The two great-grandkids, 9 and 6, had a wonderful time. I have to get that out of the way. As a mature adult, I realize that 85% of this trip was about the kids having a wonderful time. And they did. Did I mention that?
They did not, however, know what was going on behind the scenes at the Happiest Place on Earth. So here is where I say, to parents and grandparents, please consider dropping $10,000 over six days somewhere else. Or spending half of that amount in some wondrous, non-artificial scenic someplace like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon or the Blue Ridge Mountains. The selfish grownup in me couldn’t help but think of the Viking cruise or trip to Galapagos that coulda, shoulda, woulda.
For Sue and I to go from relative isolation for two years to throngs of maskless people inside stores, restaurants and theaters was very jarring. Also, it hovered near 90 degrees every day. I got tested the day after I returned, figuring that if I tested negative (which I did), the COVID era was behind me.
As I mentioned, I watched 35-40 video blogs about the parks, food in the parks, rides in the parks, hotels, the new Genie+ system that replaced FastPass, and more. In none of these did I hear anyone question, for example, the new practice of charging $15 per person per day for the privilege of jumping the line with Genie+. On top of that, certain select rides such as Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Space Mountain charged an additional demand-based price of $7 to $15 per person if you wanted to avoid long lines.
Yes, we bought the Genie+ passes. Yes, we bought a few of the premium Individual Lightning Lane rides to avoid lines that grew to 120 minutes or more. Once you’re there, you become somewhat numb to the costs or you will never do or eat anything: the $16 margaritas (plus tax plus tip); the $77 that Sue’s granddaughter paid for three cheeseburgers, chips, drinks and snacks at the hotel’s food court; the $360 lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table (don’t ever get the vegan cheese course); the $40 small plush toys the girls wanted; the $5.50 stale chocolate croissants for breakfast . . . and so on.
A March 3 Washington Post story tracked the soaring price of a Disney vacation, increases that left the rate of inflation in its pixie dust:
Complaints about the price of a Disney vacation may sound like a tale as old as time. But as masses return to the world’s most popular theme parks following pandemic closures, they are finding fees attached to perks that used to be free. And some of the most frustrated fans are voicing new levels of disenchantment.
“It’s really unprecedented,” said Len Testa, president of the theme-park trip-planning site Touring Plans and co-author of the Unofficial Guides to Walt Disney World and Disneyland. “We haven’t seen this sort of anger about price hikes in — we can’t remember the last time something like this caused this much anger from Disney fans.”
The ‘perks’ of a Disney property
We could’ve driven, I guess. We could have stayed somewhere besides a Disney property where, without a car, we were held captive to mediocre and expensive food choices with long waits. We could’ve said no to the Encanto dresses and matching mouse ears (their mom bought those, and they were really cute). We didn’t have to buy front-row seats at the Cirque du Soleil show Drawn to Life (a highlight for me).
We stayed at Disney’s Coronado Springs, where minimal housekeeping is provided every other day – we had to call to remind them, though. One of the “perks” is supposed to be Disney bus transportation to the parks and early entry – but the first morning the full buses kept passing us by, so we had to take an Uber to Magic Kingdom and missed the early entry. Our first ride, Thunder Mountain, was not until 10:30 a.m.
We had the best experience at Animal Kingdom, where we arrived just after 7 a.m. and basically rode every ride and saw every show, including the spectacular “Festival of the Lion King.” We got our cheeseburger pods in the Avatar land of Pandora, which was beautiful. The park was laid out in a way that hid the teeming masses from view.
Sue, who only braved the mildest rides, had plenty of opportunity to chat with and watch people. Her observations? Screaming kids, frazzled parents and grandparents, snaking lines that were longer than they looked, waves of strollers full of toddlers who won’t remember a thing, $129 sweatshirts. Exhausted, overheated families slogging back to the buses; I walked 32 miles that week and Sue (who is 75) walked 28.
Our point to parents and grandparents: Think through if this really how you want to spend thousands on a family vacation. Will this produce meaningful memories? Will everyone enjoy themselves, not just the kids? Will it be too physically taxing for older family members? We can’t answer these questions for you, we just hope you ask them.
We did enjoy our Dole Whip.