Idle Thoughts from a WDW Vacation

by Jack Marshall, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the August 24, 2004, Issue #257 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

I knew it would happen eventually. I have been to Walt Disney World so many times now that I no longer try to be "on the go" every waking hour there. I find myself back in my room early many nights with a lot of time to mentally process what I've observed during the day. These are my observations from my recently completed family trip that included my first stay at the Beach Club Villas.

I WAS JUST THINKING...

--Why do people wear clothing items on vacation that they wouldn't be caught dead in at home? Black socks with sneakers and loud Hawaiian-inspired prints with cut-off dungarees are definitely not flattering.

--Shouldn't WDW offer some kind of perk for taking their in-park surveys? A FASTPASS valid for any ride would do nicely.

--Once you stay at a Disney Vacation Club resort, can you really go back to a regular hotel room?

--Am I the only one who looks at the faces of hundreds of fellow vacationers on every trip thinking I might find somebody I know, and never do?

--Does anyone else feel a little disappointed if you've carried around a backpack with your umbrellas and rain ponchos all day and it didn't rain?

--Does anyone else not miss daily maid service at the Disney Vacation Club resorts? I loved knowing I could go back to the room for a nap and not have to worry about whether it had been done yet by Mousekeeping.

--Where do all those Disney photographers go after 11 a.m.? You know, the ones who accost you every 50 feet once you enter a Disney theme park? They are out like locusts in the morning, but are nearly invisible by lunchtime.

--Are you like me in that you always hate what you look like in a photo, so there's just no way you will sit for one of those caricature artists?

--Do the Cast Members who have to walk on those moving ride platforms ("The platform and your vehicle are moving at the same speed") all day have trouble walking on solid ground?

--What is it about teenagers that they can't get out of bed in the morning to go to a theme park at a decent hour? Is nine hours of sleep not enough on vacation?

--Does anyone else think about evil things like putting the claim "these Segways will stop on a dime" to the test?

--Why can't the Disney Security bag checks be more like the grocery stores? It's nice that they let people with no bags go right through, but they should have special lines marked for people with "less than 3 zippers," "4-6 zippers," "more than 6 zippers" and "everything but the kitchen sink."

--Isn't it time that Disney added The Learning Channel and The Travel Channel to their TV cable offerings? Disney locations are on the Travel Channel several times a month. And I know that I am not the only one who sulks in my hotel room on Saturday night when I can't see Trading Spaces on TLC.

--And while I'm on the subject of TV at WDW, Disney owns ESPN and they have a network called ESPN Classics where they show famous sporting events from the past. Why hasn't someone told them that what they really need is a Disney Classics channel to run Davy Crockett and Swamp Fox and Zorro and the original Mickey Mouse Club, not to mention the cartoons and animated movies? Kids, ask your parents what these shows are.

--It always impresses me when I hear a Disney Cast Member field a question like "where's the best place to see the parade" for at least the thousandth time and cheerily answer as though it was the first time. Good show.

--Oh sure, I'm going to run right down to the health club at the resort at 6 in the morning because walking 10 miles in the hot July sun isn't enough exercise for one day... not!

--I must admit to feeling a little melancholy when standing in front of the boarded up area that will soon be the Soarin' attraction at Epcot. This area will always have memories of Kitchen Kabaret and Food Rocks for me.

-- Does anyone else feel the need to wear EVERYTHING they packed for the trip so you can't be accused of over-packing?

--Whenever I'm in Disney, I always reach a point where I consider a meal to be "fine dining" if it doesn't come with french fries.

--Do you think that Disney will ever get around to changing the name of the Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool to the Typhoon Lagoon Tsunami Pool? Those aren't regular wave pool waves. They are walls of water.

--Does anyone else consider it a trip letdown if you haven't managed to ride at least once on a boat, a ferryboat, a bus, the Magic Kingdom Railroad and all three monorail loops before you leave for home? And you get extra points if you ride in the front of the monorail, too.

--I can't be the only one who ducks into every gift shop I see in July and August just to enjoy a few minutes of air conditioning, can I?

--Wouldn't it be wonderful if Disney put in something else to transport tired folks from the back of World Showcase to the fountain in Future World or vice versa? Heck, Cast Member driven surrey bikes would do just fine, too. I really miss those double-decker buses. The Friendship boats just aren't the same.

--Do you find yourself wanting to use the finger scanners at the park gates out of habit when you are using park hopper passes instead of your usual annual passes?

--Did you ever notice the way little kids back in the line look at you, an adult, as you pose for a photo with Mickey? It's like, "You have a nerve!"

--Does it strike anyone else funny that people will spend $6.50 for a hot dog or $7.49 for a cheeseburger at Disney World and then ask where to find the cheapest place for them to buy snacks off property?

--Do you jump for joy when the resort bill that you've been charging to all week and haven't been keeping track of comes, and it's less than you were afraid it would be?

THINGS I DIDN'T KNOW BEFORE THAT I KNOW NOW:

--The security guard at the Beach Club will print your car's parking pass for your entire stay at the gate when you first arrive.

--You've all seen the signs in Epcot about sending your packages to the front gate for you to pick up on the way out. Well danged if they don't also send them to the gift shop at the International Gateway for those staying at an Epcot resort.

--The Beach Club, and by extension the Beach Club Villas, is not a stuffy old resort. It has some stuffy old people staying there, but the resort itself rocks!

--Disney allows alligators to nest and spawn in some of its less-accessible-to-the-public waterways.

FIRSTS AFTER ALL THESE YEARS:

I know it sounds strange, but after coming to WDW at least once a year (usually more) since 1984, there are still things I haven't done. Some are intentional, others completely accidental. This trip I did or discovered some things for the first time ever:

--Ice Station Cool. Yeah, I knew it was there, but I just never had the desire to check it out before. It's definitely worth the visit if for no other reason than it's refreshingly cool (not cold!) in there. There isn't a better place to be to escape the July heat. At the end, you can sample some Coca Cola products from around the world. Be forewarned, they are definitely not all syrupy sweet.

--Stormalong Bay. Now I understand why everyone says it is the best resort swimming pool in WDW. It is. It's so good and so large that it probably comes in second place, too. The next best pool can only hope to finish in third place. But beware the fact that the pools have cement lined sides, not fiberglass or plastic like most pools. It can really beat up a bathing suit.

--National Car Rental return at the Dolphin. Never before have I rented a car from the airport and returned it to the Dolphin. It was quick and painless.

--Beaches and Cream Burgers. I've had ice cream in here before, but never had a burger. I am very glad I did. It is definitely in the top two or three best burgers I ever had at WDW, and that's saying something. No microwaved, heat-lamped Mickey D's burgers are these. Definitely top of the heap. I award it five pickles.

--I encountered my first vision-impaired Disney Cast Member with a service animal working in public. I had seen one or two others using canes before, but never one with a guide dog. CM Kelly was standing at the rope that closes off pre-11 a.m. access to the bridge leading to the French pavilion from the International Gateway entrance of Epcot.Her guide dog, George Michael (really!), was resting in the shade about 10 yards away. She cheerily greeted everyone she heard passing by her. Be sure to say hello to her if you see her on your next trip. I tip my hat to Disney for this personnel move.

--I think I have ridden Spaceship Earth more than a hundred times. When my daughter was little, we had to ride it at least 10 times on each Epcot visit, as it was her favorite ride in all of Disney World. This was the very first time I was on it since AT&T pulled their sponsorship. How sad the boarded up former area of the Global Neighborhood is.

LIFE'S LESSONS NEVER TAKE A HOLIDAY...

But I guess what really hit me for the first time on this trip was the realization that my little girl is no longer a "little girl." I see her every day and never noticed the change before. My bad. The signs were all there if only I looked.

It really is true that you know your days of reliving your childhood vicariously through your child are about over when they want to see "One Man's Dream" and the "Magic of Disney Animation Tour" instead of "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" and the "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" playground. Don't even think of mentioning the word "princess" around her now. Character breakfasts have been dumped in favor of sleeping later. Fantasyland has by and large been replaced by Innoventions and World Showcase. A stop in a gift shop that previously brought ooohs and aahs at the prospect of new toys now brings a "Do we have to?" response. Water parks have taken over where hotel pools previously ruled.

My daughter is now a teenager (I'm really not that old <vbg>) and she's now earned her freedom from her parents for on-resort destinations like the swimming pool. My wife was worried that she wouldn't be able to find her way back to the room. I told her if I was that lucky I was going to buy some Florida lottery tickets. Unfortunately for the State of Florida Treasury, she found her way back just fine.

The changes will continue. In a few short years, our trips will probably consist of her saying "I'm going to DisneyQuest tomorrow after I get up. I'll meet you back here around 5." Can my first trip as an empty-nester be far behind?

Worse yet, it may be time for this stay-at-home Dad to find a real job again.

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Jack Marshall, who likes to be referred to as the "Keeper of the ALL EARS® Archives and Tips Database," is a strong behind-the-scenes presence at Allears.net. He only rarely steps onstage for us, as he did this week to reflect on his recent trip to the World.


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.