An Introvert at Disney World

Seeing as I hate heat, crowds, scary rides and mascots, I wasn't too keen on the idea of going to Disney World. However, we wanted our kids to experience it, so we went. Here's what I thought.

Well, we did it. We went to Disney World.

The boys are seven and ten, so we figured that they were at a really good age to take them. So despite my hatred of crowds, noise, heat and mascots, we bit the bullet and went.

First, I would like to mention; I get it now.

Before we went, I couldn’t find anyone that actually hated Disney, which I found fascinating. I mean, I’m sure there are lots of people out there that don’t like Disney World, but all the people I talked to either really liked it or were downright obsessed with it. Now I get the appeal and why people love it.

What I Loved

1. It was so clean that I couldn’t believe it. How can a place that has a gabillion people through it every day have no gum blobs, greasy handrails, or random wrappers everywhere? This pristine maintenance was truly the most magical thing I saw.

2. Everyone was really happy and friendly. They seriously must comb the planet for the nicest, more sincere people to work at this place. It wasn’t too Stepford either and that is coming from someone who hates the overly jubilant – I find it suspicious and assume that you’re trying to drug me and steal my kidneys.

3. It was efficient. Why airports and governments don’t employ the planning engineers from Disney is beyond me. I swear the line-ups to get on a ride have been designed by Temple Grandin because at no point was I bored or aware of how long I was standing in line. I cannot stress how impressive that is. My husband and I won’t stand in a line that has two people in it because few things in our minds are worth it – soft ice cream is the only exception.

4. The rides were fun and well designed. I’m not a big ride person, yet there wasn’t one ride that I didn’t enjoy. The rides were fun rather than straight up scary which I really appreciated.

5. The food was good. Every meal we had ranged from good to amazing. Most of that was thanks to all of you telling me where to eat, but I got the impression there are no truly shitty places to eat there. I thought my husband was going to weep in Ohana from the chicken wings because he loved them so much. There could have been a few more healthy options, but I get that most people don’t eat cucumbers on vacation.

6. We used a Disney planner. To say I was overwhelmed at the thought of planning for Disney World is a gross understatement. I was told I had to arrange FastPasses, hotel bookings, dinner reservations, order bands, etc. all for a place I had never been before. So when I found out I could have this done (for free) by someone that knows what they are doing, I was all for it. Chad from Key to the World Travel made suggestions, booked everything, and sent me a full itinerary for each day we were there. Not only did it consider the boys’ ages, but it also mapped out in order, so we weren’t zig-zagging around the park. Chad is a damn angel and is one of the biggest reasons we had a great time. (I highly recommend him if you’re thinking about going and you want someone else to do the heavy lifting.)

What I Didn’t Love

1. You have to study before you go. I planned on going through all the material I’d saved about Disney World, but my son was hit with a violent stomach bug the week before that systematically went through all of us. I was too busy steeped in fevers and barf to figure out the full operation. So I landed at Disney not knowing how anything worked which threw me off my game – I was just so unbelievably grateful that none of us were sick for the trip.

2. Some people were a little too friendly. My older son is on the autism spectrum and takes things very literally. When we got to Epcot a very nice woman letting us in said: “I bet you are nine, and you are seven!” My son said, “No, I’m 10.” To which she gently pulled him in close and whispered in his ear, “It will be cheaper for your parents if you’re nine, Sweetheart. So you’re nine here.” She was really nice and it was truly kind of her to think of that, but the close whispering thing with a stranger and ‘breaking the rules’ screwed the poor kid up for the day. When we left the park, he nervously asked me, “Mom, can I be ten again now?” 

I was looking for the lost and found and had to look through a gentleman’s pictures from his trip to New York. My husband had to spend 10 minutes talking to a woman about all the perks you get when you’ve worked there for a decade when all he wanted to do was buy a Christmas ball. Let me stress that I am not complaining about these people – they were all lovely – I just felt like I was being rude if I wasn’t ‘on’ all the time and that poops me out.

3. I felt stupid (a lot). You know when you join an exercise class and everyone knows the routine, but you’re always a step behind and awkward? That’s how I felt for the whole trip. Again, most of this had to do with not studying before we left, but I was never clear on how everything worked. To get around well, you have to talk to people and ask questions which is not one of my favourite things to do – it was also amplified by my worry of the chit chat factor above. Sometimes I didn’t even know to ask for things, like when we went to Ohana (with the amazing chicken wings) and my kids hated everything so they didn’t eat. It wasn’t until we were leaving that I saw a kid eating mac and cheese that I realized that I could have asked for something off menu. I felt like a jerk for not thinking of it. I was there for six days and I’m still not clear on how the meal plan works – “I’d like these to count for three snacks and two quick meals” – sometimes I just wanted a sandwich with no math. 
I never did figure out how the pin trading worked either.

4. The crowds. The only place I found crowded was Magic Kingdom and I have to admit that it bothered me. Of course, this means I can probably never go back to Disney because we went when the crowds are often at their lowest so I wouldn’t be able to handle any other time of year. When getting on the rides, I would walk through miles and miles of dividers and think, “Holy shit, the lines can get this long here?” and the thought made me sick.

All of that said, we had fun and that’s saying something considering all my hang ups and phobias. The people at Disney have it figured out and I think they should plan the world with IKEA. 

The positive energy is infectious and I didn’t see one person (employee or guest) being a dick, which is astounding considering how many people are there. They really do go out of their way to be kid-friendly and to accommodate every need which is commendable. 

Would I go again? We barely scratched the surface as far as what was there and now I understand why people go year after year, but I don’t know if we’d do it again simply because I think there are places in the world I’d rather see. 

Am I happy we went? You bet. We had a lot of fun and I think the boys got to experience it at the perfect age for them. 

I get it now. You do it up right, Walt.

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13 Comments

  • This is such a great post about going as a first timer! I’m a Disney Planner so have been a lot (my 10 month old has already been twice!) and agree that having a planner or going with someone that goes often can be such a huge help to being able to be in the moment. It’s a great place! (And, oh man, those Ohana chicken wings are to die for!)

  • Oh, Amy here again…did I mention we had our 10 week old daughter with us? Years of knowing that place helped us enjoy it in a new way!

  • We were there last week too. I have no idea how many times I’ve been there…seriously no idea. There have been years we’ve gone 4 times. We stayed at Saratoga Springs this time around. The trick is to go with weirdos like us who know most of the tricks and the way it runs. (I will never know ALL of it…after all the different things we’ve done there through the years, we STILL haven’t seen it all!) If you go again, take a Disney dork like me with you so you can relax and enjoy being a kid again. ?

  • Zomg. This is the MOST perfect, spot-on review for these first-time Disney goers as well.

    We were skeptical for all the same reasons, and loved it for all the same reasons.

    Our first day at Magic Kingdom we totally felt like we were "losing" at vacation, and that’s not a great way to feel. Though I’m admittedly a competitive person, aggressive vacationing isn’t really my thing.

    Once we got into a groove, though, figured out the fast pass(with a baby! So we got a buddy pass! So the kids all got to fast pass it twice! Winning! Gaming the system!), got accustomed to the crowds(Spring Break ’16 can I get a what what!), and almost dialed in the meal plan, we had a really, really fun time. All of us. And that’s saying something.

    I get it, too, and I think we’ll be back. But not like 5 times a year. But maybe one or two more times? I’d do it again, for sure, and know the kids would too.

    Glad you had fun, and thanks for sharing! I always enjoy your perspective and humor.

  • We took our kids for the first time this year (I had never been either) and I frickin loved it. I despise carnivals so I wasn’t sure if I would, but I would love to go every year if we had the $$$. I also geeked out on the research and scheduling fast passes. I’ll post a picture of us on Splash Mountain in the facebook comments…ignore my look of terror, I had a great time.

  • Proud of you for making the trip! I come from a Disney family and have a sister in FL. So I have been a few times, and only once for a day when I had a 2 and 4 year old and was about 15 weeks prego. I fall in between "I get it. " and "fanatic" when I’m there. But there is one thing I am certain of, it IS magical!

  • I’m glad you survived! I totally didn’t get Disney either and had never been until I was an adult. I felt like a kid again though! I thankfully went with some family who goes every year so I had to do no research. I also loved how clean it was.

  • You are hilarious! I enjoyed reading this and your perspective, humor and honesty! And thanks for the tip on using a "person"al planner.

  • Oh man- I’ve been several times, my Father-in-law works there over winter and my other in-laws are Disney Fanatics. I STILL barely know all there is to know. So I wouldn’t worry… as long as you had fun. And if you go again, I would suggest skipping the meal plan. It’s too much food! We usually make one or two reservations and then otherwise play it by ear. If we’re not that hungry, we just eat quick serve wherever. I’ve even had some nice, small meals by the pool at the hotel. Sometimes you just want a sandwich and a soda, not a themed extravaganza.

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