Common Catastrophes on a Disney Vacation

After spending thousands of dollars to get to Walt Disney World, there’s nothing worse than having expectations ruined by factors that you may or may not have anticipated encountering.

Let’s be honest, there many ways that a trip can go south, and there are ways to steer things back on track.

Here’s how to Save a Disney World Vacation

Common Catastrophes

  • Lost Kids
  • Attraction goes down
  • Bad Weather
  • Lost camera / Lost phone
  • Bad customer service

AND how do we fix them? It’s actually all about knowing what you’re entitled to and who to talk to. You also have to have reasonable expectations and be results orientated throughout the process…because it can be stressful.


At Disney, there isn’t a lost kid…just a lost adult. The kid knows exactly where they are…but it’s your goal to become reunited with the kid and not stress out along the way. Just KNOW that you’ll be stressed, but Disney’s Cast Members are trained to start a checklist of procedures into place as soon as you let someone know what’s going on.

What should you do to prepare? 

First off, every morning take a photo of your child at the resort with their park clothes, with and without hats. This will allow Cast Members to put the call out for specific things, and not let others know that there’s a “5-year old girl who has lost her parents”.

Secondly, when you walk into a theme park…introduce your children to a cast member. Point out the nametag and let them know that if they ever get lost, to go and talk to someone with a nametag. This is incredibly important and will make it a seamless encounter because the kids will know that it’s not a “bad thing” that they are lost.

What else can you do? 

  • Write your cell phone number on the inside of their MagicBand
  • When you first enter a park, find a central location as a “Meeting point”. I’ve seen everything from an attraction to the First Aid location. Guest Relations is always a good option as well.
  • Keep calm and don’t become hysterical. Disney has cameras EVERYWHERE and will be able to help ASAP.


Refurbishment Sign
Refurbishment Sign – Photo by Steps to Magic

The number of times that I’ve seen guests in tears because a specific attraction goes down for whatever reason would shock you. Why? Because folks have an image of a Disney theme park as a perfect escape from reality without the potential of mechanisms failing.

What should you do to prepare? 

If you know an attraction won’t be open when you’re on vacation, don’t bring it up during your planning! I try to keep our Refurbishment Page up to date, but things sometimes fall between the cracks.

We’ve been the next guest in line before Pirates of the Caribbean goes 101 (aka the attraction goes down), and all you can do is follow the instructions from the Cast Members. If you speak with a manager, there’s a chance that you can get a Lightning Lane return pass OR they may have another tool to “make things right”. Don’t expect it, but don’t be afraid to ask for a return ticket.

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Main Street USA Rain
Main Street USA Rain – Photo by Steps to Magic

It rains at Disney World, so don’t be oblivious to this. Pack for the weather forecasted, because you don’t want to be ‘that guest’ who has to buy $12 ponchos for each of your family members! We’ve got a full article about how to deal with the rain at WDW.

What should you do to prepare? 

There are activities and attractions that are perfect to do during poor weather, so if you have to change Genie+ reservations OR wait in the standby lines…know that everyone around you is also dealing with the situation. Don’t think that your family will receive special treatment, because there are anywhere from ten to sixty thousands other guests in the park with you.

Don’t be afraid to head back to the resort during poor weather, because a 30-minute downpour could turn into a 2-hour torrential rainstorm incredibly easily.

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Ok, so I’ve had both of these happen. It sucks…not even going to sugar coat this one. It’s stressful and annoying all at the same time. Technology is replaceable…memories are not.

What should you do to prepare?

It comes down to two separate things that you should do in preparation of your vacation.
Firstly, you should download all your photos, apps and do a backup of your contacts to your computer at home. This will give you piece of mind that you’ve got everything saved and aren’t losing stuff before your vacation.

Secondly, if you’re bringing down a laptop…do a nightly upload of all your photos. That way you’re starting off fresh daily. If you don’t have access to a computer, then use the free wifi at your resort to put photos into a dropbox folder overnight.

What else can you do? 

  • Never put your phone down on a couch with the screen upside-down. Why? Because most of us have a dark-ish cellphone case that will blend perfectly with dark-colored furniture. Yes, this happened to me at the Contemporary Resort and I almost had a heart attack haha!
  • Do the “Keys, Phone, Wallet” check before you leave a restaurant. The number of times that I’ve left something behind because it was under a napkin or on a chair…yea, just put some thought into stuff.
  • Don’t bring too much with you. Will you need to bring a DSLR with you at night? Will your phone work fine? Packing smart will allow for you to not have to remember too much when you’re over-stimulated with Disney Magic!

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Note, I’m using the term “Customer Service” and not “Guest Service” because this is a universal term that you can use in any situation. Whether you’re at Walt Disney World or at your local amusement park…there are basic things that you can expect and how to get through it.

What should you do to prepare? 

Don’t take things personally. You’ve paid to be at the happiest place on earth and if there’s a situation that you’re not enjoying…speak to someone. We forget that although our vacation is something that has been planned for months, we’re visiting a place that is staffed by humans who get sick, have personal issues that they’re trying to leave at the door or maybe you’re caught in a sitch that you didn’t expect…like being at a restaurant during a shift change and your new waiter didn’t realize that they had someone in their section.

Be proactive and polite and to the point, because it’s your vacation. I usually err on the side of over-communicating, but that’s because for me, it’s all about the details. I won’t complain or nit-pick, but I’ve also been known to speak to a manager or have a conversation with a cast member about the optics of the situation.

What else can you do? 

  • Smile. Say “Thank you” and “Please” and don’t rush to condemn or judge.
  • If you think that you’re entitled to a ‘Guest Recovery’ opportunity, like a discount or a refund – be respectful and be reasonable. Know the line of business that you’re dealing with and what the ‘Recovery’ options may entail.
    • Resorts = Discounts, Refunds and Perks within the Resort
    • Restaurants = Discounts, Refunds and Perks within the Restaurant
    • Merchandise = Discounts, Refunds and Perks within the Merchandise location
    • Attractions = Paper or Virtual Lightning Lane for same park or same attraction.

Remember that each situation is 100% unique and subject to many different things that I won’t have access to anticipating. All this article is designed to do, is to bring to light the ways to save a vacation by knowing in advance your options.

Yes, you can always point to a kid who drops their ice cream on Main Street USA and in tears…and see a Cast Member go over with a card for a free replacement and say “wow, that’s great recovery!” but unless you allow a Disney CM to understand your situation, there’s no way for them to help you save your Disney Vacation!

Common Catastrophes on a Disney Vacation

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