I got asked a question today that I have been asked before and I'm always reluctant to answer it because people are all different (and boy is that true in my case!)..."we have never been to Disney World, but want to go, can you help?". First off, for the average person, explaining to a complete novice how to do Disney right, would be daunting, but add my Asperger's, OCD, and just general Disney obsessiveness, and it's a monstrous feat! It's incredibly difficult for me to express in layman's terms anyway, but add to that something that I'm incredibly passionate about and it can be (and has been) a recipe for disaster (at least for my practically non-existent social life, I'm isolated enough, no need to scare people off)!
But, being the typical sap that I am, of course I offered to help (well, to be honest, it was more of a chance to show off my Disney knowledge and not really caring a rat's ass for helping, but that's the Asper-girl for ya! At least I'm aware of it!). First question out of my mouth, "when were you thinking about going?". "Maybe next month" was the answer I got. If I could have picked my jaw up off the floor, I would have said "you stupid idiot! Even season veterans have trouble booking trips that soon, especially during the start of the busy season! Where do you think you're going, Six Flags?". Luckily, the time it took me to pick my jaw up allowed me time enough to compose myself just a bit, or at least enough to get out, "that's not possible". Then my Asper-brain takes over and panic sets in...why? Who knows! But I feel it's my moral obligation to set this chick straight!
I just said, "let's get back to that" and went on with the next question, "what's your budget like?". You'll never guess the answer that actually escaped her lips...come on...take a guess..."maybe about $500 for a family of four". It would cost more than than to drive to the beach and stay and do nothing! If I could have hit her, I would, but instead, I sat her down and gave her the Disney planning facts according to Keebs:
1) If at all possible, give yourself at least 8 to 12 months to plan - a resort has to be chosen, schedules have to be planned out, dining reservations are made at the 180 day mark, money has to be saved up, and the most important thing, research must be done (and if at all possible, before the other items can be taken care of)...especially for the person who has never been there before in their life.
I always recommend to people to either order the free Disney planning DVD, or watch videos on YouTube for different reasons...to learn the lay of the land so you don't end up lost, to get an idea of the sheer size, see which resort appeals to you, but for those with kids...you'd be surprised how many little ones completely FREAK out over the sight of a 5ft tall mouse! They have it in their little heads that Mickey is their size. If you acclimate your kids to seeing Mickey 5ft tall and playing with other kids, maybe they won't be so scared and those in line behind you don't have to miss their chance because your kid took up tons of time throwing a fit at the sight of Mickey! The characters are only out for a brief amount of time when they come out, so get in, get your pic and/or autograph and GET OUT!
I know I say this ad-nauseum, but Disney World is NOT Six Flags! The acreage used to be 47 square miles (but this has changed a bit since they sold off some conservation land), which is roughly twice the size of Manhattan! It has four theme parks, two water parks, four championship golf courses (used to be five, but the fifth is where the new rich-people subdivision is going - Golden Oak), two miniature golf courses, a Wide World of Sports complex, a Nascar racing area, a Downtown shopping district, and last, but definitely not least, eight Deluxe Resorts (as well as their DVC counterparts and not counting the Swan and Dolphin), three moderate resorts (depending on whether or not you count Port Orleans as one, if you count it as two, then make that four moderates), five values (if you add the new Art of Animation and count the All Stars separately), there are seven (about to be eight) DVC resorts (Disney's version of a time share, a campground, then you have the Swan and Dolphin, which is on property, but not run by Disney, Shades of Green (the military family resort), seven good neighbor hotels, and they are building a Four Seasons in the middle of Golden Oak. To make a long story short (too late!), Disney World is HUGE! Now, why on earth would you want to figure out what to see and do in a month?
2) I've discussed the on-site, off-site debate before, but since I'm in a mood because of this, I'm gonna do it again anyway. People look at prices of Disney resorts and go, "I'm not paying that! We'll just stay off-site". Yeah...save a buck on your room (unless you own property or have a time share, which BTW, can be exchanged for DVC points). Now that you've saved yourself money, add to that the hour to and from everyday that you'll loose, the $14 per day parking fee, and the lack of access to Disney transport (don't make me go into THAT again). You can't go back to your room for a midday break without wasting two hours in transport time, you can't take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours because that's for resort guests, you can't have your packages shipped back to your resort so you don't have to carry them around all day...need I go on? Yes, you pay more for a Disney resort, but you get more, and the higher the level (i.e. deluxe), the more benefits you get!! It has been proven, that in the long run with time and money, it actually costs more to stay off-site, you just don't feel it because you are paying it over time instead of upfront.
3) Save, save, save! It ain't cheap to go to WDW, and I wouldn't be able to go like I do without my benefactor, aka sissy extraordinaire, Am! But, having said that, Disney is one of the few places that means it when they say, "you get what you pay for"! Sure, a burger might cost you $10, but it's usually a bacon-double cheeseburger with a generous side of fries, a drink and most places have fixin' bars, so you can pile it as high as you'd like! And yes, you pay $2.50 for a bottle of water, but you gotta have a rock-gut to drink the water in central Florida...to an outsider, it smells like sewer water that has been over-chlorinated!
4) Plan, plan, plan! If you don't plan, don't get pissed off because you end up in the middle of Pop Warner, or the cheerleaders, or Gay Days (which I would think would be no big deal, but I've already discussed this as well, some people equate it to Sodom and Gomorrah), or the parks are closing early for special parties you didn't buy tickets for, or it's so crowded the parks are closed for capacity issues (another great on-site perk, you will be allowed entry (although maybe not to the park of your choice), even if it's at capacity), it's the middle of hurricane season, you can't get into a restaurant because you didn't make reservations, your stuck in one park all day because you didn't get a park hopper option added to your ticket...or my absolute favorite idiot non-planning snafu...you only went to the Magic Kingdom because you didn't know there were three other parks (yes, I know someone who actually did that!).
Which brings up a rant...Magic Kingdom is NOT Disney World...yes, in 1980 it was because it was all that was there, but times have changed and it drives me biszonker nuts to hear someone call the Magic Kingdom Disney World (or worse, Disneyland...that's in California). "Where did you go today?", I ask, "well, we went to the giant golf ball place and Wild Kingdom and Disney Studios (the only one they ever get right), and then Disney World"...UGH! Prepare to get a lecture if you say that to my face!! You were just there! Surely you noticed the multitude of signs and maps telling you exactly where you were!
5) And the final Keebs tip, reach out to others who have been there and can give your their tips! You may think it won't be helpful, but there will always come a time in Disney where you wish you knew more than you did (I still get that sometimes) and it's always better to learn from someone else's mistake rather than make the mistake yourself. But I do have to warn you, don't reach out to me unless you're serious, are willing to listen to everything I tell you, and follow my advice!
So, back to today's idiot, I give her my spiel, I could tell she was half listening anyway, and this point got reiterated when she said the following after I asked, "how long were you thinking about going for?"...prepare yourself..."four days, but we also want to go to Sea World, Universal, and Cape Canaveral, that should be plenty of time, right?" (her words, not mine). Ugh...re paragraph 3 under heading 1. She really didn't take it well when I said, "even for a Disney vet, minimum 2 days Magic Kingdom, 2 days Epcot, 1 day a piece for Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, and 1 day for Downtown...not including anything extra you might want to do on property. Add another 2 days for Universal, 1 day minimum for Sea World, and an extra day to drive to Cape and that's a minimum of 11 days and you still won't come CLOSE to seeing everything. You could spend a month in Disney World and not see everything there is to see there alone. In my opinion, save Univeral, Sea World and Cape for another time or do it instead of Disney". Finally I could see the Six Flags veil disappearing from the whites of her eyes!
After explaining all this stuff, of course I get the usual reaction "well, if it's that much trouble, we won't go!". This is where a normal person would probably answer, "oh no, you HAVE to go! It's the most magical place on earth!", which is completely true. There is no place in the world like it. But that's not the answer I gave..."well, if your not gonna put in the time, you probably shouldn't, because you won't have fun, and might ruin someone else's time". Yep, I said it! I wish everyone who didn't really want to be there or wasn't enjoying themselves were suddenly magically whisked away to "away from me land" so I can enjoy my trip without listening to the person next to me bitch about how much it costs, or what they didn't get to do, blaa, blaa, blaa.
In the end, she decided she needed to discuss it with her husband more (especially since they have already told their kids they are going...BAD move!). I told her I'd still help her, but she needed to be serious and put it off a bit. Then she proceeds to tell me, "we could go in October like you! Someone told my husband about a really cool and scary Halloween Party", and here I thought she was gonna say Mickey's Not So Scary since she has two young children, but instead she goes, "at Universal". Now my blood pressure is rising..."Halloween Horror Nights is for 18 years and older, no children allowed because of the serious and scary nature of the scenes...hell, we're too scared to go!" (scared wasn't the right word, because Am and I are both into horror, but I have this bad habit of punching first and asking questions later when someone jumps out at me, it's just my natural reaction, my defense mechanism if you will). She then goes off on a rant that they can't bar her children if they go, she has rights...I just walked off.
She is a hopeless, lost case and I for one, hope she doesn't go anywhere near Disney World! I have this message on my bulletin board at work..."Walt Disney World - for those that get it, no explanation necessary, for those that don't, no explanation possible". Words to live by. And the first thing out of my mouth when someone says they didn't like WDW is, "well, if you have a bad time at Disney, it's probably your fault and not theirs", and once they tell me their story (for some unknown reason they think I care), it just adds merit to my motto!