Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Walt Disney World Expectations - Fact or Fiction?

I've been thinking a lot about vacation expectations recently.  I've heard several time people disappointed in their Walt Disney World trip and I do believe much of that is based on conceived notions of what the parks should be.

If you have never been before, you may think you know what Walt Disney World is -

  • A place for kids
  • A very expensive vacation
  • A place for lots of rides and burgers 
These are all half truths.

A Place for Kids

While obviously, Walt Disney World is extremely kid friendly (with only Victoria and Albert having a dress code and age restrictions), it is also a great place for adults.  Walt Disney envisioned his park as a place for a family to be together.  So yes, while the children have a great time, it is the hope for the parents to enjoy the experience as well.

A Very Expensive Vacation

While I can't deny that in any way shape or form, let's go back to the time audit I learned from Social Media Guru Maria Bailey - $1 per minute.  For entertainment from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m (give or take depending on the park and time of year), we're getting way more than our money's worth.  Compare it to a beach vacation - yes, a beach is free during the day, but with a 3 year old, the beach is good for 2-3 hours max (at least in my world).  Or, a trip to the local aquarium.  For an adult, it's $35 (plus $5 more for the 4d movie) and $21 (again, add $5 for that movie) for a child.  that' $40 for 2-3 hours.  And, I don't think I'm ready to take a week long vacation in Baltimore, so while we might have an afternoon of entertainment, it's definitely no vacation.

Walt Disney World offers 4 theme parks filled with all of the entertainment possible for children of all ages.  One price, albeit a steep one, includes all the attractions, shows, movies, fast passes, and so much more.  
More than meets the eye at WDW

A place for lots of rides and burgers

Rides at Disney Parks are known as "attractions."  To many, that may seem like a simple wording difference, but it is a big difference if you look more closely.  

Dark rides are prime example 

let's look at The Haunted Mansion.  Haunted House ride or more?  More.  Themed queue - you really feel as though you're walking into an old decrepit house.  Then, you are welcomed inside as you watch the rooms stretch, and then you are lead through a dark and scary walkway.  This attraction tells a story - it does not simply scare you like a local Halloween Haunted House.

Even a roller coaster, like Expedition Everest, has a very well themed queue- slow down and look at the wall to see what the they found on their expedition!  While you may easily realize you are not actually in Nepal, the mountain and decor are themed to at least help you imagine being on that runaway train.  And, beware of the Yeti!  If nothing else, you make get an ill feeling from strobe lights.

As for the burgers

Okay, burgers are everywhere.  And to me, they taste the same in all of the counter service locations.  But, you can find many choices other than burgers.  There are dozens of table service (sit down/waiter) restaurants with delicious, and to many, unique foods.  One of my favorites is Kouzzina by (Iron Chef) Cat Cora.  It's Greek, which is one of my usual favorites, but I've had several fantastic experiences and haven't found anything quite as good at home!
A meal at Kouzzina starts with a sampling of olive oils and olives!

If you want burgers, head to just about any counter service restaurant.  Same with not-so-exciting pizzas.  But, if you're looking for chicken, seafood, pasta, salads - they are all possible to find.  And, if you have any allergies or special dining needs, Disney is amazing at helping you with those, too!

What have we learned?

Well, if you are purely a thrill-seeking junky and only want to ride roller coasters, Walt Disney World isn't the best fit.  If you're in for an experience that truly takes you out of modern day and into a completeg experience, Walt Disney World is for you.


  1. I once had someone tell me that adults can only stand a Disney water park for a couple of hours. Really? I go there for the day, no problem.

    Also, with how good some of the quick service places are now, I go a whole vacation and never have a burger.

  2. I honestly have never been to a Disney Water Park... I figure when the boys are older. I never eat burgers there! But so many people are disappointed by the lack of "rides" that I just shake my head.

  3. btw - I'd love to hear about your water park experiences if you're ever interested in writing again! :)

  4. I will put my thinking cap on and come up with something for you! I no longer swim at home - for one it doesn't get hot enough in Vancouver for me to swim and 2nd, Disney water parks have totally spoiled me.

  5. This is a great post, Jen. For me, it's all about expectations and not over or under planning.

  6. I think there are people who are disappointed because so many people have hyped the guest experience that they expect to literally be sprinkled with pixie dust and escorted by Mickey as they enter.

    It's also hard work to enjoy Disney World. It's a vacation that takes some effort and planning if you want to get the most out of your money. And if you have little kids, I'm sure it's especially challenging (which is why we waited until our youngest was 8 and could walk and had patience to wait). Some people don't want to accept that and wind up disappointed, exhausted, mad at their little kids, etc.

    I love the beach, the relaxation and no need to be anywhere at any special time. But I also loved our first Disney trip in 2011 (we're going back in April) and all of the planning and anticipation of the experience that went into it.

  7. Thank you!! Definitely agree about the planning!

  8. Thanks for your feedback. I think if people looked beyond the exterior, they might realize why so many of us think that it IS sprinkled with pixie dust! The Imagineers put so much work into the details that 99% of guests don't know or notice. The biggest complaint I hear is the lack of thrill rides, which while I understand, is just not the point of the WDW parks.

    As for the work - I LOVE trip planning. BUT for those who don't, there are too many to mention FEE FREE Travel Agents. I actually hope to be one in the near future b/c I LOVE planning trips. But, the travel agents can help you learn about the restaurants and even make reservations for you.

    With my little ones, the beach is nothing like relaxing. We have fun, but I'm running constantly and never actually just get to sit and read on the beach. I hope to do that again in the future, but it's going to be quite a while!

    I hope you are not disappointed in your April trip!

  9. Oh we weren't disappointed with our first trip at all! It was a truly magical week and two years later, the kids still sit at dinner and discuss what their favorite moments were.

    I just mean it is a very different type of vacation in that even if you have a travel agent help with your trip planning, you still have day-to-day planning and strategy that you have to be mindful of and it's physically fairly demanding, and I think some people just aren't aware of/prepared for that.

    I know what you mean about little guys at the beach. The beach gets relaxing again when the kids get a bit older and more predictable in their behavior - I promise! We also trade off between the two of us (my husband and I) so that one of us takes responsibility for keeping an eye on the boys and the other can read or throw a towel over his/her head and zone out.