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The Stark Reality of Disney: Is It Worth It?

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Last Updated on June 4, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

Imagine spending thousands of dollars to sit in line all day, sometimes in the blazing heat, eating bar-quality food that is overpriced, dealing with kids who are melting down and in tears, with crowds and endless people, and being exhausted from walking 10,000 steps or more.

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Grandpa can also join your Disney adventure.

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Why in the world do people DO THIS? From the outside or someone who isn’t a fan of Disney, this is literally what it looks like: absolute insanity.

However, Disney grosses billions of dollars a day and has some of the most committed fans in the world.  

We Were Not Disney Fans Growing Up

Today, we want to consider ourselves as some of those true Disney fanatics. We’ve visited all the parks in the world during our world travels. We even lived in Anaheim for a month so we could visit Disneyland nearly daily. We’ve been to Disney World four times in four months. I could keep going, but you get the picture. We spend A LOT OF MONEY on Disney.

This is all coming out of our pocket, people. With our family of seven, I’d be horrified to get an actual number on the amount we’ve spent on Disney.

However, we are relatively new to drinking the Disney kool-aid.

Lucy’s 12th birthday at Disneyland Paris

We also didn’t grow up as one of “those families” who visit every year. My parent’s first trip to Disney was last year after we forced them to join us for our VIP Tour. My husband Chris hadn’t been to a Disney park until four years ago!

When my brother and sister-in-law chose Orlando for their honeymoon, Chris and I laughed heartilyWhy in the world would you go there when the whole world awaits you?

The bottom line: we are only recent converts to this Disney fan world, and we understand your skepticism

Parents having fun at Disney with their kids.

The Experience Of Visiting Disney for the First Time

Imagine your first visit, which for us was in 2017 with five young children. We talked little about how expensive it seemed and how little we knew!  

We walked in to find line times ridiculously long. Who would wait in line for 60 minutes on vacation? That seems stupid!

We skipped all the big lines and went for anything quick. We honestly didn’t get it

Our kids were so overstimulated that it made meltdowns inevitable. You are getting up early, walking all day, dealing with crowds, and constantly surrounded by toys, fun, and fantasy.

On top of that, getting food at Disney is confusing at its best. In the pre-Covid world, lines were long for food. Spending $15 for a sub-par hamburger doesn’t seem fun at all.

Getting food is also a learning curve. You have to make reservations months in advanceWhen kids are hungry and you are tired, this taxes the best of us.

Grace toured all of the Disney Parks in the world before age 4. This one is in Hong Kong.

So, I Pay To Wait In Line?

Eventually, we figured out things. We went to the grocery store and stocked up!  Read on my tips for your first Disney visit here.

We also decided to tackle some rides with a longer wait time.  Note: fast passes are now Lightning Lane and Genie+ at Disney World and Disneyland CA. What happened when we finally gave in and waited for the 60-minute ride?

Here’s what you won’t expect…  you wait forever, wonder what in the h*ck you are doing there, and then you go on a ride.  

Wow, that’s so much fun!! I’d even say fantastic (cue cheesy music here). Watching your children’s faces, or your spouse’s, or your friends, and being able to take after the ride about how amazing it was…  this event is the magic.

Every ride at Disney is worth the wait!

Why Disney Magic Is Real

We’ve been to many theme parks, like Fuji-Q in JapanDreamWorld in Bangkok, plenty of Six Flags, Universal Studios, and more. If there is a theme park near our travels, I’m booking it into our schedule.

You get a day of thrills and fun for most of them, but you aren’t craving to go back the next day. However, the more time we spend at Disney, the more we want to be there. Why?!

I’ve spent hours pondering this question. What makes it different, honestly? Why can they charge more, have enormous crowds, and still have the most devoted fans?

Here’s what I’ve come up with….

Little girls love being real princesses. And big girls too :). Taken from our room in the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World

Disney Masters The Attention to Detail

I say it often: Disney is all about the details, and I’m sure each ride takes many years to get onto and off the paper. The level of detail in creating the fantasy around a Disney character or movie will knock your socks off.   

It’s all the little touches… the decor of a room, the meticulous detail on the line queue of a ride, the reality of seeing the massive Disney Castle in real life.  

Recently, Lucy and I visited Universal Studios to see Harry Potter World. It is, by far, the best part of Universal Studios and the only reason we go. It’s incredible and so enjoyable!

Yet as I waited in the lines for the rides, I tried to imagine what Disney would do with it. Pretty sure they would take the detail up probably 20-50%, and what already amazes you would transport you to an entirely new level. I’d love to see what Disney can do with Harry Potter!

Shopping at Disney can be magical too!

The Amount of Staff at the Park

On our VIP Tour, I heard over 30,000 employees were laid off from Disney when Covid began. What a tragedy.

Disney does really well staffing their parks, hotels, facilities, etc. Sometimes, you almost wonder if they are overstaffed.

Cast members in costume add up to our Disney vibes.

This translates to a few key things:

  • Cleanliness of the park. I’ve never been worried about using a bathroom at Disney or been grossed out by one. Considering their parks can hold upwards of 90,000 people in a day, that is simply astounding!
    • Trashcans are available every 4-5 feet, literally, throughout the lines, and there are people picking up and sweeping up messes all day.  
    • I remember the first time we went, and one of my kids spilled popcorn out of the stroller.  Before we had even moved from that spot, someone had already come to sweep it up!
  • Impeccable customer service.  Each “cast member,” as they are called, is friendly, kind, and wants to be there.
    • They are easy to find and easy to talk to
    • They are happy to help you with your problem. We had a grave booking mistake at Disneyland Paris, and it nearly ruined a birthday, leaving me in tears! However, Disney was amazing at addressing our issue and giving us a refund on what we had to overpay in the meantime.  
  • Great quality control.  As demonstrated by eating gluten-free at Disney World, Disney takes QC seriously.
    • The rules may sometimes feel uptight, but they have their policies and procedures down pat. This results in smooth and predictable vacations. Disney plans everything out to the minute!
It’s A Small World Boat Ride at Disneyland Paris

The “Magic” of Disney

What is the Disney magic everyone talks about? Are you magically transported into your favorite Disney movie the second you walk into the park? Sadly no… but also kind of yes.  

You are immersed immediately into a friendly, beautiful, clean park. As you explore the park, your emotions are stirred as you see your childhood favorites and recent Disney masterpieces, like the Avatar ride in Animal Kingdom at Disney World. Imagine flying a banshee out of the movie! It is like flying and really does take your breath away.  

Disney invokes all the senses in the experience. Did you know some parks pump different smells into different parts of the park?

Rides at Disney will genuinely amaze and awe you. Roller coasters are not only thrilling; they tell a story and delight the senses and imagination. I know it sounds cheesy, but they are indeed magical!

Soaking in Christmas spirit while enjoying at Walt Disney World Resort Orlando

The shows at Disney would be worth a hefty admission price anywhere else. The performing and singing are top-notch and so fun to see. I highly recommend taking a break from the rides, which can be tricky.

On top of all this, Disney has the best fireworks show ever! Think of your best 4th of July, multiply that by a few factors, and you have Disney every night! They combine music with the fireworks and often visual effects on the castle. Watching these across the world in various languages was unique and something I miss.

Bring On The Children

Remember how you are just as excited for your children to open their gifts on Christmas morning as they are? The same goes for Disney. You can’t wait to see them catch their favorite movies coming to life.

Character meet-and-greets fill up the family meter with fun. Our son, Grant, was obsessed with Winnie the Pooh, and getting the characters in person literally made him cry. He’s a tender little soul.

Will your kids also drive you CRAZY at Disney?  Of course!  They will be grumpy, overstimulated, greedy, and will want EVERYTHING.  That’s how they cope with all the fun! So be patient.

However, this is somehow similar to all travel, right?  Travel days with kids can tax the strongest of parents, but is that what you remember from your Disney vacation?  Of course not!

Seeing Disney characters in real life makes my heart melt

Family Focus Of Disney

Disney is a business. A very profitable one, and it’s good never to forget this.

However, the core item, at least for me, about what makes Dinsey so unique is the focus on the family. The park is built with families in mind, and I find the most joy with my family.  

Spending fun times with your family is just plain enjoyment. It’s kind of like eating a lot of desserts for a few days.. not sustainable long-term, but so fun to do and happy to remember.

Disney is the only park that works to make you closer as a family, and I like that.  

Of course, you can create these special family bonds and memories in many other places. Heading to the park and connecting can bring so much joy, and it’s free!

Spending Halloween at Disney and dressing up as a family is a fun experience.

If you want a theme park to go to together, I’d always recommend Disney. Will your life be less if you never visit? Of course not! We love it, though, and love our memories there.



Book a budget-friendly flight to Disney on Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Find a nice hotel near Disney on Booking.com, Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Discover other exciting activities around the world from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Rent a Car to tour around on Expedia Rental Cars

Get insured while traveling with World Nomads

Capture your best Disney memories as we do with a GroPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities for your Disney trip from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

Additional Reading

19 Essential Tips for Your First Disney Trip: Everything You Need To Know As A Beginner!

Disney World VIP Tour: Worth The Extravagance or Not?

Spending Halloween at Disneyland with Kids 


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