I recently returned to Disney World to take my 4-year-old daughter on her first visit. In 1994 I was 14 and that was the last time I went to Disney World, I had gone at least twice more prior to that. While my memory isn’t that great, I do recollect bits and pieces from each of my previous visits. So here are my adult observations of Disney World; 25 years later.
The Magic Band and Fast Pass
The Magic Band is brilliant. Instead of worrying about carrying your wallet, credit cards and hotel room key, you can wear them on your wrist instead. You can connect a credit card to your Magic Band and simply scan it at the register to pay for items (food, merchandise, etc). If you are staying at a Disney resort, you simply scan your Magic Band to enter your room. So you don’t really need your whole wallet, just your ID and perhaps a little bit of cash.
Plus if you set up dining plans, your Magic Band will store that information for you. Dining plans are pre-paid meals that you set up when you are planning your trip. In fact you can also schedule a reservation at the same time so you don’t have to wait an eternity when its time for lunch. It’s a fast pass for your meals.
Speaking of fast pass; a fast pass is how you can skip the long lines for the rides and shows. It’s like setting a reservation for a ride, but you have to set that up ahead of time as well. However, if you miss your window to use your fast pass, you lose it. Meaning you have to wait in the longer line if you want to go on the ride. All of your fast passes are, again, managed by your Magic Band.
While the fast pass is a great idea for planning your day and trying to get on your favorite rides, it kind of adds a new level of exhaustion. You are literally going from one ride to the next depending on the spacing of your fast pass rides. So if you think you are going to get your Fitbit steps in, you probably won’t. There isn’t much time for meandering when you are going directly from one ride to the next.
When you’re a kid (even 14 years old) there are some things you don’t really notice at a place like Disney World. There are some things you don’t even think about.
It’s Offensively Expensive
When you were younger and your parents told you Disney is expensive, you probably just shrugged it off. As an adult, returning to Disney … OMGWTFBBQ its expensive. I feel like someone should have bought me dinner first before bending over for that. You are basically spending the same amount of money you would for a decent down payment on a new car. I guess its one of those things you don’t notice as a kid, the price next to each item on the menu. The merchandise is more affordable than food. It was $4.50 for a 20oz Coke Zero! Setting up meal plans and snacks on your Magic Band is your cheapest option.
Alcohol and People Watching
As I was mentally preparing for this trip, I often joked that I need to pack a flask to survive. Then I got to thinking, is there alcohol at Disney? When I was a kid (yes, even at 14 because I wasn’t interested in alcohol) I wasn’t curious about buying alcohol. The answer is, Yes. Every restaurant has beer and wine. Unfortunately I never bought a beer because it makes me tired and I was already pretty exhausted!
People watching is quite revealing too, especially when it comes to line etiquette. There were 10 of us and we were all using the same fast pass reservations. Trying to keep 10 people together in an amusement park line takes quite a bit of coordination. Despite our best efforts, we were inevitably split up by other patrons slipping in line between us. Apparently foreigners do not seem to care if your family is split apart, or they just don’t recognize the situation. I’m not trying to stereotype all foreigners however most of the time, if the intruders didn’t appear to be foreign, they would often allow those family members left in the back to move forward.
Costumed Characters MIA
The most surprising thing I observed is the lack of costumed characters. I know I don’t have the best memory but I distinctly remember seeing Disney characters in the streets quite often. It was especially common in Magic Kingdom and I swear every 10 minutes you ran into a Mickey, Donald or Goofy. The entire time we were there I think I saw a Goofy once, and it was at Hollywood Studios. There are “character encounters”, but they seem to be scheduled, which really takes the fun out of it. It’s also possible that more characters meander during the busier time of year.
The trip was still super fun, even as an adult. Of course I will need to return to Disney World after Galaxy’s Edge opens.
I could accomplish so much more if I only had minions!