Even if we don’t call them resolutions, we all make certain promises or goals for ourselves around the turn of the year, which can be exciting to look forward to. However, just as easily, we can be faced with sadness or disappointment in looking back at the less glamorous aspects of the year that was. For many people, that could come from a sense of loss for the Disney they once knew. Someone will think that being genuinely sad over a theme park is trivial, though I know for many, it’s not just a park but the representation of their family memories and traditions that feels lost. I never got quite as far down the negativity road as most, mainly due to my much more distant proximity to the parks and my relentless bright-side tendency – even when it drives people crazy at times.
In honor of the New Year, I thought we might take a look at a few ways you might be able to re-ignite that spark in your Disney relationship. It will never be precisely what it was, but that doesn’t mean it can’t represent a different type of greatness in your life once more. Here are a few tricks I use to keep my longing for the good old days at bay and my Disney relationship fresh.
Stop Comparing it to ‘Before.’
This is a tough one because once we form all of these beautiful memories of a destination, it’s common to want to recreate that feeling repeatedly. You can, but not always in the same way. By comparing your next Disney vacation to an earlier one, you are setting yourself up for disappointment from the beginning. The parks have changed. We can debate about the cause (or causes) until the mouse comes home, but it won’t have any bearing on moving on from this point.
Going in with fresh eyes, ready to experience the new Disney, will make a big difference to what you can see. If you are only looking for the elements that are now lacking, you will only be met with discouragement. Should you walk in with eyes wide open, ready to take in the best aspects of the parks currently on offer, you might just find that magic again in the most unexpected places. Setting your sights on the return of characters or new attractions rather than dwelling on Genie+ will almost certainly make you feel more optimistic about the trip.
Go Somewhere Else First
I’m not kidding. As you can imagine, I am heavily embedded in the Disney fan world, connecting with people who live, breathe, and work for Disney, all the way through to those who visit once or twice; and I can tell you the sweet spot is in the middle. I’m a lucky girl. I will start by saying that. I have seen a lot of this world, and there is so much beauty outside of Disney that everyone should see if given the opportunity. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder‘? Well, it does, and not just in your human relationships but your travel ones. The best takeaway I have gathered over the years is that variety breeds appreciation.
Instead of vowing that you will never return to Disney because it isn’t what you remember it to be, take a break, go somewhere else, and experience something completely different first. Not only does the absence of a destination make you remember why you loved it, but it can also clarify its place in your travel story. Perhaps Disney isn’t that one memory-making family vacation for you anymore; maybe its new role is an add-on to a new destination or a shorter trip packed with rides rather than looking for the heart-felt connection for the moment. Whatever your new Disney relationship will be, some distance here and there will help you discover where it fits into your new travel puzzle and help you cultivate a new appreciation for the type of vacation Disney can be.
Change Your Routine and Do Something New
Pandemic, greed, Chapek, park reservations; it doesn’t matter what the cause of change is, the same routine at Disney likely won’t spark the exact joy it did before. A Disney vacation’s value in your life needs to be rediscovered in a new way; for some, it will be the only road past the disappointment of fundamental change. Big or small, changing the approach you take to visiting the parks can make a massive difference in the impact they have on you. It might be the order you visit each park in; if you always start in Magic Kingdom, try shaking things up in Disney’s Hollywood Studios on day one instead. Or, maybe you are ready to break things up a little and venture off-property to the local area for meals.
One of my best Disney days in recent years was spending the day in EPCOT with my good friend Charles Boda (you might remember him) before heading out to the other side of the city for a Yum Cha (Dim Sum) dinner, which was incredible. Our completely unrelated-to-Disney evening only enhanced our day, giving us a more rounded encounter with Orlando as a whole, not just the small insular area of one park. Even a Disney Pro has something on their list they have never done, so embark on your next trip differently, and you won’t believe what exciting new feelings you can uncover.
Visit With Different Friends or Family
When the same seven family members have had the same experience, doing the same thing at Disney time and time again, it can be almost impossible to feel anything but a loss when you can’t recreate the exact vacation. Letting go of your routine is one thing, but visiting the parks with different friends and family can be the key to a new take on the whole situation. Just the same as how diverse we as people can be in life, that same individualism can also change how we see the parks.
We all see beauty in different things. For example, even from a young age, my son constantly analyzed the mechanics of each attraction, forcing me to stop and take notice of the incredible feat of engineering behind the rides I love so much. My daughter has an eye for detail, always triggering my appreciation for the architecture and tiny touches that might otherwise go unseen. My husband, the one who tolerates Disney while I love it, pushes me out of my comfort zone when he comes with us, stopping for a snack I’ve never tried or doing things out of order because it makes more sense on the day, rather than simply the way I have always done them.
All of their input has changed how I take in the park experience and allow me to see more of what was once unseen in the many years I had visited before them. By changing up your Disney travel buddies, you have a brand new opportunity to show each other a different viewpoint. Travel with varying friends and family along for the ride, try going solo, or leave the grown-up kids behind and try a romantic getaway for you and your partner; however you do it, embrace the opportunity to see what they see, and you might make some new memories that you could never have otherwise.
Try A Different Disney Park or Disney Cruise Line
When you are desperate for a Disney experience but can’t get the spark to ignite in your home park, push yourself a little further afield and set your sights on a new park altogether. It might be a dedicated trip somewhere far away, like Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea in Japan, or maybe you want to add a soft and spontaneous brush with Disneyland Paris to your European adventure achieving a few of the points above all in one go. The possibilities are endless, and the actual world (not the Disney World) is not as expansive nor unachievable as we think. Yes, more planning, for sure. Bigger budget? Not necessarily. Given the rising cost of domestic travel and the US parks themselves, you might be shocked at what you can achieve internationally on a similar budget. A switch up to Disney Cruise Line might be on the cards for you as well, with many families uncovering a new realm of Disney on the high seas.
When Elaine at Dreams Unlimited Travel helped me add a few Aulani days to my annual O’ahu stay earlier this year, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the change of pace from the usual Disney park experience. Of course, I had been before, but this time felt different in my post-pandemic world. Not only had everything around me changed, but I had also changed in myself too. The part of me that might have once missed there not being rides and commotion instead appreciated the quiet re-introduction to Disney magic after years of being locked away in Australia, unable to travel.
If Disney has become a part of who you are and something you don’t want to miss out on, give some of these tips a try. There will always be more to see and invariably be a different approach you can take to discover new magic in the parks, surrounding areas, and within yourself.
If you have any tricks that have helped you become reacquainted with your Disney love, then let me know below. I am always looking for new ways to connect with my travel passion, and you never know who else you might help along the way too. What’s your secret to keeping your Disney relationship fresh and exciting?
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.