Disney World is known as the Most Magical Place on Earth, and for good reason!
In Disney World, you’ll encounter plenty of stellar rides, special meet and greets with beloved characters, one-of-a-kind snacks, and so much more. But, between the magic and seemingly perfect atmosphere, there are actually a whole bunch of things in Disney World that aren’t so magical after all. That’s right — today we’re talking about 10 not-so-magical truths in Disney World.
It should come as no surprise that Disney World can get very crowded. We even saw crowds back when capacity limits were in place. Now, capacity limits have increased, with an executive saying in March that the parks weren’t quite back to full capacity, but they were coming back towards it. And, from the looks of things on Easter this year, it seems we’re pretty close to being back to the regular limits.
The feeling of the parks being crowded can get exacerbated by certain chokepoints. These are the spots where traffic flows especially poorly and where things just get bottlenecked. One of the most notable spots for this phenomenon is in Fantasyland, just past Peter Pan’s Flight, heading towards Liberty Square. This walkway is pretty narrow and can get filled with guests walking from land to land.
And, there’s one dining issue you could run into (but might not expect) when Disney World is especially busy. Mobile Order is a highly recommended (and all but required) way of ordering food at many quick-service restaurants throughout Disney World. This digital feature allows you to order your food from the My Disney Experience app and then pick it up when you’re ready. But, things don’t always go smoothly.
When it’s really busy, pick-up times can get really backed up. If you wait until later in the day to place your order, you may find that the next pick-up time is significantly far away (by which point you’ll be past the point of hungry and WELL into the hangry stage). So, instead of your meal being ready in 30 minutes or so, the soonest pick-up time might be three hours later. This isn’t great, especially if someone in your group is already hangry.
Plus, even once your pick-up time arrives, you might still find yourself waiting 20-30 minutes before the food is actually ready. This has happened to us on a handful of occasions.
Never fear — there are a few different things you can do to help combat Disney World crowds. When it comes to minimizing waits for food, aim to eat at off-peak times. Try to avoid eating between 12-1:30PM for lunch, and 6-7:30 PM for dinner. Not only will you have a shorter wait for getting your food, but you’ll also generally have less trouble trying to find a spot to eat.
You’ll also want to place those Mobile Orders well in advance (well before you’re actually hungry) so you’ll have a greater pool of pick-up times to choose from.
Another dining tip to help you beat the crowds is all about being prepared! A lot of people will be snatching up dining reservations as soon as they become available, especially for those popular restaurants. You’ll want to know exactly when you can start booking dining reservations, which is 60 days in advance right now. If you’re staying at a Disney Resort, it’s 60 days in advance, plus the length of your stay up to 10 days! Set your alarms!
The one thing you won’t be able to plan in advance is your Lightning Lanes! With the Disney Genie service and its paid FastPasses called Lightning Lanes, you can pay for the parts of the service in advance, but you can’t book anything until the day you’re visiting the park. Remember, you can use the free side of Genie to figure out things like the predicted wait times and plan accordingly.
If you can manage to visit Disney World during the “slower times” of the year, you’ll likely encounter much fewer crowds then. However, don’t absolutely count on it — this year, we saw very high crowds during times that were previously known as being “slow.” Of course, some people can only go during those peak times like summer or the holidays because of work, school, and other obligations, which we totally get! But, if you can manage to take a break during those slower periods that can be a great way to avoid the crowds.
You can also try to get to the parks BEFORE they officially open. Disney resort guests can enter the parks 30 minutes before they officially open, and you’ll be able to ride some top attractions without too much of a wait (or, at least a shorter wait than later in the day!). You can also consider coming back to the parks later in the evening when some of the crowds may have left the parks to rest at their resorts.
Overall, it’s just about being prepared and making small changes to your schedule or plans as you go along your trip to adjust with any crowds or circumstances you might find along the way.
2. Lots of TRASH
With so many guests visiting Disney World, it should come as no surprise that they generate a TON (or should we say, hundreds of thousands of tons!) of garbage each year. But, like everything else, Disney has a plan to handle it.
There is actually a series of tubing under Magic Kingdom for garbage transportation. There, trash is moved from various drop-off points to one main location through an AVACS System (Automated Vacuum Assisted Collection System). That trash is clocking some serious speed, too. It moves at about 35 miles per hour! Yeah, that’s all happening right below your feet.
And, garbage can efficiency is seen above ground too. You’ll find trash cans approximately every 30 feet throughout the parks. Legend has it that Walt carried out a little experiment, so to speak, to determine how far garbage cans needed to be placed from each other in order to most encourage people to use them. 30 was apparently the magic number!
So, that’s why you generally won’t travel more than about 30 feet to throw out the wrapper of your Mickey Bar. But, just thinking about the sheer amount of trash that Disney accumulates can be not-so-magical.
3. Too Many Things to Plan and Think About
There’s SO much planning that goes into a Disney World trip. Sometimes, having to figure out all the nitty-gritty details of your trip can make it a little less magical. You’ve got to make a lot of choices when planning your trip. When to go? Where to stay? What to do? Where to eat? What on EARTH is a Park Pass? Luckily, we’re here to make it a little less overwhelming for you.
As previously mentioned, it’s critical to know when booking windows open up for things like dining reservations. Accessing those things early can make your trip go much more smoothly. And, it’ll help you experience more of the things you want to do!
One of the things that you’ll also want to become very familiar with is Disney World’s Park Pass Reservation System, which was implemented after the parks reopened in 2020. In order to visit a Disney World theme park, you currently have to reserve a pass for the specific park you want to go to on the specific day you want to visit for every member of your party. Passes for certain parks can book up far in advance, so you’ll want to decide EARLY (sometimes months in advance) where you want to go on each day of your trip. This is especially important for big events like the Fourth of July, Halloween, and Christmas.
Another conundrum you might face is the decision of where to stay! With over 25 hotels to choose from, you’re faced with a huge choice. Each hotel offers something different, from unique amenities to fun theming, so you’ll have to determine what’s best for your family’s needs and budgets.
It’s borderline impossible to go to Disney World without planning ahead, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do it. If planning isn’t your jam, you can always just plan the absolute necessities (like resorts and Park Passes) and make a short list of all your must-do activities and snacks. That way, you have goals in mind of what you want to experience, but you won’t be planning every day down to the minute.
4. Disney World Is Huge
Disney World is HUGE. Like 43 square miles huge. It can be confusing to get around property, especially if it’s your first time. So, there are a few things very important thing to know when it comes to getting from Point A to Point B. First, know that there are several options — you’ve got buses, boats, the monorail, and Skyliner at your disposal to travel around the parks and resorts.
Some have unexpected quirks, like serious waits, especially for the Skyliner, that you’ll want to be prepared for. The key here is to take a look at what hotel you’ll be staying at and what transportation options are available to/from the parks. Then, be sure to plan ahead and give yourself extra time to get to and from the places you’ll be going to account for those long lines.
5. It’s Expensive
Alright, we know we’re hitting you with a shocker with this one. 😉 Disney World is expensive. And, it gets more and more pricey over time with ticket price increases and food price increases. For example, last year, our beloved spring rolls from Adventureland got a whopping $2 increase.
You’ll also run into small fees that you may not have worked into your budget, like parking costs and gratuity. Or, maybe you didn’t realize just how much coffee you need to keep you going during those looong park days. These small costs can really add up and make your trip more pricey than you anticipated!
And if you’re looking to use services like Disney’s paid FastPass system, Genie+, be sure to budget those out ahead of time! Genie+ costs $15 per person, per day, and you’ll have to pay extra to skip the lines of certain attractions, so plan ahead and make sure you’re ready!
In order to cut down on those costs, there are a few different things you can do. If you want to spend less money on food, consider bringing food from home or ordering from a grocery delivery service. These items can be delivered to your resort, and they’ll be kept at the front desk until you’re ready for them.
It also helps to be on the lookout for any promotions or discounts when booking your trips. Disney frequently offers some sort of deal on resort rooms or packages, and every little bit saved helps. We often break down Disney’s discounts for you, to help you find out what the better deal actually is.
Once you’re at Disney World, there are a few discounts that can help you too. If you’re an Annual Passholder, Disney Vacation Club Member, or Disney Visa Chase cardholder, you may find yourself eligible for a handful of different discounts across property.
We know that the realization you might have to pay $6-7 for something as basic as a cupcake or soft pretzel might come as a shock to your system. Making a (realistic) budget prior to your trip can help, so you know how much you feel comfortable spending.
6. The Weather Can Ruin Your Day
Ah, Florida weather. It can be pretty unforgiving. Depending on what time of year you visit, you might feel like you’re constantly either dripping sweat or trying to dry off from the most recent torrential downpour. During the summer/hurricane season (June 1st – November 30th), thunderstorms happen just about every single day. They can come out of nowhere and most times they disappear just as quickly.
To prepare for the unpredictable/predictable weather, you may want to bring ponchos and umbrellas from home rather than buying them at Disney World. You can find ponchos at your local dollar store which can be much more cost-effective in comparison to paying the $12 that Disney wants from you. 😱
And for those really hot days, you’ll want to make sure you have cooling towels and handheld fans to combat the Florida sun. These are great options when you won’t be able to relax in the air-conditioning for a while.
7. Meltdowns Aren’t Uncommon
Meltdowns are pretty common in both children AND adults in Disney World. People get tired, hungry, and hot, and if the tiniest thing goes wrong, you can expect some sort of temper tantrum to ensue. There are lots of reasons for people to get upset during their vacations, and you’ve probably seen some of them or had a mini-meltdown yourself.
A lot of the time, people get frustrated when things don’t go according to plan. Maybe their favorite ride is temporarily closed or the Minnie ears they wanted are sold out. It might seem like a tiny issue in hindsight, but in the moment it can sometimes feel like the end of the world.
People can get particularly frustrated at these last-minute changes or issues as they start to think about just HOW much money they’re spending on this vacation. They may have saved for months or years to be here, and to have things not go “perfectly” can make it feel like everything is falling apart.
When it comes to your own vacation, expect the unexpected, try (as much as you can) to go with the flow, and prepare for tempers to rise. The best thing you can do is be prepared, patient, and flexible. If your kiddo is used to taking a nap at 2PM and you know they’re going to have a tantrum if they don’t sleep, then work that into your schedule. If you know one member of your group gets HANGRY at 11AM, then plan to eat a bit earlier than you might otherwise eat or pack some snacks.
You never know just what’s going to happen during your trip, but if you have some back-up plans and build in flexibility into your schedule, things could go much smoother.
8. Is Disney Tracking You?
Disney uses a lot of different types of technology to get a sense of the things you enjoy. MagicBands use RFID technology which improves the convenience of certain things like keeping track of your ride photos. On the other hand, they also allow Disney to see what you’re purchasing and what you’re doing (what rides you’re riding, where you’re shopping, etc.).
Now, this doesn’t mean that Disney is tracking your every move or anything like that, but the use of MagicBands and My Disney Experience does give them easy access to certain information like some of your plans and purchases. This data allows them to make better plans for guests in the future, and can make planning your trip convenient for you too.
According to Disney’s description of the planning aspect of Disney Genie, it uses data about foot traffic, dining reservations, and ride line lengths from the last 50 years of Disney parks as well as predictions about guest behavior to help plan out your trip and minimize crowds, so Disney does do some tracking on a large scale. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re watching your every move, they’re just looking at general trends.
Last year, Disney also tested facial recognition technology for park entry that could replace the finger scanners used when entering the parks. The system has since been removed from the parks (it was only there for testing), but some guests were NOT fans.
Any kind of facial or tracking technology can make some guests feel uncomfortable. We just recommend being aware of the technology Disney uses and how it really works to see what makes you feel most comfortable.
9. You Get Tricked Into Spending More Money
Disney is a business at the end of the day — and a successful one, at that. One of the reasons why Disney is so successful is because of the effective marketing techniques they implement through their business strategies. And yes, sometimes they are getting you to spend more money.
Disney World sometimes offers enticing packages that are often advertised as creating some amount of savings, but that’s not always the case. You’ll have to break down the cost of everything to figure out if it actually saves you money.
And, of course, there’s always the old exiting through the gift shop trick. It’s not a coincidence that you’re released into a sea of Disney merchandise after getting off your favorite rides. That merchandise is designed specifically to catch your eye and make you want it even when you aren’t “shopping.”
Among that merchandise, you’ll find lots of limited-edition, exclusive items. Those words create a sense of urgency and make you think you’re getting something rare and valuable. Those feelings push you to think that you need those things.
Another way Disney tries to get more of your money is by keeping you on property. When you stay at Disney’s resorts, they’re keeping your purchases confined to the resort.
MagicBands have a lot of different purposes, and one of them is making payment easier. That’s a plus for both you AND Disney. It’s much easier for you to tap your MagicBand to pay for something in comparison to digging through the depths of your bags for your credit card. With that added level of ease, you might just feel more inclined to just tap and pay for an item you may have hesitated to get otherwise!
This one isn’t necessarily a trick, but services like Disney Genie+ and the newest (and more expensive) Annual Pass Program have made trips to Disney World more expensive. This isn’t a trick, but it does get a little bit more expensive to go to Disney World every now and then.
Keep an eye out for some of those sneaky ways Disney tries to get your money, and stay tuned to DFB for the best ways to save money during your Disney trip.
10. Some Things Just Aren’t Real
In Disney World, (almost) everything is a show. And, of course, that’s part of its allure. Many people visit Disney World specifically to get away from normal life and visit a world of dreams, wishes, and make-believe.
Disney uses all kinds of techniques to make you see what they want you to see. For example, the flags in Magic Kingdom aren’t real, with the exception of one. The flag at the top of Main Street, U.S.A. is real, while the others have something wrong with them like a missing stripe or star. The “unofficial” flags don’t need to be illuminated or lowered in the evenings or otherwise follow Flag Code rules, making things much easier for Disney, while still keeping the illusion and look of American flags in a way.
You can, however, check out the daily flag retreat ceremony for the real American flag!
Disney also uses forced perspective to make it seem like Cinderella Castle is larger than it is. Your eye is tricked into thinking Magic Kingdom’s centerpiece is taller, or further away. The Castle itself is much larger on the bottom and gets narrower as it gets closer to the top. This phenomenon is furthered through painting effects and the use of scale.
Lots of construction also goes on in Disney World, but they try their best so you don’t notice. It’s not always as inconspicuous as they think though. Oh, is that a screen covering the train station? We could never tell!
Maybe Disney is tricking you in quite a few ways, but that’s all part of the draw, right?
Those are the things that are, unfortunately, not-so-magical in Disney World. But it’s not all bad — we could definitely come up with a list of MORE than 10 things that ARE magical. Stay tuned to DFB for all the updates you need to know from Disney World.
Let’s switch things up a bit from this article. What’s the MOST magical moment you’ve had in Disney World? Tell us in the comments!