Though we are born and bred southerners, I do not consider our expectations in regards to manners and courtesy to be anything special. We feel as though manners are a matter of common sense: treat others with respect and it will be returned. Though a trip to the parks can be exciting — especially if it’s a rare occurrence — it’s important to remember that you are one family among tens of thousands of people. Here are some basic tips to help you avoid making a social faux pas that at the very least could be irritating to your fellow guests — or at the most could make everyone else in the parks want to toss you off a freeway overpass.
Walk on the right
I would apologize in advance to all of our British friends if I thought for one second that driving on the left was a legitimate form of travel. But it isn’t. So I won’t. All jokes aside, there are many people of all backgrounds and nationalities who wander around the parks as though they are swimming through the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese’s — except instead of balls it’s human people and instead of a cheap pizza restaurant full of divorced dads it’s the world’s most popular theme park. Nowhere is this listlessness more evident than in the relatively narrow corridor between Peter Pan and Small World. Guests ebb and flow like the tides through here, sliding side to side, back and forth as if they’re caught in a moment of indecision
between singing puppets and the boy who never grew up (which isn’t even a choice because the answer is always Peter Pan). This human pinballing clogs the only convenient passage to Haunted Mansion and Frontierland from Fantasyland, and on crowded days, it can legitimately stack guests up all the way back to the Prince Charming Carrousel. Sticking primarily to the right on most walkways would greatly alleviate the congestion in popular areas and create a logical flow that even the most unaware park guests could follow. And for the love of all that is holy and decent, don’t stop in the middle of the walkways under any circumstances. Have your family discussions elsewhere.
Give the right of way to strollers, but don’t use strollers as battering rams.
On their last trip to Disney, my sister and brother-in-law observed that people tended to cut strollers off in crowds, either because they assumed that my brother-in-law was pushing the stroller more slowly than he actually was or they just didn’t care how fast he was going. My sister said they found themselves constantly dodging other guests who crossed in front of them or pulling up short behind people who slipped in front of them at the last second in lines or through doorways.
Conversely, some people use strollers as though they are tiny battering rams and your shins are the castle doors. Whether they’re being careless or purposeful, strollers should not be used as tiny Graco weapons to plow through crowds, and having a child in your stroller looking up with puppy eyes doesn’t really make your half-hearted apology any better after you smash into my leg. Keep your eyes open for strollers so that you may give them the space they require — and also to give you enough time to leap out of the way of a rogue stroller parent who’s out for vengeance against someone.
Don’t linger in quick-service
It’s hot in Orlando, so it makes sense that you’d seek out the shade and air conditioning of a quick-service dining area for the relief it provides from the Florida heat. The fact that you get to take a load off and refuel your tanks at the same time is a wonderful added bonus. But you know who else is hot, tired, and hungry? Literally everyone else in the park! You’re not special. You’re not the first person who has ever thought, “Man, it’s hot outside. If we eat slowly, we’ll get to cool off longer.” While you’re pondering these thoughts, which are at the same intellectual level as a loaf of bread, there are some poor, unfortunate souls looking for an empty seat. Toughen up, buttercup. Instead of being a quick-service squatter, mobile order your food, eat quickly, and get back to having fun as quickly as possible.
Observe a reasonable amount of personal space in line
We’ve all been there. You’re waiting in line and you sense the presence of your neighbor who creeps closer and closer, ever closer. Whether or not he believes that it’s possible to morph through guests like a ghost to move up in line or has some odd inclination to count other people’s eyebrow hairs is irrelevant; it doesn’t change the fact that he is now close enough to share clothes. Or perhaps you’re next to the guest who is so wrapped up in her conversation with her friends or family that she constantly bumps into you from behind (and then sheepishly apologizes, even if it’s the fourth time). The point is that standing in line at Disney is an unavoidable necessity, no matter how good you are with FastPasses, so it’s important to respect other guests’ personal space and not be completely obnoxious. (This also applies to your children; the other people in line aren’t the walls of your playroom off which your undisciplined little monsters can bounce.)
And don’t hold places in line
I’ll be blunt about this: it’s unacceptable. Aside from family emergencies — “I didn’t think I had to go then but I have to go now!” — sending a family member ahead to hold a spot in line is universally frowned upon and completely and
utterly selfish. There are a number of popular rides in each of the parks, and it is sometimes necessary to suck it up and wait in line if you wish to ride them. No one is immune to waiting in line, even young children. Patience is a virtue, and it’s good for children to wait quietly for something they’re just itching to do. Saving spots in line is annoying (like, really annoying) to all the guests you have to pass on your way back to your inconsiderate family, and it completely throws Disney’s stand-by times into chaos. (Believe it or not, they don’t take discourteous families into account when estimating wait times.) Just accept that, yes, the rules do in fact apply to you, and wait in line like everyone else.
Treat cast members with respect
I’m sure that for many of you decent folks this seems like a no-brainer. Cast members work long hours in the Florida heat to provide the legendary level of service and immersion expected by all of us who visit the parks. That being said, a surprising number of people seem to confuse the words “service” and “servitude,” demanding immediate and complete attention from some unlucky cast member who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. While cast members are trained to be as accommodating as possible, it is important to remember that they are attempting to be so to every guest with
whom they come in contact, not just you. They are being constantly inundated with requests — some trivial, some incomprehensible — and they must do their best to satisfy each and every one. It is important to remember that while Walt Disney World might be the manifestation of one man’s dream and require an army of Imagineers to keep it creatively relevant, it is the cast members who shape the Disney experience for each guest on a day-to-day basis. Treat them with the level of respect such an awesome responsibility deserves.
Do not put kids on your shoulders during shows, especially Happily Ever After
I’ve read a substantial amount of debate on this topic, especially on Facebook and Instagram, which is odd because there is no debate on this topic! It is completely unacceptable to perch your child upon your shoulders during Disney shows. There are quite literally thousands of guests in the parks who would like to see the shows, not the back of your child’s novelty t-shirt. Obviously, this practice is most offensive during Happily Ever After because the guests are tightly packed and it is indeed difficult for young (or short) guests to see the castle. It is completely fine to hold your child in your arms or on your hip during HEA so that his or her head is closer to crowd level. No one will hold that against you for a second because the chances of you obscuring someone’s view in that position are minimal; however, raising your child onto your shoulders blocks people’s views several rows behind you, thereby inconveniencing a number of people (and children, especially children) outside of your immediate proximity. This is simply not OK, but the justifications for it are what really burn me up:
My kid can’t see! He or she can if you hold them normally. You’re not strong enough to do that? Too bad for you — and your kid.
This might be our only trip to Disney for a while, possibly ever. How do you know it’s not the only trip the family behind you will ever take? How do you know it isn’t their one chance? You don’t, so put your kid down.
You should have gotten there sooner if you wanted to be in front of us. Unless you’re in the front row, you should have gotten there sooner, too. There are a million reasons preventing people from setting up shop in front of the castle two hours ahead of time. We’re all doing the best we can. It certainly doesn’t mean we should be prevented from seeing HEA.
It’s just like being behind a tall person! No it isn’t! Not unless that person is Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, The Mountain from Game of Thrones, who stands nearly seven feet tall, and even then it’s not true. I’m 6’6”, roughly eight inches taller than average height, so unless your child stands only eight inches tall, it’s not at all like being behind a tall person. Put your child down or feel free to study the backside of water — in your resort swimming pool.
Every visit to Walt Disney World should be magical — it’s what keeps us all coming back — but sometimes it’s good to be reminded that magic and manners can go hand in hand, and that we all have a responsibility to radiate that Disney magic every time we visit the parks. Because at the end of the day, it’s not really magic after all; it’s kindness and love, something we all have the power to give.
Thanks to @thezipadeedoocrew, @dizdad, Nicole Ellington, and @mickeys_photographer for the images. What do you think about my list of manners? Agree? Disagree? Have any of your own to add? Happily Ever After in the comments down below!