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Mike Scopa

A Foole's Tale

Lack of planning turns a family's Walt Disney World trip into a disappointment

Friday, April 1, 2005
by Mike Scopa, staff writer

Have I ever told you about Auggie and June Foole? They were a lovely couple but didn't always take care in planning everything… including the birth of their lovely daughter April. You see, April was a surprise addition to their family. But what wasn't a surprise was how April was so totally submersed in the Foole gene pool.

And when April grew up, she married Martin Hardy, who was just like Auggie; improvised everything and lived life for the moment.

You say you have never heard of April Foole before? Well, pull up a chair and let me tell you about April's very first family dream vacation to Walt Disney World. Well, it wasn't much of a dream.

So let's begin with what we can appropriately call “April Foole's Approach to a Walt Disney World Vacation.”

The decision

April was grocery shopping one day when she overheard someone talking about their recent trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. “Florida in June,” April thought to herself. “The kids are out of school now so we can go on a vacation! Marty and the kids would love that! That's for me and my family.” Right then and there, April decided that she would surprise husband, Marty and her two kids with a weeklong trip to Walt Disney World. Not one to show any patience, April decided they would go right away—next week.

April neither took the time to do any research on Walt Disney World nor had any inclination to put together a plan… she just wanted to go. As a result, April was about to get quite an education regarding what consequences await those who, like her, go wildly (and blindly) to Orlando.

Her very first lesson was when she got home and called a travel agent. “I want to go to Walt Disney World!” The agent stammered a bit when April told her she wanted to go the very next week. “This is a busy time of year so I don't know if I can find any good airfare for you,” the agent said. April didn't care; now that her heart was set, she was ready to go. Then when the travel agent began to ask a series of questions about her trip, all April could answer was, “I don't know.” April thought she could figure things out when she got there. How hard could it be? After all, planning just took the excitement out of things.

So let's see what happened.

On the outside looking in

The Foole–Hardy family flew down to Orlando just one week from the day she decided to go to Walt Disney World. Since it was a last–minute decision, she really didn't have much to select from regarding prices or flight times. It was a very expensive flight, paying full fare for their coach seats. By purchasing their tickets so close to the day of their flight, they also got flagged for a secondary security check at the airport. When they got on board, they couldn't all sit together on the airplane.

Since April never did any research, she was not aware of the pros and cons of staying on–property in a Walt Disney World Resort hotel. With a case of “ignorance is bliss,” they ended up staying in a hotel outside the property because she thought it was cheaper. It didn't make a difference, did it?

Had they stayed on–property, they could have taken advantage of the Magical Express transportation program Walt Disney World was offering during its 50th anniversary celebration. Instead, they rented a car to get to their hotel.

The Foole–Hardys could have arrived very early in the morning to Orlando International Airport and enjoyed part of the day in the parks before they even checked into their hotel. Instead, they landed in Orlando at about 2 p.m., and immediately checked into their hotel around 3 p.m. and headed off to Magic Kingdom.

After they checked in, they were ready to go to a theme park. Driving, they had to pay for parking. Yep, April did not know that parking was free for resort guests.

Tickets, please

April assumed the Foole–Hardys could just walk up to the park entrance and pay their way in. She never even thought about admission to the theme parks until they got off the parking lot tram in front of the Ticket & Transportation Center near Magic Kingdom.

The Foole–Hardys had to wait in line for 30 minutes to get to the front of the ticket window. It took another 15 minutes for the attendant behind the window to explain the Magic Your Way ticket program and all the options (while everyone else in line glared at them). April didn't want to hear about all those options or take the time to think about whether they needed them or not. The whole family had gotten off the tram almost an hour ago and all they wanted to do was see Mickey.

They just bought a 7–day base ticket because that's how long they were going to be there. Options? Forget that; April thought those were just unnecessary extras Disney tried to add on to increase the price of the tickets.

Because April didn't know you can buy tickets before arriving in Orlando, she did not save any money. But more importantly, she and her family spent almost one hour at the Ticket & Transportation Center before finally purchasing their tickets.

As the Foole–Hardys headed for the monorail, April looked at her watch. It was almost 5 p.m. She thought they were doing well.

Ignorance certainly is bliss.

No Clue Touring

When the Foole–Hardys arrived at the Magic Kingdom, they were immediately drawn to the beautiful castle at the end of Main Street. Following the landmark, they walked through the castle to Fantasyland, then spent the rest of the day enjoying as many attractions as possible.

Since it was late in the day, most attractions that offered Fastpass had already dispensed all of their Fastpass tickets for the day. Of course, the Foole–Hardys didn't know about Fastpass, so they paid no attention to this matter—at least for now.

With no rhyme or reason to how they would tour this theme park, they basically got in line to whatever attraction they were close to and hoped for the best. As you can imagine, since Fastpass distribution was over for the day, the stand–by queues for the more popular attractions were a bit long.

After an hour or two of attraction–hopping, the family decided to eat. They tried to get into Crystal Palace, but discovered that the wait was 45 minutes. It was getting late, so they walked around looking for a place to eat and ended up with burgers at Pecos Bill's. Ahhh, food.

April and family sat down to eat and talk about their first day in Orlando. Midway through the meal, they heard some loud music outside and a few minutes later, noticed some colorful lights outside as well.

One of April's children left the table to check out this music–and–light combo. She came running back to the table yelling, “It's a parade! It's a parade!”

April thought, “No one told me about a parade.” Of course April and family had no clue about Spectromagic because once again, she had not done any research, and when they entered the park she had not picked up a park map or a show/attraction schedule card.

She was unprepared.

They disposed their meal and went outside to watch the parade. Of course since the parade had already started, there were no good viewing spots. They ended up seeing the parade from just outside the restaurant. April's children kept having to leap up to see over the heads of those standing in front of them.

Imagine what a good viewing spots they could have had if they known when the parade was scheduled to start.

After the parade, the family took in the Country Bear Jamboree, then made their way to Splash Mountain. Much to their relief, the wait was only 20 minutes—although April could not understand why the lines seemed suddenly shorter than earlier in the day.

When they got off Splash Mountain, they immediately went over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. As they got into its cars, they heard some distant music but couldn't figure out what it was. As their runaway train took off, they heard some rumblings… or was it an explosion?

They caught a glimpse of something in the sky. Fireworks?

Wishes was just starting. April and family didn't know about Wishes, nor did they know when it was being shown because they did not pick up a schedule.

Although they were enjoying the ride, part of their attention was diverted towards the castle and the fireworks.

When they got off Big Thunder, they immediately headed for the castle to watch Wishes. They managed to see the finale, but only from Liberty Square.

The attractions seemed to be closing, so they headed for Main Street U.S.A. They decided to stop in the Emporium and look around… but it appeared like most of the guests were shopping there, too, so it was elbow–to–elbow in there. Since it was difficult to shop with so many people, they left the theme park and decided to return to their hotel.

It took the Foole–Hardys almost an hour to get back. There were lines at the monorail, lines for the tram to the parking lot, and a lot of cars trying to leave the parking lot at the same. To make matters worse, they had difficulty finding their way back to the hotel.

On the drive back, April thought about the day's events and wondered whether there was something she could have done differently for her family so things would be a bit smoother for this vacation.

Ya think?

Day 2

Everyone was exhausted from the day before so the family slept in until about 9:30. There was a restaurant next to the hotel and so they had breakfast at 10:30 before heading off to Epcot.

They arrived at the Epcot toll plaza around 11:30. As Marty paid for parking, April looked around at the other cars, and noticed some of them were just flashing a card and not paying for parking. “How is it they are able to avoid paying this fee?” April wondered.

It was well after noon before they entered the park. They immediately jumped on Spaceship Earth and enjoyed that attraction very much. They spent most of the afternoon checking out the Future World attractions. It was at Test Track that they noticed guests gathered around its Fastpass distribution area. After observing guests and how they used their admission media to get their Fastpass tickets, April walked up and inserted her own.

A Fastpass came out with a window of time from 4:10 to 5:10. April looked at her watch. It was only 1:45. She couldn't go on the ride for another three hours?! That was unreasonable. April tossed her Fastpass, thinking, “This doesn't work.”

They tried to get into a few restaurants but found that they had to wait at least 45 minutes. April noticed that many of the other guests were only waiting for five or 10 minutes, but she couldn't figure out what sort of special privilege they had that allowed them to cut in line and get seated ahead of the Foole–Hardys.

It was around 7 p.m. or so when April noticed the monorail as they approached the front of Epcot. This gave her a great idea. “How would you all like to go back to Magic Kingdom tonight and try and see the parade and the fireworks?” she asked. She got a unanimous “yes” from everyone.

They headed towards the front of the park.

Not realizing that a paid parking ticket for a day is good for other parking lots, April assumed they would have to pay another parking fee at Magic Kingdom. April thought she was being smart by taking the monorail instead, then returning to Epcot via the monorail to pick up the car.

It took them about 35 minutes to get from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom turnstiles.

When they tried to enter the turnstiles, they ran into a problem. The cast member at the turnstile told April that their Magic Your Way tickets were base tickets that did not have the park–hopper option.

They could not enter.

April now realized the value of a park–hopper option.

However, instead of going over to Guest Services to see if she could add the option to the ticket, she simply found herself getting angry and frustrated. Why didn't she already know this? Perhaps, April thought, she should have invested some time and research before jetting off for this Walt Disney World vacation.

The Foole–Hardys left the park slumped in disappointment, and headed up to the monorail to return to Epcot. Their look of disappointment began to fade, however, as the monorail approached Epcot.

What was going on?

As the monorail went around Spaceship Earth, they could see something going on near “the countries.”

It was Illuminations.

One of the children crossed her arms and pouted. “We missed these fireworks, too!” she said, the look of disappontment returning to her face once again.

April felt really bad. Had they stayed in Epcot, they probably would have been watching Illuminations instead of being stuck on the monorail.

At that moment, April wanted to comfort her daughter and apologize for not having planned better. “I may be a Foole, but I'm no fool,” she thought. “When we get back, I'm going to sit down and try to do what planning we can for the rest of our trip!”

Don't be an April Foole

My guess is that most of you reading this are somewhat informed on the need for research and careful planning for a Walt Disney World vacation.

And if you aren't that informed, then I'm not doing my job.

This little fictional story about the Foole–Hardy family could easily happen to a family who is not prepared for a week in Orlando.

Could other things happen to April and family on this vacation? Sure.

Let's say that for day 3, they decide to spend the entire day and evening in Magic Kingdom, and it happens to be an Extra Magic Evening Hours day. Imagine April and her family being forced to leave the park while others stay because Extra Magic Evening is only for resort guests.

This is yet another lesson for April.

Eventually, everyone slowly understands the whole picture and assembles a plan of action for a future visit to Walt Disney World.

April eventually understands what Priority Seating is all about and by day 4 has got it down to a science.

Even an April Foole can learn.

So if you have a friend or relative who is planning their initial trip to Walt Disney World, don't let them be like April. Share your knowledge.

They will be grateful because you will help them…

… Remember the Magic!

Next time

Have you met Aronda Parks? I'll tell you about the book she wrote about making memories at Walt Disney World.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.

Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.

Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.

Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.

You can contact Mike here.

OTHER LINKS

Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:

Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)

Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)

Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)

Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, “The Trip Planner” for more travel planning information.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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