Introducing Disney's 'StressPass'

March 21, 2012, 10:34 AM · Are visitors to Walt Disney World always this stressed out? Or am I just not used to it anymore?

In just a couple of hours on Monday, I saw more obviously stressed guests at the Disney World theme parks than I'd seen over the past several months while visiting the Disney parks in California and Japan. A five-minute hold on the WDW monorail sent one woman into a blue tirade on her cell phone. Another woman stopped complaining to her seatmate at the Beauty and Beast show only long enough to wrestle her children under control, after they'd grown restless trying to get Mom's attention. Men blasted strollers through crowds without concern for others, yelling at the rest of their families to catch up.

Magic Kingdom

And crowd levels on Monday didn't seem anywhere near as bad as they'd been a week ago, according to several cast members. I know that some theme park guests behave badly, but I can't recall seeing this level of stress recently.

Perhaps I've been spoiled by the crowds in Southern California. Most of the visitors to the Disneyland Resort are annual passholders, who know the parks, have a routine, and aren't concerned with squeezing the most from a once-in-a-lifetime visit, since they'll soon be back anyway. And even though the crowds in Japan tore through the parks' entry plazas like runners at the start of a marathon, I never saw stress on anyone's faces. They were simply trying to get into the park quickly. For the rest of the day, everyone in those parks was as polite to one another as the legendary Tokyo cast members were to all of us.

So what's the deal in Florida? Sure, the economy's still pretty weak in the U.S., and people are concerned about getting their money's worth while on vacation. But that's only part of the problem. The big issue, from what I overheard this week, is... Fastpass.

It seemed like every stressed-out person I saw in the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot this week was complaining about the same thing: getting across the park in time to use their Fastpasses. Disney earlier this month began enforcing Fastpass return time windows at the Walt Disney World Resort, and no longer honors the ride reservations after their return-time window. (You can continue to use Fastpasses anytime after their return-time windows at the Disneyland Resort theme parks.)

Years of tour plans and strategies based on using Fastpasses whenever you'd like later in the day have gone into the trash, and that's making some Disney guests miserable as they try to adjust. Any minor delay - a hold on the monorail, a show starting late, foot traffic slowing around the many pinchpoints in an under-construction Fantasyland - disrupts schedules that guests are trying to time to the minute. If you've got a Fastpass in the Magic Kingdom during a parade time, for example, you'd better plan to be on that side of the park before the parade starts, because with the construction in Fantasyland and a parade blocking the hub, there's no way you're crossing the Magic Kingdom quickly.

And now Disney's thinking about introducing a system where guests can schedule all of their rides, shows and meals to the minute?

Forget Avatar. All those blue-faced people in the Disney theme parks will be the guests, screaming at everyone else in their family to hurry up.

Universal's got a huge marketing opportunity here. I can see the commercial now: "Vacations shouldn't have deadlines. Stay at a Universal Orlando hotel and you can skip the lines at theme park attractions whenever you want. With no deadlines." I wonder how many more rooms Universal and Loews could book with a campaign like that. Hey, I go on vacation to get away from the Outlook calendar, not so I can use it throughout a 16-hour theme park day.

Ultimately, I think that Disney's move might be the thing that actually gets more people to give up on Fastpass, as those guests quit trying to hyper-analyze their day. Or perhaps Disney will take the pressure off by expanding the return windows, allowing people windows of 90 minutes or two hours in which to return, instead of the current 60 minutes. Or maybe people will just adapt, and learn to chill.

Whatever happens, though, I saw too many people who weren't enjoying their vacation this week. And that can't be good news, or good business, for Disney.

Replies (65)

March 21, 2012 at 10:42 AM · You are 100% correct...
March 21, 2012 at 10:45 AM · LOL, Stress pass love it. I agree though people seem really stressed out lately. I had 4 people blowing horns at me yesterday on a way to an appointment. I guess I was driving to slow or something?
March 21, 2012 at 10:48 AM · Universal shouldn't charge people for parking when you stay at their hotels. I have stayed at all of their previous hotels in the past and I won't do it, again. Their hotels are expensive and you pay for parking on top of it. Free parking should be a perk of staying at their hotels.

In my opinion Disney runs their parks much better.

March 21, 2012 at 10:54 AM · This situation is exactly what I predicted when Disney made their stupid "enforcement" announcement. I'm with you: I go on vacation to relax, not plan everything down to the minute! (I don't even like to make dining reservations, though I grudgingly do it for certain meals, like character breakfasts.) If WDW is going to enforce FastPass times, they definitely should expand the return windows! Oh, and I love your suggestion for the Universal marketing campaign -- they should use it! :-)
March 21, 2012 at 10:56 AM · You know my wife and I never had any issue managing to come back to an attraction during the Fastpass window. Come on guys - it's an HOUR long and you know when that hour is coming up so it really isn't that hard to make it work within the rules.
March 21, 2012 at 10:59 AM · I have NEVER used a FastPass past the time window and I can't understand how it causes that much consternation for Guests to return within the hour allocated. My usual routine is to get my next FastPass as soon as the next availability occurs, then go use the first FP. It's an easy rhythm and not stressful to me in the least. I get some exercise, granted, but the idea that people can harvest FP all day and then come back at 7pm and do five consecutive FP attractions makes no sense to me, and it doesn't pay off to Disney in relation to the FP payoff to them, which is projecting your Guest volumes.
March 21, 2012 at 11:03 AM · I think in a lot of ways the internet has become the problem too.

There are so many websites that offer so much advice, people (especially newbies) come to Walt Disney World like commandos with so many check lists and tips that when one little thing goes wrong it throws them into a frenzy. There's all this official lingo, policies, terms, schedules, not to mention all the stuff people "learn" on the internet.

I'm just imagining monorail woman from your story: "I read that the monorail to the Magic Kingdom is supposed to take 8 minutes and the everage wait is 14 minutes but we waited 16 and now it's stopped! I'm never going to make my priority seating in time and then I'm going to miss my Fastpass return window! What do you mean rides? We went to Epcot for Soarin because the slowest day on the crowd calendar was Tuesday and the lowest waits are before noon! But we had to go to Magic Kingdom first to get a Fastpass for Space Mountain before 8am because of extra magic hours! Then tonight we're going to Fantasmic because the 8pm showing has the lowest attendance of the week! What do you mean, fun? I'm too busy to have fun!"

March 21, 2012 at 11:19 AM · Universal screws the average guest with the unlimited front of the line stuff for the hotel guests. Last week got in a fifteen minute wait for Dr. Doom that turned into a 45 minute wait because they were getting all the Express pass people on the ride. Disney does it much better.
March 21, 2012 at 11:24 AM · Disney always had an advantage over Universal (and other parks) since FastPass was free and quite easy to understand. Enforcing the 'end' time on FastPass weakens the system, almost to the point of making it unusable.

When I go on vacation, I like to lose the one thing I have in my normal life: schedules. Unless there is a show I want to catch, I mainly go by the seat of my pants. I have been through Disney enough times to not have to do a specific path through the parks. So, telling me 'if you want to ride Space Mountain, you MUST be there between 5:30 and 6:30' sucks, and it takes some of the fun out of Disney. Really, this is coming to the point that, after my next trip or two, I might not go back to Disney for a while.

March 21, 2012 at 11:32 AM · As I've stated on numerous occassions, vacationing at an on site Universal Hotel Resort is so much more relaxing & enjoyable than vacationing at an on site Disney Hotel Resort. Two main reasons, the close proximity of the hotels to the theme parks/citiwalk & the unlimited hotel express pass. I love the Disney parks. They are excellent. But the Disney portion of our vacation is definately less relaxing & less enjoyable. And I will be really upset with Disney if they carry through their rumored next generation attraction time reservations. Vacationeers are not programmed robots. I want to enjoy my vacation at a leisurely pace. I believe Disney really needs to rethink their experience. Expand the crowded parks and come up with a system that lets customers leisurely enjoy their vacation experience without forcing them into narrow time attraction reservations.
March 21, 2012 at 11:35 AM · Last time I stayed at universal having your room key act as your fastpass to any ride was great. Otherwise I don't bother with fastpass as it is too much like work, which I have come to the parks to get away from.
March 21, 2012 at 11:39 AM · Hey, the parks can get full, but I have NEVER had a problem getting from one side of the park to the other even during parade times.

The bottom line is people are trying to jam too many activities into a vacation and ruining not only their own, but perhaps the families they affect with their poor behavior.

Whenever we have family down to visit us we ask them what they expect to do and if they have an itinerary. Once we look at it we can suggest spreading things out a little...two days at MK instead of one (it should always be planned that way anyway)...A down day at LEAST every 3rd day if not every other. A "down" day from the parks could be a trip to the water parks or the beach or mini golf! Just something dialed down a bit.

Disney management obviously saw the need to restrict the use of these tickets. It is not hard to imagine hundreds of guests showing up late, but around the same time to Space Mountain or Peter Pan and the log jam that would cause for everybody. It's just not fair to the rest of the guests.

I am lucky to live in Orlando. I come and go as I please to the parks and rarely have anything but a good time.

I completely agree that one should have a schedule and stick to it while on vacation! Just remember to put a fair amount of rest time in. You will be happy you did! Also understand it's OK not to do everything we have here in one visit. It should still be here when you come back.

March 21, 2012 at 12:12 PM · I completely agree. The last few times I’ve been to Disney, folks just don’t look as relaxed as I remember them being when I was young.

This is one of the primary reasons I prefer Universal now. Staying onsite and having an unlimited Express Pass is the ultimate relaxing, worry-free theme park vacation. But I’m not going to turn this into a Universal vs. Disney argument. Universal’s system works largely due to its smaller size. With Disney’s size and number of resorts and onsite guests, I just can’t see that sort of system working for them. But I think Disney’s size IS part of the problem…see below.

I’ll also admit that I haven’t really enjoyed Disney since they instituted Fastpass and I refuse to use it. I want on the ride when I’m there and not to have to backtrack across the park 2 hours later. I’ve always thought the whole concept was sort of stupid. For instance, when I visited DAK shortly after the opening of Everest, we went straight back to get in line after rope drop. Initially, the lines to get Fastpass for later returns were LONGER than the line for the ride itself. WTH?!?! Meanwhile, we were able to ride Everest 3 times in a row with very limited waits. Why didn’t the people getting Fastpass go ahead and ride the dang thing when they were there?

That’s part of what gets me…. When I was growing up, it was possible to work the park in an organized fashion without having to run back and forth to meet Fastpass times. My preference was to head straight back to Big Thunder, go to Adventureland, jump over Fantasyland to Tomorrowland, hit the Haunted Mansion then cover the “kiddie” section during a parade. We managed to hit every major ride one night in July between 6:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. with that strategy. But Fastpass seems to clog up the works.

And I’m not sure that the fact they’re enforcing the Fastpass return window now is the only problem. (For that matter, what was the point of having Fastpass in the first place if you could get one and then use it whenever you wanted???) I’ve thought people have seemed more stressed ever since the program was started. I would seriously suggest they get rid of Fastpass altogether and go back to the way things were and put every rider on the same footing. Fastpass just seems to add an element of stress that no vacation needs. And that “booking your ride times in advance” stuff sounds like a complete nightmare!

Of course, there’s more than just Fastpass that’s the problem. Unlike DLR, which from the sound of things is closer to Universal in size and scope, WDW Resort has just grown into a monster. I remember when riding the monorails or the buses was fun…. now it feels like being crammed in a cattle-car. There’s so much to see and people’s expectations are so high, that a lot of the joy that should be there….isn’t. Watching some families with tired parents and tired kids, it’s almost like they’re MAKING themselves have fun.

It’s sad because I remember when Disney seemed truly magical. But now, if I’m on property for longer than about 8 hours, I start to get twitchy ;-P

March 21, 2012 at 12:17 PM · The Universal express system does more to harm my opinion of them than anything else. The vast majority of universal's paying guests are not residents in their hotels or resorts. We instead pay good money for tickets to two theme parks that advertise some of the best attractions in the world. And our reward for indulging in a contract in which we pay money in return for access to these attractions? We get to stand on the stairs to the loading bay of The Mummy and watch hundreds of Universal guests sweep imperiously past us and jump the queue whilst the advertised wait time disappears more and more into the realms of fantasy. We have found it a universal (sic) truth that the wait times in Universal are ALWAYS underestimated whilst the wait times in Disney are usually shorter than advertised. To be quite honest the ONLY reason we go to Universal is to ride the attractions because they are unique, BUT we do it just once in a vacation, because frankly they are without doubt the least enjoyable and most stressful of all the 8 major theme parks in the Orlando area.
Disney's Fastpass system allows EVERYONE the opportunity to experience an attraction with a minimal wait and the ONLY cost to that is that you have to plan to return to the attraction sometime within a window of ONE HOUR. (Oh my Lord, the hardship!).
Universal makes me feel like they resent me spending my money there and do their best to make me not want to come back. Disney treats me like an adult and allows me the freedom to plan my day if I want to but with an equal opportunity to everyone else. And we will go back any time we can.
March 21, 2012 at 12:54 PM · I think I'm already feeling the stress of fastpass out here on the west coast, and we still have our open-ended return times. Even though it means waiting in longer standby lines, I've noticed lately that we're using fastpass far less often than we used to. There is just something nice about spontaneity and being able to do what we feel like at the moment. We're already scheduling enough to accommodate shows/spectaculars/parades that we don't need to add more rigidity. And we're usually very structured, organized people.
March 21, 2012 at 1:24 PM · I thought if you just complained about being stuck in a parade route, or getting stuck on a broken down ride they would let you in past the return time. Seems easy enough to me to beat the system, you just have to be smarter than the average guest.
March 21, 2012 at 1:56 PM · I think we are judging Xpass was before we know anything but rumors. I seriously think this is a rash and unfair article.

As for now...The stressed people are people who stray too far. If they need to use a monorail or have anything that can cause delay, then they hurt themselves.

I think this article was a rushed assumption. Really, some days people are tense and some are not. I see it all the time at Disney. Some people are natural stressers. Fastpass or not, if vacations isn't perfect of efficient, people are upset.

The parks themselves aren't that big that it's unreasonable to get back to a spot for an 80 minute window. It's not hard to casually plan on the go as not to waste time and be where you need to be. I really don't have a problem, and no one I know has a problem with making it across the park for a ride. It's not far, it's not hard.

But if you make reservations in another park or place that you plan to spend the day in, that's a risk just like in the real world when you need to travel. Switching parks and coming back to use a Fastpass is silly.

The Ultitimate goal of xpass is to save you time. But we don't know how that will work, no one knows. So at this point, all we can say in opposition to Xpass is that yes we will hear Disney out on how we will save time, or no, that we don't care to save time and walk around Disney haphazardly hoping for the best.

March 21, 2012 at 2:14 PM · I think these people stressing out need to get over it. I've never used a Fastpass outside of it's specified window. It just wasn't that hard to plan ahead and get there in time or to simply say "meh, oh well, we'll do the ride later". I didn't even realize Disney had been lax with the windows!

I'd wager those people you witnessed, Robert, were either control-freaks or people who just try to cram way too much into a day. No system, no matter how perfect, can help them.

March 21, 2012 at 2:47 PM · Orrrrrrrr. You could "Gasp"

Patience, where art thou??

March 21, 2012 at 3:02 PM · I'm aiming at FastPass here because it was the thing I overheard people complaining about most this week. But that was a single visit, and as a former stats major, I understand the danger of making inferences based on small data sets. ;^)

So if anyone else has theories as to why people might be more stressed, or even if you want to challenge the theory that they are more stressed, I'd love to hear from you.

Also, I'd love to hear suggestions from people how parks and how visitors each could work to make theme park vacations less stressful. Thanks.

March 21, 2012 at 3:11 PM · It's not that hard to come back in time to use your FPs. Even when I knew I could use them anytime, I still usually came back during the time window on the ticket. Just plan with the assumption that you can't show up late anymore. What's the big deal?

All this stress definitely defeats the purpose of a trip. I go on vacation to get away from all that.

March 21, 2012 at 3:40 PM · I think the big stress cause is the COST of the vacation and trying to cram as much into it so that the cost can be justified. Those of us who live near theme parks and have annual passes can go whenever it is convenient and don't really spend much per day after paying for the APs. Counting ticket prices, hotels, travel and food can easily get the per person cost over $200 per day. That's $800 per day or more for the "typical family of four". There is a lot of stress in justifying that cost.

Losing the flexibility of the open ended fast pass is just making it harder to cram in attractions that help justify the overall cost.

March 21, 2012 at 3:47 PM · I'm a fan of doing as much as possible when I go on vacation, but there is always a limit and exceeding that always hurts the trip in the long run. Just like in every area of life, people visiting Disney World need to make choices. If they want to stay in one park all day, do nothing but rides, and use the Fastpass system, that's fine. If they want to visit multiple parks, have sit down meals, and see shows, that works as well. Trying to combine the two is difficult, and even if it feels like you're doing less per day you'll probably end up enjoying it a lot more.

As far as the Fastpass system goes, I really think Disney should have an open return time. When you get the pass, it says you can return anytime after xx:xx with no cutoff. However, each ride only admits a certain number of people at a time (say 5% of the ride's hourly capacity in each 15 minute window), and if the Fastpass line is full they tell visitors to come back later. If the parks cut distribution to more reasonable numbers (say 20% of the daily capacity), I'm sure this would work without overcrowding the attractions.

March 21, 2012 at 3:49 PM · If most of the visitors to the Disneyland Resort are annual passholders, then it makes sense that they are not stressed out. Most visitors of Disney World come from out of state, so I can't imagine to want to do so much in a few days.

Fastpass and Universal Express spoiled people. I prefer the old days when people didn't mind to get in line for 1+ hours as it was part of the theme park experience. Those days when you started on one side of the park and did the loop without having to go back and forth. It was more relaxing.

Having said this, if Disneyland Resort lets you return after the window, then that would make things much nicer for guests.

March 21, 2012 at 3:54 PM · First: Robert why didnt you tell me you were in WDW!? I've been here for the week!

As for the Fastpass issue Disney has upped the amount of Fastpass's being given per attraction. That was one of the reasons why Disney has asked guest to return in that hour window.

Another reason why they want guest to return in there designated times is because guests were taking advantage of the program and causing the lines to be longer then there should especially at night. A lot were saving the Fastpass's for the night which caused the lines to be longer then there should be. So know that we stop giving out Fastpass's with a couple hours to go at night the lines should be able to go quicker then the past.

There are two different programs that are being thrown around Disney right now either changing the program to resort guests only and then being able to print up Fastpass's over the computer when planning your vacation.

March 21, 2012 at 4:28 PM · WDW has been horribly run for the better part of a decade now. Compared to DLR and Universal, managers there are simply enacting measures that affect the bottom-line instead of the overall experience for guests. I have recently taken trips to Orlando where I go to Universal and Sea World and Busch Gardens, but leave out a visit to Disney World. That would have been unheard for me 20-years-ago. Iger seriously needs to consider cleaning house at the top down at Lake Buena Vista.
March 21, 2012 at 4:45 PM · Vickie,

I thought the same thing about Universal parking until I started using valet. It is only a couple dollars more per day than parking in the lot and you have unlimited in / out with your car waiting and A/C blasting like an arctic wind, cold bottled water and valets that treat you like a rock star.

I think it was $30 or $22 a day, but that only comes to less than a dollar an hour. When I go to a White Sox or Hawks game, the parking is $27 for less than three hours.

The USF parking fees are not out of line by my standards, but walking to the lot and getting into a 140 degree car multiple times a day vs valet is a bargain for the four extra dollars per day.

The unlimited Express is the reason why we stay on-site at USF, the money saved vs purchasing them every day for a family of four for both parks is staggering. That is probably why I don't have a problem with paying for parking.

March 21, 2012 at 4:43 PM · I forgot to comment on the story.... Robert pretty much hit the nail on the head as to why we stopped going to Disney. Heat and waiting are not a good combination, but the thing that got me the most was how little riding we actually did.... hours spent in line for a 3-4 minute ride and maybe getting on 4-5 rides a day for the money spent is just insane IMO.
March 21, 2012 at 5:03 PM · Don't you just love Spring Break crowds? When I was at WDW Sunday, I only managed to ride TT 2 times, The Barnstormer, Buzz, and Pirates. Never again with SB crowds. As for Fastpass windows, deal with it. You're given an hour, so obey the rules. And NB, you just can't resist trolling? I'm holding in my rage this time though.
March 21, 2012 at 5:18 PM · The parking fee at the Universal hotels doesn't bother me since if it wasn't a seperate fee it would then probably be part of the daily room charge. And at Universal the three deluxe level hotels are considerably less expensive than the Disney deluxe hotels. At Disney, you get free parking but at a big cost, namely much more expensive rooms. Plus Disney's on site benefits do not come close to Universal's. Don't get me wrong, I love Disney and stay on site. But Universal does more for me as a guest and those perks make for a more relaxing vacation....To clarify my previous comment.....I really don't get stressed over the 1 hour window on Disney fastpasses since I always thought that was the rule and I always showed on time. But the next gen "talk" of attraction reservation ride times in advance, really irritates me. If Disney decides to take that course, in my opinion, it would greatly erode the spontaniety of the vacation experience.
March 21, 2012 at 7:18 PM · On a related matter, Orlando Informer is reporting that Universal hotel express passes will soon have a photo id as part of the pass. The kiosks are already in the hotel lobbies and are to take effect in about a month. Orlando Informer is speculating that the reason is to stop fradulent uses & transfers of the passes.
March 21, 2012 at 7:21 PM · I've never used FastPass. I didn't see the need when the wait time was 20 minutes & the FP return time was a couple hours away. Decided it was better to wait the 20 minutes & ride the ride instead of having to come back. At least 1 time the wait was even shorter than the posted time. Waiting in line doesn't bother me. We have older people in our group & they can rest while waiting for me to ride something they won't. We hit rides as they come without backtracking & nobody gets too tired.
March 21, 2012 at 9:11 PM · I still do not understand what makes the Fastpass so stressful and difficult? You get a fastpass and decide to do something else in the park and come back within the hour. Its pretty simple. Why should Disney get grief for actually honoring the time on the fastpass. In fact, up until recently, I thought the times were set in stone unless the ride broke down.

As for the stressed out people, I think they are just overwhelmed with the whole experience. Disney World is WAY more in your face than Disneyland.

Oh yeah, and its freakin hot :)

March 21, 2012 at 11:18 PM · Dom,

You can hold your rage all you want. We will never go back to Disney as it is a waste of a vacation. The only ride I miss is Tower Of Terror, they can keep the rest.

4-5 rides in one day is not a bargain by any standard. Did you notice this story is about people aggravated with the crowds, waiting, and Fast Pass?

Oh, let me have an itenerary for my entire day at a theme park so I can plan my attempts at getting a Fast Pass and spend the whole day trying to get on maybe five rides.

No thanks buddy, I will take Universal any day. I had the unfortunate experience of Disney four years in a row until my wife suggested USF. The differences are huge, we actually get to relax and ride all we want with no wait.

What a concept, everything on one property and perks that Disney doesn't offer, even for purchase. Yeah, let's blow 8K on a vacation where I come back more stressed out than before we left.....

March 22, 2012 at 12:14 AM · They should have never done this with the new fastpass window. Once the ol Floridian summer heat kicks in starting in May than people are going to be more on edge now that they have to finish their lunch, go to the restroom, and navigate mobs of people across the park in order to make it for their 3:45 fastpass for Peter Pan, and they have 5 minutes left!
March 22, 2012 at 3:03 AM · It's an hour window, I just don't see why it is difficult. People are getting more and more stressed at Disney and I don't think it is just fast passes, although people at the resort may have been blaming that.
March 22, 2012 at 3:51 AM · Ya think? Welll ive said it before eventually the Fast Pass System would fail,,,,,,,Universal Dropped it for the most part. And with good reason they saw this comming.
March 22, 2012 at 4:25 AM · I agree that people seem to be getting more stressed in general in parks.
I had a guy in front of me in line last year and I could physically see him get more and more angry at waiting in line...Its like, what do you expect buddy?? I'm sure all he'll do is whine that everything took too long, whereas my memory is of the kid behind me (single rider line on HRRR) striking up a conversation and us killing the, actually quite short, wait together in an enjoyable way.
And I agree - fastpass is an hour, its not like they give you zero chance by making it 20 minutes when you will never make it.
I have never exceeded a fastpass window and to be honest, until Disney said they were now enforcing the time window...I thought they already did & that that was the whole point!

Its your holiday and you spent a whole lot of money to go to Disneyworld. I agree that you want to make the most of it, get value and do everything etc, but isnt it better to cherish the time with your family, chill out and smell the roses a little. Otherwise what was the point in spending all that money in the first place?

March 22, 2012 at 5:01 AM · We like to find reasons to blame someone or something else for a person's behavior, but the simple fact remains that by and large most folks are rude, self-centered, and have a misplaced sense of entitlement. Sadly, people just suck, Robert, that's it (present company excluded, of course).

Currently, it appears that Disney's crowds are just too big for Disney's britches. So, to help solve the problem Disney needs to expand the parks (maybe even open a 5th gate), build more attractions, and HIRE MORE CAST MEMBERS (and train them!) Three simple steps, and Disney will be able to better handle the masses that swarm to WDW, the #1 vacation destination on the planet. However, there is no corporate solution for a person's rudeness. The only thing Disney can strive for is to create an environment that helps to keep rude people somewhat in check. It is up to an individual to manage his/her behavior and make better choices in his/her daily theme park walk/run.

As for the comparisons between Disney and Universal crowds, it is apples and oranges. IOA averages about 16k visitors a day, while the Magic Kingdom pulls upwards of 50k... how can you compare wait times and stress levels between the parks? I completely agree with NB, Universal is a great place to go if you want big attractions and small crowds. Additionally, if you are willing to pony up and pay Disney-fied prices, Universal's on site resort perks are wonderful... but the only reason they are so great is because so few people are utilizing them. Furthermore, if Universal had 20+ resorts and 50M visitors, they would not offer the same perks and they would have the same overcrowding issues as Disney. And trust me, Universal would LOVE to have Disney's problems!

And for us "Insiders" we need to remember: go to the parks when the crowds aren't there. Easiest solution: home school your kids and vacation in the off season! =) There's nothing like going to Disney when the crowd levels are small like at Universal, and going to Universal when you are the only one in the parks! Best theme park vacations ever happen in the off-season, folks!!

March 22, 2012 at 5:04 AM · Do you know what ? I'm really fed up with hearing people complaining about this and that at DisneyWorld. They want more of one thing and less of something else. They want faster this and slower that. They want , they want , they want.
What they want is to get some perspective. Here they all are at possibly the most wonderful entertainment location they could ever wish for. The place where, as they say, "dreams come true". It has something for everybody. I simply cannot get my head around these people carrying on like they do. I'm not just talking about their bad behaviour. That needs a whole thread to itself. I'm referring to anyone allowing themselves to get stressed out in one of the most easy going places on the planet that's attempting to entertain such vast numbers.
My advice to them is to get a grip......and if you can't then don't go. Don't spoil what is, for most of us, a fantastic opportunity to kick back and let Disney magic take over.
March 22, 2012 at 6:14 AM · N B, if you were fitting in only 4-5 rides a day at Disney, I'd have to say that's something you and your family was doing wrong versus Disney. I don't want to start a Disney vs Universal battle or perpetuate existing ones, but it is a little tiring hearing you constantly point out at every possible chance why you think Disney sucks. Even Robert admitted that he shouldn't make such a huge judgement based on one day, so you shouldn't make judgments based on his one article of one day, or selective other user's comments which you so often cite. It's nice that you love Universal, but people who bash constantly (hmmm Dom) are annoying. Don't go there.
March 22, 2012 at 6:17 AM · Rob P - well said! This sort of thread just depresses me. Hey, it can be busy at Disneyworld - get over it folks! If you don't like the Fastpass system, don't use it. If you don't like crowds, either go at a quieter time of year or don't go at all. There's plenty of people out there who want to go and who don't find it stressful or difficult to use the Fastpass system. I really don't see what the problem is here.
March 22, 2012 at 6:36 AM · I personally have found this discussion wonderfully entertaining! I hate to sound like a cop-out,however I think just about everyone here is right. I believe that people at WDW are more stressed because of the FP window being enforced- and I also agree that people should get over it. I also agree thought that it is only going to get worse once people can start to reserve FP in advance- oh the drama!

If you ask me this all comes down to one issue with Disney, and really Magic Kingdom in particular; the park is not EASY. Getting into MK takes forever- from parking lot to TTC to monorail/ boat to bag check to turnstiles. All that just to walk into the park! Here is where a previous posters comment comes into play-- the check lists with tips from the internet! Problem is... if you don't have those tips you would never know that in order to eat somewhere other than a quick service resturant you needed to make a reservation 90 DAYS ago, or that Fantasyland is going to be slammed from around 10 am until a little before closing. If you came into the park without knowing about FastPass the truth is that most people just don't immediately get it. The system does take time to comprehend without any prior knowledge- I say this as a former cast member who has had to explain FP to TONS of people (including my own family). Again I stress, it just isn't EASY to visit those parks now making it a stressful visit for most.

March 22, 2012 at 7:40 AM · To me this is in the same vein of the rash of parent-vs-parent brawls that have been breaking out at Chucky Cheeses lately. Granted, not to the same extreme...but it's still people becoming competitive about their fun and letting stress rule. People plowing through crowds with their strollers for example.

Bottom line is, you can't fight human nature, specifically ego. So the only solution that I can see working at all is to limit the crowds to a fraction of what they are now by instituting an entrance-by-reservation system, but that's totally illogical from a business model standpoint. Well, unless you turn WDW into a rich-elite playground by charging a super premium for it. Some would argue it's going that way anyway. The only other solution is to force-feed people brownies at the gate...yeah, you know what brownies I'm talking about.

Even then, you'd still have jerks who have to be first in line for everything. Again, ego. Veruca Salt anyone?

Hate to be a pessimist, but I've seen too much at parks not to feel that way.

March 22, 2012 at 7:57 AM · Mr. Rao and Rob P pretty much covered it. Skipper, what can I say? I'm just a little Bashful (pun intended), and I try not to bash often.
March 22, 2012 at 10:47 AM · I feel sorry for the Cast Members who have to enforce this new rule...
March 22, 2012 at 11:35 AM · Rob,

It all has to do with dropping thousands of dollars on vacations I never enjoyed. Yes, we go in the peak summer months and all the Disney parks are packed in late June / early July.

I don't think we were doing anything wrong, the Disney parks were just mobbed and wait times were beyond acceptable. Not very fun for us. Like I said before, I don't want to have to plan my entire day at a park.

There is this strange social behavior at Diney where everyone is in competition with each other or something I can't quite put my finger on.

March 22, 2012 at 12:05 PM · What I would like is when you plan your trip you get a Fastpass's for certain days and you can only use them on that day but at anytime of the day.

For example if you decided you want to visit the Magic Kingdom on the first day of the your vacation online you pick the rides you want for Fastpass's, you then recieve them when you check-in, then on the day of the visit you can use the FP anytime you want so you can use them with-in 2 hours or streach them over the day.

Then Disney can either lessen the amount of FP given out that day to regular park guests or add more if there arent a lot planned out that day.

March 22, 2012 at 1:56 PM · Unfortunately, I don't think there is a solid solution to this. There isn't any system that would please everyone that vacations to WDW's magic kingdom. When you have thousands of people trying to enjoy, 50-60 attractions, you're going to have some stressed out people. It's also improtant to remeber that any & all types of people vacation to WDW. There are people who don't handle crowds well in any capacity (whether it be at a mall or a theme park), plus factor in the amount of money people have spent, and you're going to have people react differently.
Fastpass or no fastpass, you'd still have people stressed simply due to the circumatstances (whether it be heat, cranky children, overpriced food, long days, etc.).

I think this is just one of those things that go along with visiting a theme park, & the fast pass system, no matter how efficient, could prevent folks from getting stressed out. Tt's similiar to driving in traffic. Some are calm, & then there's road rage, no amount of off ramps, extra lanes, etc. can change the way people react.

March 22, 2012 at 1:57 PM · N B, in an older thread (I was bored today) you said you never used Disney's Fastpass. So why are you commenting on it, and why are you comparing it to Universal? Just seems odd to me...
March 22, 2012 at 2:23 PM · The problem with anecdotes is you don't know know whether its true for most people. Going to theme parks are inherently stressful since we are dealing with large crowds, but it is no different than going to a busy mall. It will be unpleasant in some incidences, but not necessarily all the time or for the vast majority. However, I can see stress levels worsening when Disney keeps screwing up with poor customer service, bad food, closed or full restaurants, and the terrible transportation system (busses and monorail system).
March 22, 2012 at 6:15 PM · I'm amazed by this article and thread, it just shows how different people think and act differently.

For our family, we get Fastpasses only for the most-desired attractions, and even then only when the regular waits are pretty long. So we're talking maybe 2-4 per day at most.

Since these are the most-desired attractions, they're also typically the most anticipated by one or more family members. As soon as we get the Fastpass we usually figure out what we're going to do so we get back right at the beginning of the window, since people can't WAIT to use the Fastpasses and go on these top attractions.

As such, getting back within the hour is not even a concern, we're usually there a few minutes before the Fastpass window!!!

I'm surprised more people don't do this exact things, but per the comments it seems like different strokes for different folks.

March 22, 2012 at 7:48 PM · Hi Skipper,

Last time we were there, there were no Fast Passes avaialable at any kiosk. We stood in very long lines to try and get them, but they seem to run out very quickly.

I don't think the system was in place all that long when we went in 2001. I believe it was introduced in 1999.

We were on site and thought we would get to ride in the extra hours. We figured the park would thin out after the parade, but it was still a mad house.

We got in line for Space Mountain very late at night, after the line moved for about 40 minutes, they came over the intercom and announced the ride was closed until further notice. They never did open it back up that night.

Just a microcosm of our whole experience.... frustration.

As I have stated before, I actually like the Disney parks. Trying to manuever your way through a sea of people with a stroller takes it's toll on your patience at WDW. The problem with Disney is it's success and routine capacity crowds.

I would probably enjoy the Disney parks a lot more if we went in the off season, but that will never happen.

March 22, 2012 at 11:23 PM · LOL! Let the memories begin, indeed!
March 23, 2012 at 1:19 AM · Mike Saperstein - I think we are secretly related!
Your day in a park sounds exactly like mine and my family's.
We are a long line of 'early people' and will always be hanging round waiting for our exact minute to use the fastpass! And will just fastpass our favourites and the big hitters then just have the rest of the day doing whatever we feel like.
Same with things like Seaworld tours - what's that man at the front desk? I have to be at the meeting point at 11.30? Oh I'll be there at 11.20! :-)
March 23, 2012 at 5:59 AM · N B, there's nothing strange, unusual, or specifically Disney-related about the behavior at Disney. Competitiveness is just part of human nature. Ever notice that when you're passing someone going slow on the highway they suddenly start speeding up so you can't pass them? Add to that, money-spent, crowds, lines, limited time, expectations...perfect recipe for a competition-storm.
March 23, 2012 at 12:46 PM · Opinions, opinions. Everyone has one. We usually have yearly passes to Disney and Universal, but after my last visit to Disney it will be a loooooong time before I go back. Went in January and got on one ride, because of the lines. Not worth it. Universal makes it SO much better for the yearly pass and on property people. If you take into account the benefit of staying in a 4 star Lowe's hotel, on property, it makes the Disney system look archaic. If you stay on property just one night at Universal you get front of the line for up to 4 people for 2 days. Take in account being able to see the parks in 1 - 2 days because you can walk right on the rides,versus 5 - 7 for Disney, because of the lines (and more parks), it makes MUCH better financial sense. Universals 3 hotels are no more expensive and in most cases less expensive than the top Disney hotels/resorts. If we just drive up for the day, we understand we will not get on all the rides or we will use the single riders lines(don't know why more people don't use them). We never go on holiday week or in the summer. Personal preference. That said we are going to Disney next week as we need to use up our passes. Guess we will just stroll around and watch the people stress out.
March 23, 2012 at 1:39 PM · I think something important to consider is the way FastPass works before we debate the likelyhood and effectiveness of an open return time. There is a specific reason why there are return times.

FastPass suggests that guests using the system will wait "15 minutes or less.". That time frame is calculated based on the fact that a certain number of passes go out each hour. Once a threshold is met, the return time increases. The system is silently calculating based on the number of passes provided so that the wait time should be slim to none. As there is a ratio of FastPass to Standby guests that must be followed, a large influx of guests outside of the window will significantly increase the wait time for the FastPass queue, causing it to soar to 30 minutes plus... This then forces Standby guests to wait considerably longer than the posted time as they work to clear those guests and reduce the FastPass wait time. These situations cause severe frustration for guests, who ultimately head to Guest Relations to unleash a storm of anger on the poor cast members there.

As for guests frustrated with issues like late dinner reservations and being stuck on a broken attraction, they simply need to inform a cast member at the Fast Pass return queue, and on a case by case basis they will clearly accommodate as necessary... Again, that would be on a case by case basis and not at all available to everyone who was just "running late."

I myself don't often use FastPass because like others have said, I live here and I am more likely to spend a couple of hours hanging out and if I want to ride something I simply wait in standby. Those folks visiting or the first time are better off (in my opinion) arriving with an open mind, grabbing a park map and a times guide and setting out to enjoy a day at the parks, instead of spending weeks or months reading articles online with "tip and tricks" and pre-planning their day only to become super upset when an attraction is down and they have to deviate from it.

Lastly I will say this.. The statement about returning within the allotted time has ALWAYS been on those tickets, and therefore has always been a valid practice, if anyone is upset it should be those that have always returned on-time only to find they have to wait 30-45 minutes because a big group of ppl from early in the morning decided to hop in line!

March 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM · Mark, I think you nailed it. It's almost like everyone, especially at Magic Kingdom, is competing for Fast Pass and tear-assing through the park to ensure they get to the next ride a few spaces ahead of everyone else.

That is my gripe about Disney. We just found it to be a long and stressful day. Granted it is always peak summer and the hottest days of the year.

I would love to hit the Disney parks on one of my Florida trips solo and during off season to see the difference. I bet I could get a lot of riding done and have a whole different perspective.

Hollywood Studios would be my first visit, then Epcot, Animal Kindgom and MK in that order.

March 23, 2012 at 6:17 PM · We were just there - in fact, we were in the Magic Kingdom on Monday as well.

My husband couldn't join us on this trip; he had to stay home. So, my daughter and I ventured to WDW (stayed at PO-FQ)for a week to celebrate both her 18th birthday last month, and her impending high school graduation. We traveled over Spring Break, not because we particularly wanted to go at that time, but because [1] We did not want her to miss school and [2] she has PMLE - a sun allergy - which only gets worse as summer draws nearer.

So, with a bag full of sunblock, and a fist full of money, we went to WDW to play, and celebrate.

What we learned was this: There are families that are doing the "commando-style" touring - and woe be upon those who are unfortunate enough to step into their paths! These people - typically armed with the dreaded "double-wide" strollers - simply do not care. They literally use the strollers like a battering ram, pushing through crowds. On more than one occasion, I had my heels run over by these over-zealous kiddy-pushers. They load the strollers down so heavily with diaper bags and souvenirs that on more than one occasion we saw them tump over when the kids were removed.

Monday afternoon, I witnessed an angry parent yelling at a cast member outside of Philharmagic, as he wanted to push that double-wide stroller *inside* the attraction. He logic was that if wheelchairs and ECV's were allowed, then strollers were too.

IMHO, double-wide strollers are simply adding to the chaos and causing problems. "Double-length" strollers (two seats, inline - one behind the other) while still somewhat ungainly would help a great deal, if for no other reason than they would require a smaller path to move through crowds.

There are a great many people (my daughter included) who *must* travel on wheels - either by ECV or wheelchair. They have no choice. But on this trip, on more than one occasion, we were "hassled" by other guests with remarks like these:

"I guess it must be *nice* to always go to the front of the line...!"

"At least my kid isn't too lazy to walk!"

"Do you like to ride around like that, "Princess"?"

We actually cut our trip short by three days, and came home early because our daughter was so upset and distressed by the way we were treated in ALL of the WWD parks on this trip. I'm afraid that if my husband had been there, he would not have been able to control himself in the face of such cruel remarks and outright discrimination from guests.

The reality is that we don't get any preferential treatment - in fact, we often wait longer (stuck away in back hallways) for our chance to ride. If we can ride, that is. Because if you can't "transfer" (meaning that you can't stand unassisted, and often you must be able to walk 20 feet or more) then you can't ride. At all.

My kid isn't too lazy to walk. She doesn't think she is a "Princess", or that she should get special treatment. She just wants to experience life as much like her peers as any other person does.

People from other countries often are not used to seeing physically limited people out in public; in many parts of the world, a person who cannot walk, stand, or move unassisted would be shunned, and set aside from society. We are used to their stares, and have had the opportunity from time to time to "educate" them. They are often surprised that my daughter is so intelligent; they assume that because she is in a wheelchair, she is retarded. Nothing could be further from the truth; she is a straight-A student who is concurrently enrolled in both high school and college, and has plans to form her own accounting agency after she obtains her CPA.

On this trip, her chair was actually stolen from outside an attraction. Cast Members quickly supplied another chair, and ours was recovered hours later - at Hollywood Studios, where college kids were using it to push around a comrade who had too much to drink, and had passed out. It was covered in beer, and vomit.

WDW used to be a place where we could go, and enjoy our vacations. I'm not sure we will ever go back after this trip. We saw the stress that Robert wrote of; it was evident at every park, every day. I don't have a solution to the epidemic of rudeness and stress that currently pervades the parks. But I do know that I can vote with my travel dollars. And for now, I vote to stay away.

March 24, 2012 at 4:22 AM · The only time I have used a Fastpass outside the window was when the 45 min wait at Splash Mountain turned into 2 hours and I missed my Big Thunder window.

In that case, they apologised and let me on outside the window.

Fastpass is the best free perk in the Disney parks and I wish it was available on more rides. I would much rather be shopping or dining than stood in a line.

I just don't understand how people cannot get back for the end of the window, we are normally stood at the entrance waiting for the start clock to click over!

March 24, 2012 at 10:39 AM · We have had passes for 10 years. We have noticed how rude people have become. My husband is on disability and uses a cane and he has been pushed down by rude people. He has been told get out of the way, if you can't move faster then do not come.

During food & wine it is terrible. Not only are people rude, they are rude drunks. Disney parks are also for kids and with all the drinking in the parks that have drinking is terrible. There are parents that should not even be in the parks with their children while they are intoxicated and could harm even their own children.

March 24, 2012 at 12:54 PM · I just read the post from,

That was pretty sad to hear. I am a very calm person, but if I was in your situation, I would have cleared a 100 foot radius dealing with the people who made those comments and embarrased the everloving daylights out of them without resorting to profanity and yelling.

When we did take stollers to the parks, we actually walked a bit slower than everyone else as not to run into their heels and get dirty looks.

The worst thing I have dealt with is those human centipedes of Brazilian teen tours who think they own the park. They like to take up an entire walking path leaving a narrow, 3 foot wide area that everyone has to use on one side, which gets annoying in places like Jurassic Park because they are narrow and very bumpy to begin with. The sides of the walking paths curve upwards there too, making it impossible to push a stoller along the side.

I have seen the occasional drunk teen, but we tend to go a few weeks before school begins, so it is mostly families as opposed to the people you would see during Spring break. I am sure every park has these problems, not just Disney, but with the crowds they allow, it has to happen more often there, statistically. The packed parks just add to the stress factor and the way people behave in situations like that.

March 25, 2012 at 11:55 AM · What is the point in having a time based virtual queing system if everyone is simply going to ignore it and show up when they like?

Sorry, dont have any symapthy here. Dont really understand the issue either since thats what its promoted as - if they didnt enforce the rules, its still bad on you for ignoring them.

March 26, 2012 at 8:30 AM · Great article and great responses. The happiest place on earth isn't very happy these days. I've been on both sides of this. I've been the commando family trying to work the system. Didn't get bent out of shape doing it but definitely experienced the pressure to pack it all in. This is our 4th year in a row going and each year I become more and more laxed just enjoying the parks and experience and being less focused on schedule.

Our approach now is to go in the off-season or at the beginning of the peak season (late May) as soon as the kids are our of school. We only use fast-pass 1-2 times a day for the very biggest attractions. But don't sweat it if we can't get one. The atmosphere, food, and being with my family are the important things and those memories are what make the trip great.

Lots of good comments about the internet, people's expectations, and commando approaches. I think people are so used to living their lives according to a plan (soccer schedules, work schedules, and such) that they naturally let it become apart of the vacation. Some people just don't know how to relax. They've been on a schedule aka "death march" since high school.

Let alone the fact that many of these people may be taking vacations that they really can't afford. Just one of many factors I am sure.

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