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When Are You Saddest at the Happiest Place on Earth?

Disneyland has one of the greatest slogans of all-time. It’s known as the Happiest Place on Earth. Walking through a Disney theme park is one of the greatest things that a person can do, at least in theory. Still, people do fight at Disney. Even when we’re not fighting, we can have problems that reduce our enjoyment. Here are six things that make people feel sad at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Just missing a bus or boat

Image: DisneyI’ve mentioned before that a Disney park visit is an exercise in chaos theory. You never know when something good or bad will happen. Generally, the bad stuff involves transportation. Guests want to maximize their Disney experience by having free time to do whatever they want. Sitting at a bus stop or a boat dock isn’t that. Not even a little bit.

Image: DisneyEveryone knows that sinking feeling. You’re ready for a big day at the park, and you head to the transportation pick-up spot. As you approach, you see your bus or boat departing only a bit ahead of you. It’s too late to board, and the driver couldn’t stop at that point even if they wanted to do so. Disney has explicit rules on this point. So, you wind up sitting down and feeling hopeless, knowing that you’re the longest time possible away from your next ride. All you can do is check your phone and hope that a bus/boat will show up sooner than expected…which almost never happens.

At least there’s Uber now.

The dangers of plussing

Image: DisneyDisney theme parks are constantly improving. That’s a direct demand of Walt Disney and the corporate executives tasked with carrying out his legacy. Disney stated that his parks “will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” It’s a wonderful concept that all businesses should follow. It also can cause sadness for theme park tourists.

In order to maintain and improve current attractions, Disney frequently closes these rides to perform renovations. The change may be minor, such as adding a few elements to Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, or it may be major…such as closing Twilight Zone Tower of Terror forever in favor of a Guardians of the Galaxy ride. The end result for park guests is that we sometimes show up at beloved rides, only to discover that they’re currently closed. Disney is kind enough to list closures well in advance, but it still sucks when Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are both down for the entirety of a visit.

Image: DisneyOf course, another problem with plussing is even worse. Sometimes, Disney adds something entirely new such as Rivers of Light or Happily Ever After, new nightly entertainment programs. Guests who narrowly miss these debuts can watch them on the internet, of course, but it’s not the same. Now imagine what it’s like for someone to arrive at Walt Disney World just before the opening of an expansion like Pandora – The World of Avatar. These guests feel left out the entire time until they make a return visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. And the same thing will happen with Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Some guests will leave mere days before these expansions open to the public. Just imagine how a Star Wars fan would feel about that turn of events!

Let’s talk about the weather

Image via Flickr user Castles, Capes, & Clones
Image: Flickr (license)

Florida weather is less consistent than the collective works of M. Night Shyamalan. You never know what will happen in a given hour, much less in a full day or an entire week. During a recent vacation, we extended our personal streak of days with 100+ degree weather to six before the temperature “dropped” to the mid-90s. For half our trip, we were unbearably hot, causing extreme discomfort with some of the members of our party.

On the back of the trip, the weather changed to an almost comical degree. It was 68 degrees when we left and felt cooler. The rain was also a huge issue. Our FastPass to Frozen Ever After became an exercise in endurance more than anything else, as we joined a small crowd of determined Anna & Elsa fans in braving serious thundershowers. Suffice to say that the cast members in princess costumes at Akershus worried about getting their outfits drenched by hug-inclined guests. Those aren’t the pictures that people will put in wall collages or use as cellphone backgrounds.

Image via Flickr user jeffn78
Image: Flickr (license)

That’s the frustration of Walt Disney World right now. Disney asks customers to plan meals 180 days in advance and FastPasses 30 to 60 days ahead of time. In Orlando, people aren’t sure about the weather IN THE HOUR WHEN IT HAPPENS!!! The ultimate outcome of this problem is that strange weather can ruin a day at Walt Disney World unless theme park tourists keep the right attitude about the situation. I’m the idiot who laughs in the rain, so I found the Frozen Ever After debacle funny more than annoying. That was NOT the consensus opinion in my group that day.

Missing a FastPass

Image: DisneyThe new FastPass system at Walt Disney World is controversial and divisive. More than anything else, it’s limiting. Guests can only schedule three FastPasses prior to the day of arrival. While changes in the system now allow for the adding of more FastPasses, the ones done ahead of time are usually the best. Most of the time, you won’t have a chance to get a FastPass for Frozen Ever After on the big day.

That’s why the current FastPass system feels like the ticking clock on the television show, 24. If you don’t arrive during your scheduled window, you’re probably out of luck. Sometimes, a generous cast member will let you ride anyway, but you can’t count on that. Instead, you have to be at the attraction when your FastPass is active. Otherwise, you’ll miss out, and that’s a huge problem. A FastPass you feel compelled to book weeks prior to arrival isn’t one you’re likely to find again while you’re there. Knowing that you’ve missed out on one of the most popular rides at a Disney theme park is a devastating feeling. I say this as someone who is certain that I just missed the greatest Kilimanjaro Safaris expedition ever last week. 

Losing your belongings

Image: DisneyPeople lose so many items at Disney theme parks that cast members benefit financially from these mistakes. After an item goes unclaimed for a certain period, Disney puts up for resale to company employees, meaning that the hat that would otherwise cost $20 in the store or $5 with an employee discount is an absolute steal (almost literally) at $1.50. That’s great for them.

Image: DisneyTheme park tourists, on the other hand, are out the $20 they spent on the hat. And a lot of losable items cost a lot more than $20. Sunglasses are a great example of something people need on outdoor rides on sunny days…right up until they go flying off your head on that final slide down Splash Mountain. That’s not even the doomsday scenario. Sometimes, people forget or drop their cellphones on attractions. In today’s society, that’s the equivalent of losing your back-up brain. It has all your contacts, texts, emails, and other pertinent data. While phone-finding technology sometimes solves the problem sometimes, it’s not automatic. Losing a phone is the absolute worst.

How often do guests lose stuff? Anecdotally, over the course of my last three visits to Disney theme parks (and at the risk of jinxing myself), I’m the only person who hasn’t lost something out of a traveling party of eight people. It happens that frequently, and it always disrupts the day. The person has to go back and look for the item. If/when that fails, they must find out where Lost & Found is in the park as well as how the timing works for when found items get transferred there.

Tragical Express

Image via Flickr user PrincessAshley
Image: Flickr (license)

I’ve saved this one for last because it’s unquestionably the worst. No matter how long you stay at a Disney theme park, you eventually have to leave. The park isn’t open for 24 hours (except on rare occasions). At closing time, the park speakers announce that you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay. And that’s just the aggravation for Florida residents who can visit at any time.

For those of us who live hundreds/thousands of miles away from a Disney theme park, our last sight is the saddest one. As soon as the park is out of sight, we know that we won’t see it again for a while. It’s a heartbreaking moment when the Disney Bubble bursts and reality returns.

Disney fanatics even have a phrase for the feeling. The bus that delivers guests to a Disney theme park has a cute name. It’s the Magical Express. So, it’s only fitting that the one that pulls guests away from the park is known as the Tragical Express. Anyone boarding this bus knows that the Happiest Place on Earth is now in the rearview mirror. It’s the saddest feeling imaginable.