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The 5 Most Confusing Things at Walt Disney World

Walking around Animal Kingdom

Image: DisneyDisney’s Animal Kingdom is like the smaller version of the overall Walt Disney World navigation problem. The Orlando campus is massive enough that getting lost at times is unavoidable. Animal Kingdom is far and away the largest Disney theme park, and the same is true.

For geographical reasons and some involving animal habitats, Disney had to throw out its standard hub-and-spokes design. Animal Kingdom consists of six themed lands spread waaaaay apart. Since the park is environmentally focused, vegetation is everywhere. It’s lovely but reduces line-of-sight. Many of the pathways are difficult to find, especially during your first visit.

You’ll wander aimlessly around Animal Kingdom at times, trying to find your next attraction. Since the park is linear, you’ll eventually find what you’re looking for…unless you accidentally circle back to Discovery Island, the connecting themed land that has paths to every other section. Then, you’ll wander endlessly. Even when you don’t, you’ll needlessly walk extra miles as punishment for getting lost at a place where it’s far too easy to get lost.

Attraction entrances

Image: DisneySome Disney attractions have well-hidden entrances. Walking past them is like a rite of passage for inexperienced theme park tourists. You won’t feel like a veteran until you can laugh about their locations.

At Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland has two rides that you can see from far away. The Astro Orbiter and PeopleMover are visible the entire time you’re in this themed land. Finding the ride entrance to either one is surprisingly difficult. Many guests circle beneath the PeopleMover trying to find the entrance to the escalator. Odds are decent that you’ll wind up in line for the Astro Orbiter instead, and the reverse is true.

Image: DisneyMagic Kingdom has a couple of other trouble spots. Reaching Tom Sawyer Island’s waiting area is difficult enough that park veterans are well-trained by now to spot and aid confused noobs. And the Splash Mountain/Big Thunder Mountain Railroad combo at Frontierland is only accessible from one side. The looks that guests get when try to find that on the map is akin to when they try to solve those maze puzzles on fast food restaurant children’s packaging.

At Epcot, Test Track and Mission: SPACE are both off the beaten path just enough to throw off first-timers. Meanwhile, Disney’s Hollywood Studios did Toy Story Land no favors by providing no direct path to the themed land. And I’ve already touched on the difficulties in navigating Animal Kingdom.

The Disney Dining Plan

Image: DisneyI’m a staunch advocate for the Disney Dining Plan (DDP). I love having a large number of my meals paid off prior to leaving for my trip. It gives me some cost control and the opportunity to pay early. Keeping up with my entitlements, on the other hand, is a huge pain.

The DDP relies on assumed knowledge. You have a set number of entitlements for every night of your trip. It seems simple enough, but it’s not. For starters, the program has two types of entitlements, Quick Service and Table Service credits. You can use Table Service credits at Quick Service restaurants; the reverse is not true. Quick Service entitlements are only good at Quick Service eateries.

The situation gets weirder from there. Some Disney meals are more refined. They’re called Signature Dining experiences. These meals cost two Table Service entitlements, which is annoying enough. Then, Disney chose to muddle the situation even more. They’ve turned a Table Service meal at Be Our Guest into a prix fixe meal that costs two Table Service entitlements. So, it should cost one entitlement and it used to cost one entitlement, but now it costs two entitlements. It makes perfect sense, right?

Image: DisneyThe worst part of the DDP is trying to figure out where you stand. Your meal receipts should come with updated totals for your remaining entitlements. Some servers aren’t great about providing receipts, though. And mistakes happen with the DDP all the time. On a recent trip to Disney, my wife and I had breakfast at a Table Service restaurant. It should have cost two entitlements. We were somehow charged for five. I won’t lie. I felt a bit sensitive about how much my waiter must have thought I ate.

The Disney Dining Plan is wonderful in theory. In execution, it’s Kafkaesque.

For that matter, so is a lot of stuff at Walt Disney World. It’s just an unavoidable part of operating a place of that scale.

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