Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What are some least well-known and least pleasant aspects of the Disney theme parks? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
I’ve gone to the Disney parks a lot. And when I say “a lot” I mean “over 20 times.” I’ve hit the parks on both coasts, and hope to someday visit the parks outside the US. When comes to least pleasant aspects, I have some examples that I think are worth noting.
First off, there is definitely a drop-off in quality if you stay at one of the value (i.e. cheap) resorts at Walt Disney World. One of the last trips my family took we stayed at a value resort, and the quality of service and the cleanliness of the room left a LOT to be desired. Walking barefoot on the floor of my hotel room left my feet pitch black after a few steps. The staff at the value resorts also tend to not provide as much “disney magic” (i.e. friendly, positive service) as what you get from staff at the moderate and deluxe results. While Disney would like you to think that all their resorts are superb… well, there is a class system at work, and if you pay more you get better service – period.
(Yes, I know that many of you reading this will have had great experiences staying in value resorts, and that’s fine… I have too. I’ve just noticed the difference between the “little-s” service you get at the value resorts and the “capital-s” Service you get at the pricey Deluxe resorts. It is what it is.)
Second, Disney has structured their tickets and vacation packages in a way that is absolutely ingenious… ingenious in getting Disney as much of your money as possible. After their three day tickets, the price of adding extra days are negligible… less than $10 a day per ticket. This is brilliant, in that it leads many people to extend their vacations and locks them into Disney… why spend $100+ dollars on tickets to Universal Studios or Sea World, when you can go to another Disney park for less than $10? A day that you will be spending money on food, toys, drinks… money that all goes to Disney.
Disney’s Magical Express, which (for free) picks you up from the airport and takes you straight to your resort, is another part of that same strategy. It’s something that you can view as an absolute positive… until you realize that you’re “trapped” on Disney property your entire vacation (unless you call a taxi or buy a rental car).
Third, if you go in summer… be prepared to sweat, especially at Walt Disney World in Orlando. That, and the huge crowds, make a “pleasant” experience nearly impossible. As big as the Disney park is, you are going to have uncomfortable experiences and situations happen if you go to the park at “peak season.” You’ll also pay more for the privilege.
Fourth, if you want to get the most out of a vacation at a Disney Park, you MUST PLAN your days. You need to make your dining reservations months in advance (seriously – the most popular restaurants book up over 60 days ahead of time) and you need to try and hit all the most popular rides at “rope drop”, otherwise you will probably not get to ride them because of high demand. Many people want a vacation to be… well, a vacation. Disney ain’t like that. To get the most out of a Disney vacation, you need to structure your days and your nights and schedule things out. I’ve gone with family members who had NO IDEA how hard it was to get last-minute dining reservations and to get onto their favorite rides, and because of that they spent a lot of time in lines and eating extremely average counter service meals (that still cost a pretty penny).
Finally, in every resort and throughout their parks Disney promotes the Disney Vacation Club, which is a VERY expensive timeshare that makes Disney a lot of money, with (in my opinion) very little value provided to the buyer of said timeshare. Try not to get trapped into a conversation with a DVC salesperson… you’ll end up potentially losing hours away from your vacation trapped in a sales pitch.