visit.
4. BE MINDFUL OF WHO YOU’RE TRAVELING WITH
The final thing I realized when thinking about my recent trip is that though I wanted everyone to experience the magic of Disney, I failed to remember that the magic of Disney means different things to different people. I think this point is especially important to remember when traveling with a larger group or traveling with people outside of your immediate family. I say this because when traveling with a larger group there will certainly be different personalities and different ideas of how best to spend the time. Additionally, when traveling with members of your extended family, you may not have as good of an understanding of each other’s preferences as you would with members of your immediate family.
In my eagerness to bring the best of Disney to everyone traveling with me during our recent trip, I had put together a packed agenda of things that I thought would be fun; however, I forgot to consider what everyone else’s idea of a perfect Disney vacation would be. It wasn’t until later in the week that I came to the realization that, my aunt, for example, was happy doing everything but was too polite to express her desire that she’d really enjoy slowing down to enjoy some Disney shopping and more pool time.
Thus, I was reminded of the importance of considering others when making your plans. It won’t be possible to please everyone 100% of the time but there should be a good level of awareness of what everyone expects from their visit to the parks. Along with mindful planning comes the need for communication during the trip to ensure everyone’s dreams are being met at some point.
On October 25, 1971, Roy O. Disney stated, “May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place …” Since that time, people from the world over have traveled to Walt Disney World to visit “The Most Magical Place On Earth” and to experience the good old fashioned family vacation. And, certainly, Walt Disney World has the ability to live up to our high expectations. We all have memories, or expect to make new memories, of times where the Disney “magic” has found us and left that special place in our hearts. Yet, there are also times when the magical hype of Disney and the reality of our experiences don’t mesh together. It’s these times when things don’t go as planned that present the potential to make us feel as if we’ve wasted not only precious vacation time, but also money. Further, it’s these times that have the potential to tarnish our impression of the Disney Theme Parks.
The good news, however, is that we have significant control over our Disney visits. When your experiences threaten to put a damper on your vacation, remember to take a step back from the situation at hand and think how best to respond. Often times we can’t solve everything ourselves, but there are ways that we can take action that can minimize the fallout from any problems.
All in all, my recent trip reminded me that, indeed, the magic of Disney lives inside the parks. But, more importantly, I remembered that the magic of Disney lives inside of us. Thus, it is up to us to keep it alive.
Category: Disney World