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Disney Vacation – Worst Thing Ever?
Imagine spending $2,000+ to spend a few days standing in line, walking until your feet fall off, and exhausting your kids until they whine, cry or collapse. Sound like fun? Definitely not. So why do parents do it?
Either there is something wrong with everyone, or I missed the memo as to why Disneyland and Disney World make for a great vacation. My first experience with a Disney theme park happened at the age of 16. It was enough to last over a decade. The withdrawal never hit me. But kids did. So of course Disneyland was suddenly a topic again.
The happiest place on earth? I think not. A Disney vacation literally sounds like the worst thing ever. Here are only a handful of the reasons.
How Much Do Tickets Cost?!?
The sheer cost of a Disney vacation is the first thing to make me think twice about it. As a veteran “travel hacker”, I’ve reduced the costs of trips from literally $1,000s to a few $100 in a number of cases. It’s the only way we can afford to travel overseas. If we had to pay for plane tickets and hotel and food and museums/attractions/other things, trips would be a whole lot more rare. Thus, the travel hacking skills that let me spend a week in Australia for $320 all said and done.
But I can’t seem to hack Disney the same way. At least in terms of cost. Sure, airfare and hotel I can manage to cover, but tickets to the park for a family of five for 2-3 (or 5) days is obscene. I don’t have that kind of dough to toss around.
Two-day park hopper tickets (effectively what we had) cost $280 for adults and $265 for kids. Tickets for my family of five would therefore cost $1,370 without any sort of discount. This alone would have killed the trip for us. Luckily, tickets for one day were a gift from my mother-in-law. The second day we were all walked in for nearly free by a Disney corporate employee, the sister of a coworker and friend of mine. That’s my real Disney hack.
So while the cost wasn’t an issue this trip, it is a major hurdle for planning another. Or a trip to Walt Disney World.
Except I Forgot About Lunch
So while I didn’t have to sell my left kidney to pay for park tickets, the mouse did strike in other ways. Food, for instance. This is where they really have you over a barrel. Doesn’t really matter where you eat. We tried a few different places, and they all sucked the life out of my wallet.
Either you prepare food beforehand and pack it in (which is its own annoyance), or you pay up. And I mean really pay up. I think we spend $90 for lunch for six people, three of whom are kids, on our second day in Disneyland. It was awful. The kids didn’t even really like the food.
Add up everything we spent on meals and snacks that trip, and it amounts to a lot. Then there are souvenirs. Not even going to go here.
People, Lines, and Crying Kids, Oh My!
We had the good fortune of visiting Disneyland during an “off peak” time. It was January, not a weekend, and solidly after Christmas Break. So the crowds were much more manageable. Or so I was told. Things were still crowded, and many rides had 20-30 minute wait times. I’m sure this is probably nothing, but I hate waiting in lines. Hate. Detest. Loathe.
So Disney is like a form of cruel torture for me, waiting for everything. Like I said, this was even on an off day. Sure, we used the Fastpass when and where possible, which saved me some pain. But other times I gave up. An hour wait for Radiator Springs Racers. Nope. And I even like that ride.
Jungle Cruise, not so much. No idea why we waited over half an hour for that on. I think I would have rather ridden the Mad Tea Party twice in a row. Which says a lot. I do have a few rides I particularly enjoy. Jungle Cruise did not make that list.
And I have yet to mention the meltdowns that happen in the lines. Children crying. Or screaming. You’d think plenty of sunshine would be headed everyone’s way. Think again.
Lots of people. Lots of lines. Lots of crying kids. This is what Disneyland is to me. The happiest place on earth, it is clearly not. How else do you explain the crying?
Strollers, Strollers Everywhere
If the giant lines of people aren’t enough to phase you, the lines of strollers certainly will be. At least they aren’t moving. Or crying. But they do clog the paths and force you to navigate around them. There were a couple bottlenecks in Adventureland and New Orleans Square that became frustrating due to strollers.
This issue didn’t even cross my mind before we arrived. I guess we could have used one during our visit. I felt like a maverick carrying our three year old whenever he got tired. But better than contribute to the plague of strollers.
Vacation Exhaustion Does NOT Equal Fun
By the end of our final day at Disneyland, my wife and I were spent. Completely exhausted. And we were only here for a pool day and two in the parks! I’m not one who vacations to relax and take it easy. Some of my best memories are walking over eight miles all over Sydney, Australia my first day there, and also over 10 miles through and around St. John’s, Newfoundland. But this is (somehow) a sort of active relaxation and stress relief for me.
But there is a difference with Disney. It’s not just the physical exhaustion of being on your feet and walking miles through the parks, but the mental exhaustion. Between the planning, changing plans, decisions of what to ride next, where to eat, and dealing with kids and people all day, it’s too much. Plus, we end up all staying up later than intended in order to maximize every possible moment. By golly, we paid big money for these tickets. Can’t turn in early!
The best piece of advice about visiting all of Disney World in a week was to take down days. I couldn’t agree more. I’d just rather spend all my down time far, far away from all of that madness.
Don’t get me wrong. Our kids had a blast at Disneyland. They loved every moment, and the smiles on their faces were complete and entirely worth the hassle, frustration and stress. I mean, how can you argue against this?
Just don’t ask me to do it again. Maybe we’ll try it again in 10 years when he’s a teen.
The (sorta) tongue-in-cheek portrait of Disney aside, I do expect we’ll end up making another visit eventually. We’ll save for the cost and plan appropriately to make it as enjoyable as possible. But you’ll just still catch me thinking about how many other trips we could have planned for what we shell out visiting the mouse.
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Absolutely on the head of the nail! The last time I went to Disneyland was 25 years ago and it was too damned expensive then! With what they charge now it is insane and prohibitively for many families. There are a LOT of other things to do and see across the country and around the world that don’t gouge the hell out of a person or family like Disney does. I am with you 163% on this!
Agree 100% except with the pet about returning in 10 years. Who needs to pay $130+/pp per day to wait in lines and eat overpriced junk food? No thanks! We have 61 national parks and at least 10 world class cities that provide better entertainment with zero lines at a fraction of the cost. Not to mention Hawaii!
My time is too valuable to waste at Disney
Perhaps Ian should frequent Legoland or Fun Spot America.
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The STROLLERS – yeah that’s changed a lot in the last 20 years. I have pictures of my family at Disneyland in 1968. I would have been (barely) 4 and my brother 3. There were no strollers. It seems like little kids used to be able to walk the park. (Yes, there was less at the park, but the size hasn’t changed)
When I worked there in the early 80’s, the strollers were a lot smaller in number and size. Most people would rent a stroller at the gate, so there weren’t any of the those giant 3 seater strollers blocking every pathway. In addition to strollers, now we also have scooters and mobility chairs that have increased tremendously (and they didn’t even exist when Disney designed their paths)
In spite of the cost of admission, attendance continues to grow and seem to be at full capacity a lot more often then when I worked at Disneyland (full capacity occurred once a year on the 4th of July)
Add full capacity to strollers and mobility chairs and it makes things uncomfortable.
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Disneyland/world: at 50 with no kids, I don’t really care .
My parents could barely afford to take us there when I was like 6, or 8 (?). But it was awesome. Stood on line all day to do Star Tours, Space Mountain, etc.
I’ve been back, but only for free. As an adult, I would never pay the prices they’re asking, to wait in those lines, to get ripped off for a burger & soda. Nope.
But it’s not about you, it’s about the kids. The kids who are still young enough to appreciate the (manufactured) wonderment of the place. The kids you want to have nice memories for later in life. Yes, there are some grown ups who have still held on to this wonderment, and are fortunate to be able to afford repeat visits into their older ages.
Disney knows this, hence the rapey prices at the snack stands, gift shops, and their hotels. Oh, and the tickets 😉
You couldn’t get into because you were 16. Your kids had a blast because they are under 10. If you try it again when they’re teenagers, It’s going to cost twice as much, you’re going to hate it even more, and they likely couldn’t care less.