I married into the Disney family. Don’t get me wrong..it’s not like I was anti-Disney. I did have every single lyric to every single Little Mermaid song memorized. What I did not do was drive around listening to the music from the Main Street Electrical Parade. But I did date someone who did. And I still married him. 🙂
Yes, he had the parade soundtrack. Listen, I’m a Disney lover now, and I still can’t stomach the synthesized harpsichord music on its own. At the parade—love it! On its own, Baroque Hoedown just doesn’t do it for me.
I also didn’t set foot in a Disney park until I was in college, and Greg and I went to California to visit his parents. And if I’m being totally honest…I was underwhelmed. My relationship with Disney parks began as an appreciation, grew into a full fledged crush, and now I’m enamored.
If you’re taking someone to Walt Disney World or Disneyland who is on the fence, who is expecting to be underwhelmed…or if that describes you…let me help you!
Before You Go
Proper expectations for your Disney trip are important. Disney parks are not what the Un-Disneyed folks think of when they think of an “amusement park“. They are not miles of roller coasters and thrill rides that you progress through in rapid progression, wolfing down a corn dog now and then. I attribute my unimpressed attitude in large part to my expectations.
Disneyland and Walt Disney World are Theme Parks. They are immersive experiences. You become part of the story.
My appreciation began by realizing this and taking note of the meticulous attention to detail in the parks. For example, when you wander through the parks, things change dramatically depending on where you are. Landscaping, signage, benches, trash cans, lighting…everything in each environment is meant to tell the story.
Notice the lush tropical leafy trees and plants in Adventureland versus Tomorrowland’s spikey, alien looking plants.
Or how the benches in Disney’s California Adventure’s A Bug’s Land are made from what appear to be used Popsicle sticks!
And nowhere is this attention to detail more evident than in Epcot’s World Showcase. A matter of steps separate you from wandering the streets of Paris and being in the Moroccan marketplace. Each country is even staffed by people from the spotlighted country. Sights, sounds, and smells are all meant to immerse you in the story that Disney is telling.
You’re not watching the tale, you are a character in it.
Remember, too, that in many ways, Disney parks are a museum of advances in animation and technology. If you’ve always loved Disney attractions, you may not even see why this expectation would matter. But for me, learning to appreciate that Disney’s technology was so far ahead of its time that it completely blew the minds of visitors–well, that helped me to see beyond my 21st century expectations.
(The first time I went on Pirates of the Caribbean, I kept thinking…”What are they so excited about, this doesn’t look real.” But now I appreciate the fact that it was revolutionary in its day. And, much like in an art museum, I appreciate the skilled craftsmanship. This particular pirate is my favorite…he’s sitting on a bridge you go under, and every single time I notice his dirty, hairy foot. )
Disney parks are rich with history, science, and literary references, too. Consider sharing some of these things before you go…you might spur further interest.
A final expectation to cover is that of children. You need to expect that a trip with toddlers looks very different than a trip with teenagers. And a trip with no kids is another vacation all together. Keep that in mind while you plan.
There will be lots of people at Disney World/Disneyland no matter when you go. I strongly–heavily–emphatically advise planning your Disney trip outside of the extra busy times (like holidays and school breaks). I would advise this for anyone, but especially if you’re travelling with someone who is less enthusiastic about the trip. We were in California visiting family between Christmas and New Years some time ago and decided to visit Disneyland. Ugh. I told Greg that if this had been my first visit, I never would have come back.
Especially if your kids are in elementary school, consider taking them out of school for your trip. Besides less crowds, you are likely to save money. Disney often offers incentives to travel in the off season. We have gotten free dining plans and reduced rates on resort rooms.
While You’re There
Don’t wander around aimlessly. I once had someone tell me that they didn’t enjoy their Disney trip because on most days they only rode about four attractions each day. Yeah, I would have hated that too! Let me tell you some ways to avoid that scenario.
Use Fast Passes! Fast Passes are essentially tickets that allow you to go to the front of the line. Understand the Fast Pass system before you go! If you’re staying on Disney property, take advantage of Fast Pass Plus which allows you to book Fast Passes in advance.
Another tool to take advantage of is the My Disney Experience app. It does lots of things, but we find it most valuable in checking wait times at attractions.
Use park maps! Know the layout of the parks. If you have a Fast Pass that you can use in one hour at Space Mountain, don’t trek all the way over to ride Splash Mountain. Stay in Tomorrowland and go to the Carousel of Progress or Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor. Or if the wait’s not too long, go on Buzz Lightyear. There’s just about never a line to ride the TTA (Tomorroland Transit Authority) –which happens to be one of my favorite rides, simple as it is. In an hour, you’d probably have time to do all four of those attractions.
The last thing I would advise regarding planning is to get to the parks early. Listen, I am not a morning person. But the advantage of getting to the parks at opening is that you will have time in the parks with significantly lower crowds.
Fewer crowds, more attractions…these things really matter when it comes to keeping smiles on faces and making positive memories.
All of us have different images in our minds when we think of what “vacation” means.
I like to have some time to relax on vacation. My husband is understanding about this. So, with every Disney trip we’ve taken, mom gets one day to stay at the resort and sit by the pool, nap and read. Dad takes the kids into the parks that day. Then after they return to the resort for a break in the afternoon, we all go back to the parks for an evening of fun.
What is your Un-Disneyed person’s “thing“? Let them have a day to do it. Maybe it’s a day to golf or go to the beach. Maybe they love shows, so you take in a few more than you would choose. Do they appreciate fine dining? Take the time to sit down and savor one of Disney’s many options.
Trust me on this one. A little ‘me time’ goes a long way towards a positive attitude, and toward everyone enjoying their trip. (And wanting to return!)
After Your Disney Trip
Speaking of wanting to return, isn’t that at least part of the goal?
My advice? Build anticipation of a future Disney trip by talking about the memories you made. Hopefully, you took lots of pictures and video. Take them out periodically and reminisce.
We’re total Disney dorks, but my husband will even check the My Disney Experience app and report on wait times. He’ll come up for lunch (he works from home) and say, “20 minute wait at Tower of Terror right now.”
And suddenly, I’m wishing I was in line.
I hope that some of these suggestions might help your Un-Disneyed friend or spouse develop an appreciation for the richness of Walt Disney World and Disneyland. And who knows, maybe that appreciation will grow into a little bit of a crush. And one day, you’ll have a Disney lover on your hands!
What did I miss?? Share your suggestions for helping someone fully appreciate and enjoy their Disney trip!