"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Refuting The Top 13 Reasons Not To Go To Disney, Part 3

So I'm happily looking at my Facebook newsfeed the other day and one of those "Sponsored" things is up there. It's from a site called Viral Travel (which sounds like a bad idea on the face of it) and is entitled 13 Reasons Not To Go To Disney. Of course I bite. Sue me. So its about what I expect, the same things we Disney fans fans from you non-Disney fans-- crowds,expense, capitalism, yadda yadda yadda. The thing is, many of these criticisms are true to a large extent, but avoidable. I hate to see people get spoiled on the Disney I love because they go about the whole experience unprepared logistically or mentally for the realities of the place. I figured just for kicks to take the 13 reasons one by one (or two by two) and try to explain why they don't keep ME from the Magic. This part three, part one is here and two here.

11. The Crowds Are Insane

So you’re going to go to Disney when it’s vacation time, but so is everyone else who happens to have time off work and school at the same time. Unless you can go during the off-season, you’re going to be enjoying the park with thousands and thousands of strangers

9. The Lines Are Insane

With the big crowds come big lines. The better the ride, the longer the line. Want to go on Space Mountain? Be prepared to wait well over an hour. The most insulting part is the ride is over in 5 minutes, making you question how worth it the wait really was.

Yes, Walt Disney World is one of the most popular vacation destinations on the planet. It gets crowded, sometimes very crowded.  Crowds equal long lines for some, and sometimes almost all, attractions. But find me a theme park that isn't like this, or a beach, or any popular vacation spot. If you go away to a popular place during a popular time, you likely won't be lonely. Basically, the complaint above is correct in that any time your child is off school, the park will be crowded. And when Disney parks are crowded, there will be lines. There are two ways to deal with this, go when it's less crowded or learn ways to make the most of your time when the lines are long.

The easiest way to deal with Disney crowds is to plan your trip for a time that is less crowded. Sites like touringplans.com offer detailed crowd calendars that can help you pick a less crowded time. In our experience, September is great and we've had good luck doing weekend trips right before Thanksgiving. If your child attends a school with a year-round or other non-traditional calendar (or you home school) you're in luck and it's easy to go at a time when crowds aren't "insane." NEVER go right around Christmas, particularly the week between Christmas and New Years. I am a HUGE fan, know all sorts of ways around crowd problems and have been enough times that I am not dying to ride every ride, but I see pictures from that week and it doesn't look at all like something I want to be involved with. We've had days in September when we walked on every attraction, not a line to be had. Those times are getting fewer and harder to find, but they are still there. It's worth taking your children out of school for your trip, in my opinion, but course that depends on the child involved and the school. We've had good luck is all I can say.

Sometimes, however, you find yourself in the Disney parks with all of humanity trying to ride Space Mountain at once. I'm going to start sounding like a broken record in these posts, but planning and knowledge really are the keys to making a Disney trip fun no matter the circumstances. Understand and use the FastPass system. Period. You are a fool if you don't. FastPass is Disney's way of letting you pre-book an attraction for a specific time window allowing you to return at that time and wait in little or no line. The FastPass system is free to all park guests and it really works, but you need to use it and it helps if you enter the park with a general plan, because using FastPass kills spontaneity to some degree.

I can't explain all there is to know about FastPass in one blog post. Books could be written about FastPass at this point, but they'd likely be obsolete by publication because Disney is in the process of changing how FastPass works. The introduction of MagicBands has turned FastPass into FastPass+, allowing you to make attraction reservations months before you leave your home for your trip. The trade-off is a restriction on the number of attractions you can get a FastPass+ reservation for and a sort of Chinese restaurant menu system for choosing which ones. You can now get one from column A (the most popular) and two from column B (the less popular) in one park each day. Attractions include rides of course, but also reserved parade viewing and character meet and greets. You can use an on-site kiosk while in the parks or the My Disney Experience app to change your FastPass+ reservations at any time, so ALL the spontaneity isn't gone, but it's more complicated.

That's one thing I will admit as a potential drawback to a Disney vacation. It requires a lot of forethought, planning and study to make it all it can be. For me, that's a plus, I LOVE doing those things. But if you don't, Disney can be a hard place to navigate. There are plenty of resources to help you, though. Websites like Chip & Co, the DisBoards, AllEars.net, WDWInfo and touringplans.com are great. Many guidebooks are also available, the best of which is without a doubt The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World. One caveat about the Unofficial Guide, though, this year's edition went to press before the FastPass+changes were finalized, so it is zero help navigating that system. The 2015 version will be out in the fall and will I'm sure be awesome.

One last note. This might peg me as a total Disney Geek more than anything else, but I actually feel a bit
You wouldn't want to miss the giant balsa wood airplane, would you?
cheated when there is no line. Disney makes their queues interesting, even fun. The "line" such as it is, for the Dumbos is a big indoor playground waiting area. Guest receive a beeper and when their turn to ride comes, it goes off and they collect the rug rats and head onto the Dumbos. I didn't even get to look around this area because there was no line when we rode, twice back-to-back, during the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. There are video games in the Space Mountain queue and kids' activities in Winnie The Pooh's. The themeing of the hotel housing the Tower of Terror is spectacular, there are tiny details everywhere and it kind of kills me that every time we've visited the attraction, we've walked right by all of them. I annoy the folks behind me stopping to look all the time, and tend to get shuffled along.

I've truly embraced the Disney Magic, I actually LIKE the lines. :-)

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