180 days, 60 days, 30 days – what do I do – Magic Bands, ADR’s, FP+, oh my!
First, I understand that many save for a long time to visit Walt Disney World®. It may be a once in a lifetime trip for some families. Some may never be able to go back – some may have to save several years in-between trips. Second, let me say – when the powers at Disney Parks created the My Magic+ system, they in no way meant for it to add stress to your vacation. The plan was, I’m sure, to make your vacation a stream-lined, easy to follow plan. Unfortunately they didn’t take into account the obsessive behavior of many guests who feel they need to get the dining reservation they want, the FastPass+ they want, the special event ticket they want – or their vacation would be ruined. I have noticed in the last year a much more tense and rude guest visiting the parks. Is it that people in general are just more rude today or is it because they exhausted themselves planning every last detail and are so intent on sticking to that schedule they can’t take the time to soak in the magic, pixie dust and general happy feeling of being at Walt Disney World? Would you plan every minute of your day if you were taking a beach vacation – no, you wouldn’t. Try going to Disney the same way.
Things happen. Things go wrong. A Walt Disney World vacation is no different than any other vacation yet, for some reason, many think there is some sort of magic and pixie dust that sits over WDW that stops things from going wrong. They also think it’s all Disney’s fault when something does go wrong. Rides break, food takes time to prepare when parks are crowded, it rains, people get sick, the list can go on and on. It isn’t Disney’s fault. There is only so much “magic” Disney has control over. Mousekeeping leaving trash in the trash can in your room is not a reason to demand a free stay. It only ruins your vacation IF YOU CREATE A HUGE ISSUE OVER IT AND ALLOW IT TO RUIN YOUR VACATION. I don’t know about you, but a dirty tissue has never ruined a vacation for me.
I am fortunate to be able to visit several times a year so I don’t get stressed by the planning. I take whatever reservations are available, I make no FastPass reservations, I go with the flow – stress-free. The only planning I do is having a resort reservation, knowing that I will most likely be back within a month or two. If I can’t get a dining reservation, I eat a hot dog. I do plan FastPasses and dining when I take my granddaughter simply because I want her to be able to experience certain things, but again, we take what’s available knowing she will also be back again in the not too distant future. Since I rarely plan more than a month or two at the most, chances of availability for many of the “in” dining spots are slim.
I belong to many Disney groups on social media and daily read hundreds of comments from disgruntled planners who stayed up until midnight to get FastPass time slots, set their clocks to get up early to make a dining reservation, etc., and hundreds more that don’t understand the system and don’t want to take the time to figure it out and expect the Facebook world to tell them what to do. Unfortunately if those guests get 50 comments – chances are they will get many wrong answers and almost 50 different opinions.
The system and social media has caused people to second guess every decision they make regarding their vacation. I see questions every day like: Will my 5 year old like the food at a certain restaurant; Will I like a certain resort; I’m devastated I can’t get a reservation at…; my child will be heartbroken I couldn’t get a reservation for…; and on and on and on! Will it be crowded the last Saturday in August of 2016? My trip will be ruined if Pirates is closed for refurbishment while I am there! how do I do this – how do I do that…? Will it be crowded? Will it rain? I leave for WDW in 32 days and have started packing – what am I forgetting? I sit daily and say to myself:
- if you don’t know what kind of food your child likes – how should I?
- if you don’t know what your child is afraid of – how should I?
- I have no idea your expectation or taste in food – hotel – experiences. If you don’t know – how should I?
- Why are you depending on the opinion of strangers to make your decision?
- GOOGLE IT!
- Devastation does not come from not being able to get a dining reservation – heartbreak should be saved for something a bit more important than not being able to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at 11 a.m.
- Let me get my crystal ball out and tell you if it will rain while you are there and how big the crowds will be the last Saturday in August of 2016.
- What in the world are we teaching our children if devastation comes from not getting the dining reservation we want?
- You aren’t going to a third world country – chances are if you forget your toothpaste you can get a tube in the gift shop! Will it be a little pricier – yes. But if you can’t afford a higher priced tube of toothpaste you should most likely re-think going on vacation.
- People! STOP! Vacation is supposed to be fun! Your trip will only be ruined if YOU ruin it.
And…my all time favorite! “I’m in the MK now – how do I get to the Poly? and then have a debate for 30 minutes with the people giving you responses. Why not ask one of the hundreds of Cast Members – one of which is most likely within 5 feet of you – the question? Another favorite – posting of an obscure picture with “where in the world am I now?” Chances are no one really cares where you are! Why not pay attention to the child or children that you saved all year to take to WDW? Get your nose out of your phone. On my last trip I saw at least 10 children having major melt downs – why? Because their parents had their nose in their phones while the child repeatedly and excitedly said “Mommy look – Mommy look – Daddy look! and their parent didn’t respond because they were posting on social media. Put your phone away – your children will love you for it. Enjoy your child’s excitement. You will definitely have a less stressful trip.
There are now people making money from the stress of others planning a Walt Disney World vacation. Sites that will monitor dining reservations and alert you when the reservation you want opens; sites with crowd calenders; sites that will make your dining and FastPass+ reservations for you. Guess what? Sites with crowd calenders can only show you historical information. I’m sure I’m not mistaken when I say those sites DO NOT HAVE CRYSTAL BALLS that can tell you how crowded the parks will be when you arrive. Save your money. Sites that monitor dining reservations can not guarantee that reservation will still be available when you go to book it – there are thousands upon thousands of people making reservations at any given time. Save your money.
If you have questions – don’t take the opinions of hundreds of strangers. I don’t like the food at Le Celliar in Epcot® but that doesn’t mean you won’t. Disney offers so much information when it comes to menus, times, costs, etc. Between official Disney sites and the Disney Parks Moms Panel (a place you should be asking questions) you should do your research and make your own decisions. I share Disney information with everyone – that’s what I do. But because I did or did not like something doesn’t mean you won’t or will like it. Many of the social media groups are great. Disney visitors sharing their experience is a good way to learn IF you remember that they are the experiences of someone else. It may not be how you see the experience. It may not be how you like to do things. You may not like what others like.
I think there are a few things you need to keep in mind when planning a Walt Disney World® vacation:
- A WDW trip can be as expensive as you allow it to be. Plan to stay at the level resort you can afford – not where everyone else tells you is “best.” Think about what your family needs in a resort.
- Disney will always have a certain amount of crowds. When your children have spring break – chances are many parts of the country and world have the same time off to vacation. Less crowded times are getting harder and harder to find. Times that used to be slow have now been filled with runDisney races and special events that bring in large crowds.
- Don’t get angry at the person who walks or bumps into you – chances are they bumped into you because you STOPPED in the middle of walking to look at your phone, your camera, your map. Chances are it’s your fault
- When you enter a show – keep moving to the end of the row when they tell you to. Disney is phenomenal at moving people. There are no bad seats because Disney is also great at making sure of that.
- When you board a bus – move to the back of the bus. The longer you hold up others from moving around the bus, the longer the bus will take to load and leave and get your tired child back to your room.
- Everyone else’s choice of “best” restaurant may not be what is best for your family.
- Everyone else’s choice of “best” character experience may not be what is best for your family.
- Everyone else’s attraction favorites may not be right for your family.
- Do your own research. Don’t just feel something is great because “everyone on Facebook said so”.
- Don’t feel obligated to do extra experiences because everyone else has done them. They are expensive. They add another level of stress. My Granddaughter, now 7, has never done Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Not because of price. Not because of unavailability. Because she has super, super thick curly hair that is a nightmare to comb and she doesn’t like people touching her hair. It isn’t an experience that will work for our family. She would be miserable when they starting combing and pulling at her hair.
- If you can’t get a reservation for the same spots you ate at last time, or where everyone else says you should dine, try something new based on what is available – you just might be pleasantly surprised.
- If you can’t get those FastPasses that everyone else say’s you JUST HAVE TO HAVE…don’t worry. You will be amazed at how much fun you can have waiting in line with your family and the others around you.
- Disney etiquette – sounds silly but important. Along with moving to the end of the row when entering a show and moving to the back of the bus, most important – DO NOT force yourself or your child in front of someone else’s child to watch a parade. Chances are that family sat in that spot for the last 30 minutes so their child could see the parade. They didn’t push or shove – they waited patiently. Your child’s view of the parade is your responsibility not theirs. Don’t have one person sit and wait for a good spot and then five minutes before the parade starts have 5 other family members shove their way in blocking and pushing everyone around them. If there are 5 or 6 of you – all 5 or 6 park your behinds on the curb.
- Yes, you saved. Yes, you paid lots for your WDW vacation. Guess what? So did the family next to you. You may be fortunate enough to visit again – they may not be so fortunate.
For your next visit to Walt Disney World, I challenge you to make your resort reservation and then go with the flow. When you are ready to make your dining reservations, look at what is available during your trip and try something new. Do the same thing with FastPasses – or heaven forbid…don’t book any FastPasses. Relax – it’s a vacation!