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.

  • Ian P

    A few more for you:

    1. Taking photos on a Dark Ride with the camera flash on – ruins the ride for everyone else.

    2. Talking, talking, talking when you are on a ride or in a show – Yes YOU might have seen the attraction many times and feel you can talk to your friends instead of taking it in, BUT for the other people around you who may be experiencing this for the FIRST time, imagine how you would feel having to listen to you instead of the attraction soundtrack or show performance, or worse of all listen to all your spoilers as you mess around. Consider others, you don’t own the place just because you visit often.

    3. Saving seats in shows, tables in restaurants and places in line – Don’t do it – end of, it’s rude, selfish and inconsiderate.

    • Chris Wood

      Yes! To all of these. The talking in rides really gets to me. I can almost handle the occasional flash, but I don’t need singing or shrieking.

      Thank you.

    • Monorailred

      The flash photo one just DRIVES ME CRAZY!
      When you had to pay to develop film, fewer people would waste an image on a dark ride. I have been on some where it is like a 70s disco – horrific strobe lighting.

      A couple of small changes can make all the difference in park photography

      1) Most digital cameras have a night photo setting – use that on dark rides and for evening photos…TURN OFF THE FLASH! Depending on the camera quality, the photo may be a bit grainy, but it will look 1,000 times better than an overexposed small world doll with an all but black background.

      2) And those night-time photos? Unless you are taking a photo of a person and do not care about the background, the flash should be off now too. A flash is only good for around 15-20 feet. You will not light up the Partners Statue or Cinderella Castle from Main Street.

      3) Why are you using a flash to take photos of the Electrical Parade? You are taking photos of lights – brighter light just drowns that out…you get a nice photo of the black mesh on the parade vehicles.

      4) Flash photography and fireworks – see 2 and 3 above

      5) Using a flash through glass – I see it all the time….how is that photo of your flash?

      Finally – here is a tip that helps out a TON for both a quality photo and for other guests…
      Put your subject close to the camera. If you want a photo of the family in front of the Castle or with France in the background…put them about 5-6 feet in front of you. Don’t put them 30 feet away in front of the statue or scene. All you get is a photo of the background with a couple of little people who may or may not be your loved ones. Try it just once and be amazed at the difference in your photos…..

      • Chris Wood

        Great information. Thank you. As you may have noticed, I’m a terrible photographer. 😉

      • Monorailred

        My pleasure…and BTW, I was trying to be humorous (with a little advice sprinkled in) but I sound a little snarky…apologies to anyone who read that the wrong way… 🙂

  • daliseurat

    These are great. I try to be overly polite while at a Disney Park. It usually diffuses unpleasant situations. What I do have trouble with are people who get in line and then allow a crowd of their family or friends to cut in front of them. No staffer at Disney ever seems to see this and have them yanked out of line. It’s one thing for one parent to take one kid out of line for the bathroom and return. It’s another when one Mom holds places for two additional families. My manners sometimes fail me and I have to ask loudly if they got permission to cut in front of all the folks behind them before cutting.

    • Chris Wood

      Thank you. And thanks for reading.

  • jcruise86

    Good article an comments! I just went to Knott’s Scary Farm with two people who dealt with their fear of the mazes by TALKING loudly about non-scary stuff as they went through each maze. I was grateful to the monster who yelled at them, “Quit talking!” Monsters can be rude in ways we only dream of.

    Chris you wrote, “If your Magical Express driver handles your baggage, it’s standard to tip him or her as well, usually a couple dollars per bag. ” Really? A couple of dollars per bag to the driver? For a big suitcase, sure, but many of us just take carry ons these days.

    • HyppyChick

      Yeah, you really should tip the Magical Express driver. Anyone who gives you personalized service should get something. If all you have is a carry-on and the driver doesn’t touch your belongings, there’s no reason however.

      We actually have fun with tipping and create tip envelopes before our trip for Mousekeeping, anticipated table service meals and bell services. We get the fun both of rewarding a job well done and their reaction to receiving something that we took some care with.

      • Chris Wood

        I love the idea of tip envelopes. Thanks.

    • GhostHostJeff

      I’m a flight attendant and it’s always proper etiquette to tip the shuttle driver every time. Even if you handle your own bag.

      • Chris Wood

        Good to know. I didn’t know about shuttle drivers at the airport.

  • StevenW

    They can fix the Downtown Disney parking situation by having paid or metered parking. Use the same system at Anaheim. First three hours free, then $5 per hour until the maximum, which should be more than the $14, perhaps $20 to ensure no one abuses the system.

    However, I realized that people don’t know how to use the bus transportation properly. You should take the bus to the resort closest to the park. Then walk to the park instead of transferring buses. This could work for the Magic Kingdom where the Contemporary resort is right next door, but I haven’t tried.

    Why not just walk to the Carribean Resort or the DVC Resort next door? Take the bus directly to the resort.

    • Chris Wood

      I think some guests do that, but it’s quite a walk to CBR and even SSR, depending on where you park.

      Interesting about parking at DD in DL. I did not know that. Thanks.

  • HyppyChick

    I think the biggest sin that I have seen is how folks are constantly complaining about stuff. We’re on vacation for heaven’s sake. Unless there is an out and out screw up of astronomical proportions, I am going to just remember that I’m on VACATION at the Happiest Place on Earth and everything else is inconsequential.

  • turbo55

    Sin? I’m sitting having lunch with my family watching a dad answer emails on his Blackberry while his two kids sit beside him for 40 minutes looking bored out of their minds. I wanted to smack him, you’re at Disney World, family time doesn’t happen by osmosis.
    Wow that feels better 🙂

    • BrerSchultzy

      I would also rank this in the top 5…maybe as number one. And not just the dads doing business, but the kids playing video games, moms and dads talking to whoever. My kids and I actually sat in front of a mom with her 3 kids on It’s A Small World who spent the entire ride talking to a friend of hers from home about how annoying the ride was, and how she wouldn’t even come to WDW if it weren’t for the kids. My 4 year old shushed her. I’ve never been prouder.

      • Chris Wood

        Good for your 4-year old! It’s so rude to talk on attractions!

        When I see people like that, I always wonder if they’re local and they are just tired of it? Because I can’t see coming there for a once in a lifetime trip and not paying attention.

        Thanks for your comment.

    • Chris Wood

      Oh lordy. I’ve seen this too.

  • SpectroMan

    Last time I used Magical Express, I was the only guest on board who tipped the driver. I felt terrible for her. Granted, I only tip $2 total, but I felt like the others were really blantantly saying to her, “We don’t appreciate the free ride you just gave us”.

    • Chris Wood

      THank you. It’s a nice gesture. I don’t think they expect a large tip, but a few bucks from a few different guests a day adds up.

  • DisWedWay

    They should have a contest for the most abusive WDW guests as were mentioned above,and send them over to Tokyo Disney Resort for a day class of obersavation on Theme Park Etiquette. I’m sure it would be much cheaper to do a film and show it to the guests backstage. Something to think about.

    • Chris Wood

      I actually had a client throw a fit and get upgraded from a garden wing room to a theme park view at the Contemporary. She’s in my Hall of Shame. To push someone around because you deem your room “absurd” is frankly, absurd.

  • Randman

    One thing about tipping. Many positions at Disney are “non-tipped”. That means, they cannot accept a tip or gratuity. They must decline. Disney enforces this strongly. Most positions are expected to give great service, so tipping isn’t allowed. A non tipped person who accepts a tip can be fired. So, if you offer a Disney Cast Member a tip, and they decline, don’t force it. They appreciate the offer, but want to keep their job. Don’t put them in the position of having to accept it, and then calling their manager to tell them they had to accept a tip from an insistent guest. They won’t get to keep the money anyway. Maybe, give the money you were going to tip to charity, or use it to buy something for someone less fortunate.

    • GhostHostJeff

      This is half true. The rule is Cast Members have to say No 3 times and then they can take the tip. I believe if its over a certain amount they must tell their manager.

      • Chris Wood

        Thanks, Jeff!

      • Randman

        Actually, that’s not accurate. They have to say no 3 times, then can accept the tip from the Guest to end the uncomfortable situation. However, they cannot keep the money. It still has to be turned in to management. If the keep a tip or gratuity, it can (and often does) result in their termination. You’ll have to trust me on this one. Instead of giving a tip, write a letter to Disney if you received amazing service. Or, let their manager know. That will benefit the Cast Member a lot more than a few bucks, without any risk to their jobs.

    • Chris Wood

      Thank you. 🙂

  • Epcyclopedia

    I’m sorry, anyone who think Magical Express is “free” is delusional. No, it’s not directly charged to the riders and offered as a “perk” of staying at a Disney hotel but it costs money to run and Disney charges the resorts for it, who in turn charge higher room rates to cover it.

    Also, Magical Express did not start as a tipped position. It was when they started outsourcing the operation to Mears that the Mears drivers, while thoroughly pissing Disney off, began soliciting guests for tips. This lead to arguments and disputes between Mears and Disney, where Mears drivers felt they were being screwed by being put on Disney routes instead of other Mears routes which allowed tips. It became a tip-allowed position.

    It wasn’t meant to be and Transportation CM’s are paid more per hour than the vast majority of frontline CMs. I have no intention of tipping them, ever.

  • Epcyclopedia

    I also remember when housekeeping wasn’t a tipped position and when the message boards folks started making it a “thing” to tip housekeeping. Prior to this, no one did it. It was along the lines of making gift baskets and bringing them to CMs – it was seen as patently absurb but then the DIS and other forums full of basket-making-types decided it was a badge of honor to leave tips every day for housekeeping because it was so bloody magical.

    Disney relented on the policy and started providing those “So and So Clean Your Room” cards that were utterly verboten prior to this little “magical” change.

    If you could see the obscene gesture I make toward anyone in housekeeping who dares actively solicit tips from guests you’d be quite offended.

    And to recap, these are fully paid positions who make the same or more as other workers at other companies in the area. They are not waitstaff who have a slashed hourly wage that is expected to be recouped from tips. Do you tip at the HoJo? The Days Inn? Because some Disney resorts really and truly are barely a step above them in terms of service and amenities.

    • Plaiditude

      The message boards did not make it a THING to tip Mousekeepers at Disney resorts.

      You tip your maid ALWAYS, no matter where you are staying. That is how I was raised, and most people I know always tip their maids when they stay at hotels. Yes, I have tipped my maids at the Holiday Inn. If I stayed at a HoJo (which scarcely seem to even be around anymore), I would tip them too.

      I feel as though people have very strong opinions about tipping housekeeping, but I was raised, and many people online agree, that you should always tip them.

      Also, in regards to your comment below, you are correct; that is why it is always recommended that you tip daily instead of a lump sum at the end of your stay. That is true for ANY hotel stay, as you don’t know the housekeeper’s schedule.

      • Chris Wood

        I’m a big fan of tipping, especially when I see people working so hard. 🙂


      • turbo55

        Don’t flog me for this but while I was raised to tip for great service, a great haircut, great service in general, I never understood the reason why I would tip someone for exactly doing their job. I mean if the room is kept and all is clean, that is exactly their job… If we left a massive mess before we left or we accidentaly spilled 2 gallons of milk on the floor (exageration) I would understand it but when it is standard room cleaning, why tip? I don’t tip the garbage guy who is probably struggling to get by doing a gross job, but he picks up the garbage cause he chose to do it as a career. Sorry, it just doesn’t seem logical. I am totally open to a logical reason though, and now looking back wonder how many maids have grumbled… :$

    • Chris Wood

      I always tip, no matter where we stay. I figure that money is going to someone who’s working hard and can use it and it’s just a few dollars.

  • Epcyclopedia

    And just to make it abundantly clear hot patently absurb it is – at Disney resorts with 2000-3000 rooms it’s almost guaranteed the same housekeeper WILL NOT be cleaning your room on two consecutive days. So you’re just throwing money at random people.