Before we start, I want to say that I understand that we are in unprecedented times. I am aware that it is a privilege and blessing to be fortunate enough to even go to Disney and plan a trip whilst so many are out of work or struggling to keep their small business afloat. And, I know that in the grand scheme of things – complaining about bus service to and from a Disney resort falls very low on the list of things people should worry about. But…this is a Disney website and this is where people come to read news and opinions about the parks.
I also accept the fact that the Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we travel, and will change the way we travel for the immediate and long term future. Disney is taking the correct measures to ensure the safety of its guests. But I also understand that many large businesses are using the pandemic as an opportunity to make the cuts that have been in the works for a long, long time.
This is a reactionary post, and yes, maybe I’m reacting too quickly. Maybe Disney will announce a slew of new perks for resort guests as part of its 50th year anniversary, and we’ll all look back and wonder why we were so “petty.” In truth, we’ll adapt and in years, we’ll look back and wonder why we got so annoyed over something so small. And that’s exactly what Disney is planning on…and why Disney will continue to remove perks until we’re paying top rates for a themed hotel and close proximity to the parks.
First let’s address Magical Express. For some, Magical Express was added pixie dust. It was the ability to step off the plane and into the Disney bubble, almost immediately. For others, it was an added convenience. You hopped off your flight, either had your luggage sent to your room or collected it before boarding a bus that whisked you off to your resort.
Yes, it had its hiccups. Many guests would have to wait hours before getting their luggage delivered to their room. Depending on your resort, it sometimes took almost two hours to get from the airport to the lobby. And yes, leaving three hours before takeoff seemed a bit much on check-out day – even to my dad who always insisted on being early. But it was free and efficient, and sure removed a lot of stress from getting to the resort; and made leaving Disney a little bit easier.
Now guests are forced to rely on a ride sharing app, renting a car, employing a car service, or at some point: the train to Disney Springs. Well, remember, Disney no longer offers free parking for resort guests. So while it’s great that you’re able to swing by Publix and save $100 by purchasing some groceries, you’re now paying $15-$25 per night to park.
Well, what about taking an Uber or Lyft? This, of course, comes with some difficulties. A family of four, even packing with one suitcase each, will require an Uber or Lyft XL, which are typically harder to come by, and yes, more expensive. Add to this the fact that you just requested an Uber XL, waited 20 minutes due to traffic…and a Ford Escape pulls up. I have nothing against Ford Escapes, but have you ever tried to fit a family of four (plus the driver) and all of your luggage in a Ford Escape? Good luck. Now imagine you’re traveling with children and require a car seat. No luck. And now your child is crying because they’re overtired and just want to meet Mickey, the line for a taxi is currently stretching the length of the airport, and you’re suddenly second guessing the magic of Disney.
Ah, but that wonderful new train. You hop on the train at Orlando International and there’s no seats. Meh, that’s fine. Until you realize that you must literally and figuratively balance holding your luggage and keeping it from rolling down the aisle, while keeping yourself from toppling into the person standing next to you, and if you have a kid? Keep them entertained. As you finally arrive in Disney, you realize that…you’re in Disney Springs. And now need to grab a bus to the resort. Now, I’m sure Disney has the foresight to plan separate buses from the train station, but would it surprise you to learn you need to board at the usual Disney Springs bus stop?
Maybe I’m speaking in hyperboles.
Meh. We’ll adapt, right?
Disney also announced that Extra Magic Hours will be discontinued. Instead, as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, Disney resort hotel guests and guests of other select hotels will be able to enjoy more fun with 30-minute early entry to ANY theme park, EVERY day. Notice the words in all caps? Does that not build some serious excitement? No? Didn’t think so.
Disney discontinuing the Extra Magic Hours should come as no surprise. It’s been a rumor for quite some time and with the parks adding their paid After Hours and Early Morning Magic, the writing was on the wall. But framing a 30-minute early entry as a new and exciting perk is a slap in the face of Disney fans.
Thirty minutes is barely enough time to walk through the turnstiles and get to your favorite ride…and that’s assuming you even get to the park in time for rope drop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived at my resort’s bus stop an hour or more ahead of time, only to wait 30 minutes for a bus to arrive; then finally arrive at the park 15-20 minutes after opening, and wait in line another 15 minutes at security.
So don’t go.
Good. Less crowds.
That seems to be the default statement by some Disney fans whenever there’s a price increase or a perk is removed. I’ll be the first to admit: yeah, I’m guilty of saying it at one point or another. And therein lies the problem. Because if you don’t go, I will. And if I don’t go, someone else will. And Disney knows that.
Look, this isn’t a rally cry to not go to Disney and cancel your vacation. But what’s the breaking point? I understand that COVID is impacting a lot of things at Disney right now, and we most likely would not have seen the return of Extra Magic Hours for quite some time; but the list of reasons to stay at a Disney resort is shrinking by the minute. And frankly, as we return to normal and look to make up for lost time in 2020 and people begin to reassess how they spend their money, Disney is going to have a harder and harder time bringing guests back on property.
You’re not going to spend extra for a Disney resort when there’s a Marriott on I-4 offering a similar room at a fraction of the price. Or when there’s an airbnb with kitschy decor that rivals your favorite Disney resort room (oh, and a free spot to park your car.) And most of all, not when you can afford to take two vacations for the price it’d take to go to Disney; or go to Europe once you feel safe traveling.
You see, that’s always been the thing for my family. Yes, we love the parks, but the perks always kept us coming back to the resorts. And when traveling with first timers, it’s what made them believe and understand why we kept coming back. But as the perks start to dwindle, so does the experience. So does the reason to stay on property. And so does the reason that many have become full-fledged Disney fans and loyalists. And while there will always be a guest to replace us Disney fans at the turnstiles, there may not always be a loyal fan like us…and like you…willing to return time after time.
Pete Pirone is a 32-year-old writer who loves Walt Disney World. He grew up going to Disney. His family has celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and even attended a wedding at Disney World.
Pete and the rest of the Pirone clan have celebrated every Christmas from 2009-2018 at Disney. Having spent years traveling during the most crowded time of the year, Pete uses his knowledge to develop tips and tricks for tacking the crowds and creating an efficient trip itinerary—no matter when you go!
When he's not writing, Pete is cooking and trying out new restaurants. He's a huge foodie and can often be found dining and eating his way around Walt Disney World.
Pete also hates writing in the third person...