Despite being the “Most Magical Place on Earth,” Walt Disney World can be an extremely stressful vacation environment.
Heat, high crowd levels, and the deep yearning to “do it all” are often precursors to meltdowns, spoiled memories, and sometimes even conflict within Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT.
Although Walt Disney World has done a lot in the last five years to introduce seemingly convenient methods for aiding guests in their magical theme park quests, sometimes these additions to a Walt Disney World vacation have done nothing more than add to the level of stressful days at Disney.
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Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much you plan for your Disney park day; things will likely take a turn for the worse, and your Disney experience will hit a roadblock or two along the way.
Common Walt Disney World Stressful Events
A myriad of things could go wrong as you’re strolling through Magic Kingdom or any other Disney park. However, there are more common stressors that we can think of that often unexpectedly ruffle guests’ feathers during their Walt Disney World vacation.
Although it is Disney’s responsibility to ensure that guests have a safe and fun time, sometimes things that are out of their control sometimes go wrong. Instances of malfunctions with My Disney Experience, canceled shows, and broken-down attractions happen; it’s up to the guests to adapt and overcome to continue enjoying their magical vacation at that point.
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Jumping through hoops to get your Lightning Lanes or Disney Dining Reservations can be pretty frustrating. However, it is part of the experience now, whether we like it or not. Although we shouldn’t allow mediocre issues to throttle our emotional response, the stressful environment of Walt Disney World gets the best of us all sometimes.
Park Pass Reservations
One issue I’ve personally seen guests arguing with Cast Members about is Disney World’s park pass reservation system. Although it is ultimately phasing out, since COVID-19, the park pass system has been a tool utilized by Disney World to maintain guest numbers in their parks.
On a recent trip to Animal Kingdom, the family in front of us attempted to enter the park at the opening without a park pass reservation. They had gotten ahold of some bad information and didn’t think they needed a reservation for the park, promptly causing a serious issue at the entry gates.
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Although this happened months ago, it isn’t the only time I’ve heard other guests arguing over reservations at Walt Disney World. I’ve had to be directed to Cast Members myself when a previous park reservation hadn’t been appropriately recorded in the My Disney Experience app.
Lightning Lane Frustrations
This is probably one stressor at Walt Disney World that we’ve all experienced or had to power through at some point. When Disney World introduced its new system, replacing the extremely popular Fast Pass options, guests were none-to-thrilled.
Lightning Lane has ruined Disney World
Operated through Disney Genie, Lightning Lanes must now be booked following a purchase of Genie+ during your park visit. The system could be complicated for some and has now introduced a competitive nature to have immediate access to your favorite rides and attractions.
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Upon purchasing Genie+, guests have access to a perk they used to get for free. Because of this, Genie+ was up against a wall in popularity and acceptance even before its inception through My Disney Experience.
Individual Lightning Lanes Create Stressful Competition at Disney World
As if navigating a sea of people in theme parks like Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom weren’t stressful enough, the decision to almost force guests to use their smartphones to make the most of their park day has been a controversial topic.
In addition, the already despised Genie+ had one other surprise in store for guests: not all rides are included in the fluctuating price of the lightning lane system.
Popular coasters like Tron Legacy Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom and Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT require an Individual Lightning Lane to enjoy. This means you don’t have the option to wait in line.
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Guests hoping to enjoy these attractions must either purchase an Individual Lightning Lane (a separate cost from Genie+) or they can attempt to win the lottery that is Disney World’s virtual queue system.
The virtual queue system means that guests must once again use their phone to try and hop into a highly competitive boarding group twice a day, and it isn’t a promise that you’ll get one.
In my opinion, the worst thing about Individual Lightning Lanes is that they have created an unnecessary competitive spirit within Walt Disney World. As other Individual Lightning Lanes that don’t require a virtual queue do sell out, getting one is a top priority for guests whose vacations are ruined if they don’t get to experience certain shows and attractions.
Ride Malfunctions are Stressful and Common at Disney World
Another common reason that guests may endure undo stress while visiting Walt Disney World is ride issues.
As Walt Disney World works to bring more highly entertaining ride systems to their parks, they in turn, become more technologically advanced, meaning they are complex, and sometimes they simply don’t operate correctly.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a perfect example. The ride system is highly complex, and many feel as if it is an absolute must-do during their trip to Walt Disney World. It isn’t uncommon for guests at Hollywood Studios to start lining up at the gates well before the park opens in hopes of being first on the ride.
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However, Rise of the Resistance often breaks down due to its complex parts. It’s almost a promise that the ride will most likely not be functioning at some point during your day due to the need for repairs or testing. It happens often.
The Blazing Sun and the Mid-Afternoon Meltdown
Another common reason guests to Disney World lose their marbles has nothing to do with reservations about Lightning Lanes. Instead, it’s simply the heat and humidity of central Florida that gets to them.
Most of the year, saying that Florida is hot is an understatement. Unlike Disney Cruise Lines, where there are pools readily available for guests to cool off, sometimes at Walt Disney World, shade and cooler spaces can be hard to come by.
Park temperatures can become a blazing inferno, and the sun can be relentless, heightening stressful reactions to common issues you may have, such as non-working Magic Bands, dying smartphones, or login issues with My Disney Experience.
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It honestly doesn’t matter if you’re drinking around the World Showcase at EPCOT, shopping at Disney Springs, or just waiting in line for Space Mountain. Disney World is hot, and you’re going to feel it.
It isn’t uncommon to hear guests, especially children, become increasingly temperamental as the afternoon hours set in. Although many elect to hit up their resort rooms during these times, many battle it out, and the high temps can exacerbate stress, frustration, and sometimes even anger.
What a Former Cast Member Thinks Causes Stressful Outbursts at Disney World
Usually, it’s easy to diagnose someone’s outbreak at Walt Disney World, but as even Cast Members are noticing heightened stress surrounding vacations, it’s worth discussing what the overall problem is.
In a recent Reddit post, one user posed a statement regarding the treatment and behavior of children, either supervised or not, at Walt Disney World. However, one former Cast Member, user @noraplayingjacks offered up an insightful explanation for the change in temperament of Disney World guests.
Insane parental behavior last week at every park
“I was a former CP CM in 2003…tensions have always run high at Disney World. That’s not new. That said, I feel a heightened anxiety and frustration from guests now. Honestly, I think the changes implemented over the past 5ish years have made it a higher stress environment than ever before. Managing the Genie+ is daunting, Lightning Lane feels like a huge cash grab, stuff that used to be “free” is now specifically excluded, there are fewer benches and places to chill out than ever before, and I could go on and on and on. As such, I think guests are starting at an 8 with limited bandwidth left for literally anything and you’re seeing that diminished additional capacity show up in parenting, attitude towards CMs, attitudes toward other guests, etc. I think Disney has finally pushed a lot of people to their breaking points.“
There’s some solid insight here, as we all understand the common frustrations and anxiety-inducing issues surrounding Genie+, huge crowds, and the loss of once-free perks.
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Terms like “daunting” are a perfect way to express how some may feel about planning and executing a Disney World vacation, and they echo sentiments made by many who feel as if it’s too complicated nowadays.
Making the correlation between emotional bandwidth being used up by Disney and attitudes is an interesting observation and might just be spot on, considering that poor guest behavior has indeed reared its ugly head more often in the past few years. Sadly, this Reddit user isn’t alone in her thoughts, as a Former Disney Imagineer has come forward and made similar observations regarding how stressful Walt Disney World can be.
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Although certainly inadvertent, Disney World has created an extremely stressful vacation destination for its guests, who, like me, often joke that they need another vacation after spending a day at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Disney Springs, or Animal Kingdom.
How to Cope
The question becomes how to handle an extremely stressful vacation environment to avoid the inevitable Disney meltdown.
There are a few things you can do that will help you make the most of your vacation time and manage the stressful Disney World environment.
Firstly, plan accordingly. Although the name “Disney Dining” may sound as if we’re all about food, which we are, we also have a lot of helpful information regarding Genie+, Individual Lightning Lanes, and upcoming perks like the return of the Disney Dining Plan. If you don’t know, ask questions!
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Secondly, be as flexible as possible. Although you’ll immerse yourself in magic while vacationing in the Disney bubble, things will still go wrong. Expect rides to break down, and when they do, talk to a Cast Member (nicely), and they will do everything they can to make it right.
Thirdly, screenshot everything. From your lightning lane selections to your park reservations, take screenshots! When dealing with servers and the cloud, which store all of this information for you, sometimes things get lost. Screenshots are lifesavers!
Lastly, keep Disney World in perspective. You’re at Walt Disney World, a highly sought-after vacation destination; enjoy it! Don’t let another guest, rude behavior, or even the sun break your spirit. Commit to having a magical time no matter what happens, and you most certainly will!
So, what do you think? Is Disney World too stressful? How do you cope with the environment when visiting? Tell us!