The Life of a “Conventionear”

by Alice McNutt Miller
AllEars® Feature Writer

Feature Article

This article appeared in the December 4, 2012 Issue #689 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

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.

Alice Miller and HusbandYou've seen them in the lobby of your hotel, as you drag yourself and your bedraggled offspring back from a glorious day at the parks. The guys with the matching polo shirts; the women who, while not exactly dressed for a day at the office on Wall Street, look slightly too dressed up for a date with Dumbo; and all of the folks with the corporate (rather than Disney) lanyards and the "Hello My Name Is…" tags. They are "Conventionears" — folks who are working while at Walt Disney World. Do you feel sorry for them, or are you slightly jealous? I have a confession to make. While I have never been an actual Conventionear, I have had the happy occasion to be the Spouse of a Conventionear!

If your spouse, significant other, partner or BFF (I am going to simply refer to this person as "your spouse" going forward, so that I do not need to repeat all of these potential labels) happens to tell you that his or her company will be having its annual meeting at Walt Disney World or that he or she is required to attend an industry convention, I have one word of advice for you: GO! Actually, I have several more words of advice for you.

First of all, here are some of the perks that you will have as a Conventionear's spouse:

Special room pricing. You can usually stay in a very nice Disney resort for much less than the normal price. Conventionears tend to get very preferred pricing, and Disney will usually extend that rate for a few days before and after the conference. My husband and I recently stayed in a Tower room in the Contemporary for about the same price as it would normally be to stay in a Moderate resort. If you are VERY lucky, and your spouse is actually organizing the meeting, or is a bigwig in the company organizing the meeting, you may get a suite for the price of a regular resort room. Twice when my husband's company had it annual event at WDW we were able to stay in two-bedroom concierge suites for the price of a regular room. Once, it was a Magic Kingdom view suite at the Contemporary. Amazing!

Discounted, tailored ticket options. Conventionears (and their guests) have access to specially priced park tickets that can allow for late afternoon or evening visits to the parks after the day's work events are over. Specially priced multi-day tickets are also available for those who want to extend their stay and make a full vacation out of it. See for details.

You can take the Magical Express. Conventionears and their families staying at a Disney resort have the same access to Magical Express transportation from Orlando International Airport as do regular guests. This applies even if you and other members of your family are arriving or leaving at different times. I have called Disney's Central Reservations Office, given them my husband's reservation number, and set up my separate Magical Express reservations that way. Easy! And no one needs to worry about leaving convention events in order to make an airport run.

Get yourself an invitation to convention events. Check out your spouse's convention agenda. If there is an inspiring keynote speaker, see if you can score a spouse pass, and take the opportunity to share in an enriching experience. Also, there is nothing Disney does better than the evening convention activity. I have had the luck to attend a full sit-down dinner served in the Rotunda of "The American Experience," a dance party just for our group in Atlantic Dance, and a private dessert and Illuminations viewing party. These were really fun events, and it was a hoot entering Epcot from "behind the scenes" while we were escorted to our dinner in the Rotunda. Definitely not something I had ever done before!

You can visit the parks! Relax! Shop! Etc.! You get to visit the parks while your spouse is working. Take the kids if you can, and if you can arrive a few days before or stay a few days after the event, your spouse can join you, and you can make a family vacation out of it. Visit the parks, play golf or hit the spa while your spouse is working. If you don't have the kids with you, there may be other spouses who would be interested in joining you for a day of touring the parks. (Some conventions might even offer special tours or events for spouses.) If not, solo touring can be very satisfying (see "Going Solo"

Now, here are some things to keep in mind:

Know your spouse's schedule. He or she really is there to work (no snickers, please!), so you will need to make sure that you respect their work schedule. Be aware that your spouse will not have as much time to spend with you, and if you brought them, your kids, as you might like. However, you ARE in Disney World, and you must Keep Calm and Carry On! Know when you can expect to see your spouse throughout the day, and make sure to set your own, and your kids' expectations. It may be that you will only be able to see Mommy at breakfast, so get everyone up and going in order to make time for that, and make that time special. If you are by yourself, use the alone time to visit attractions that are not normally on your family's high priority list, shop for a special gift, or peruse the gazillion cupcake options out there, and indulge with a slow cup of coffee. Use your spouse's absence as an impetus to do things you wouldn't normally do as a family unit. If Dad doesn't like to do roller coasters, ride the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster three times while he is not touring with you. If Mom yawns at the thought of Dumbo and the Carrousel, ride them to your heart's content.

Bow out if you are tired or aren't interested in attending particular events. My husband likes to catch up with work friends and acquaintances who he does not often get to see when he attends conferences and conventions. This can mean late nights and lots of people. I am not a night owl, and I am a bit of an introvert, so I find it works best if I show up, say hello, then bow out and return to our room when I am tired. That way, my husband and I both get to spend some time together, he gets to do his schmoozing, and I get to bed early so that I can be ready to hit the parks during morning Extra Magic Hours.

Make your dining plans! Don't forget to make Advance Dining Reservations. Conventionears who are not frequent visitors to Walt Disney World may not realize that Advance Dining Reservations are almost always necessary in order to eat at the most popular restaurants — particularly those in hotels with convention facilities (think California Grill and Narcoossee's). I have already scored a dinner reservation at the very-newly-opened Be Our Guest restaurant in the New Fantasyland for a conference that I think I may be tagging along to in February. I can always cancel if I don't end up going.

Make child care arrangements. If you will be attending evening events with your spouse, and you have the kiddies along, you may need to make child care arrangements in advance. Check to see whether the convention organizers have provided for any childcare or children's activities. If they haven't, look into making reservations at one of Disney's childcare centers (such as the Neverland Club at the Polynesian or the Cub's Den at the Wilderness Lodge) or with one of their licensed in-room babysitters at Kids Nite Out. See for more details.

Think hard about pulling your kids out of school. Many Disney World meetings and conventions take place during the school year, and may not coincide with school vacations. If your kids are young, you may feel like you can pull them out of school for a day or two in order to take advantage of your spouse's planned trip. We did this once, pulling the kids out for one day, so that we could have most of a three-day weekend as a family before my husband's convention started and the rest of us returned home. As they have gotten older, however, this has not been a feasible option, and we have had to find friends for our kids to stay with for a few days while I joined my husband at Disney World. They do complain, but it has also been nice for Mom and Dad to have a "date weekend." In any case, before pulling your kids out, do check with your school to see what its absence and make-up work policies are prior to doing so.

Have fun! After all, as the spouse of a Conventionear you have an awesome opportunity for an extra visit to the Most Magical Place on Earth!

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Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was ten years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have visited Disney parks all over the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.

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Read some of Alice's other writings for AllEars.Net…

… in our Guest Blog:

Fun and (Mostly) Frugal Excursions from Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa

Taking Teens and Tweens to the Food and Wine Festival:

… and in our Newsletter Archives:

Unexpected Delights: Accidental Memories and New Family Traditions

The Existentialism of Walt Disney World:


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.