I considered myself to be a “Disney? Meh” person when were planing a trip to Disney World in the fall of 2013. Iris was extra excited; she had been to Disney Land a number of times (the perks of being a cast member) but she had never made it to Florida. I was more subdued, so it was a big surprise to me when that week turned out to be one of the funnest vacations I’ve had.
After writing about the trip and posting it to the /r/Disney subreddit I received enough feedback to realize it would be worthwhile to make a guide of sorts for the non-Disney fan who is going to a Disney park.
As a note, we went as a couple without kids. I’m just guessing here, but I think kids will really change what you can expect and how the trip itself will go. For us we were the focus and all of the events and schedules we kept had that in mind.
The hardest thing I had to do was ignoring all the preconceptions I had before we left. The idea in my head is that Disney is nothing but massive crowds, screaming kids, and thrill rides I wouldn’t enjoy. The “Happiest Place on Earth” was simply good marketing. Once there I realized that it is more than just marketing, it is a way of thinking. The cast is there to make your experience something above and beyond anything else you have done. Embrace this enthusiasm.
Have a Flexible Schedule
We had a schedule planned out but we allowed it to flow based on how many people were in a park or how long that park was going to be open. The closing times are not the same everyday so we made sure to allow for that and still see everything we planned to. On the second day of our trip we ended up leaving the Magic Kingdom halfway through the day for Epcot to try and miss the mass of people before we returned. It worked out to a very long 16 hour day, but we had an evening in the Magic Kingdom almost free of lines.
Feel Free to be a Kid
We did the Dumbo Ride. Myself at 40 and Iris at
mumble on a merry go round that went up and down a bit. There was almost no line and I had seen the shirt with Darth Vader doing it so I knew I had to go for it. There is no shame in being a kid at Disney; they expect it and so does everyone else there.
Pay Attention to the Little Details
You are going to feel rushed at times, trying to catch one of your Fast Passes or making it to a show, so we found it important to find the quiet moments and just stop. Take in what you are doing, where you are, and just how detailed everything is. Even the lines, which can be long, give you little details to take in. Look for these and be amazed. Even as a non-Disney fan I found references I knew that put a smile on my face and made the experience just that little bit better.
More Safety Means a Scarier Ride
I’m not a thrill ride person so this rule was both a boon and a terror inducing fear factory for me. Iris’ rule is that the number of restraints is in a direct relation to “thrill” that the ride will give. Thrill is in quotes because for me it would be better to equate that to “Oh God what have I gotten myself into?”. As an indication Splash Mountain has no belts, just a seat and hand rail; Arrowsmith has shoulder restraints that press you down into the seat. Guess which one was crazier. There is a good post on Theme Park Insider to let non-thrill ride people like myself better prepare for the terror.
Everything has Something for Adults
You may think that some of the shows are only geared towards little kids. This is true in a way but Disney knows parents and adults are going to be watching that show at the same time so there are little tid-bits and easter eggs that only an adult will understand. At one point we jumped into line for a Little Mermaid show simply because it was covered and a small rain squall had blown in. Our thought was staying dry but we walked out amazed at how great the show was.
See the Feature Shows
On that note make sure to plan for the feature shows (Fantasmic, fireworks, etc). These will be well worth taking the time to be there a little early and get a decent spot to watch as they are simply over the top and stunning.
Dine on the Good Stuff
Make sure that you book into some of the specialty restaurants well before you think about actually eating. We found that booking at your resort the day before was the best as you can pick from a much wider range of times and locations. Walking up and hoping for a table will leave you without a chance to try some of the great dining that can be had. You can find the dining options for Disney World here and Disney Land here.
Bring your Smartphone
As a Canadian I thought that having my phone with me while in the parks would be a bit of a waste as I wasn’t about to pay for a horribly limited roaming package. In Disney World they have parkwide free WiFi. At first I thought that was crazy, but once you install the My Disney Experience app (Apple, Android) and connect to the WiFi you’ll understand. Being able to see wait times, menus, and park hours is simply amazing. Posting pic’s of Florida weather to your Canadian friends in -15°C December snow is just a bonus.
Hopefully this little guide will help “Meh, Disney” people who are going on the trip have a better expectation of what they are getting into. I’d find it hard to believe anyone could go there and not have a Magical Time.
Have any other tips? Feel free to drop them below.