The Idiot’s Guide to Disney Etiquette

Confession: I am a hardcore Disney fan, as oxymoronic as that may sound. I own several of the classic films on DVD, despite being 28 years old (yes I am single, why do you ask?). I first visited Disney World when I was two – a trip I can’t really remember, except for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, during which I felt a drip of water in the cave, assumed it was poison (naturally), and screamed like a maniac for the rest of the ride, to the chagrin of everyone else in the boat. That was the first of many successful visits. I know the layout of the Magic Kingdom as well as my college campus, and if you need someone to help you plan the most efficient possible route through Epcot, look no further. I know this sounds ridiculous. And I get it if you hate Disney because it’s just too freaking much. That’s fair. But there is some fairy dust sprinkled around that place. I get butterflies every time I walk down Main Street and see that castle for the first time, and if that makes me outrageously lame, well, so be it.

But here’s a very important note: The vast majority of the inhabitants of planet Earth love Disney World too. And thoughtfully enough, they will all decide to visit at the same time as you. And suddenly there you’ll be, trying to soak in the dream that was a wish your heart made, and some small child wearing mouse ears and munching on a $9 turkey leg (Hey, when did that become a trend? Didn’t those go out of style with Henry VIII?) will ram into you en route to the endless line to take a picture with Lilo and Stitch. If you’re not careful, the joy in your heart will be sucked right out.

So here are a few helpful tips to help you enjoy the Disney experience. Follow these, and you’ll fit in with the crowds in no time.

  1. Walk so slowly that you’re almost moving in reverse. Do you normally walk at a pretty good clip? Forget that skill; it is not necessary. Even though you’re trying to hit every major park attraction in a day, you should plan to move at the approximate speed of a toddler on Nyquil. And you should preferably do this in a line of people, at least eight or nine across, so that no one can pass you. If they do, shoot them dirty looks. This type of rudeness should not be tolerated.
  2. Except when you are trying to get on a ride or into a show. In this case, ignore the previous rule, as you should sprint, push and claw anyone in your way. No one should get into this attraction before you and your family. They give out prizes for being first, you know.
  3. Bring a stroller. Not just any stroller; the Biggest Stroller in the History of Man. The Hummer of strollers. Maneuver carefully, and park it in the narrow aisles of stores and restaurants. Bring one even if you don’t have a child! You can use it to carry your souvenirs; after all, every ride should be commemorated with a trip to the gift shop. How quickly should you push said stroller? See Rule #1.
  4. Stop with your family to contemplate your next move at the most opportune possible places. These include: at the entrance or exit to a restaurant, ride or gift shop; while in line for a ride, causing a gap of several feet between you and the person ahead of you; at the counter of a store, despite the presence of a line behind you; at at the counter of a restaurant, ditto; smack in the center of a pathway or sidewalk.
  5. Save space in line/for a Fast Pass for your entire family (reunion). Hold a spot in line or at a show, then gesture and shout frantically to the eighteen other people for whom you’re saving spots. Or, if you’re taking advantage of the most excellent Fast Pass system, bring the tickets of you and everyone you know, so that as those in line behind you wait for their own turns, you’re busily inputting 27 tickets into the machine. This won’t anger your fellow Disney guests at all.
  6. Voice your political views in the Hall of Presidents. Do you love/hate George W. Bush or Barack Obama or Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton? Then you should definitely cheer/boo to your heart’s desire. It doesn’t matter that they’re animatronic, and they cannot hear you. Those around you can, so this may even lead to some super-fun arguments in Liberty Square! Ah, freedom.
  7. Let your children wander and play at their own discretion. This is most important. How will your children fully experience the magic of Disney if they aren’t allowed to follow their imagination? They can’t, so set them free. Pay only casual attention as they crash into other people, stroll lazily down the middle of a path or stop dead in line for a ride. Even better, buy them as many toys as possible (preferably weapons), so that he or she can unleash their inner Jack Sparrow on strangers’ kneecaps. Do not reprimand them for any of this, even as fellow visitors stare angrily and rub their wounded body parts; it’s all part of your child’s Disney dream come true.

So, there you have it. Follow these simple rules and you’ll be all set for a marvelous trip!

And in case this makes me sound bitter…well, yes. It does. I plead guilty. I’m a little bitter that out of such a vast crowd, so few people appear to have learned manners or simple decent behavior; or that they have, and are so easily willing to disregard them; and most of all, that the children with them might never know the difference. I spend too much time shaking my head in frustration when I’m at the Happiest Place on Earth.

But I do love Disney World, and I always will. And the next time I go back, I’ll be hoping that it’s a little less crowded and a little more polite. Either way, it’ll still be magical.

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