Disney World Survival Guide Not for the Faint of Heart: Part I

Lines, tickets, and bratty kids. Oh my!

Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash

Mommy bloggers to Disney vloggers all think they have the best advice to dish out for when you're planning a vacation to the happiest place on earth. 

Surely their tips may be spot on, but not one forum will cross every T or dot every I and some tips will easily slip through the cracks. 

From the perspective of someone who not only worked for Disney, was accepted in the Disney Dreamers Academy, and is a former annual pass holder, here is the first of three lists certain to fill in those gaps. 

Some of these tips you've heard several times before. Others may be easy to understand, but tough to follow through with. You'll want to spend money you don't have to spend, snap at other guests, cast members, and the people you came with, and be easily discouraged when things don't go your way. This is not for the faint of heart, but for the people who are willing to do whatever it takes to make the most of their Disney vacation. 

1. If it rains, stay.

I can't tell you how many times I either mocked or pitied the fools that dodged into stores whenever it rained in the parks. I would hear complaints like, "I thought Florida was supposed to be the sunshine state?" or "Our trip is ruined. We can't do anything in the rain."

You know who says things like that? The weak.

Florida is the hurricane state, not the sunshine state. It rains every day during the summer and sometimes in other seasons too.

Gut up and bring an umbrella and a poncho. While everyone else is ducking and diving into the already overcrowded Emporium and scattering to the Monorail, head in the opposite direction towards the attractions with coverings in the queue and indoor shows like PhilharMagic.

Don't cancel your plans because of a little water. If you see lightning, however, head back to the resort and call it a day. Order room service, ask the front desk about resort activities, go to the spa, or lay in bed and binge watch Disney animated flicks. Be adaptable. Despite how magical you think Disney is, they can't control the weather. 

2. Don't always believe the wait times.

I made a rule to not wait in lines longer than 30-35 minutes and to rely on the My Disney Experience app for checking wait times frequently. However, there may be an exception that even you should consider. Usually, in the wee end of the night, wait times will read 100+ minutes for standby when in actuality they are only about 15-20 minutes. Yes, this is a trick that is almost impossible to figure out just at first glance.

Nine times out of ten the cast member at the front of the line is not going to tell you that they are lying and the line is actually shorter. You might have to jump into the line anyways, start the stopwatch, and see for yourself. If the line ends up being shorter than it stated, you're one of the lucky few that got a chance to end the night on a thrilling note. But if your stopwatch reads 30 minutes and you're nowhere near the ride, simply hop out of line. No harm, no foul.

When my husband (fiancé at the time) and I visited Hollywood Studios during the week of my birthday in 2017, Rockin' Roller Coaster read about 125 minutes the entire time we were there. We passed it at least five times until we noticed, by the near close of the park, the line didn't appear to be that long. We took a leap and said 'what the heck.' That so-called 125-minute wait turned out to be only ten minutes. I figure Disney does this to chop down the line when the park is soon to close to stray away guests. This makes it easier for cast members to pack it up and clear out the park. Makes sense.

Now you know...

3. Your significant other or bestie not "into Disney?" Take them anyway.

I don't understand how there are some people that don't like Disney. If you grew up watching the movies or Disney channel in the 90s and early 2000s (because it's practically trash nowadays) or visited either the land or world, it's pretty hard to not be "into Disney."

My husband was one of those people. He lived in Orlando 98 percent of his life. Taking quick road trips to Disney was normal when he was growing up, but for whatever reason, the idea of spending the day with Mickey Mouse and friends did not appeal to him.

The poor soul married a literal Disney fanatic. I didn't know whether to be offended by his reluctance to go to the parks with me or look at it as an opportunity to convert him.

I chose the latter.

I discovered that the main reason why he wasn't a fan of Disney since he loved Universal and other theme parks, had nothing to do with Disney at all, but that when he was younger he had little to no say in which rides to get on or things to do. His older siblings took control of their itinerary mostly. It completely turned him off to Disney. Now he suggests going more than me.

Don't want to go alone but the people you are closest to aren't Disney fans? Invite them anyways. There is something for everyone - grown folks, church groups, couples, etc. Don't force them to hug Winnie the Pooh or dance to the formerly named Move It, Shake It Dance Party. Let them pick what's next on the agenda and show them that Disney is not just a theme park, but a place for them to be childlike again and it be socially acceptable. You never know, they just might fall more in love with it than you.

4. The cast members are not your slaves. They owe you nothing.

Cast members do not care how much money you spent booking your vacation to Disney World. They clock in, deal with uptight supervisors, work long hours to make barely a dent over minimum wage, are forced to conform to ridiculously strict policies and STILL want guests to have the best time. So don't push it.

Disney World, second to Chick-Fil-A, has grade A++ customer service but cast members get paid the same amount regardless of how pissed off you are. They cannot let you into the park without proof that you paid if your ticket reads an error message upon admission. No one told you to spend $67 on chicken nuggets and tasteless burgers when you could've brought a steak dinner into the park for cheaper. So don't complain to them about the prices. They didn't set the prices. They just work there!

Disney is a business like any other. Don't think the cast members are going to bend the rules for you or roll out a red carpet upon your arrival. This is a tip that many fail to include because they don't want to offend anyone. But the truth is, this is probably the most important tip of all. Cast members understand your woes, but they still have a job to do. Yelling at them, cursing them out, threatening them, or spitting on them (yes, this actually happened to a fellow cast member in front of me) is never acceptable. If you respect them as human beings, they'll be able to accommodate you more properly.

Take heed to this first and you're bound to have a great time. 

5. Bring food. Save a life.

Disney is not cheap. Point blank period. Unless you are splurging in all areas the full duration of the trip, you might be on a budget. Believe it or not, you can vacay at Disney on a budget. One of the most important tips is to bring food or at least snacks, into the parks. This will also help you save money and use it towards dessert or fine dining at Epcot or a resort. Disney World is one of the few theme parks that allow food and drinks in (just not cutlery, portable grills or alcohol). When the kiddos or your girlfriend gets hangry, your Disney plans can get chaotic. Something as simple as packing a tuna sandwich, chips and cookies from a vending machine can save a life.

Yours, not theirs. Because they might kill you if you don't feed them. 

6. Have something to do in lines.

There are millions of other families like yours vacationing at Disney. It's the biggest tourist location, not just for Americans, but for people from all around the world. You're going to wait in lines. It's inevitable. Get over it. Don't whine about it.

Instead invest in portable phone chargers, earphones and download plenty of games on your phone. Eventually, you might run out of things to talk about.

Pull out Heads Up or any game and play until the cast member at the end of the line says, "How many in your party?"

7. Breaking off from the group should be penciled in.

I have been to Disney World more than a handful of times. Actually countless times because I cannot literally count how many times it's been. Some visits were excruciatingly uncomfortable because of who I traveled with. From dates to group trips with friends, co-workers, roommates, and family, some visits to Disney will not be as pleasant as if you came by yourself (or with someone you love spending time with).

A couple of times I went with bickering couples and annoying people that couldn't stop talking and those who were super picky about which rides to get on or had negative input about literally everything.

How can you turn this situation into an enjoyable one? Breakaway. LEAVE!

If you have to leave by yourself, so be it. If you have a friend or two in the group that you want to come along with you, make the collective decision to split up and meet back at the Walt statue, under the train station, or at the car in the parking lot at a certain time. This way you've spent quality time with everyone, so no one feels left out, and time to yourself to get some peace and do the things you want to do. This may be a little tricky with relatives, but be clever. Maybe a certain ride gives them motion sickness or they are terrified of costumed performers, meet them in the middle.

Do this or risk suffering your entire vacation. Whatever investment you make into this trip whether it be finances, time or energy, don't allow someone else to ruin it for you.

Are you still hanging in there? Head over to part two AND three for more advice NOT for faint of heart! 

Now Reading
Disney World Survival Guide Not for the Faint of Heart: Part I
Read Next
Taking a Cruise