If you’re anything like my wife and me, you’re the envy of all your friends thanks to your knowledge of Walt Disney World; your vast collection of retro EPCOT Center t-shirts is lusted after throughout your community; and, your record of 37 consecutive rides aboard the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover graces signs as you enter your town: “Welcome to Mesa Verde, AZ – Home of L.C. Clench, TTA World Record Holder!” You are basically the coolest person in your social circles due to your love and frequent trips to Walt Disney World.
Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Possibly, rather than verbalizing their jealously, your friends sneer, “you’re going to Disney again?! You must really love spinning on the Tea Cups, flying in Dumbo, and visiting that haunted house!” when you share that you’re going on another trip. Now, you and I both know that these condescending comments are rooted in jealousy, so we are the ones who should feel sorry for these folks…right?
Still, it does introduce an interesting question: how do you keep your Disney trips “fresh” despite visiting on a yearly (or more) basis? Here are my suggestions:
1. Seasonal Events – The easiest, and quite possibly the best, way to differentiate your experiences is to travel during times of the year when seasonal events occur. Disney’s Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends is totally different than it is on a random weekend in August. I could spend days in Epcot without doing a single attraction during Food & Wine Festival. (In fact, I have!) Walt Disney World at Christmas is AMAZING. In fact, there’s a photo of Cinderella Castle all lit up in those icicle lights at Christmas in the dictionary next to the word “gorgeous.” (This “photo next to ___ in the dictionary” cliche is fun to use, but has anyone ever seen a dictionary with photos? I haven’t. It makes no sense!)
There are so many special events at Walt Disney World that with even a little bit of advance planning, even those with the most stringent of schedules should be able to plan their vacations so that they can hit some special event. If you do travel during these special events, embrace them! It’s certainly fun to do as many attractions as possible, but the memories we’ve made on our trips haven’t been during the days when we do as many attractions as possible, but on the days when we go at a slower pace and experience something unique. Most of these special events offer something for everyone, so give them a try. Even things like the runDisney weekends that, at first blush, may appear targeted only toward runners have a lot of offerings for all guests!
2. Dining – Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard of DisneyFoodBlog.com. That site’s mantra is “food is a theme park.” I’ve always interpreted that to be a suggestion of things to come–obviously AJ has inside information and is subtly hinting that the soon-to-be-announced 5th gate is food themed! ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN, HERE WE COME!
Dining is a big deal for a lot of guests visiting Walt Disney World, and rightfully so. While infrequent guests who don’t know the ropes are dismissive of theme park cuisine as being all “burgers and corn dogs,” they couldn’t be more wrong. Disney’s culinary options are many, varied, and can be quite compelling as an experience unto themselves. (Just browse our menus to see the thousands of mouth-watering dishes you can order!)
On our last trip, Sarah and I tried to snack around World Showcase (we failed). In the past, we’ve drunk around World Showcase (we succeeded!). We’ve gone from monorail resort to monorail resort sampling cupcakes. We’ve planned our days around visits to our favorite Signature Restaurants. Disney food can be absolutely amazing, and it’s something around which we normally plan our trips. Plus, there are fun dining options for guests of all budgets. A cupcake tour of Disney World from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Epcot (with stops at BoardWalk Bakery as you walk between the two) is surprisingly cheap, and a ton of fun. I know a lot of people eat off-site or bring their own food to save money, but if you’ve never given Disney dining a chance, I implore you to reconsider. The stereotypes about Disney theme park food are complete and utter misconceptions. Your dining experiences can totally change the tone of your trip.
3. Group Meets and Events – This is something to which I was opposed for a long time. Vacation time was our alone time away from everyone else, and we really had no desire to meet up with anyone else because that would encroach upon our special time together in the parks. While we still set aside time for this, we have come around on group meet-ups, realizing they can be a ton of fun. My first experience with this was a photography trip with some friends from Flickr in 2009. It was a blast. Then, we went even further with WDW Today Reunion in 2010. The amount of fun we had on that trip was mind-blowing.
You can find group meets on Twitter, Facebook, through podcasts, and even your favorite Disney-oriented websites. If you’re introverted (or if you constantly have your head in the clouds, like me), doing the group thing might seem challenging. It’s really not. Just jump into conversations before the group meets on Twitter or on discussion forums, and you’ll find that people are pretty welcoming. Meeting in person might be a little more nerve-wrecking for some, but once you get past that first five minutes or so, you’ll feel like long lost high school friends chatting. Remember, we’re all Disney nerds (although I prefer “Disney cool awesome-ists”) so you don’t have too much to worry about. The meets are a lot of fun and the group interaction is great and will make for unique trips.
4. Different Resorts – Staying at a Walt Disney World resort-hotel that’s different from your norm is a great way to change up your trips. If you love the monorail resorts and normally stay at the Polynesian, give the Beach Club a try instead. You might find that you spend more time in the pool, eat more ice cream, and visit Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios more by making the change. Changes from the All-Star Resorts to Pop Century will likely have a less-pronounced impact on your trip, but you will notice a difference.
If you’re truly crazy and want to make it a resort-intensive trip, try changing hotels every night or every other night of your trip. We’ve done this for the sake of research, and it’s actually a lot of fun! A trip like this will cut down your time in the parks, but sometimes that’s a good thing! On a recent trip, we started at Wilderness Lodge, then went to Coronado Springs, and then finished the trip at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Along the way, we spent an evening in the Club Level Lounge at the Polynesian. This resort-intensive trip was especially fun at Christmas, when we got to enjoy the ambiance of all those cool and unique decorations!
5. Trip Purposes – This can be as simple as celebrating a honeymoon, anniversary, or birthday, or as zany as theming your trip to “Nature” by staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, doing the Behind the Seeds at Epcot tour, and taking photos of every Egret you see in the Magic Kingdom. The sky is really the limit with this, and giving your trip a cohesive purpose or theme can be a great way to differentiate it on other trips. It’s easy for trips to blend together when looking back at them years after you’ve taken them, but if you create some fun focus for each trip, it’s a lot easier to remember the differences between particular trips!
These are just some ways that you can keep things fresh on your Walt Disney World trips. Ultimately, let’s be honest, you probably don’t need ways to continue to have fun at Walt Disney World (it’s truly something different each trip no matter how you slice it!), and if that’s the case, look at it this way… this list could serve as a great list of excuses for taking additional trips. “Honey, it’s imperative that we book a last minute trip this June for Star Wars Weekends. The crazy guy on the internet told me we have to do it!” I’ll gladly take the heat if your significant other doesn’t react favorably. Please tell them to direct all hate-mail to: Brian McNichols, 2501 North Third Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110-2098.
What do you think of our suggestions? What tips do you have for keeping your Disney trips special? Share your ideas in the comments!