I remember arriving at Walt Disney World the very first time. My family drove from Ohio and we arrived at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. While I was waiting for my parents to check-in, I explored the lobby and the beautiful volcano rock, exotic plants and the waterfalls. It was breathtaking. One other thing I did notice were the faces of people walking toward the front door with their luggage and how sad their faces were. I used to call this “the walk of shame” that they had to go home.
They ran out of time/money and were leaving. I have learned a lot since then and it is not shame at all. They are just sad that their Disney vacation is over. I have worn that same sadness on my way out to meet the Magical Express bus. Do you know the feeling? Maybe you are planning your first trip to Walt Disney World and it is hard to imagine feeling so sad about leaving an amusement park? The Walt Disney World resort is so much more than other amusement parks. It is surprising how quickly you feel at home! Fear not, we acknowledge things here that we dislike about that last day, but offer some suggestions to make it better.
6. Having to pack, and check out early to meet the Magical Express Bus service back to the Orlando Airport when I would rather be spending those last hours in the park.
Your departure time is assigned by Disney so you can’t alter that. You must be at your resort to be picked up. They allow enough time for you to get to the airport knowing how terrible the traffic can be, to get through airport security, etc. but sometimes you encounter a fast transfer to the airport and plenty of time for your check-in and you are left wondering why you are sitting at the airport for an extra hour. Good news is there are great food courts (including Krispy Kreme’s) and shops available. Nowadays you need to eat something before boarding so you will be able to take care of that, but it would be more fun to be in parks, have your luggage sent ahead to be loaded on your flight, and get a ride closer to your departure time. It is not like the other bus services that come around every hour, they are scheduled ahead of time and only visit the resorts at specific times according to guest’s flights. Disney schedules the ME departures for 3 hours prior to departing domestic flights and 4 hours prior to International flight departures. You are responsible for getting your luggage to the ME bus too. Some of the Disney resorts will hold the luggage for you during the time after you checkout of your room to the departure time. You will still need to sign out your luggage from the resort and present them to the bus driver. You will need your Transportation Notice to board the ME bus, your MagicBand does not work for check in. The good news is Disney is currently allowing resort guests to use a Resort Airline Check-in Service where you check your luggage and receive your airline boarding pass.
5. Facing the check-out bill.
Yes, it is surprisingly easy to get used to tapping your Magic Band to Mickey’s head and charge everything. But now is the time to make sure everything is accurate and actually paid. Disney will use the credit card or gift cards you left to pay for your account balance during your stay and your bill will show when they previously charged your card and how much. If you are there for a week or so, this can be a fairly long document. If you were on the Disney Dining Plan you will not see as much charged as you would have without it. Keep your bill as a souvenir, but also for future planning. You can use the information to determine if the Disney Dining Plan is something you would like to try in the future and perhaps save you some money. If nothing else using the DDP in the future tells you how much your resort, tickets, AND dining costs will be and you can pay it ahead of time. You can use your bill to see how much you spent on extras, souvenirs, etc., and if you need to scale back in the future or you can afford to do maybe some extra things next trip, such as a special tour, either way your plan is based on facts. You can then set up a Disney Vacation budget that is based on having already been here.
4. Getting that last refill in my Disney resort mug.
I don’t know why, but leaving my home resort food court added to my sadness. We always had a room near the food court so we would run and get cold drinks when we wanted, coffee in the mornings, hot cocoa at nights, basically we saw a lot of the drink machines. We have some refillable mugs from the old days, personalized to the resort, and several styles in between. Some we have given to friends, some we kept. They are very durable and it keeps a little bit of Disney fun in our days when we are doing something as simple as taking a hot beverage out to watch the kids’ soccer games or on the way to work. It is worth purchasing a Disney resort Rapid Fill mug.
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3. Planning the activities for the last day, knowing it will be the last chance to get the things in that we missed.
This was especially hard prior to having an Annual Pass. We would spend every waking moment and any beyond when the parks were open crazy long hours running from one attraction to the other. I don’t know how but we always seemed to get in all the attractions we really wanted to. We planned a lot though, research is the key, as well as stamina. First time visitors are not likely to be able to say this. Walt Disney World is just so much bigger than people can imagine, until they have been here and have seen it. I always wince when people ask me what is the minimum amount of time I need to see everything. I still have not seen everything! Disney is constantly adding new opportunities to the mix too. We stumbled onto a new tradition for our family for our last day. We decide at least 2 days ahead, what one attraction and one type of food each person in the family either wants to experience again, or one that they have their heart set on doing before we leave to go home. Obviously restaurants requiring reservations are out. We also realize that the food item does not HAVE to be eaten by everyone in the group, each person can order what they want, if they are not saving room for something else they wanted. Park Hopper is a must to make this happen also. We gather the Times Guides from the Lobby and the Park Maps and plan where to be and when. Also the best transportation to use. We then plan the final day together. It becomes more of an adventure to see if we can actually do it, and we always have! You may not want to go this far, but do plan something extra special for your last day. I have friends who choose a favorite World Showcase restaurant for their last night, booking a late reservation so that when they have finished their meal they walk out of Epcot with the park almost to themselves. It is a beautiful, quiet way to say good bye to Disney, for now.
2. Knowing you won’t be able to find Disney treats at home that are in the parks.
I now, some things just taste better at Disney, like Corn Dog Nuggets, Turkey Legs, Churros, Popcorn, and Mickey-shaped foods, to name just handful. We can’t buy Premium Mickey Ice Cream Bars back home. Whatever your latest Disney craving is may leave you sad that you have to leave it. If it is something you tasted at a Disney restaurant, you can always ask the chef to provide a copy of the recipe! There are several Disney cookbooks with recipes from around the World for adults and for children. Pick up some kitchen items with your favorite Disney character on them to make it even more fun to eat at home! Take something prepackaged yet distinctly Disney as a surprise treat after you get home, something like Chip and Dale Pretzels or a Frozen-themed crispy rice treat.
1. Facing your regrets
Wishing you had taken more pictures, and spent less time on your phone? How about getting the nerve to ride that thrill ride you shied away from? Enjoy the experience that is Walt Disney World. Rather than wasting energy on regrets, plan on what you will do different going forward. You don’t have to be at Disney to enjoy time with your family but it is a nice treat when you can swing it. If your family enjoyed all the animals at Animal Kingdom, visit some local zoos. They will probably have some animals that were not at AK. You can always go on YouTube to do a “virtual ride” of that thrill ride that gave you pause. Get ready for the next great adventure in your future! If you want more photos, next time sign up for the Memory Maker package that will give you digital copies of all the photos of your party that are taken in the parks, character meet and greets, resort, and restaurants as well as ride photos and videos. You can make a great scrapbook with those professionally taken photographs. Turn your regrets into a new plan for the next time you visit Walt Disney World!