Welcome to those of you joining me from A Glass Slipper Vacation and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 4th stop on our Magical Blogorail.
Spend a few hours clicking your way through the rich diversity of the online Disney fan community, and you’ll find a lot of words repeated over and over in describing the parks we love so much: magical, fun, happy… But there’s one word you won’t find very often in the frequently glowing descriptions of the Disney parks: overwhelming.
But, in all honesty, “overwhelming” may well be one of the terms most apt for describing what a first time visitor to Walt Disney World encounters. With four theme parks, two water parks, and a plethora of resorts and entertainments, Walt Disney World’s 30,080 acres offers something for everyone, but its rich diversity can be bewildering as well as wonderful. As a seasoned Disney annual passholder who visits multiple times each year, I am still constantly finding new adventures in “the World.” For someone encountering the “Disney experience” for the first time, “overwhelming” may indeed be the best description.
So what advice can an Disney parks fan give a first time visitor? That’s a hard question. One of the things that makes Disney so magical is its ability to provide something for everyone, to create the illusion of an experience tailored just for each guest. Giving advice to a first time visitor is so hard because each visitor is unique. No matter how much one fan loves an attraction or dining experience, it might not be right for the first-time visitor seeking an experience that suits them or their family.
In the bigger picture, however, there are a few words of wisdom that hold true regardless of whether you’re a thrill seeker or an omnimover aficionado. First time visitors to a Disney park might lose sight of the big vacation picture in all of the offerings, but there are 3 things that every first time Disney guest should remember:
Make lots of plans, and be okay with not keeping them. In the dazzling array of choices presented to theme park guests, knowledge truly is power. Knowing what choices are available to you, what you wanted to do in a given area of the park, or what dining options are nearby is invaluable. And, of course, the more you plan, the more you know. Researching attractions, dining, and shows before you head off on vacation is part of the fun of going to a Disney park. It’s not just doing that makes magic – it’s dreaming. The more you plan what you’re going to do in the parks, the more excited you’ll be, and the more you’ll know when you arrive…
…but there’s a second part to that planning. Part of the magic that Disney bloggers keep talking about is the spontaneous wonder of discovery. It’s finding yourself dancing with Chip and Dale in the middle of a parade; it’s smelling something amazing on your way past a restaurant and stopping in; it’s daring to ask if there are any open spots at Cinderella’s Royal Table and being seated; it’s stopping to watch an amazing balancing act in Epcot’s France; it’s seeing DiVine at Animal Kingdom. Those magical moments are what take us away from the carefully planned rigors of daily life; they’re part of Disney magic…but they won’t be part of your plans. First time guests should plan, a lot! But they should also know that if their plans don’t flow exactly the way they are, well, planned, that’s okay – in fact it may be better! Disney vacations are about planning and dreaming, but they’re also about playing, and every first time visitor needs to remember that.
Take your time; you don’t have to do it all. I cannot imagine the frustration for a first time Disney guest, seeing all of the amazing things the parks have to offer and knowing that you can’t fit it all in. In my visits to the parks, I have seen far too many exhausted parents dragging equally exhausted children from attraction to attraction, doggedly determined to fit in everything they can and squeeze every dollar’s worth of value from their vacation. They will open the park; they will close the park.
Dangit. Don’t do that.
Disney parks are too big for anyone, no matter how superhuman their efforts, to “cover” in a vacation. Trust me, I’ve been to the parks over 100 times in the past 4 years, and I haven’t covered everything. First time visitors shouldn’t feel pressured to do or see everything. Part of the excitement of Walt Disney World is that there’s always something more to do when you come back. Instead of exhausting yourself and pushing to do more, first time guests need to concentrate on really enjoying what they choose to do. You’re far better riding something you really love 3 times to remember every detail than rushing through 4 attractions to check them off some accomplishment list. Disney is about making memories, not about covering territory. Slow down, experience…no one’s expecting you to meet a quota.
Remember to play. Disney parks are about escaping the real world. They’re about letting go of the bitterness, the responsibility, the frustrations, and the despair of everyday life to find new hope for tomorrow and to be reminded of the reasons we love those around us. Sometimes vacations become another chore, another source of frustration…don’t let a Disney trip turn into a “grown-up” set of chores. The entire Disney vacation experience is designed to allow Disney cast members to take mundane responsibilities off your shoulders so that you don’t have to worry about the little stuff. Know that going in.
Discussing a potential first-time family Disney trip with a friend, I mentioned the joy and hope that I find at Disney, away from the “real world.” She shook her head and said, “I don’t know if that’s for me. I’m not sure I remember how to be a kid anymore.” Disney is about helping you remember. Walt’s dream for a theme park was about a place where families could play together. That’s what a Disney vacation is all about, and first time visitors need to keep that playfulness in mind as they visit…there’s magic in being willing to revive that joy and hope that so often gets put away.
Every Disney vacation is a little different – like every Disney vacationer – but there is wonder and joy for everyone. Yes, the offerings at a theme park can be overwhelming, but first time visitors should step back and enjoy the experience. And they need to remind themselves, there’s always next time…
Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Focused on the Magic
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Loop should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard: