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How Has Disney World Changed

Halloween Popcorn Bucket at the Magic Kingdom in May 2022 (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Disney World has changed immensely over the last two years.

After not being at the parks from November 2019, our Spring 2022 was an eye-opener and we’d like to share thoughts and observations for those of you who (like us) hadn’t been down since pre-pandemic.

This may be a longer article, but my goal is to touch on everything that we noticed was different – and then give a quick thought on why it’s important.

No More FastPass

Lightning Lane at Expedition Everest
Lightning Lane at Expedition Everest (Image: Dustin Fuhs/ StepstoMagic)

With the introduction of Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane, the previously free attraction reservation system, FastPass+, was retired and changed out for a paid version.

What was free is now not.


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Cultural Representatives Aren’t Back

Canadian Pavilion in Spring 2022 with Non-International Cultural Representative Cast Members (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Walking through EPCOT’s World Showcase isn’t the same, as you’ll see more generic “flag” costumes – representing American cast members – in many positions around the park.

This is incredibly evident with stores like the Northwest Mercantile at the Canadian Pavilion, as the CMs are trying their best to make it through the days until the government will allow for Cultural Representatives into the country.

It’s very noticeable and sad.

Lack of Staffing

Citricos and Victoria & Alberts Closed in Spring 2022 due to Staffing (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

When Disney laid off thousands of Cast Members during the pandemic, it was never going to be easy to replace those roles when the world came back to a state of normalcy.

From the loss of the Cultural Representatives, to the College Program and even the long-term retired population that were seasonal cast during the year – it’s difficult to say this, but the parks just aren’t the same.


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Supply Chain for Merchandise

There is a distinct lack of merchandise and it’s actually funny to see. When you think about Disney, a multinational billion dollar corporation, not being able to fill the shelves with merchandise – it’s a real problem.

The funny part is seeing old merchandise being put on shelves as part of having something to sell – like when we found “Halloween in May” in the Magic Kingdom and stumbling on a popcorn bucket from Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party.

Ticketing (Annual Passes and Park Reservations)

Park Hopping Sign at EPCOT (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

This is a big one – the entire ticketing structure has changed.

When you put the lack of annual passes along with park ticket reservations and huge increases in prices…it’s not a good time to think about the budget.


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No Magical Express

Mears Connect at Orlando International Airport (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

So this wasn’t a huge loss for us personally, as we had jumped to UBER years ago for our reliable transportation from the Orlando International Airport to the Resorts/Theme Parks.

But as we discussed before – what was once included in your Disney Resort fee is now an extra charge with Mears Connect. Still not worth it.

Rapid Fire List

It’s a Wonderful Shop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Closed in May 2022 (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

This is getting long and this is more about “Expectations in Reality” than gripes with the Disney World “Brand”

  • No Streetmosphere or lack of classic “Disney” entertainment
  • Not Everything was Open (Muppet Store, Victoria & Alberts, etc)
  • Hotel Occupancy & Availability is minuscule (due to staffing)
  • More attraction issues (shutdowns, 101, and capacity)
  • Mobile Order changes daily (Aloha Isle wasn’t available on our trip)
  • Everything took longer
  • More discussion of revenues from on-stage cast members from management.
  • Lack of custodial – dirty washrooms.
  • Lack of buses (due to staffing)
  • Security (Bag Searches)
  • Bag checked at Disney Springs
  • Lack of Magic
  • Disney Feeling

The Main Thing Missing from Walt Disney World

Magic Kingdom Park Reservations Sign (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

The lack of the “Disney Feeling”, as everything is just more awkward and not as magical as it was pre-pandemic. The real world has definitely entered the place that so many of us called our “escape from reality”.

What To Do When You’re Bored at Disney World

Good Vibes Only Lion King Hat at Disney Style in Disney Springs (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

There are times during a Disney vacation that you may find yourself awaiting your next reservation and have time to pass.

The amount of effort, money and energy that it takes to book a trip will make these times of excess availability in your schedule incredibly valuable, especially looking back on your trip when you’re at home.

Shop

Goofy’s Candy Co at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Spend time in a shop and see if there’s anything that will give you added meaning when you’re at home. This may involve picking up things like:

  • Specialty Tea
  • Goofy’s Candy Co.
  • Park Maps

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Snack

Say you’re waiting for an ADR at Saana in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Well you can wander over to The Mara and maybe pick up a Zebra Dome as an “appetizer”.

Maybe you’re waiting for an Individual Lightning Lane for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Head over to get a Blue Milk (or Green Milk if you prefer a more ‘tropical’ drink) or maybe wander to Toy Story Land to split an order of specialty tots!

Never a bad idea to snack when you have the time.


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FaceTime

Pick up your phone and video call someone back home. It’s incredibly thoughtful and because you’re attached to the Disney Parks wifi, it’s easy to do.

I actually really like going through Facebook Messenger and seeing if I have a “Disney Friend” online and call them completely randomly out of the blue. It’s really fun to see their face light up with excitement as you’re walking through Adventureland or around a Disney Resort.

Photopass

Got time? Take a photo in front of the icon.

There’s always an opportunity to get a new profile photo!


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Honourable Mentions

  • Wander: There’s no harm in wandering through a Disney park or resort.
  • Checklist: If you have something to do, it’s a great time to get something done.
  • Social Post: If you need help with an idea, just post for ideas on an instagram story poll.
  • Bench: People watching at Disney is incredibly fun.

Hope this was helpful! If you have a recommendation or idea for things to do when you’re bored on a Disney vacation, send me a note on instagram @StepstoMagic!

Staples of a Disney World Diet

Joffrey's Coffee at EPCOT (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

A Disney World vacation can a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will be remembered forever. Or, it can be a memorable trip that will entice you to make a follow-up trip as soon as possible.

In addition to attractions, characters and events – one of the best parts of a Disney trip is the food.

Let’s look at the ‘Staples of a Disney World Diet’

The Snacks, The Drinks and The Meals.

All three have different elements that will help you create a “balanced diet”;)


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The Drinks

Dole Whip

Dole Whip and the Tropical Serenade at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Yes, you can find Dole Whip at other spots in your day-to-day life, but there’s something special about getting a Dole Whip float from Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom. It’s a right-of-passage and will absolutely lift up your day!

Lefou’s Brew

LeFou’s Brew at the Magic Kingdom – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Lefou’s Brew is a frosted apple juice with a hint of toasted marshmallow and topped with an all-natural passion fruit-mango foam found at Gaston’s Tavern in the Magic Kingdom.

I promise that this isn’t just about drinks, but one of the cool parts about the Disney World resort is the plethora of unique drinks to help with the acclimation of the Florida heat.

Joffrey’s Coffee Cold Brew

Joffrey’s Coffee at Disney Springs (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

We tend to avoid Starbucks on vacation, as we like to visit places that we can’t get back home. This means that Joffrey’s Coffee is our go-to…and it’s perfect!

My order is typically the Shaken’ Jamaican Cold Brew with milk and vanilla syrup.

Yes, I get this every single day.


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The Snacks

Carrot Cake Cookie at Starbucks in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)
  • Mickey Pretzel
  • A Cupcake
  • Specialty Starbucks Pastry/baked good.

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The Meals

Satuli Canteen Bowls

Satuli Canteen at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

If you’re looking for the definition of “consistency”, a build-your-own bowl from the quick service location in Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

We actually eat here every vacation, and when I’m on a solo trip – I’m here multiple times.

Les Halles Boulangerie in the France Pavilion

This is an easy one, as you can stop in and get anything that you go the hour before a busy meal time – you’ll want variety and a seat in the air conditioning.

Other Hits

  • Steakhouse 71
  • Columbia Harbour House
  • Saana
  • Chicken Guy at Disney Springs

The goal is to continuously update this article as time goes on, as dining at Disney World is always being updated.

Hope this was helpful in your trip planning, as I’m a huge fan of giving actionable ideas that could be used to improve your Disney World vacation!

Unexpected Disney World – The Pickle-in-a-Pouch

Pickle-in-a-Pouch at Liberty Village Market at the Magic Kingdom
Pickle-in-a-Pouch at Liberty Village Market at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

The things that you wouldn’t expect to find on a Disney trip planning website – an article about a pickle-in-a-pouch.

Believe me when I tell you that this is one of the best articles that I think will ever grace the homepage of StepstoMagic.com. It’s less about the fact that you can buy a pickle at Disney World and more about the benefits that this will actually give to your vacation as a whole.

Three Things To Remember About the Pickle-in-a-Pouch

Helpful for Long Park Days

The pickle is actually a great source of energy. When you’re spending a day at Walt Disney World, the excitement could actually make your levels uneven – and it’s not just the acclimation of the weather.

Adding a source of sodium into your body when you are sweating and running on a high of anticipation can be a great way to get from one meal to another.


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They’re Cold

One of our favourite places to stop to see the pickles in “action” is the Liberty Square Market. When you walk into this outdoor vending area (covered from the elements), you’ll find a nice variety of overpriced drinks ($5.50 for a Smartwater) surrounded by three affordable pick-me-up snacks.

In-between the Mini Babybel cheese and the Cuties mandarin 3-pack, you’ll find the Pickles and everything is surrounded by ice.

This makes that first bite incredible! Have you ever actually eaten a cold pickle? Oh my goodness – you’re missing out.


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The Price and Availability

A pickle-in-a-pouch is currently listed at $2.29, but please keep in mind that prices can and will change.

  • The Magic Kingdom @ Liberty Square Market
  • EPCOT @ Outdoor Vending in front of The Land (Seasonal)
  • Hollywood Studios @ Anaheim Produce on Hollywood Boulevard
  • Animal Kingdom @ Harambe Fruit Market in front of Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Long story short – pick up a pickle when you’re in need of a little energy on your next Walt Disney World theme park day. It’s actually a worthwhile snack to invest in!

5 Experiences at Every Disney World Theme Park

Outdoor Vending at Disney's Animal Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

There’s a formula that makes a “Disney Park” unique in the marketplace.

Whether you’re walking into the Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there are experiences that are consistent across the spectrum of offerings at Walt Disney World.

Ice Cream Bar

No matter which park you’re walking through, there is always an outdoor vending cart that will be able to sell you a classic Mickey Ice Cream Bar.

You’re able to find gourmet and customizable treats at some spots on property, but if you’re thinking that the this generic ice cream is exclusive to a single stall – try again.


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Park Maps

Magic Kingdom Park Map (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Not only are park maps readily available at the entrance, you can also find them at merchandise locations and guest relations. They make for great “free” souvenirs and can help you remember a specific time at the parks.

Why is this unique? It’s not – just a fun part of the Disney experience that you should keep an eye out for.

Celebration Buttons

Stop at Guest Relations for a free celebration button. Whether you’re celebrating something or want people to know that you’re getting older…it’s all up to you!

Remember that if you want a customizable birthday button, you can buy them at Disney Springs and the Magic Kingdom.


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Meeting Mickey

You can meet Mickey and each and every single Disney World theme park.

Things can change and adapt over time, but normally you’re able to find the head cheese here:

  • Town Square Theatre (Magic Kingdom)
  • Various places, but guaranteed at Garden Grill character dining (EPCOT)
  • Various places, but guaranteed at Tusker House character dining (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
  • Red Carpet Dreams (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

Attraction with 3D Glasses

3-D Glasses at Toy Story Mania – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

This was a fun one to find out, because there are times that you completely forget that certain experiences have 3D glasses until you’re getting into the ride vehicle, but you can find an attraction with 3D glasses at every WDW Park.

  • Mickey’s Philharmagic (Magic Kingdom)
  • Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival (EPCOT)
  • Muppet Vision 3D, Star Tours, Toy Story Mania (DHS)
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug, Flight of Passage (AK)

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Honourable Mentions

In addition of these 5 things, we can list a couple hundred other things that you can find at every Disney World theme park – but this was more fun.

Magic Kingdom Attractions That Never Change

Country Bear Jamboree at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

When you’re visiting Walt Disney World, the to-do list of activities and experiences that you have to accomplish during a trip could be overwhelming.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know about the rides that never change? It’s not a negative – just a fact. If you wanted to do something “new” or “updated”, the attractions on the list could be re-prioritized.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

BTM has gotten more and more bumpy and rocky over the years, so although it’s in the category of experiences that never change – some would argue that it’s actually gotten a little worse due to the wear and tear of being subjected to Florida’s weather elements.

Country Bear Jamboree

It’s a great escape from the heat and a perfect spot to grab a nap – but there is nothing new of this Walt Disney World classic audio-animatronic show.

Mad Tea Party

The spinning never ends.


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Tomorrowland Speedway

Tomorrowland Speedway at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Even with the current environmental concerns that are making the globe into a real life version of Sim City with random daily challenges – the biggest polluter of gas fumes is still around with zero concern for changes. This wouldn’t be a horrible thing to change, but it’s still here in “all its glory”.

Tom Sawyer’s Island

Tom Sawyer's Island at the Magic Kingdom
Tom Sawyer’s Island at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

In addition to most of the experiences around the Rivers of America, Tom Sawyer’s Island is definitely something that hasn’t changed. In fact, with the enhancements to Disneyland Resort’s version of the experience adapting a pirate theme, the Walt Disney World experience is significantly behind the eight ball.

Space Mountain

The only thing that’s changed with this coaster is the amount of down-time that’s been experienced in recent years that allow guests to see the entire thing with the lights on.


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Honourable Mentions

  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Swiss Family Treehouse
  • Prince Charming Regal Carousel
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Astro Orbiter
  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

At the end of the day, your vacation is YOUR vacation and it’s important to experience the Magic Kingdom in your own way. This means that if the goal is to check out a newer experience with a little nostalgia, then you do you.

Disney World Attractions That Are Showing Their Age

Gran Fiesta Tour (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” – Walt Disney

He said nothing about Walt Disney World.

Experiences and attractions that have never been updated or improved as new technology became available is a huge mistake. Walt Disney World is full of things that, as a guest, would make you question the decisions made and the budgets that obviously are being allocated into different spreadsheets.

The Gran Fiesta Tour

This headliner of the Mexico Pavilion at EPCOT was a replacement for El Rio del Tiempo, an opening day attraction from October 1st, 1982. The Gran Fiesta Tour made its debut on April 6th, 2007 and has had its ups and downs operationally and is culturally looked-down upon with the outdated representation of Mexico.


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Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin

This omni-mover continuous loader game attraction featuring the Toy Story franchise opened November 3rd, 1998 and has had little updates to the gaming mechanism, even after the debut of Toy Story Midway Mania in 2008.

We’ll ignore the fact that the experience is located in Tomorrowland and that there is nothing ‘forward thinking’ about an attraction that spins and uses tech that you would find at a laser tag in your local mall – it’s just in need of a full gut to bring the experience into the 2020’s and beyond.


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Living with the Land

Another opening day attraction from EPCOT Center, the idea behind creating an experience that focuses on the technologies that power the circle of life is important. You know what is also important – sharing technology that is actually relevant and current.

This attraction, although one of my favourites in all of Walt Disney World, can be seen as behind the times and looked at as an eyesore when you compare it with Soarin’ or the futuristic tech that isn’t found in a boat ride.

The main point for this attraction isn’t to change it’s historical relevance or educational standpoint. It’s to gut the show-scenes that make up the first 5 minutes, such as the rain forest, prairies and farmland.


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The only existing Carousel of Progress left is the one at Walt Disney World in the Magic Kingdom and is the oldest attraction at WDW to be touched by Walt Disney.

All of that being said, the last scene is all that we are talking about. Everything else is perfect.

Last updated in 1993, the scene depicts a “Christmas in the House of 2000” – which was more than 20 years ago and we can all agree that parts of the “future” never came true or have been fully outdated by the time 2000 even came around.


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Mickey’s Philharmagic

As Disney Animation continues to pump out classic after classic, there is something to be said with the story of this Magic Kingdom 4d movie in the middle of Fantasyland.

It needs to be updated, and I’m not just saying that Frozen needs to be included (although that would be low-hanging fruit). There are dozens of songs that have been released since the Disney Renaissance concluded in 1999 that would be perfect for this sing-a-long style experience.

From Moana to Princess and the Frog, Tangled to Coco – the soundtrack could be amazing if the imagination wasn’t being forced to choose between new attractions and maintaining existing experiences. And you know what’s amazing – the Disney Imagineers have shown that the film can be adapted, as in 2021 – they ADDED IN COCO!

May I share a few hits from Brother Bear that could be perfect for the show?


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Additional Experinces that are Showing Their Age

Magic Kingdom

  • Astro Orbiter
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Enchanted Tiki Room
  • it’s a small world
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Monsters Inc Laugh Floor
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Tom Sawyers Island
  • Splash Mountain
  • Tomorrowland Speedway

EPCOT

  • The American Adventure
  • ImageWorks
  • Mission:SPACE
  • SeaBase
  • Test Track
  • Turtle Talk with Crush

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith (Photo: Dustin Fuhs)
  • Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
  • Disney Junior
  • Fantasmic!
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  • Muppetvision 3D
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Star Tours
  • Toy Story Mania
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid
  • Walt Disney Presents: One Man’s Dream

Animal Kindgom

Animal Kingdom CDs – Photo by Dustin Fuhs
  • Affection Section
  • The Boneyard
  • Conservation Station
  • Dinosaur
  • It’s tough to be a bug
  • TriceraTop Spin
  • Festival of the Lion King

Those are all experiences that have an argument about having outdated technology, story or requires a full renovation.

Hopefully imagination is still left at Disney Parks and Resorts, as the legacy of Aerosmith could be changed at any point in time.

Enhanced Disney World Souvenirs

MaDe by D-Tech on Demand at Tomorrowland Power Co (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Merchandise at Disney World can be exciting or boring, but there is a category of souvenirs that can be enhanced into something that is unique.

Ornaments

Traditions are important with Disney fans, which may include the purchasing of dated merchandise. Ornaments are available to be personalized in many spots around property, with the main hubs at the Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs.

For an extra charge, you can have an ornament personalized with many customization options and pick it up in a reasonable turnaround time.


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Birthday buttons

Personalized Birthday Button at the Magic Kingdom – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

If you visit the shops that can personalize ornaments and ask for a celebration button to have something special on it – the cast members can definitely do it. In fact, this is one of our favourite birthday enhancements!

Arribas bros

Aribas Bros Personalization and Customization Options (Photo: Dustin Fuhs)

The staff at Arribas Bros have the ability to take things to a different level with customization. In addition to the glass blowing, they are also able to personalize frames and also operate the silhouette experiences at Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs.


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Parasol

If you visit the Magic Kingdom and head to Liberty Square, you’ll find a cart that specializes in the art of custom & personalized art onto parasol (umbrellas).

Leather treaty

At last check, the customizable engraving of leather bracelets are available at outside of Kilimanjaro Safaris in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and by the Pirates of the Caribbean in the Magic Kingdom. These are great souvenirs available at a reasonable cost and include free engraving on-the-spot by talented individuals who have experience making these bracelets (at scale) with quick turnaround (coming from personal experience, of course).

Customizable Coke Products

The Coca-Cola Store at Disney Springs has a number of products that can be customized, including shirts, cans and technology.


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Shirts

These have become more common with the release of on-site screen printing and can be found at most parks, including Disney Springs at Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories and online at ShopDisney.com.

D-TECH

MaDe by D-Tech on Demand at Tomorrowland Power Co (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Disney Springs has a D-TECH kiosk at the CO-OP Marketplace, while the Magic Kingdom has a MaDe customizable technology station at Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. There is also the customizable D-TECH location in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Build Your Own Lightsaber at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge

Build Your Own Lightsaber at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge (Photo: Dustin Fuhs)

More of a product than an enhanced souvenir, but it’s still a cool addition to the list!

and finally…

Ears

Mickey Ears can be customized and personalized with your name in a colour & font of your choosing.

Dollar Store Items That Aren’t a Dollar in Disney World

Disney's Animal Kingdom Gift Shop (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Budget is important when thinking about a vacation to Walt Disney World, but not in the ways that you would normally consider.

Why spend more than a dollar at a Disney World Resort gift shop when you can buy it for a buck at home in the dollar store and then toss when after your vacation to make room for a new souvenir?

Yes, this is consumerism and horrible for the planet – but work with me on this and you’ll save more space in your budget for new and exciting experiences.

Ponchos

This is a basic for anyone who doesn’t want to get soaked in a classic Florida downpour. It’ll happen, and even if you’re prepared – it’ll still be uncomfortable when you’re hunkered down in a gift shop surrounded by families spending $13-$17 on an “official” Disney World plastic bag with Mickey on it (aka a poncho).


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Bubble Wands

Easy to pack and a hit with the entire family (regardless of the ages) – pick up a package that includes a refill and it’ll save you $15+ on something that you would definitely not bring home at the end of your trip.

Light-up Toys

After the sun goes down, the parks become a sea of Disney merchandise carts with light-up toys that range from $5-$30 and usually break after the first couple days. I’ve seen guests exchange if they do break, but when you’re done the vacation – the toys just end up in a pile at home and will eventually make their way to a donation bin.

Socks

This is horrible to suggest but is also absolutely hilarious to see in practise. Imagine getting rained on in the typical mid-afternoon downpour and then walking around in wet socks for the rest of the day. Now think about how your feet would be if you changed socks after the rainstorms…..no one would know but it’s such a game-changer!


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Batteries

EPCOT Gift Shop
EPCOT Gift Shop (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Do you have anything that requires AA or AAA batteries? You definitely don’t want to spend $10+ on a replacement pack of batteries when you can have a replacement set in your backpack that will last you until you’re at the hotel.

Gum

Did you know that you can’t buy gum at Disney World? You know where you CAN buy gum….

Stickers

Keeping your family distracted in line could be as easy as pulling out the sticker book. I’ve seen it happen and it can change the mood from a potential meltdown at the worst possible time.


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Cough Drops, Ibuprofen, etc

Anything that you could need to make it through a potential mid-day headache or cough-attack will make everyone happy. There are official Disney First Aid walk-in medical facilities in the parks that can provide these if you forget, just in case you need help!

Headphones

Bring your good headphones with you for the travel portion, but if you need a cheap pair that you wouldn’t mind break or get soaked in a Florida rainstorm….cheap dollar store for the win.


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Honourable Mentions

  • Umbrellas (cheap-ish will save you $15+ in the parks)
  • Disney-themed Candy ($1 on princess candy will save you $5-$8 at Goofy’s Candy Co)
  • Charger Cables & Battery Packs (Get these on sale and you’ll be glad to have a backup, incase you don’t have a FUELROD membership)
  • General Snacks (Granola bars, fruit snacks, potato chips, etc)
  • Water bottles (We tend to recommend Swell and other higher-performance based water bottles, but anything is better than spending $5 on a bottle of water)

and the most recommended thing to buy at the dollar store…


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Sunglasses

Have you ever heard that the most reliable sunglasses are the cheapest pairs, while the ones that constantly break are the expensive ones? Bring a pair of cheap sunglasses (sport-style are the best) and you’ll be fine if you drop them. I also tend to use my cheap ones on water rides, as I don’t like to miss the action!

Hope this was helpful!

7 Worth-It Disney World Restaurants Where the Food Doesn’t Matter

Satu'li Canteen (Photo: Dustin Fuhs)

The idea of creating an experience of a lifetime will take you to the ends of the vacation kingdom to get the best that the Disney company has to offer.

From resorts to parks, you’ll have the ambience and surroundings that may enhance the food or could even make you forget that you’re in the middle of Florida.

Coral Reef

This EPCOT restaurant is surrounded by 2000 sea creatures and the potential of one on your plate – just don’t think about that. It’s all the circle of life right?

Oga’s Cantina

Oga’s Cantina at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge (Photo: Dustin Fuhs)

The atmosphere inside the hidden gem of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will take you to another planet, along with a DJ who knows exactly what to play the get the room rockin’.


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Victoria & Alberts

I’ve never been in awe of a dining experience as much as the Queen Victoria’s Room at Victoria & Alberts. The food was an after-thought to the total feeling of being in the presence of classic Disney hospitality.

Satuli Canteen

It’s a must-do on every trip, as the theming will leave you looking at all the details in the main dining room. It’s also a blast to look at the hidden gems around the ordering area, including more back-story elements.

Be Our Guest

Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom
Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

This is an easy one. Stepping foot into one of the most popular Disney movies of all time and seeing the level of commitment to the story will make the meal incredibly enjoyable. The best room is definitely the West Wing, as it’s breathtaking.


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Enzo’s Hideaway

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to talk about this hidden spot at Disney Springs, but you definitely don’t need to worry about the food when you’re in a hideaway! Take a look around and try not to get lost when you’re finding your way to the washroom (It’ll happen – don’t stress too much)

Space 220

Space 220 at EPCOT (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

All-encompassing shopping at Disney is called ‘merchantainment’, but this is a level of immersiveness that could only be found at a Disney World restaurant. Let’s call it what it is….the Space 220 total experience is out of this world!


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Honourable Mentions

  • San Angel Inn
  • Sci-fi Dine-in
  • Contemo Cafe
  • T-REX

Hope this was helpful on your next trip to Walt Disney World!

10 Things You’ll Regret Not Doing at Disney World

Slinky Dog Dash at Disney's Hollywood Studios (Photo: Dustin Fuhs)

Regret is real. The fear of missing out with the idea of prioritizing your spending and time will always make for decisions that could be regrettable.

Disney World is full of decisions that you have to make – and sometimes you choose poorly.

Here are the things that you’ll definitely think about when you’re at the Orlando International Airport, waiting for your flight home.

Eating Something New

  • Dole Whip is amazing, but have you ever had a Lefou’s Brew?
  • Popcorn is great, but have you ever had Zebra Domes?
  • Starbucks is just starbucks…maybe try Joffrey’s Cold Brew?

Recharge Time

The most common response to a Disney World vacation is that you need a vacation to recover from the experience, and it’s completely true.

Take time in the parks and the resorts for a relaxing 15-minutes where you don’t have anywhere to be and can just enjoy your surroundings.

Exploring

This can be as simple as taking a different route from Pandora: The World of Avatar to Expedition Everest or taking changing up the mode of transportation that you use for a mid-day adventure away from the parks.

There are always more things to see at Walt Disney World.


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Selfies

I’m a fan of making sure that everyone has a memory – even if people don’t like being in photos. Being the “photographer” means that the memories are on the other side of the lens and you can’t partake in re-living the experiences later. Trust me – take the selfie!

Getting Up Early

When you snooze…you lose.

We’ve had amazing times at the Magic Kingdom in the mornings before 10am, as you are able to run between the various lands and attractions with minimal waits and full access. This is an important part of the trip, as you can leave the parks as the crowds start to get busy and come back later in the afternoon/evening and not stress about riding attractions that you already checked off your list.

Splurging

I’m already planning how much budget we’ve got for snacks on our next trip – splurge and enjoy the trip.

Remember that splurging may not involve money – sometimes the best splurge is a day-off with an activity that you may not have thought about before – like a tour or a checklist/scavenger hunt.

IF your definition of splurging involves money, then you should 100% get that new shirt or cupcake.


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Checking Social Media

Lineup for the 626 Dole Whip at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort on June 26th (Photo: Dustin Fuhs)

I’ve seen folks suggest that you should turn off your social media channels while you’re at the parks – please don’t.

The number of experiences and updates that you could be missing is astronomical (overstatement, maybe), but I wouldn’t have seen the 626 Dole Whip at Disney’s Polynesian Resort if I didn’t check Disney Food Blog during my June trip.

Advanced Dining Reservations

We discuss the concept of ADR’s a lot, but that’s because it’s important.

You’ll want to get a few reservations for your trip. It’ll save you time and effort finding meals, as you’ll be able to check the menus beforehand in addition to being able to have a comfortable air-conditioned time away from the crowds.

Best Dining Reservations? We’ve got an article on it, but the best reservation is one that will add something to your day.

Eating at the Parks before the Airport

This one is easy. The Airport leaves a lot to be desired in the dining category, so eating before you head to the airport will make everything better – you really don’t need a Chick-fil-A or Dunkin before getting on the plane.


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Treat Yo Self

The final one is simple – the biggest regret that you’ll have is not taking care yourself on the vacation.

  • Do you want a candy apple? Get it
  • Do you want a new shirt? No harm
  • How about spending an hour of back to back rides on Pirates of the Caribbean? Go ahead

A trip to Disney is about enjoying yourself and creating a memory that you’re proud of. Don’t worry about living vicariously through other’s idea of what a ‘dream vacation’ is – you’ll never be able to live up to the expectations.

Hope this was helpful!

Things That We Will Only Do Once at Disney World

Candy Cauldron at Disney Springs (Photo: Dustin Fuhs)

There are experiences at Disney World that are avoidable from the outset, but there are things that you just have to do once in order to say that you did it.

So this originally started as a re-write for our 10 Things we will Never Do Again article, but we really wanted to showcase things that we did once and are okay with it. It’s not a negative – just the way it is.

Buying Ears

Mickey Ears (Belle and Disney International Program) Photo: Dustin Fuhs

There are reasons to buy multiple sets of ears, but outside of being a local or a Disney-Bounder, there’s really only so much real estate on top of your head to fill in a single vacation. We’ve brought down the same two pairs of ears for multiple vacations, and there’s been little reason to replace them.


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Buy a Candy Apple

Treat Case at Zuri’s Sweet Shop (Photo: Dustin Fuhs)

From personal experience, there are so many candy apples that you can eat. They’re messy and very time consuming, and did we mention that they were messy? Buy one to get the photo and then stick to snacks that are easy to save for later.

Planet Hollywood

We tried Planet Hollywood while on the Disney Dining Plan and as we walked out of the Disney Springs’ restaurant, it was just okay.

When you’re thinking about a Disney World dining reservation, there are hundreds of options to try and avoid “settling” on a restaurant that may not be memorable.


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Keys to the Kingdom

Tours at Disney World are awesome, but once you’ve done the 8-hour Keys to the Kingdom walking tour at the Magic Kingdom, you don’t have to do it again.

The facts don’t change and the only thing that really fluctuates from tour to tour is the personality of the tour guide.

30-Minute Shows

Up! A Great Bird Adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Photo: Dustin Fuhs)

The American Adventure, Hall of Presidents, Festival of the Lion King and many other shows at Disney World are great to see once. They’re amazing and the attention to detail mixed with the skill of the performers can shock and awe anyone in the audience.

That being said, there is very little repeatability in these entertainment offerings, so once you’ve seen a show…move on to the next.

Timeshare Presentation

IHG Timeshare Presentation – Photo: Dustin Fuhs

Pretty sure we’re not alone in this one, but we made the biggest mistake ever by trying to take advantage of “discounted Universal Orlando tickets” in exchange for sitting in on a timeshare presentation.

Long story short, it’s not worth it. We literally had to spend 2.5 hours in high-pressure sales situations just to save $50 and it’s still something that I talk about all these vacations later. The lies that are told to trick tourists would shock no one after sitting through a presentation, and thus is one of the things that you’ll only do once.


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And Finally…

Booking a Party on the last night of a Vacation

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Train Station (Photo: Dustin Fuhs)

Actually, the regret is less about the activity that you’re planning on doing on your last night of the trip and more about the time that you have to get up to disembark to the airport.

Plan your last couple days to have gaps and free time, but the last vacation night should be something that will be memorable and send you off with a good feeling.

Where to Avoid Crowds in the Magic Kingdom

Columbia Harbour House in the Magic Kingdom
Columbia Harbour House in the Magic Kingdom - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Over the years, we’ve been told that the best way to avoid crowds is to pick the right dates for your vacation and to be flexible with your plans.

This is different.

The goal for this topic is to share spots within the Magic Kingdom that you can get away from crowds, big or small. Anxiety is a real thing for folks to deal with and it may take time to get back into being comfortable in a post-firework heard of sheep going to the monorail, so let’s look at locations that you can catch your breath.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority

Tomorrowland Transit Authority in the Magic Kingdom – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

The TTA is 10 minutes in length and can guarantee a nice break from the heat, crowds and is the perfect time to eat a Dole Whip.


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Hub Grass

Hub Grass at the Magic Kingdom
Hub Grass at the Magic Kingdom – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Directly in front of Cinderella’s Castle is a recent addition – grass! It’s not quite real, and there’s no shade at all but the opportunity to catch your breath in the middle of the Magic Kingdom is definitely something to keep in mind.

Columbia Harbour House – Second Floor

Columbia Harbour House in the Magic Kingdom
Columbia Harbour House in the Magic Kingdom – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

We’ve talked about this location as one of the best spots for air conditioning and one of the top quick service restaurants in all of Walt Disney World – but it’s also a great spot to escape crowds. Most guests don’t know that there’s a second floor, and in addition to being near a fairly hidden washroom, it’s on our list for a reason.


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Hall of Presidents

Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Similar to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, the Hall of Presidents will give you a breather in an experience that may get out away from the crowds and give you a nice dose of air conditioning. You may not realize how nice it is to sit down until you can’t get back up after the 25-minute show is over.

Splash Pad at Pete’s Silly Sideshow

Storybook Circus in the Magic Kingdom – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Head past Be Our Guest, through New Fantasyland and keep walking until you’re in the world of the sideshow. With Dumbo on one side and Pete’s Silly Sideshow on the other – you’ll find a splash pad in the theming of a circus train. We’ve been known to hang out here after the sun goes down, as it’s another spot that may not have the best shade from the Florida elements.


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Honourable Mentions

Tom Sawyer’s Island – Photo by Dustin Fuhs
  • Tortuga Tavern – large seating area with mostly empty tables (when available)
  • Tom Sawyer’s Island – the only hesitation is that you have to deal with the rafts to and from the mainland.
  • Haunted Mansion – you get your own doom buggy, but the stretching room could be a challenge.
  • Main Street USA Side street – Can be busy depending on the time of day, but if you get it at the right time – it’s perfect!

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And if you want the best spot to avoid crowds at the Magic Kingdom, you’ll actually want to leave the park and take a 5-minute walk to either the Contemporary Resort OR the Grand Floridian Resort. It’s completely worth the time if you’re having higher anxiety and need to step away before bailing on your total plans – as it’s all about degrees.

Hope this was helpful!

10 Things That Can Take You Out of The Disney Bubble

Chester and Hester's Dinorama at Disney's Animal Kingdom - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

The Disney Bubble is the collective space that your vacation takes place in, which can include everything from the Orlando International Airport to the Theme Parks and Resorts. Basically, if you can see the “Disney” influence – you’re in the Disney Bubble.

From time to time, things may interrupt your vacation to take you out of the Bubble. Since March 2020, this has been easier to do but there is still a number of things that you may not be expecting to see that will bring you back to reality.

Social Media Notifications

Starting out with an easy one, but anytime your phone buzzes for something that isn’t a dining reservation – it has the potential to take you back to your regular life of responsibility. Before you go into the bubble, make sure to turn off your non-essential notifications.


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Disney Transportation Ads

The Walt Disney Company is one of the most influential media companies in the world and has dozens of brands that could benefit from the kool-aid sipping Walt Disney World vacationeer. Do we really need to know that a new show is debuting on ABC Thursday nights at 8pm?

If it’s not an ad for a Disney World experience (theme park, Disney Springs, Water Parks, etc) then it can take you out of the excitement.

Security Lines

Standing in line to get a bag check – sounds simple eh? It’s the time that brings out the worst in everyone, as there is no procedure or organization. Talk about shattering the fantasy of thinking that everyone has the same manners and remembering that everyone is a fish in the sea.


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Italian Pavilion

The real point is ‘third party participants’, but the best example is the Italian pavilion. Outside companies and folks who are offering services & products in the theme parks can take you out of the experience, as it turns into a situation where you are around non-Disney employed individuals that may be on their phones or completely oblivious that they are “on stage” and “playing a role”. It’s all about the sale, and it pops the Disney bubble.

Sunglass Hut in Adventureland in Magic Kingdom

Island Supply by Sunglass Hut at the Magic Kingdom
Island Supply by Sunglass Hut at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

There’s a story here, but most guests will only see a brand that they can encounter at the local shopping mall and ask why.

Animal Kingdom Carnival Games

Carnival Games at Chester & Hester’s Dinoland (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

It’s all part of the Chester & Hester Dinoland USA experience, but games of chance can be perceived as something that doesn’t belong in a Disney Theme Park and is just a money grab. I agree with this train of thought, as I don’t want to be yelled at over a microphone to come and drop money for a chance to win a plush toy.


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Starbucks

Connections Cafe Starbucks Location at EPCOT (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

This isn’t a bad thing. I really like the consistency of Starbucks and enjoy the ability to earn rewards at the Disney Springs corporate locations, but it can take you out of the bubble when you see the lines.

Poorly-Maintained Guest-Facing Items

“For what they charge to get into this place, you’d think that Disney can afford a little paint.”

Completely understandable and the in-park experience is what the brand has instilled in the guests because of the prices charged. Expectations can take you back to reality incredibly fast, like a poorly maintained menu at a Main Street USA restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.

Surveys

Disney shouldn’t need to have cast members standing at the exits to ask if guests were satisfied. More-so, the cast members aren’t actually empowered to solve problems, so there’s little to gain from the experience and definitely takes you out of the vacation.


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Final Thoughts

Disney World vacations can be interrupted by the outside world in many ways. The end result can take you out of the excitement of a dream trip that you’ve spent significant time and money on – but you can come right back into the bubble with a cupcake!

Uncomfortable Questions To Ask Before a Disney World Vacation

Jungle Cruise Hoodie - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Disney World vacations can be overwhelming and completely subjective, which would make a first-time visitor or a seasoned pro question every single piece of advice that they read on a website. With that being said, there are a number of increasingly uncomfortable topics that are being discussed in private friend groups that could be normalized.

Budget Discussions

Grand Floridian Resort Beach
Grand Floridian Resort Beach – Photo by Dustin Fuhs
  • How much did you spend on hotel?
  • How did you get a discount on food & merchandise?
  • Do you buy ‘x’ before you go down?
  • What credit cards get you access to perks?
  • If you’re from outside of the USA, are there things that you can do to save money on the exchange rate?

All of these are topics that have been asked on countless group boards and will continue to be a subject of conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask for specifics from friends and if it’s uncomfortable for you to hear about financials – then maybe you should get over your fear of asking, as it’s important to know what you can avoid paying full rates for.

By the way, people lie about costs all the time. If you don’t believe the answer, ask for proof.


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Food Discussions

Night Blossom at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Photo by Dustin Fuhs
  • When did you actually get your Advanced Dining Reservation?
  • How was the food in a non-blog post answer – everything on a vacation can’t be magical. Get credibility by providing honesty
  • Have you ever eaten at ‘X’ and was there a reason why you keep going back OR why you haven’t been back since?
  • Can you take ‘doggy bags’ (or leftovers)?
  • When should you actually go to your reservation and what happens with the reservation fee if you no-show?
  • Can an adult order off the kids menu?

It’s become second nature to just assume that everyone knows everything about a Disney World vacation, but we all didn’t go to Disney University (actual thing, btw) and didn’t all graduate from the College of Disney Knowledge (also a real thing).

Dining and food topics tend to be discussed when you’re planning the trip, but can be overlooked when you’re thinking about the tickets and other factors that can make or break your vacation. Ask the questions because some are easier to answer (yes, adults can order off the kids menu when available) than others (we tend to get an original group of reservations 60 days out, but change almost all of them the week before.)

In addition – most people will lie about the experience if they paid a lot for it and want to make it seem like it wasn’t a poor decision on their part. Rule of thumb on our end is to look at reviews and take the average (throw out the best and the worst) and read the experiences that are in-depth and involve similarities to your trip/party.


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Merchandise Questions

Haunted Mansion 1000 piece puzzle
Haunted Mansion 1000 piece puzzle – Photo by Dustin Fuhs
  • Is everything exclusive to the theme parks?
  • Can you still buy Haunted Mansion merchandise online?
  • What should I do if the shirt I bought is the wrong size when I get back to the resort?
  • How do you see if another store/location has the size you want?
  • Is there actually better merchandise at the resorts than in the parks?

These aren’t too uncomfortable, but the best thing to do is to ask before you actually pay for the item. Is there a warranty? Is there a return policy? Are there discounts available? Talk to the cast members who are working the cash registers, as they are able to answer any questions that you have and can point you in the right direction.

If you see a fan-designed theme park inspired shirt, ask if it’s from TeePublic and see if you can get the link or the name of it. We find designs all the time and it’s so much fun to be wearing unique shirts vs an off-the-rack mass-produced product.


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Final Points

The most uncomfortable questions are usually surrounding something that will only affect your family or a specific topic. “We’re planning to go down in three months and are staying at x-resort and are only buying an x-day ticket pack…” are topics that aren’t easy to answer ahead of time, as things are changing all the time in a post-pandemic era and will require time to solve.

The other thing to keep in mind is that things change all the time, including things that you may have experienced first-hand in the past. Staying up-to-date will allow for your trip to stay memorable and not be full of disappointment.

Hope this was helpful!

Things That We Do On A Vacation That May Be Annoying to Other Guests

Disney Bus at Disney's Contemporary Resort
Disney Bus at Disney's Contemporary Resort - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

This may be type-casting for someone who owns a trip planning website, but there are definitely things that we do on a vacation that may be difficult to justify to others.

Take photos of signs

Animal Kingdom Signage – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Being a fan of the creative decisions that go into setting the scene for an environment could mean taking a photo of a sign. Normally, folks can be convinced that grabbing a pic of an attraction sign or even a restaurant – but what about when you’re taking a photo of a piece of concept art that adorns the wall of a store?

Order Uber from the bus station

Shocking – we don’t like waiting for Disney Transportation. When you’re on vacation, time is money. Other guests may have a different idea of what could be acceptable for waiting for a bus, but if it’s more than 5 minutes…the UBER app is already open and there’s money on the table that I’m setting the pick-up location to the bus stop.

Ask for specific seats

Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Did you know that you could get a different experience when you sit in a certain seat on an attraction? Whether you’re in the backseat on Expedition Everest or the front seat on Living with the Land – there is a difference.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a specific seat and be prepared to accept an additional wait. Remember that the folks around you may not understand that you have one chance to ride this specific attraction and why settle for a lesser experience when you can control it?


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Talk to the Cast Members

Arribas Bros at Disney Springs
Arribas Bros at Disney Springs – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

I’m one to talk to the Cast Members – and it’s hilarious to everyone around me. As a former CM, it’s always fun to talk about things that don’t focus on the robotic responses that happen in a role (nearest washroom, location of an attraction, etc). It’s one thing that I’ll never apologize for, as the folks working on the front lines are people too.

Take photos in queue lines

Journey Into Imagination with Figment Queue – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Creative departments (Universal Creative & Disney Imagineering) put a lot of thought into the queue lines, as they are telling the full story of the experience. I’m going to enjoy the full attraction, and it may involve taking a fun memento for my collection – like a photo of the Haunted Mansion interactive queue details. #SorryNotSorry

Talking to the Chef at a Restaurant

Chili-Spiced Crispy Fried Tofu Bowl at Satuli Canteen – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

There are times that you have to ask about allergies and dietary restrictions. Yes, it can be interruptive and annoying to other guests – but the chefs at theme parks are well-trained to be efficient and accommodating.


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Being on Time or Early for a Reservation

If you reserve a time for an experience – why wouldn’t you want to be on time for it?


Well those are the Things That We Do On A Vacation That May Be Annoying to Other Guests. Did I miss anything? Let me know through social media!