Everyone gets it wrong at some point. Even the best of us have days where everything turns upside down, and our inner pro could easily be mistaken for a Disney amateur. Whether you are searching for some consolation for the Disney mistakes you have made yourself, or perhaps you are just looking for a laugh, here are three Disney mistakes I learned the hard way.
Mistake Number One: Someone is always watching
I previously shared this story with the DisBoards group on Facebook, and since it gave a few people a laugh, I thought I might share it with you all as well.
Coming from Australia, we tend to visit Disneyland California far more frequently than we can enjoy Walt Disney World due to the additional distance required to get there. As one can imagine, during our (almost) annual visits, I have become extremely familiar with all our favorite rides at the Disneyland and California Adventure parks, especially Tower of Terror (now known as Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout).
For those of you unaware, it was (and still is in Walt Disney World) a delightful little ride that invites you into the creepy world of the Twilight Zone (and a false sense of security), before dropping you 130 feet (40 meters). During all the commotion, your photo is taken as a wonderful keepsake of what your face looks like being pulled down faster than gravity would naturally allow. Ah, the memories.
So, when we make the venture over to Walt Disney World, one would think I know what I am doing, right? Oh no, no, no, my little tulips, oh how wrong I was…
It was a hotter-than-average evening in January, and our family was hurrying from the airport to catch the very last night of the Osborne Lights at Hollywood Studios. We stopped off at the hotel so I could change out of the clothes that my son so kindly vomited on in the plane. At this point, my mind was racing. The excitement of being here, the pressure of getting to the park in time, keeping my (then) four- and 7-year-olds from killing each other while I got changed. Good times.
The snow filled the air of Manhattan where we boarded the plane, dramatically different to the balmy 100 or so degrees we were greeted by in Orlando that evening — I was hot, rushed, and possibly not using my best judgment. I stripped off, threw on some cooler attire that could be easily located in the top of the bag, grabbed the kids, and headed out the door.
The trip to the ferry and then on to the park was quite lovely, a mood-altering atmosphere that became the antidote for my rushed and slightly panicked exterior. The sun had set long before, and the darkness that surrounded made every light sparkle a little brighter, both literally and metaphorically. It was distractingly beautiful.
Having small children at the time, it had been quite some years since we had made it all the way from Sydney to Florida and it would seem many things had changed, including the introduction of MagicBands. I suddenly felt like my late grandfather looking at these newfangled contraptions as though they were an essay written in Korean. To be clear, I don’t speak or read Koreancanso; this is a symbol of something very confusing. After a delightfully crowded stroll through the Osborne Lights, we tapped our MagicBands to FastPass our way to the front of the line at Tower of Terror.
After an extremely short wait, we were through the doors and sat in the front row of our elevator. I must say I usually do feel more comfortable and less exposed in the back row of any plunging elevator of doom; however, the boarding process was so fast that I didn’t have much of a moment to hesitate. We began to ascend to greatness, unaware that the events of what would happen next would bond us together for a lifetime.
We reached the top, and having forgotten to have put on a replacement supportive undergarment for the.. ahem.. girls… I decided to very tactfully take advantage of the darkness and make some adjustments to compensate for my lack of a bra before deciding to give up and physically hold them down in anticipation of the drop to come. There I was, one arm across my chest and the other across my excitable seven-year-old just in time to be pulled down at 39mph (63kms). Predictably it was an exciting ride, particularly at night. I exited the ride feeling clever that I hadn’t coped a whack in the face from my own chest.
Upon returning home to Australia a few weeks later and reviewing my (then) PhotoPass, I was stunned to see that Disney now offers a fantastic little video of the top of Tower of Terror before that delightful drop. There I am, in all my glory. Adjusting and securing my chest in anticipation of the scream-filled dive to come.
I would like to formally apologize to anyone who was also riding Tower Of Terror that fateful night and has secured themselves a copy of this atrocity. I have vowed to wear, not only a better bra but also a ski jacket and a beanie on all future TOT rides in an effort to counteract this experience.
Remember friends, even though it is dark before the photo, you are not alone.
Mistake Number Two: Drink More Water
Everyone tells you to drink lots of water when visiting Walt Disney World in Florida. It’s hot and humid, and you can become quickly dehydrated.
I already drink a lot of water. I am just one of those people. Not because I have some impressive strict health regime or because I am aware of dehydration. I just like it. Mix that together with the fact that we come from Australia where we put on ten jumpers and shiver like penguins if the temperature drops below 50 degrees, I tend to think, ugh, I’ve got this. Yes? Hot and humid is my “thing.”
It was our second day at the Magic Kingdom, and the winter temperature had dropped from a balmy 110 down to a brisk 48 degrees. Even more unlikely to have a dehydration issue one would imagine. Right?
We had just finished the better half of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom when my eyes rolled slowly into the back of my head, and I made a not-so-graceful decent to the ground, narrowly missing hitting my head thanks to the quick thinking of my sister. Growing up with a sibling that is close in age to you gives you both ample time to become familiar with each other’s something-bad-is-about-to-happen faces. Something I became extremely grateful for when my head did not crack open against the concrete due to Casey’s dash to catch me. Ten seconds later I was feeling the cold, hard cobblestones beneath me. I was already worrying that we would be late for our next FastPass window even though it was ambitious to think I was going to get up from the ground without the assistance of several people.
Now I am sure that some thought I must have been overwhelmed by the amazement of Mickey’s PhilharMagic; however, the paramedics that arrived after I came to had a much less glamorous story to tell. I was dehydrated and had an adverse reaction to some over-the-counter anti-travel sickness medication that I collected from the hotel lobby.
After a stern lecture on how I would be sent to the hospital if I passed out again on the property, I was put into a wheelchair and my sister wheeled me back to our hotel. After I was safely back in the confines of my Epcot-facing hotel room, my family went off to enjoy the parks and let the kids recover from the ordeal. The beautiful cast members at the Magic Kingdom gave my family a handful of open FastPasses to any attraction, a gesture that I will be eternally grateful for as my children were able to go with family and enjoy their evening with a little extra magic to take their minds off everything.
Remember kids, it’s all fun and games until someone collapses in Fantasyland and gets sent back to the hotel in a wheelchair. Drink all the water.
Mistake Number Three: Respect The Water Rides
It gets hot walking around the parks all day; even in winter, both Anaheim and Orlando can experience warmer than expected temperatures. Anyone who has not adequately dressed in multiple light layers to accommodate these varying conditions can easily find themselves a little overheated. It is moments like these when we can make terrible, horrendously regretful mistakes, like thinking a small splash on a water ride might even be refreshing. If you have not followed the running theme of this article then let me catch you up, this line of thinking would be profoundly incorrect.
The truth of it is, a Disney water ride is a temperamental soul, one that can make or break the rest of your day depending on its feelings, not all that different from a three-year-old. Yes, that’s it, think of rides like Splash Mountain and rafting attractions as three-year-olds, possessing the power to lightly spray you with a delightful pixie-dust sprinkle of refreshment or spitefully drench you with a contentious wave of startling bitterness.
One year, our first trip in the midst of so-called winter, I laughed off the ponchos my family members were wearing, instead opting to enjoy the crisp, delightful dusting of Splash Mountain goodness. We made our way up the first two inclines, and as we circled the elevated outdoor section of the ride, I became witness to what was occurring two logs ahead of us as they plunged down the first small drop. It was not good. I quickly stripped off my light jacket and wrapped it around my son in front of me, ensuring his safety from the oncoming surge of water but leaving myself exposed to the unforgiving elements. This wasn’t going to go well. And sure enough, I exited the ride drenched from head to toe, dripping wet. At midday, it was a bit funny as I stood in the sun next to Winnie The Pooh trying desperately to dry. At 2 pm, it was less funny as I decided to bite the bullet and buy an overpriced sweater to change into. At 6 pm, the joke was over as my shoes make a graceful squelching noise with every step. By 10 pm we made our way back to the hotel where I was destined for a hot shower, and my shoes made a beeline for the trash can.
No one likes a poncho. Even for those of us that (now) swear by them, it’s not because we love ponchos or are under any misguided impression that a giant plastic tent is a particularly attractive look on anyone. It is for one reason only, and that is to stay relatively dry. If you are boarding a ride where 95% of people are wearing ponchos, pay attention. These are your people. Take the hint and get yourself some cover because chances are you will be in for a wet ride.
If it is summer when you are in the parks and you want to get wet, have at it, though my advice in those instances is to raise your feet up, especially in Disneyland’s Splash Mountain. The single-file configuration of the logs often causes a flood of water to spill over the sides, down your legs, and into those lovely memory foam walking shoes, you are wearing. They won’t remember much after that. Anchor your feet upwards, under the sides near where the handles are located to give your shoes the protection they need to survive the rest of the day. Getting soaked might feel freeing but wet socks hours later is for chumps. I speak this to you as a former chump.
I hope you have enjoyed a few examples of how even Disney pros end up learning the hard way. What have you learned the hard way on Disney or Universal Vacation?
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.