Park Wise: Vacationing with a Reluctant Disney Traveler

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Disney Parks, Features, Park Wise

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Published on May 02, 2013 at 12:01 am with 18 Comments

If you’re hanging around this site, chances are you’re a mega Disney fan. Weirdly, though, not everyone is.  Crazy, right?  Even weirder, sometimes those people end up on a Disney vacation with you.  Maybe it’s a too-cool teenager, a grumpy father-in-law or a penny-pinching aunt.  In any case, there are a few steps one can take to keep Eeyore’s black cloud from putting a damper on your vacation. Here are my top tips for vacationing with a reluctant Disney traveler.

Don’t Go Overboard with Pre-Trip Planning

If Aunt Gertrude is already griping about the cost of everything from bottles of water to hotels, she’s probably not going to be into planning meals.  “It costs WHAT to eat with Mickey?!?!”  Approach once or twice for opinions and gauge the response.  Sometimes, especially for those reluctant teens, knowing that they’ll get to do something they want (hello Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster and California Screamin’), they may not be so over the vacation.  On the other hand, the amount of planning that can be involved in a Disney vacation may turn an already on-the-fence traveler off completely.

Don’t Force Fun

While the pre-trip excitement, especially when the countdown gets down to single digits, can often turn those frowns upside down, some Grumpies are steadfast.  Once you arrive, make sure everyone knows plans are optional.  If your moody brother isn’t into waking up early for rope drop, meet him later.  If a character meal isn’t grandma’s idea of fun, show her to the closest counter service and go your separate ways for lunch.  Give your reluctant fan the lay of the land and the plan for the day, and let them decide when and how often they’ll join the party.

ŸGet Park Wise: Diners can be dropped from dining reservations without penalty.  The cancellation fee only applies when the entire party is a no-show.  Take care when booking pre-paid meals, though, such as Cinderella’s Royal Table.

Enjoy Yourself

While it’s de rigueur for the planner to make sure everyone is having a picture-perfect good time, some people just aren’t Disney people, and that’s OK.  Don’t spend your vacation hoping they see Disney the way you do.  If you do, you’ll cheat yourself out a fun trip.  Maybe they’ll come around and enjoy the vacation in spite of themselves.  Maybe they won’t.  Encourage participation but accept a “No, thank you” and continue with your vacation.  There is no sense in making everyone’s trip a downer because you keep feeling rejected and they are feel annoyed and pestered.  Just know who will be staying home next time. ;)

Have you ever vacationed with a Grumpy Disney traveler?  How did you handle it?

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

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18 Comments

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  1. A Disney vacation is a multi-day trip to an amusement park. For the reluctant traveler, it is asking for too much. They are reluctant because it isn’t the vacation they want to do. There is no way to fix it except to offer them something they want to do. If they are your Aunt Gertrude, I see no point of asking an extended family member to go. They can only hold everyone else back. Either leave them behind or allow them to have a different itinerary. Perhaps your Aunt should have a like-minded companion so they can do as they wish.

    • Gotta agree with you there. I can pull of swinging by Disneyland with my wife, but I doubt she’ll ever be into taking an actual trip to Disney World.

      • They’re definitely two different monsters to tackle. Glad you’ve at least got some Disney in her life!

    • It all depends on the traveler. Luckily we didn’t follow this advice with our reluctant traveler, and we now have a yearly Disney-goer on our hands. I can definitely see following this school of thought if you have a nay-sayer who has already experienced Disney and decided it’s a no-go for them.

  2. Get there pre-rope drop to avoid the crowds that turn non-Disneyland fanatics off fast. Having a fun filled morning with lots of rides warms people up to Disneyland.

    When family starts getting grumpy with the heat and long lines around 1pm-2pm… Take an break back hotel. Take a nap, hit the pool, watch weird LA tv, or have lunch. A hopefully short walk back to the close motel you’ve selected will help energize everyone for the lighter crowds and cooler weather at night.

  3. The older my husband has gotten, the harder it’s been to travel with him. I’ve banned him 3 times from going with me to WDW (or any where for that matter now). I tried. I’ve given up. There are just some people who can’t have fun, who can’t relax, who can’t “go with the flow”. Others might think my approach is cruel, selfish or heartless, but why would anyone want to be with someone who’s miserable? Furthermore, why would THEY want to go where they’ll be miserable?? There comes a time when you just have to put an end to trying.

    • Have you gone with him to where he wants to vacation? How about a side diversion to enjoy things he might like in Central Florida. I can think of Tampa Bay or Daytona Beach.

    • I have several friends who hit Disney solo or with their kids or friends and leave the significant other at home. If you’ve tried, and he’s just not into it, no harm in taking a vacation all to yourself. ;)

  4. I would offer a different perspective. Over all the years I’ve been to Disney parks I can say with assurance that one of the best ways to convert Disney grumps (and related reluctant travelers) into people at least happy to go along for the ride is to actually have a very thoroughly planned itinerary and to stick with it.

    Knowing exactly where you are going to be at any time of the day within the parks and knowing where you are going to eat resolves the two biggest sources of discontentment with reluctant travelers.

    I’ve watched more people spend precious time arguing about where they are going to eat and what they are going to do. It is so sad because they waste all of their time making decisions. Worse still, they don’t invest their time wisely – refusing to wait in lines for rides.

    I can’t tell you how many strangers I’ve sat with who are amazed at how much we get done in a day visiting either Disneyland or Disneyworld.

    And the thing is – a good plan allows for flexibility. If people want to go back to the hotel to rest – they know where to meet you for lunch or dinner. If you have teens that want to go do their own thing – they can – because they know where to meet up with you at any given time in the day. And a good plan ensures that people who just don’t feel like riding rides always know where they can go to enjoy a quiet place to relax and unwind.

    Planning also helps deal with budget concerns. While Disney meals may seem expensive, there are actually a wide variety of budget-friendly and tasty places to eat that don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. While eating at the Blue Bayou can be special – it will be lost on folks who are only concerned with the cost – so don’t build that kind of restaurant into your plan if you aren’t going to go with people who will enjoy it for what it is.

    And I guess that’s it in a nutshell. A well planned trip takes all travelers into consideration – whether they easily get motion sickness or just want to ride thrill rides – creating a good plan with a solid mix of activities ensures everyone can be happy and get the most out of their trip.

    • That’s a big nutshell! ;)

      Your perspective actually isn’t different at all! I encourage the planner to give Grumpy the plans, and let them join as they wish. No use in forcing them to have fun, but they’ll know where they can catch up when they feel like it. For example, my gpa loves seeing the kids have fun, and he enjoys the dining options at WDW, but he often heads back to hang out in the club lounge or rest in the room at his leisure.

    • I find your statement about waiting in lines to be so true, you have to be willing. It’s like a contest, you can’t win unless you enter. You can’t ride rides unless you wait in line.

  5. As DVC members, we use our membership to get two-bedroom villas whenever possible, and we try to bring along family and friends at least once a year. We’ve brought along some reluctant travelers, and every one of them has had a fantastic time. Part of that is because we know the parks so well that we can customize the experience to each person’s tastes.

    WDW has so much to offer that isn’t just about “rides.” Whether it’s a day at a spa, a fancy dinner, a leisurely day in the World Showcase, miniature or real golf, “sightseeing” at different resorts, shopping or relaxing by the pool, there is so much to do that no one we’ve ever taken with us has had anything bad to say afterward.

    I do have a brother who just refuses to go with us. We can’t figure out why; we’re providing a free place for him to stay. If he wants to stay home, that’s fine; we just take his kids with us. His two children LOVE going to WDW, so we go and have a blast.

    • So true! Some people just don’t realize how much there is to do outside of what one typically think of at an amusement park destination. We’ve done almost all of your second paragraph and recommend all of it!

  6. I’ve had lots of experience with “Reluctant” Disney travelers. Usually because some family members want to go to Disney and the others didn’t want to be left out. It’s always a struggle for what to do and when.

    I think your advice to make schedules non-mandatory is the best approach. Give the schedule and invite the family to participate in as much or as little as they like.

    After paying a tremendous amount for grandma to go on a Disney cruise with us, she proceeded to have a terrible time. She’s still talking about the cartoon ship she sailed on and how Mickey shouldn’t be sailing boats loaded with children. Of course, the rest of us had a great time and go on at least one Disney cruise a year. We LOVE it.

    You really can’t force someone to enjoy something. You can lead a grumpy traveler to magic, but you can’t make them believe in it. They have to do that on their own.

    • That’s a shame about grandma, but your last comment really hits the nail on the head! Give it a go, but don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t go the way you hoped. Thanks!

  7. A thought — if you are a fountain of Disney history/trivia, you might consider turning the faucet down towards “low” just a tad.

    It’s really easy to overload your guest with info that you think they’d find interesting. If a story requires yet another story, and a story within that story for context or background briefing, consider not getting into it (unless they are actually interested and not just politely interested).

    Maybe talking about park history does pass the time and get interesting, but it would be generous of you to patiently field the standard tour-guide-type questions instead of the really interesting insider questions.

    If you know too much about the bad decisions made over the park’s history, or politics, or injustices, or declining by degrees and so on: who wants to hear you complaining or scowling about those things? No ranting, no cynicism. If you love the parks that much yet they seem to make you cranky, what good are you as a park guide? I find a trip with a non-Disney person to be a good opportunity to refresh my own attitude and to look at things with fresh eyes, as if it seeing them for the first time. It’s particularly nice doing this with child guests. It’s good to remember that the parks are basically wonderful and that it may be high time to let go of some past disappointments.

    I’ve had friends visit who were not interested in Disney per se but were very interested in, say, the real California antiques on Main Street, steam trains, etc. If you know your guest is into a specific area, and you’ve got the time, it’s nice to do a little research first on their areas of interest just in case (and you know you need an excuse to get more books…Steve DeGaetano anyone?), but again they really may not want to listen to your Three Hour Tour.

    Of course it depends on who your friends are, but I would bet they’ll be more enthused by your knowing which Fastpass to grab or where to eat than how many animatronics were in America Sings, what software is used in the Emporium, what materials the window displays are made from, etc. Then again, who wouldn’t want to know about Space Mountain going slower in the morning…

    Speaking as a guilty party who had to remember to keep my piehole shut.

  8. A tricky situation, that sometimes won’t be able to be fixed by you. In the end people need to make the choice weather they will enjoy themselves or not. I guess the key for a Disney visit would be to give them some feedom to do what they’d like to do, and the option to join in with others if they want.
    My husband was never a Grumpy Visitor, and after visiting Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea a number of times I couldn’t call him a reluctant visitor now either (although he didn’t visit Disneyland California on the first day of our honeymoon with me, he hung out with a friend, and I visited Disneyland with an LA based friend, which was fine as we both had good days doing what we wanted), but those Tokyo visits had always been very busy and rushed days. Racing around like headless chickens to fit in as much as we could.
    Recently we visited Disneyland Paris, and I wanted to show him the relaxing way and other side of Disney that I appreciate. The detail, the good food and how to Tour the Parks to maximize enjoyment. He left a lot of the planning up to me, and after my research I got back to him with the options, including pros and cons of on-property hotels, meal reservations, restaurants. We needed up staying on-property for 5 nights! Once we got there he increased our meal reservations from 3 total, to every main meal, and as we had visited Paris city another time, we didn’t even leave the resort. He’s now planning to return there again next year and also to Disneyland Hong Kong on our journey home, also staying on-property.
    Although I wouldnt call him a passionate Disney Parks Fan like me, I think my mission of showing him the way to tour a park and relax while there has worked!