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The 5 Unwritten Rules of Being a Disney Guest

Gary Todd, Flickr (license)

When you take a trip to Walt Disney World — or any Disney park for that matter — your goal is to escape the real world for a while and enter a place of imagination and magic. You’ve likely saved up for months, or even years, for the ability to take this special journey, and while you’re there, you want to make sure you have the vacation of your dreams.

But, traveling to Disney isn’t just a solitary experience. In fact, you’ll likely be sharing the Vacation Kingdom with a few thousand of your closest friends.

Because of this, there is a kind of social contract you enter into when you visit Walt Disney World — a set of unwritten rules one should follow to ensure that everyone has an awesome vacation. 

There are some rules, like cutting in line or going backstage, that will land you in hot water with Disney cast members. But these unwritten rules are different — no one will get you into “trouble” for breaking them, but they are, indeed, frowned upon.

Here are five unwritten rules of being a Disney guest:

Don’t take up more space than you need to

 Gary Todd, Flickr (license)

Image: Gary Todd, Flickr (license)

While Walt Disney World is massive, it is not a vast expanse of unlimited space. There are, in fact, some limitations to its massive size that come into sharp relief when the parks are filled with thousands of tourists.

Because of this fact, it’s important to never take up more space than you really need to. What does this mean in practice? Well, when dining at crowded quick service locations at busy times of day, don’t linger at sorely-wanted tables long after you’ve finished eating. Put bags on the floor, rather than on benches, when waiting in a pre-show area or outside an attraction. Don’t “claim” poolside or beachside chairs all day, when you only plan on sitting in them for an hour or two. Fill in all of the available space in a line or pre-show, rather than standing in the perfect spot to see the pre-show film.

Basically, use only what you need when you need it. If everyone took up only the space they needed, everyone would be a little more comfortable. 

Let children stand in front of you at parades and shows

 jeffchristiansen, Flickr (license)

Image: jeffchristiansen, Flickr (license)

Disney’s shows and parades are something that set the company apart, offering up a unique combination of music, lights, and spectacle that can amazing both young and young at heart. It’s not a trip to Disney if you don’t partake in a nighttime spectacular or in a magnificent parade — that’s a core part of the experience.

But, while everyone is entitled to an awesome Disney experience, sometimes us adults need to remember that some things are truly intended for children.

It’s not wrong to enjoy the parade, or even to wait an extended period of time to snag a great spot to view it. But if, a few minutes before showtime, a family comes up behind you with a small child, do try to let that child step in front of you to enjoy the view. You can likely see over them, and you’ll get the added joy of making their day.

That doesn’t mean you have to let everyone in front of you, or even the rest of that child’s family (as long as they’re close by). But keeping in mind that Disney is primarily for children, and their enjoyment of the parade likely won’t harm yours, can make the experience better for everyone. 

Remember to pay magic forward

 lorenjavier, Flickr (license)

Image: lorenjavier, Flickr (license)

One of the best parts of a Disney trip is the so-called Disney Magic. You know it whenever you see it — a cast member giving a crying child a balloon, or a guest sharing napkins when there’s a spilled drink — the Disney Magic is about unexpected kindness.

Sometimes, something magical might happen for you. Maybe you’ll get a special FastPass, or you’ll be selected for a special experience. When that happens, enjoy it — but also vow to pay it forward in some small way. Whether it’s giving up your seat on the bus to someone who looks more tired, or giving your arcade tickets to someone else, or even sharing a bit of advice with an exasperated family. 

Disney Magic isn’t just about free stuff — it’s also about fostering a supportive community who looks out for each other. It’s not the real world, so why not try to make it an even better place?

Treat cast members even better than they treat you

 harshlight, Flickr (license)

Image: harshlight, Flickr (license)

The Disney cast members are famous for their excellent service and attention to detail. Some might wake up on the wrong side of the bed, but on the whole, they tend to be kind and gracious — and, always focused on making your trip special.

Sometimes, when you’re surrounded by people who are trying to make your day special, it’s easy to forget that those cast members are people too. And so, despite the attention, always try to be thankful and nice in return. 

For servers, that can mean tips. For other cast members, that can be as simple as a nice word, a smile, or even letting their manager know they’ve done a good job. But on the whole, cast members are what make the Disney experience so unique and so great — do what you can to make their day a little brighter, too. 

Please, don’t spoil the magic

 richo-fan, Flickr (license)

Image: richo-fan, Flickr (license)

At the heart of all of these rules lies the same basic truth: Think about others. It’s easy to get lost in your own world when you’re on vacation, especially in as magical a place as Walt Disney World. But you aren’t the only person or family at the resort, and the more you keep that in mind, the better the experience will be for everyone.

The most important rule of all is this one: Don’t spoil the magic. That can mean all sorts of things. For one, don’t loudly share backstage secrets that Disney and fellow parents would rather you not share out loud — such as, why Goofy doesn’t talk to you when you meet him. For another, it can mean spoiling the atmosphere, such as by loudly cracking jokes during shows like the Carousel of Progress or The American Adventure.

Disney works hard to create a bubble into which you can escape to forget the rigors, drama, and exhaustion of the real word. As guests, it’s our responsibility to do what we can to protect that bubble — even if it sometimes means playing along when we might know better, or suspending our disbelief for something we otherwise wouldn’t.

That, after all, is the whole point of a Disney vacation. We don’t go to Disney because we know how the magic is done — we go so we can convince ourselves that the magic was real all along.