You see it in the parks all the time: Yelling parents, grumpy guests, and bad manners. So many Disney World “sins” are really just the result of nice people being hot, tired, and spending too much money, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take. Here’s my personal top five bad guest behaviors.
1. Stroller Wars.
It seems you’re either pushing one or you’re being annoyed by one: Strollers are everywhere in Disney parks. In fact, strollers are such a divisive subject that if you ever wanted to start a fight on a Disney message board, mention putting your six-year old into one and then sit back and watch the fur fly.
I try not to tell any parent how to raise his or her children, so the decision to use a stroller is entirely yours, but if you’re pushing one, please make sure you don’t use it as a battering ram. I used to think this was a Disney urban legend until it happened to me this past weekend– a mother literally used her double stroller to push me out of the way and continued to push her way through the crowd long after she passed me!
At the same time, I’ve seen people get disproportionately angry at some innocent person who accidentally brushed up against them with his stroller while walking through the park. I’m in the parks both with and without my children and getting around without kids? It’s easy. But throw in a couple of toddlers, their gear, and some whining (sometimes my own) and it’s a job (albeit a fun one). So next time you see a parent trudging through the park, give them a little room, maybe hold a door open for them. If you’ve been there, try to remember what it’s like. And if you haven’t? Be glad you can move about unencumbered!
2. Pool Hopping.
I get this question a lot, mostly from innocent first-timers: No, you can’t use another resort’s pool. This is one of those “sins” that really isn’t that big of a deal, but at Disney World, it’s taken pretty seriously. While you can sometimes sneak into a pool that isn’t your own, underneath that big white glove, The Mouse has an iron fist and you’ll be thrown out if you can’t produce a resort ID. So stay at your own pool and keep The Mouse happy. Trust me on this one.
3. Bad Tipping.
Once and for all: Tips are not included in the dining plan. If you’re budgeting for your trip, make sure you include an estimate for what you’ll spend in gratuities. A lot of guests balk at leaving a standard (or higher for groups of six or more) tip at buffets, but keep in mind that your server is bringing drinks and plates during your entire meal. Most Disney servers, particularly in signature restaurants, are some of the best you’ll encounter anywhere, so it isn’t uncommon to tip 18 to 20 percent with your meal.
Not every cast member position on Disney property is allowed to receive tips, but it’s standard to tip Bell Services and Housekeeping. For Housekeeping, I like to tip daily rather than at the end of the my trip, since you may have a different cast member making up the room each day. If your Magical Express driver handles your baggage, it’s standard to tip him or her as well, usually a couple dollars per bag. And if your Magical Express driver sings Disney songs to you? Well, he deserves a tip too!
4. Parking Lot Abuse.
One question I hear a lot is how to avoid paying for parking on Disney property. Disney resorts guests and annual pass holders can park for free, but everyone else has to pay $14 a day. On a week-long trip, that can really add up. Since there really isn’t any public parking near Disney parks, the only option is to try to sneak into a resort parking lot or to park at Downtown Disney.
While you can safely park at Downtown Disney all day and not be towed, there are no park buses that go directly from Downtown Disney to the parks, which means you’ll need to go to a resort that’s nearest to the park you plan on visiting and take a bus from there. This can mean a trip of about 90 minutes to two hours, depending on the day and your park of choice. While that may be fine in the morning when you’re all bright eyed and bushy tailed, you might not feel like that kind of “commute” after an entire day in the parks. Think about it this way: Time is money at Disney World. The money you “saved” by not paying for parking pales in comparison to the time and money you waste when you’re not in the parks.
Of course the other alternative is to try and park at a resort, but Disney has cracked down on this practice recently by asking for resort identification every time you drive in. Again, it’s simply better to pay for parking and enjoy the relatively short trek from the parking lot to the park. Finally, when you weigh the cost of on site vs. off site stays, don’t forget to add parking into your daily costs. Sometimes this small amount can tip the scales in favor of on site accommodations.
5. Angry Parenting.
If you’re a parent, or any type of caretaker of young children, you’ve been there, that point where you’re about to lose it. And we’ve all heard some version of the “angry parent in a Disney park” story. It goes something like this: The grown up yelling at the crying kid, telling them “I paid a lot of money for this trip and you’re going to have fun!” And it’s hard not to think that way sometimes. It’s hot, crowded, and if you’re like most folks, this trip just put a huge dent in your budget.
I actually once read that the researchers for the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World stood in the parks and just listened for the time of day when the most meltdowns occurred. Not surprisingly, it was right after lunch, when most kids are hot and tired. You can avoid these meltdowns by heading them off before they begin. Make sure kids have low-sugar, high protein snacks and are well-hydrated. Leave the parks during the hottest time of the day and head back to the resort. If naps aren’t going to happen, try a little bit of pool time before you head back into the park when it cools down a bit.
As a parent, keep it all in perspective. Don’t treat your vacation like a forced march. Be willing toss out your spreadsheet and just have fun, even if that fun isn’t what you originally thought it would be. You want your kids to remember you being happy, not screaming at them because they don’t want to pose for pictures in their custom outfits in front of It’s a Small World!
Get Park Wise: We often think of Guest Assistance Cards as being for guests with mobility issues or other obvious disabilities, but children with sensory issues can benefit from these cards as well. If you need one, don’t hesitate to ask. That’s what it’s there for.
What about you? Do you ever commit any of these “Disney sins”? Got any you’d like to complain about? Let’s dish.
Chris writes here and at Everything Walt Disney World. You can also follow her on her Disney Facebook page where she spends entirely too much time obsessing over the opening of the Fantasyland expansion.