Think back to when you were in Kindergarten and first grade... In those early, early years, your "grades" for math and reading and science were just "checks" and "check-plusses," and the real things that mattered on your report card were things like "citizenship," "character," and "attitude." But all that sharing, turn-taking, and emotional growth you were supposed to practice in Kindergarten is put to the test the moment you step into a Disney Park.
Somewhere between being five years old and today, most of us have lost some of the skills our Kindergarten teachers tried so hard to instill. For better or worse, part of it is simply Western culture that prioritizes "my" experience over "our" experience. (Quite different from Disney's resort in Japan, where orderly queues, continuous waving between guests, and cameras that never rise above shoulder level denote a culture that prioritizes the groups' experience over any individual's). But we can win it back.
Below, we've noted eight irritations that can really put a damper on a Disney day for those around you. If you try your best to avoid these common pitfalls, you'll be contributing to a better experience for everyone! Which of these eight are you guilty of?
8. STOP on a path
Irritation level: 2/10
Though this may seem like a trivial irritation, we've all been caught in the gridlock of traversing a Disney Park only to have a group ahead decide they'd like to stop and tie a shoe, re-pack a stroller, or just discuss where to go next. While perhaps describing it this way saps some of the "magic" from our collective dreamlike scenarios of Disney days, stopping in the middle of a path is like braking on the highway. Traffic is flowing, and you need to keep moving or 'pull off' to the side.
Add in strollers nipping at heels, families that spread five people wide, and people trying to make left turns into a continuous stream of people and these tiny interruptions can add up over the course of a day, throwing the flow of traffic out-of-whack. Thankfully, Disney has crowd control down to a science, even dispatching Cast Members with "KEEP RIGHT" signs and lighted traffic controller wands during peak times. But if you notice people sighing discontentedly at your group as they pass, glaring, or having to alter their path to get around you, you may be part of the problem!
7. FEED the birds
Irritation level: 3/10
No one wants to be a killjoy on a Disney vacation, but you know those signs that kindly ask you not to feed the birds? There's a reason. You know how you and I aren't supposed to eat too much high-calorie, low-nutrient food? The same goes for birds. Ducks aren't meant to eat white bread; robins shouldn't eat salted potatoes; and seagulls aren't able to digest beignets. Feeding this food to birds can be dangerous or deadly, and for people who know that, it can feel frustrating and helpless to see it happen.
And of course, feeding birds only makes them more aggressive in their search for more unhealthy food, which is why so many Disney restaurant patios feel overrun with birds looking for scraps or divebombing for a bite of a churro.
6. FORCE your child onto a ride
Irritation level: 4/10
Johnny has finally squeaked by The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror's 40-inch height requirement. There's just one problem: Johnny isn't just paralyzed in fear by the decaying remains of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, he's shrieking at the top of his lungs while dad yanks his arm to pull him into the queue. This isn't a situation anyone wants to be around. Even if a child is scared of an innoccuous ride like the Haunted Mansion or Jungle Cruise, watching them sob and shake out of fear while waiting is outrageous, spoiling the experience not only for other guests, but for the child!
And yes, we know the line – "Well, once he rides it, he'll love it and he'll want to go again!" Unfortunately, kids aren't so great at things like "logic" and "reasoning," so kicking your child through the queue with promises that it'll be fun don't help. And we know the other excuse, too: "We won't be back for years and he'll regret it if he doesn't ride." Wrong. At most, you're setting your child up to have dark clouds cast over their memories of this trip, and creating a really depressing scene for everyone around you who will also not be able to separate this experience from their own memories. If your child's not ready for a ride, please try to come up with a strategy other than "make them ride it anyway."
5. TALK and TEXT during a ride
Irritation level: 6/10
Especially common at Disneyland where most visitors are locals, attractions go from being awe-inspiring things to mere backdrops for simple, everyday conversations. As you're cruising through "it's a small world," it may seem a great time to pop out your phone and send a few texts or post that family photo to Facebook; the the first ambling scenes of The Many Adventures of Winnie Pooh might appear to be a great time to talk about where you should get lunch; sailing through the placid grottos and bayous of Pirates of the Caribbean seems like a perfect chance to finish up that story you were telling in the queue...
But for the sake of those around you – many of whom may be experiencing a ride for the first time – please... save it. You – and the people around you – waited in a line to get to this experience, so let yourself (and others) actually be present in the experience! If it's something you could do, talk about, or text sitting on a park bench, don't do it, talk about it, or text it on a ride! It can wait. Help contribute to the enjoyment of everyone on the ride (including your own) by being in the experience and keeping phones put away.
4. BOOST your kid
Irritation level: 7/10
Like almost every consideration on this list, the problem with this really boils down to prioiriting "my" experience over "our" experience. Parents who prop their children on their shoulders during shows and fireworks aren't trying to ruin anyone else's experience; they're just trying to make their own family's better, and in a way that would look postcard-ready on Disney's own marketing material (see above)!
They may not even realize or compute that placing a child on their shoulders essentially makes the crowd behind them have to part all the way to the back. And if one adult does it, "group think" kicks in and parents across the crowd suddenly realize they should do it, too, which in turn makes everyone behind them have to part or put kids on their shoulders, ad infinitum.
Still, the worst of the worst await on the next page...