As a kid, I went with my family to Disneyland and Disney World a few times. We made some great memories at Disney, riding rides, watching the parades, and buying stuff we didn’t need in the stores. We have lots of great memories, such as my sister and I running free and jumping into the very short lines for Splash Mountain / Big Thunder Mountain (during fireworks, those already-short lines would disappear). We also have the infamous memory of not getting to ride Splash Mountain after waiting over an hour in line. But overall, our Disney memories are very positive.
Thanks to technology, my kids are getting a very different Disney experience.
My family recently returned from Disney World. I began reflecting on how my visits to Disney parks as a kid are so different than what my kids are experiencing. Below are a few of my observations.
Saving Time in the Park
When it comes to maximizing your time at any Disney park, nothing can match the impact of the My Disney Experience app. Among its many features, the one that I think makes the biggest difference is the ability to see estimated wait times at every ride. This is a gamechanger for anyone trying to get on as many rides as possible. Instead of running around the park based on guesses, you can plot a reasonable path for your day. When I was a kid, I remember not knowing how long the lines were going to be. We basically had to wait and see. And Disney does a fantastic job of creating lines that don’t feel nearly as long as they actually are.
Speaking of wait times, can I just say that the Disney FastPass+ system is a must-have? With it, we can effectively get a place in line held for us. Why wait two hours for Splash Mountain, when you can just get a FastPass+ reservation for 2:30 pm. Granted, you have to be savvy enough to get your reservations for the hotter rides. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting in line with everyone else (I’m looking at you, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train).
Now, much of these technological additions to the Disney experience would not be possible without the advent of the mobile device. In addition to knowing wait times, we no longer have to get paper FastPasses – same-day reservations can be done right on your phone. You can also avoid the lines at many restaurants and quickly get your food.
We used to rent a car on our Disney vacations. Even with a reservation, this requires that you stand in an annoying line for a least two hours while anyone with a higher priority jumps in front of you – all just to rent a car that costs 2x what you expected it to cost. Renting a car always feels a little bit like Clark Griswold buying a car in the Vacation movie from the 80s. On our most recent trip, we got off the plane, picked up our bags, got out our phones, and called an Uber to get us from the airport to our hotel. Super easy and super fast.
Nothing is Perfect
Now the rise of the mobile phone apps hasn’t been 100% positive. Both the Disney app and the Uber app do a great of job draining my phone’s battery. This year I bought an external battery pack to keep my phone going all day. Maybe this is the sign that I need to update my phone, but come on. Those apps shouldn’t be THAT draining.
Technology hasn’t solved all the problems. The lines are still way too long (two hours for a ride, you got to be kidding me!). Also, rides still seem to break down more than you would expect (my wife and son spent an hour and a half waiting on Tower of Terror due to some mechanical issue – they were literally stuck in the elevator).
Technology also can’t control the weather, but our phones did tell us when it was going to storm (and it did storm, and we had to stop riding).
Disney parks are a great place to take the family, and I am glad for the technology that allows my kids to have a better experience.
Now if only the lines were reasonable.