Article and Pictures by Florida Diva
We have written on this topic many times, in many ways, but it bears repeating : HAVE A PLAN PEOPLE!
Yes, it’s true, a long time ago, in a land not so far away, visits were simpler and being a first time visitor to Disney was not the complex experience it is today. So what changed? Well, lots; and if you’ve never been and plan on going, getting familiar with how things work at the parks will ensure you have an enjoyable visit.
So how did things used to be? Well, more flexible for one. There was a time when you could simply show up at the gates, purchase your ticket, wander aimlessly through the park all day, spontaneously bumping into characters that wandered the grounds, and decide on a whim which attractions you would experience. If you decide to try this tactic now, you’d better be a seasoned pro and armed with the patience of the guy who commissioned the construction of The Great Wall of China. (Be sure to check out The China Pavilion at Epcot, by the way; some seriously cool things to see there.)
Today, due in great part to advances in technology and Disney’s quest to be at the forefront of innovation, many opportunities for organizing your day and for crowd control have been implemented. Most of these options have been of benefit to the guest, starting with “rider swap.” This process allows riders who can’t ride together, (perhaps because small children in their party don’t meet the height requirement), to ride separately, one right after the other so that children are not left unattended in the park and so that it eliminates the need to wait in line twice.
Another bright idea came in the form of “Character Meet and Greets.” Was it fun to randomly run into characters as you made your way through the park? Absolutely, but you can also imagine a child’s disappointment if they were constantly in the wrong place at the wrong time effectively missing out on the chance to chat up their favorite character. So now, having a time and place set out is beneficial to guests.
Then, along came “Fastpass,” which is by far the most popular change made to The Disney Parks. Fast pass allows guests to book a window of time to return to the most popular rides and stand in a much shorter line than the traditional “Standby” line. Some feel recent changes to Disney’s ticketing system have caused this option to become cumbersome, restricting and time consuming for guests who have not done their homework. (Even seasoned Disney vets were caught off guard with the new implementation, which put a damper on their visits in the early introductory phases.) With many of the bugs now worked out, and in large part, to information spreading on the best way to utilize the new system, guests are better able to take advantage of it.
So what was this change, anyway? Well, Disney went from a ticket and linked fingerprint system where you would insert your ticket in various machines around the park that would then dispense a return receipt for that ride or attraction to a new magic band system. The new rubber bracelets are encoded with everything from your room number (if you’re staying on property), your credit card info (so you can shop without having to carry cash or cards), and your Fastpass and restaurant reservations. Fastpass reservations can now be made, online, in advance of your vacation so you don’t have to stand in what can be very long lines at the parks to make your selections.
Now this is the very minimum info that you need in order to have a stress free and enjoyable visit to the parks. Being at least somewhat informed about the types of attractions each park offers, their hours of operation (this varies by park and season), parade times and routes, restaurants, shops and even bathroom locations are all good things to be aware of before you cross the threshold of any Disney park.
Why, you ask? Because if you’ve never been to Disney, you and your party are going to be mind blowingly in awe as soon as you arrive. Kids will be excited, adults will be overwhelmed with choices and you’ll instantly have everyone in sensory overload all focused on something that’s caught their eye. I guarantee that this will instantly raise your stress level as you try and get everyone working as a team to do one thing at a time, in an as organized manner as possible, making sure to fit everyone’s “must sees” on the itinerary. This is NOT the ideal time to formulate your plan of attack.
I’m telling you, going to Disney, without a plan is tempting fate. Why would you spend all that money without knowing what you’re going to do when you got there? Would you go to Mount Everest (which is available for you to experience at Animal Kingdom, by the way) without knowing what equipment you needed, a planned route and a guide, thinking you were going to successfully reach the summit? No, you wouldn’t. Would you travel to Spain hoping to survive a leisurely stroll through the streets during “The Running of The Bulls?” I hope not. Going to Disney and knowing what you’re getting into is really no different. Our website has received a ton of complaints about the new systems in place at WDW and most of these complaints have been because folks were caught off guard not knowing what they needed to do before their trip. Plan, plan, plan!
Visit Disney’s Website here, http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/ca/and start planning a happy and memorable trip.