A Walt Disney World vacation is typically full of surprises and that is one of the many reasons so many people love it!
My family just returned from our most recent trip to my favorite place in the world and we experienced some incredible surprises. Offhand, I can think of how during our first meal at the Pop Century, my husband got his dinner for free because the guy ahead of him had extra dining credits left over. Or, there was the 10-minute wait we had to see Anna and Elsa during the Magic Kingdom’s evening extra magic hours (ok, so it was like 1 a.m., but still!).
Surprises can be good or bad and when I think about our trip last week, a few larger ones come to mind. Very few of them can be tied to a specific event; they’re more of the big picture kind of reflections. But, good or bad, each one does have its own lesson.
Surprise #1: Less really can be more. In the past, my mantra for a Disney vacation has been “Go, Go, Go!” Disney World has so much to do in so little time. A week somehow only feels like a couple of days down there and I want to make the most of our family’s time. This year, something changed–maybe it’s my advancing age, I’m not sure. But, we didn’t get up at the crack of dawn every day and hit rope drop. We got to the parks later. We took our time between attractions and didn’t run around like crazy people. The result: much less stress and a happier family overall. And, we still managed to get almost everything done on our “must-do” list. And the things we didn’t get to didn’t cause any real hurt feelings or arguments. The more laid back attitude contributed to the next surprise from our trip…
Surprise #2: Our kids rediscovered the magic.: While my girls (ages 17 and 13) have always enjoyed our trips to Disney, I worried that this year’s trip must lose some of its luster because they are older. To my utter shock, they told me repeatedly how much they loved the parks each day and what an amazing time they were having. “The best ever” was an often repeated phrase. I asked them why and their response was beautifully simple: “We took the time to really enjoy what we were doing, Mom. We often go so fast that we don’t get a chance to do that very often. We even got to try some new things that were pretty cool.” When I see them with smiles like this when meeting a Disney Princess, then I know they’re having a fantastic time!
Surprise #3: Lines for counter service tables?! While at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in the Magic Kingdom, I decided to let my husband and girls round up the food at the different order bays (which I could write another whole post about, but I’ll save it). That left me to get a table and seats for us. After walking around the restaurant two or three times, I managed to find a family getting up to leave. Score! Just as I went to sit down, a Cast Member came up to me and instructed me to get into line. Huh? Apparently this is now a line to wait for a seat at Cosmic Rays! I walked over to the line, which wasn’t overly long, but I was still baffled. After a minute or so, another Cast Member approached me in line and asked me where my food was. I explained that my husband and kids were in line and I went to get a seat. I was them asked to leave the line until everyone in our party had food and THEN we could be seated together by a Cast Member. I’m not sure this is entirely necessary, but the Magic Kingdom is going to do it, then post some signs and have some consistency; there were neither of these last week. It just makes things more confusing and sets up some major frustration.
Surprise #4: The lack of patience and lack of basic manners. This was the biggest “not so magical” surprise of all. I hate being a downer, but I always insist on keeping it real. I understand when you put a lot of people into a place where it’s unseasonably hot and humid and then add having to wait in line you’re going to get some frayed nerves. It happens to all of us. During this trip, however, I witnessed behavior (usually from adults) that shocked me. Disney is notorious for having trash cans within a few feet of everything and yet, I constantly saw people just drop stuff on the ground and the bathrooms were even worse! I’ve heard others complain recently about how the cleanliness of the parks has gone downhill recently and blame the cleaning crews. That is unfair and unfortunate. I saw countless cleaning people at all of the parks and all over the place trying to keep up with the mess people left in their wake. Rarely did my family hear a please or a thank you from other visitors, even when they were being given a little extra magic in their day. I’m not trying to brag, but whenever we said thank you to a Cast Member, you could almost see the look of relief and sometimes even surprise on their faces. That’s so sad. I know there are less than magical Cast Members, but the vast majority work hard to make everyone’s experience safe and enjoyable. Everyone there wants to have a good time. A little more please and thank you and a lot less griping and complaining about waiting in line for more than 5 minutes would make it better for everyone.
Surprise #5: Touring in the rain is a blast. It’s hot and storms hit just about every day in Walt Disney Wold. That’s not a surprise to anyone who has been there before. However, for the first time, we were bombarded with an all-afternoon/evening rain storm that wouldn’t let up. Instead of fleeing the scene, we grabbed those $1 ponchos I preach about all the time and stuck it out at Epcot. We had a blast! We ducked in and saw some of the movies we usually pass around the countries. We did a lot more window shopping in the stores than we had in the past and couldn’t help but laugh at each other as we got soaked. Great memories were made in the rain, including a little singing.