A Day at Epcot as a Local Family- What's it Like?
Our family spent a day at Epcot last weekend. Perhaps one of the things we hear most often from die-hard Disney fans who visit Orlando often is about how great it must be to live here and go to Walt Disney World anytime you want.
Well, think of this episode like the old Mythbusters show.
The reality of living here is that most of us just don't have the time to go as often as you may think.
There is an enormous difference between visiting Walt Disney World on a planned vacation and visiting as a local resident. When you're on vacation, you put everything in order so you can spend your time dedicated to having fun and enjoying your trip.
Let me ask you. How often do you spend time like that at your own home?
Most folks would say not so much, and it's the same for many people who live in Central Florida. That's because we have other responsibilities that aren't getting done while we're spending a day at Epcot or any other attraction.
Disney Makes it Hard for Local Guests
Do you know which kind of guest that Walt Disney World likes the most? It's the kind of guest who stays at a Disney resort, visits Disney parks and restaurants, and never, ever leaves Disney property.
To entice those guests, they offer a lot of perks. Sometimes it's a discount, free Disney Dining Plan, Extra Magic Hours, free transportation from the airport and back, and much more.
Those of us who are local and only visit for a day trip are something of a nuisance to Walt Disney World. That's why the price of a one-day ticket is astronomically high. If we're going to clog the lines for the preferred guests, then we're going to pay a LOT more for the privilege.
As a Florida Resident Annual Passholder, we do get a few perks. Our annual passes cost a bit less than those who live outside of Florida. We get a few discounts on meals and merchandise, and we get a couple of hours to have a sneak-peak at new attractions like Pandora: The World of Avatar.
Note: The premier ride for that attraction broke down during our sneak-peak, so we still haven't seen it. Resort guests who have Extra Magic Hours in the morning can get a good shot at the ride without waiting 4-5 hours, though.
The FastPass+ System Sucks for Locals
Resort guests can make their FastPass+ reservations farther in advance than any other guest. Because of that issue, locals or those who aren't staying at a Disney resort have a nearly impossible mission to get a FastPass+ for the most popular rides. We're relegated to waiting in lines for hours or (like us) never getting a chance to visit some attractions nothing is worth a four hour wait for a four minute ride.
The older system was a better deal. You had to be in the park to get a paper ticket for your FastPass. That meant it was fair for every guest in the park on a given day.
You didn't have issues like today, where people reserve a FastPass+ for rides, and then perhaps don't use them. Not only goes that block other guests, but you can't even be nice and give them to other guests if you aren't going to use them.
Disney's basic message here is that it's willing to take something away from non-resort guests in order to give a perk to its resort guests.
I've never been on Toy Story Midway Mania, the Flight of the Avatar or the Seven Dwarves Mine Train attractions. Two of them weren't working during my passholder preview and none of them are really worth the long wait in a standby line.
To be honest, using a the FastPass+ system ruins your experience as a local guest.
Having Fun on a Day at Epcot
While it may sound like I have a lot of complaints about Walt Disney World (I do), that doesn't mean that we can't have fun in the parks. However, we've learned to tailor our experience to enjoy things that don't require reservations.
Some of the rides have busy and slow times during the day. We've learned which rides to hit first thing in the morning, and which ones get empty later in the day.
We know that it's easier to get into a restaurant when everyone else is watching a parade or fireworks.
That's because we've seen it all and done it all. It's definitely fun to get on some rides, but there's much more to enjoying a Walt Disney World park than a few attractions. We can easily relax without rushing around and enjoying many of the experiences that most people overlook while on a rampage to get the major attractions covered.
Sometimes we go just to take some photos, have a few snacks, and grab rides at opportune times. We enjoy the holiday seasons at Disney because they do such a wonderful job of creating the right atmosphere for a season.
A Visitor Experience vs. a Local Experience
When you live close to Walt Disney World, you can almost take it for granted. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who visit the parks as a once in a lifetime event. It's an incredibly expensive place to take a vacation. That's why resort guests get the extra perks, because Disney has to provide value and experience for people who are sinking so much of their hard-earned money into the trip of a lifetime.
That gets lost on your experience as a local.
When you can go to Walt Disney World any time you like, it's not quite as special as when you saved up for 18 months to surprise your family with a very immersive vacation.
It wasn't always this way. Disney used to be something affordable for a local family to go on the spur of the moment. I remember my father used to come home from work on a Friday night and surprise us by saying “Let's go to Disney World tonight.”
Those were great visits, and it didn't break the bank. That same trip for a few hours today would cost hundreds of dollars to visit a much more crowded park without an opportunity to get on any of the cool rides.
Working as a Disney Blogger or Podcaster
There are people who go to Disney practically every day to gather information for their audience. Some of those folks are friend of hours, and they constantly pound the pavement in the parks to take photos and share with those who can't be here right now. Those folks in the audience want to drink up Disney stuff in anticipation of their next visit.
Honestly, it's hard work even if you can do it as a full time job. No place is magical all of the time when you're there to work instead of be on vacation. I spent a lot of time in the parks taking photos, video and even recording audio to gather something to share.
When you have your own full time job, it becomes even tougher. Do you spend your free time mowing the lawn and enjoying your family, or do you drive off to Disney to get more photos for your online audience?
That's something that we've struggled to do, but we finally came to the conclusion that it's just not the right thing for us. There are plenty of great folks who dedicate themselves full time to covering Walt Disney World in a way that we cannot do at this time.
Instead, we're going to spend more time covering Orlando – it's people, businesses and opportunities. We think there's an underserved market for Orlando information, and it's much more practical for us to share what we know about Orlando, as locals, than cover Walt Disney World.
See You Next Year
This is our last podcast for 2017. That's partly due to our change in direction, some upcoming travel plans, and a bit of a break before we return with Orlando Local at the start of the New Year.
We truly appreciate everyone who reads the blog and listens to our podcast. You make this fun for us and we love hearing from you. We'll resume the podcast in January after a bit of a break.
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