Yesterday, I shared with you a few fun stories about my vacation to Disney World. But with the good comes the bad. Now, there isn’t much that’s bad about a visit to Disney World, but the bad things? Are infuriating. Let’s review a couple:
Double, side-by-side strollers. I don’t know who invented these, but I hope they realize that they’re monsters. I don’t know whose idea it was to make these a real, rentable thing in the parks, but I hope they realize that they’re an even worse monster.
Let me just speak to the inconsiderate double-wide stroller parent directly for a minute. Look, I get it. You have many children. And it’s difficult for the little ones to walk (and the not-so-little ones–we’ll get to that later) or for you to keep track of them all. And there’s nothing wrong with double strollers, in theory. It’s just the way you drive them.
For example, when my family was waiting to watch the Boo To You parade, and you forced your double, side-by-side stroller through a walkway too jammed with spectators that even a very thin person or a small child couldn’t make their way through. The off-duty cast member I’d been chatting with about the Headless Horseman suggested an alternate route that would be less congested; you agreed that way would probably be easier, but you still rammed your stroller into my husband and rolled it over the top of the cast member’s camera bag. Why would you do that?
It was because you were using that stroller. It robbed you of your sense, humanity, and spacial reasoning. You weren’t a pedestrian anymore, you were an Army Ranger at the wheel of an armored vehicle, mowing down sand dunes like they were cul-de-sac speed bumps. You were drunk on the power that double-wide stroller gave you. May god have mercy on your soul.
Jeffrey, you’re eleven years old. Speaking of strollers, let’s talk about children in strollers who are too old for strollers. Jeffrey was one of them.
As I stood under an awning, slathering sunscreen on my vulnerable Michigan skin, a woman pushed her rented stroller up to a bench near us. Her son was grumbling about something, and they were having a tense, under-their-breath exchange as the kid unbuckled himself and climbed out. As he sullenly took a seat on the bench, the woman snapped, “Jeffrey, you’re eleven years old! Act like it!”
Before anyone jumps in to say, “You don’t know if that kid is neurotypical! You don’t know that he wasn’t disabled!” well, you’re right. I have no way of knowing which of the hundreds of children over the age of twenty-five who were riding in rented strollers sized for toddlers were disabled or neurodivergent. But I do know that it’s highly unlikely that all of them were. While I don’t know Jeffrey’s story, I’m using him as an example of the overall attitude of the parents, regardless of his personal circumstances. Everywhere we looked, children who were well past the age where a stroller should be an option were lounging in them, or walking their feet on the ground to pull themselves along in them.
Look, I get it. At the end of the day, is it any skin off my nose that Jeffrey will still be using rented strollers in theme parks when he’s twenty-six? Not really, I guess. But the number of strollers that were in the park was absurd. They hindered you literally everywhere you went. And to see a kid who’ll be old enough to drive a car in five years sitting in one, having a preteen verbal spat with his mother, only made that problem more infuriating. One less stroller in the crowd would have meant one less stroller cutting through my path without so much as an excuse me, one less stroller halting suddenly in front of me without warning, one less stroller blocking a path or a bench. So it’s hard not to begrudge seventh graders lounging around in a stroller, sassing their parents when they could be walking like the rest of us.
Speaking of kids whose names are now burned into my brain… If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you’ve probably seen the ridiculously long line for the Seven Dwarves’ Mine Train. It’s like an hour, forty-five minutes wait at best. Except during extra magic hours, when there are fewer people in the park and the line moves along faster. Because this line is absolutely torturous, near the end there are some fun activities for bored kids who are waiting. One is a casual gaming experience like you could get on your phone, where you sort gems on a huge touch screen. Another is a fountain that releases water lit in various colors when you put your hand under the sensor. The last are some really neat, spinning barrels that project an animated image on the ceiling of the mine portion of the waiting area.
These are all terrible if there’s barely any line. And the reason they are terrible are Gretchen and Baylor.
These kids appeared to be siblings in a group of cousins led by two sisters who were their moms. I gleaned most of this dynamic from their loud conversations about stuff going on “back home,” conversations that were happening while they remained oblivious to the fact that while most of their party had moved up in the line, easily by fifteen feet, two of the kids were still standing at whichever of these activities they’d been captivated by. These kids were probably about thirteen and ten, respectively, and their names were Gretchen and Baylor (guess where one or both of his parents went to college). I know their names, because inevitably, as all of us behind this part stood gnashing our teeth and waiting for the kids to just move the fuck up already, their mother would notice them lagging behind and yell, “Gretchen! Baylor! Don’t make me have to tell you again.” And of course, she would have to tell them again, because she wouldn’t watch them for longer than it took to issue that weak parental non-threat.
For added fun, imagine these names being pronounced with some kind of southern U.S. accent that made them sound like “Gritch-in” and “BAYlooore.” I swear their mothers must have been former Texas pageant queens. And they weren’t the only inattentive parents we encountered. They were everywhere, staring at their phones and ignoring their bored children in long, hot lines. On the bus one night, a kid of about ten was using the straps meant for standing passengers to swing back and forth, nearly kicking another passenger until the bus driver intervened. Only then did his father look up from his phone and mutter, “Yeah, buddy, you can’t do that.”
A fool and his money are soon using the Disney dining plan. Disney World has a reputation for being extremely expensive. Because Disney World is extremely expensive. People have to save up for a long time to be able to afford the resort and the travel costs, and once you get there, you can plan on dropping around fifty bucks per meal, even at the most modest dining locations. Luckily, Disney provides you with a dining plan option. There are various levels of this plan, but the one I think most people go with, out of a fear of starving to death, offers two “quick service” meals, one “table service” meal, and two snacks, per person, per day. If we had chosen this option as part of our vacation package, it would have cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1400.00.
All told, between souvenirs for all four of us (including an outrageous amount spent on a Princess Tiana costume with all the trimmings at Castle Couture), the occasional purchase of over the counter medication or bandaids, and meals, we spent considerably less than that. As in, hundreds of dollars less.
So, if the plan is designed to save families money and make things more convenient for them, why does it seem to be more expensive? Snacks. Every time we stopped for ice cream or a bottled water, someone would be in line near us muttering about how to spend their snacks. They just weren’t using them that often, and were left with tons of these left over opportunities for ice cream or popcorn that they just didn’t want but had already paid for. Or, parents would be standing outside of a “quick serve” restaurant, lamenting the fact that they’d split meals between their two toddlers, leaving them with eight superfluous meals they’d paid for, but simply wouldn’t be able to use up.
I’m sure the dining plan is awesome for some people. I vaguely remember it being awesome when we used it in 2007. But this time, I actually felt relieved that I didn’t have to figure out how to spend money I’d already spent.
Fastpass? More like…slow…pass. Okay, that wasn’t my best work. But I stand by this: Fastpass is ridiculous. Fastpass is a system wherein you sign up for certain times to ride popular attractions (sometimes you get a Fastpass for priority seating at the fireworks or other shows), then you show up during those times and go to the front of the line.
I won’t go into all the ways various changes to the system have made Fastpass go from an interesting concept to a total frustration, but I will say this: it’s stupid to tell a large group of people to return to one specific spot during a specific time frame in an effort to make things go faster. It just doesn’t make sense. In the mornings, before the first Fastpass windows began, lines for some things could be long, but they moved at a steady pace. Then suddenly, Fastpass people would show up. They’d be put into their own line, which would feed into the main line further ahead, allowing them to skip over huge chunks of the waiting crowd. And since they could only show up during a specific window of time, that Fastpass hour would double the standby line.
There were times that the Fastpass line had a wait time that rivaled the standby line. So what was the point? Instead of standing in a line for twenty-five minutes, you stood in this other line for twenty minutes?
I’m not a crowd control engineer. Maybe Fastpass is a way to keep people from getting in line until they feel they have the incentive to, thus thinning the crowd in the standby line during non-Fastpass hours? But that would really only work if you rode just one time (my son rode Splash Mountain four times on our last day alone). Maybe it really does work great and it’s not observable to the naked eye? But for the average person waiting in either line, it seems like a big old mess.
If you ever win the lottery, though, and you want a true Fastpass? You can hire an official Disney “guide” for between $400 and $600 bucks per hour to let you skip the lines.
So, those are some of my Disney complaints. Overall, the vacation was amazing, but you know me. I love to have something to bitch about. Now I’m going to try to resume normal operations and pretend my neck isn’t crispy from forgetting to put sunscreen on it.