Two short years ago, after my first visit to Walt Disney World (WDW), I wrote about it on this blog and included some recommendations for anyone who was thinking of holidaying there themselves. Well, for those who don’t already know, I’ve been again. This time instead of ‘Tony’s Top Tips’ I thought I’d just comment on a few changes that have been made since 2013 (some good, some bad) in the hope that someone might find my observations useful, interesting or a cure for insomnia. Whatever it does for any reader, it is serving as something for me to do (at the moment anyway) during a second sleepless night whilst recovering from the jet-lag!
In 2013 I found that almost every child and some adults were wearing a Disney Lanyard. These overpriced items served two purposes. Firstly those staying on the WDW estate could keep the pass that afforded them access their hotel room, entry to the theme parks and the ability to charge souvenirs to their account hanging on it. Secondly and more importantly to some, it was a repository for a huge variety of equally overpriced colourful pins sold either with the lanyard when you bought it or individually as and when you saw one you liked. Many of the WDW staff (religiously called ‘Cast Members’ by Disney) were also wearing the aforementioned pins and you were able to swap one of yours with any of theirs at any time.
This has all changed. While I was last there Disney had ‘Magic Bands’ that allow the same privileges as the old passes on trial at selected hotels. Now they issue them to all WDW residents and, as you can see from this photograph of mine, they wouldn’t take kindly to any decorative pins being attached to them! My daughter lost hers during our first week whilst enjoying a theme park ride and, to their credit, Disney replaced it for free.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this has in any way curtailed Disney’s lust for making money out of you though. Stylised bands attributed to Disney characters are available from most outlets in WDW priced between $15 and $25 (approx. £10 – £17). They are attractive enough but considering the amount you pay for the holiday and Disney can apparently afford to replace the grey ones for free, I think they could be rather more reasonably priced.
Prices in WDW
As I have mentioned briefly above, holidays at WDW are not cheap. Having said that, I wouldn’t expect Disney to be selling products in their hotels and shops at a loss but I do think there’s a limit as to how much profit they should seek to make from a captive audience. I didn’t make a note of any specific prices in 2013 but my general impression was that everything had gone up by at least 20%-30%. I don’t know what inflation has been over the last 24 months in America but here in the UK it has been less than 1% or even negative for some of that time.
Specifically I did have reason to note two prices. Before an early morning run I like a dose of caffeine to wake me up. In the absence of Red Bull on the WDW estate the only so-called ‘Energy Drink’ they had was Monster. Here the UK you can get a can of that in many shops for £1. I haven’t seen it for myself but I’m told some Pound Shops sell them at two cans for a pound. In the Disney shop within the hotel a standard size can of Monster (500ml I believe) was $4.57 (or £2.94 at the current exchange rate) In a similar vein, after a long run I fancied a sugar boost and asked the price of the Snickers bars on sale in the same shop. They were $2.08 (£1.34) and I know the Pound Shop sell them at three for a pound.
By way of comparison I bought a t-shirt from the Pirates of the Caribbean shop in the Magic Kingdom (the logo amused me!) it was $29.95 (£19.32).
A polo shirt made of superior quality material, with an embroidered logo (not a print) and a collar bought from the Kennedy Space Centre was just $19.95 (£12.87). I can’t see any reason why the Disney t-shirt should have been so over-priced.
While I am writing about prices does anyone know why we pay so much more here in the UK for Apple products? On a trip to a local shopping mall I made the mistake of browsing in the Apple Shop. A 16Gb iPhone 6 Plus that sells here in the UK for £619 was for sale in Florida for just $299 or £193. That’s nearly 70% cheaper! Is it just because we British are so stupid that we are prepared to pay more for the same thing? I asked the store manager while I was there and he assured me that their products were identical to those sold in Britain and come, like ours, direct to shop from China. Do ours fly First Class or something?!?!
For anyone who may be interested the same phones with the higher capacity (64Gb and 128Gb) sell there for $399 and $499 respectively as opposed to £699 and £789 here. You can work out the savings yourself at $1.55 to £1.
The Theme Parks
In 2013 I was very concerned that groups of visitors seemed to be abusing the preferential treatment given to users of mobility scooters. It appeared to me that some families had brought with them a friend or relative who was merely unable (or unwilling) to walk around the parks. Many of these ‘disabled people’ were actually morbidly obese and were therefore physically unable to participate in any ride but because that person was with them the group were allowed to go straight to the front of the queues.
On returning from my last visit I did read that Disney were planning to change their policy on this and I was pleased to see the change had been implemented. Those using mobility scooters were still allowed to go to the front of the queue but they had to wait there for their accompanying party who had to queue with the rest of us. Judging but the dramatic reduction in the number of mobility scooters I encountered during the holiday the assumption I made in 2013 that the system was being abuse was spot on!
One other improvement in the parks (the sign says it all!)
Anyone who has been to WDW will know that it runs like a well-oiled machine. Since my last visit a few tweaks had been made that had, no doubt, been implemented by Disney for good reasons but were not, in my opinion, all good.
In 2013 the buses that run between the hotels, theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney (WDW’s shopping and restaurant centre) linked them all. In 2015 the routes appeared to have been modified or cut back so that you could no longer go from a theme or water park directly to Downtown Disney or vice versa. This proved inconvenient and time consuming if anyone wanted, for example, to go straight from a park to Downtown Disney for their evening meal. In effect they had to wait for a bus to a hotel (it didn’t have to be their hotel of course) then wait there for another to take them Downtown. I appreciate most visitors to the parks probably do want to return to their hotel to freshen up before going to dinner and few want to have breakfast Downtown before their day in a park but in my view there were enough doing that two years ago to have left the bus service as it was.
I haven’t really changed my opinion since 2013: WDW is a great place to holiday. All the staff (sorry -cast members!) are polite and extremely helpful. The entire estate is clean, tidy and beautifully maintained. The parks are well designed and the rides, despite some of them being quite old, are all good. If I had to choose a favourite ride it would have to be the aptly-named Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios.