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8 Common Arguments Almost Every Family Has at Walt Disney World

“Why do we always fight on vacation?”

Admit it. You’ve said this at some point in your life.

Admit it. You’ve said this while at a Disney theme park.

Everyone feels that frustration from time to time. The Happiest Place on Earth is also one of the most intense vacation destinations for theme park tourists. So much is going on around you that the entire trip is an exercise is chaos theory. A single change in your surroundings, no matter how minor, can have dramatic repercussions on your party.

Even those of us who aren’t prone to emotional outburst will fall apart from time to time at Disney. Why is that? Unfortunately, lots of situations can lead to a shouting contest if things break the wrong way. Here are nine of the most likely reasons why you wind up yelling at the Happiest Place on Earth.

1. Racing against the clock

You know the trope from every action movie and episode of “24” ever. A ticking clock is counting down. If you don’t stop it in time, something apocalyptic transpires. At a Disney theme park, that only means that you miss a FastPass or a dinner reservation rather than having a building blow up. Even if you’re not Jack Bauer, you still feel that way several times a day. And it’s intense.

The way that Disney forces consumers to structure their park visits, a guest is always on the clock. You’re racing against time to insure that you don’t miss out on something that seemed like a great idea when you scheduled it a few months ago. Who are you to question Three Months Ago You?

Meeting these predetermined obligations is ceaselessly stressful. The worst ones are when you schedule a meal within hours of your flight’s arrival. Any delay whatsoever will lead to a tense setting where a couple winds up bickering over whose bright idea it was to plan something that far in advance. And there’s no red or blue wire to cut to save the day, only apologies to make and begging for latitude to save a tardy duo from missing their intended event. Nothing fragments a couple more quickly than conversations about blame.

2. It’s money that matters

The overwhelming majority of Disney theme park tourists are on a budget. That’s extremely difficult at a place where Disney strategists spend thousands of work-hours trying to deduce the best ways to empty a stranger’s pockets. A single day at a Disney theme park costs hundreds of dollars per person on average. The cost of theme park tickets, the food and snacks, and the souvenirs add up quickly. In the face of these challenges, you want to leave with enough money to pay the mortgage and car loan. Disney wants you to buy every single product you see. Worlds are colliding, and the battle line is drawn at the thirty dollar mouse ears.

The potential for couples combat is even higher due to many of the other aggravations listed here. What’s a proven cure for stress? Retail therapy! The catch is that the bills eventually come due, and the money person in the relationship inevitably starts thinking in terms of whether they can afford to eat for the rest of the month. Alas, rational thought and a fundamental understanding of economics only carries so far in a fight against HIGH LEVELS OF WANT!!!

3. Jet lag and time changes

This brings us to sunny point number two about travel. Many of the guests at Disney theme parks aren’t from around here. They’re tourists visiting from other parks of the country/world. And what’s the most demoralizing part of a plane flight? Well, that’s debatable, but jet lag is pretty high on the list. The National Sleep Foundation believes that millions of travelers lose sleep due to jet lag each day.  A bad night’s sleep will have ripple effects for several days of your vacation. Nobody’s ever crankier than when they’re exhausted from a lack of quality sleep.

That’s only half the problem for many travelers. Someone heading from a flyover state to California is likely to struggle with time changes. The East Coast is three hours ahead of the West Coast, and you may need a full week to adjust to that. In fact, my wife moved from the Central Time Zone to the Eastern Time Zone in 2001, and she STILL occasionally gets confused about the time. A person’s internal clock sets at a young age. Even a few days in a place where the timing is different is enough to make a person grumpy. When two people are both exhausted, there’s enough friction to power the monorail.

4. It’s the heat AND the humidity

Breaking news: Anaheim, California, is hot most the year. Orlando, Florida, is as well. That’s not by happenstance. Walt Disney considered the weather when he picked the two places where he’d build America’s most famous theme parks. One was an orange grove, and the other was swampland. Both of these places are notoriously warm. The positive is that you rarely need winter clothes when you travel to a Disney theme park. You don’t even need autumnal outfits most of the time.

The negative is that is that oppressive heat does things to the human psyche. I’m speaking from experience here. The last 12 days I’ve spent at Walt Disney World, the heat index reached 100 degrees. Not coincidentally, I got cranky a lot. While park planners show tremendous forethought with their attempts to add shade whenever possible, oppressive heat is always a potential problem at Disney. And it’s the one that turns my switch from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.

5. One if by land, two if by sea

The genesis of this article was an incident involving Disney transportation or, more accurately, the lack thereof. Our first two days of our most recent visit involved a comical series of misadventures involving Disney buses and boats. They were so absent during our attempted uses that they might as well have been posted on milk cartons. After one particularly heinous incident wherein a bus driver refused to transport us on what was an otherwise empty bus, I stewed for a few minutes and angrily stated, “That’s it! We’re using Uber from now on!” Almost as if they heard the threat, Disney transportation picked up from that point forward on the trip, but the larger point stands.

The opportunity cost of a Disney vacation is outrageous. Every single you spend sitting at a bus stop or boat dock is time you aren’t availing yourself of everything the parks and resorts have to offer. Waiting for transportation causes a feeling of impotency where nothing is under the control of the guest. Each passing minute where your bus fails to arrive adds to the tension. And that’s when tempers flare.

The most frustrated I’ve ever felt at a Disney theme park was at Hollywood Studios. As we waited for a bus to return us to the Contemporary, 11 different Caribbean Beach buses came and went. Seriously. Yes, we counted. I have no idea how the logistics of that work, but it was maddening to watch. The situation was magnified by the fact that we had to get back to the hotel to catch a ride on the Tragical Express, our journey to the Orlando International Airport. It was several of the factors mentioned here arising at once. Suffice to say that I wasn’t pleasant to be around at that moment…and my wife was a saint to put up with me.

The one point I want to stress here is that if you can afford to spend a few dollars per ride, Uber solves this problem completely. Out of the problems on the list that cause couples to fight, transportation is the one that’s closest to being solved.

6. Hangry

Why are saunas so popular? Heat causes a person to sweat, and the process burns calories. The thing about calories is that we need them to live. When you don’t have enough fuel in your system, your body starts to shut down. That’s when basic meanness overrides your normal charismatic state of being. Snickers has built an entire ad campaign around the concept.

That’s the science. And a free product plug. In execution, hangry looks something like this:

“I don’t want to ride that. I just want to go back to my room.”

“We’ll have to take a bus, and I don’t know how long we’ll have to wa—“


“I was just saying that…”


As ridiculous as the above sounds, most of us have participated in a similarly ridiculous conversation. That’s why I think of these conversations in economics terms. Divorce lawyers aren’t cheap. I’m a big fan of paying the ten dollars for an overpriced beverage and an ice cream bar instead. It’s a hangry cure-all, and most medicine costs at least ten bucks anyway, right?

7. “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Yogi Berra was on to something with this bit of wisdom. Disney theme parks are always some degree of mobbed every day of the year. The off-season as we once knew it no longer exists. The company recently switched to surge pricing as a way to siphon out some of the traffic problems overwhelming the various parks, but it’s a half-measure. Barring something unforeseen, nobody’s going to stop going to Disney theme parks. Because of that, you’ll always fight through crowds.

How a person behaves in the middle of a congested area depends on the individual. What’s true of everybody, however, is that we as a people don’t like getting bumped. We don’t like getting run over by strollers or electric vehicles. And we’re salty about anyone who tries to jump in line in front of us. At Disney, you’re going to face all of these aggravations at least once an hour. It makes the blood boil and the tongue loose. Crowds cause even the best of us to get snippy, and if your significant other doesn’t hear your snide remark, you have to repeat it. Usually, you do this by saying it louder, which makes it sounds harsher and angrier than you intended. At that point, you’re in the downward spiral and headed for a rumble.

8. Dealing with the kids

Image: Disney

Look, the generational aspect of going to Disney is what differentiates it from other theme parks. Many of us remember visiting when we were a child, and we want to pass down that experience to our kids. The catch is that when you’re a kid, your parents are the ones who have to handle the bad stuff. As a parent, the buck stops with you. Disney is stressful enough for a single person visiting on their own. For parents with young children, it’s an exercise in patience…and force of will.

The joy of visiting Disney with your child is that you get to share in their childish celebration of their surroundings. The tribulation is that almost all of the problems listed in this article apply to your kids as well. You struggle with them as a mature adult. They’re novices at handling such irritants, and they resort to their most basic response. They cry a lot. What happens when children break down in tears? Parents exchange a look of, “You deal with it! I did it last time.” They do this even if they know full well that they didn’t do it last time or any of the other 20 times before that. Parents lie to each other to get out of the hard stuff. It’s a hidden line in the marital contract.

During these standoffs, one party eventually loses. They have to tend to a crying child, which is exactly as enjoyable as it sounds. Grudges form as parents replay the events that led to them losing the “It’s your turn” argument.