My Disney Top 5 - Walt Disney World Guest Mistakesby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5.
Walt Disney World guests are really a fascinating group of individuals, aren’t they? Without a doubt it’s as true a cross section of society as you’ll find anywhere. The Disney guest represents just about every socio-economic background. They come from all sorts of different places, and not just from this country but from all over the world. You’d be hard pressed to find a more diverse group of individuals vacationing anywhere. Times Square in New York City during the holidays would probably surpass Walt Disney World as far as packed and diverse crowds, but not by all that much.
With that big of a crowd, many of the people you run into at the Magic Kingdom and beyond are bound to be first-timers. A lot of them are doing just fine, but a lot of them need some help and guidance from us more experienced travelers. Once we’ve earned our Disney PhDs, it’s up to us to show new guests the way—and sometimes this is no easy task. People are sheep. I mean this as no insult to anyone. It’s just that…well…people are sheep. They follow the herd. It’s quite remarkable sometimes and not just at Disney. Sheep are everywhere.
How many times do I pull up to the main parking area at whatever beach I go to and see that everyone is crammed into the same space? Most of the time just a short, short distance away there’s a ton of room…but no one is there. The same goes for the ski slopes. My favorite mountain in Vermont just built a shiny new lift to the summit. It holds six people and has a Plexiglas door that closes over you. Granted, on windy days the door offers a nice respite from the cold. But even on sunny, warmer days I’ll watch hordes of people on that line ignore the older 4-person lift right next door. This was the main lift until the newer one was constructed. They both go to the same exact place and run at the same exact speed. But once the new one was built there’s never a line for the old one. All the sheep are waiting for the new, shiny, blue lift. Meanwhile I’m on the older lift getting to the top quicker than the hordes in the other line and getting more runs knocked out in the course of a day. It never fails.
I see the same sort of phenomenon happening at Walt Disney World whenever I’m there. A lot of Disney vacationers do what they think they’re supposed to do. It seems they do a minimal amount of research and they just follow the herd. But here’s the thing – the herd doesn’t always know what they’re doing. Maybe some of them know a little bit, and they end up leading the herd down the path they think they’re supposed to be on, but that doesn’t make it the best or even the smartest path. Once you’ve “done Disney” enough times you know the way of the land and most importantly…you know what not to do. If you are anything like me, you’re hopefully doing the opposite of the herd—and all the wiser for doing so.
Sites like this one exist for inside tips on Disney travel and we’re more than happy to offer up our experience and expertise to get you, the reader, to break away from the herd. So with that said, here’s what I think are my Top 5 Walt Disney World Guest Mistakes.
5 – Most Guests Don’t Get an Early Start and Most Go to the Wrong Park on the Wrong Day.
This is an ironic one for me because I like to stay up late and I don’t particularly like to wake up early. However, we learned a long time ago that getting to a Disney park before it opens is the key to beginning a successful day. Get up early. Have a quick breakfast in the room or at your hotel and get moving. Keep in mind this does not …I repeat... does not mean following all the sheep to Morning Extra Magic Hour. For instance, if Epcot has an Extra Magic Hour in the morning, head to the Magic Kingdom, be there when it opens and get ready for a few hours of hopping right onto rides and attractions.
There’s a small group of people in the know that will be there with you, but the bigger herd goes to the park with Extra Magic Hours and stays there all day. They’re in for a decent hour of shorter lines and then a whole day of crowds once the other herd arrives. This other herd has slept in and doesn’t get to the parks until 11:30 a.m. or so. They were getting there that late anyway regardless of which park it is. Now you’ve got all the people that slept in and all the people that thought they were getting ahead of things by going to Extra Magic Hours all crammed into the same park. You, on the other hand, will get to the non-Magic Hour Park when it opens and enjoy several hours of blissful sanity before the typical day crowd arrives. It’s always lighter. It’s always nicer. This strategy has never failed us and it perfectly segues into my next entry on this list.
4 – A Lot of Guests Don’t Take a Midday Break
This one ties into number five perfectly. We’re always amazed at the amount of people arriving at a Disney Park as we’re leaving to head back to our hotel and take a well-deserved rest. We’ve already had a fun filled morning and others are just getting there. We’re typically down there in the summer. The place to be around 1:00 p.m. or so in August is in the hotel pool or resting in an air-conditioned room.
The place not to be is just arriving at a packed park. Huge crowds and the heat of the day will be there to greet you. Once again, get an early start and then get out midday for a break. You’ll be glad you did–and trust–me so will the little ones.
3 – Most Guests Leave The Parks in the Rain
In case no one tells you…it rains in Orlando in the summertime…just about everyday. You can practically set your clock on it. In the afternoon it will rain. Sometimes like jungle, topical, pouring rain. The beauty is it’s quick. It cools things off and it almost always empties out a park. We’ve watched the herd flock to the exit as soon as the afternoon storms roll in. That’s the time to throw on the old Mickey poncho and head in the opposite direction. Sure, some rides may have to close in the rain like Expedition Everest or Big Thunder Mountain, especially if there’s lightning spotted nearby, but the lines for a vast majority of the rides will be shortened as the masses run for cover out of the parks. Once the rainstorm is over, and they are almost always brief, you can shake out your Mickey poncho and have a quiet park to explore.
The best tip we ever got in this vein of thought was from a cast member at Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safari. Years ago we were back in Africa and about to head onto the safari line when it started to downpour. We asked her if the safari gets cancelled in the rain. She informed us that quite to the contrary, more of the animals came out in the rain to cool off, especially in the summer months, and that we’d probably see more than fauna during a rainstorm. She was spot-on correct. We saw more animals out and about that day than ever before and we stayed dry in the safari truck. Compare that to what all the people that ran out of the park at the sight of raindrops saw. It’s a no brainer. Stay put when it rains and wait it out and you might get an extra treat like we did that day and many other days since.
2 – Guests Don’t Use Fastpass Wisely
Fastpass, in my honest opinion, is the greatest recreational invention of all time. That’s a pretty strong statement for sure, but consider what Fastpass allows you to do. It says to you, “I know this ride/attraction is packed. Take this free ticket and come back later and you won’t have to wait in line! We’ll let you right in!” They had me at hello. There’s that moment when you come back with your pass and enter the Fastpass entrance…and you scurry past the masses in the standby line and you briefly feel… a little bad for them. After all, they’ve been waiting for an hour and you…well, let’s be honest…you haven’t. The guilt only lasts a moment because you realize that this service is there for everyone. It doesn’t cost anything more and everyone waiting in that line could have the same Fastpass that you have but for whatever reason, they didn’t or couldn’t get one.
So are people not utilizing Fastpass, or are there not enough Fastpass tickets to go around? In some cases like Toy Story Mania that’s obviously true. In other cases I’m not so sure. I’ve actually seen a 25-minute wait for Buzz Lightyear with a Fastpass return time only 30 minutes away. Why wait on that line? We got the Fastpass tickets, took a cold drink break and a nice leisurely spin around Tomorrowland on the PeopleMover, walked through Mickey’s Star Traders and then walked right onto Buzz with our passes and never waited on a line. I don’t think we were lucky. We were just wise with our Fastpass use.
This type of scenario has happened more so than not. We’ve used Fastpass incredibly well over the years. It’s saved us a ridiculous amount of time and aggravation. We’ve never waited in a Disney line for more than 30-40 minutes. That’s our max threshold. Either it’s Fastpass, a short wait, or we don’t ride at that time. We come back when it makes sense. I have no idea what Fastpass+ will bring for us. Only time will tell, but my guess is if we use it wisely, it will work in our favor as well.
1 – Guests Run Out of the Park Immediately at Closing
This one always amazes me. There’s nothing worse than walking along with the herd back down Main Street out to jam-packed bus, monorail or boat lines. That’s no way to end a magical day. Take your time. Soak up the atmosphere of the beautiful parks at night as they empty out. In the Magic Kingdom the cast members will start politely kicking you out of the various lands but they won’t kick you off of Main Street. Hang around for 30 minutes or more in The Emporium or out on the curb staring at the castle and watch everyone else hurrying up to wait. Then walk out to thin crowds and empty transportation.
Better yet, hang around World Showcase once Illuminations ends. Sitting around the waterfront talking, laughing or simply just staring out over the lagoon is a great way to wind down a day at glorious Epcot. We’ve walked around the Showcase from Germany, our favorite spot to watch the show, alone or just about alone all the way around the lagoon. Nobody rushes us…ever. It’s incredibly peaceful and satisfying and just about no one takes advantage of this moment. We head through MouseGear, the best shop on Disney property, and pick up a few treats or souvenirs. We just about have the store to ourselves. Then it’s a slow walk out underneath Spaceship Earth and past the fountain to an empty bus or monorail line. That’s how to end a day correctly in the most magical place on Earth, not fighting crowds and jockeying for a seat or at best a strap on a packed bus. The wait is always worth it. Let the herds go by and see just how wonderful a place the parks can be at night.
My way isn’t the only right way. It’s the right way for me and for my family. If you disagree with what I’ve said above, that’s perfectly acceptable. However, I became the Walt Disney World fanatic that I am by letting the place in and not getting wrapped up in the madness. For some people, getting to the parks at noon and walking right into heat and crowds is the only way they experience things. They get there late. They run out as soon as the place closes. All they experience are crowds, heat, and over-stimulated kids. And they miss out on what Walt Disney World is really about.
It’s what the rest of us are crowing about on websites like MousePlanet. It drives us here to write, to read and to discuss with no lack of passion this magical place that we have all let into our hearts. They’re missing out on things and that’s why lists like these get created. So maybe someone will listen to my thoughts and opinions and the next time they venture down to the most popular travel destination in the world they can approach things a bit differently and see what all the fuss is really about.
What do you think? As usual I’d like to hear your thoughts on my list and some thoughts of your own. Click on the link below, let me hear what you have to say and I’ll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.