Many Disney fans discuss the recent changes at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and ask themselves “what is the tipping point where they would stop and/or reduce visiting the parks?”
Until recently, we were neutral in this debate. When visiting Disney World, we go for the resort experience, not the parks. So we spend our time picking restaurants and finding walking trails, but not actually going into the theme parks. We save our park visits for Disneyland. We are West coasters, and always say “Disneyland is the better park, while Disney World is the better resort.”
Because while in Disney World we didn’t do the parks, all the discussions about park reservations and Disney Genie+ didn’t matter to us. Our last visit to Disneyland was in February 2020, before all the changes were implemented. And as Pete Werner always says “we’re gonna go regardless of cost” because there isn’t a real alternative. Sorry, Universal… you just don’t have the same escapist vibe.
A Little History…
We’ve been going to Disneyland and Disney World and more recently, Disney cruises, for 30+ years. Big milestones, 30th, 40th, and 50th birthdays, as well as our retirement celebration in 2021 have all revolved around Disney trips. We had planned our 60th birthday for a big Disney/Asia trip. There we would visit all three Asia parks to finalize the “castle pictures” on the wall of us at all the Disney parks. Our family doesn’t get it, but accepts our method of escapism in this time of stress.
However, after our most recent visit to Disneyland in September 2022, we finally had to ask ourselves… “are we at the tipping point?”
We are also not very technologically savvy. We just got our first smartphones about two years ago, and still don’t use all the bells and whistles. On our vacations, because we used computers so much at work, we liked to “unplug” while at the parks and resorts.
Three Strikes and You’re Out
So when making our reservation for Disneyland we were a bit apprehensive. Joy, our Dreams Unlimited Travel agent, made it easier by helping make the reservations for the parks, and purchasing the tickets. We tried doing this ourselves, but for whatever reason, couldn’t get it to work. Strike one and two for the new system; both requiring the reservations, and the difficulty in making them.
Strike three for us was the new park hopper timing. We weren’t able to park hop until 1:00 pm. Since we usually like to go back and forth multiple times in a day at Disneyland, this was definitely an issue. It specifically prevented us from being able to get a breakfast shwarma at California Adventure because we couldn’t park hop until after the breakfast option was no longer available. It also prevented us from “rope dropping” at both parks. Before, we would routinely, start at one park, get on a few rides, then hop to the next park while it was still relatively early, and quiet. No more. We were stuck in one park for the morning, and by the time we got to the next park, it was busy. This might not be an issue at Disney World, but it was a major issue for us at Disneyland.
Genie+ and Unplugging
Since we still wanted to “unplug” we didn’t use Disney Genie, or purchase Genie+; we just used the standby lines for rides. We don’t go on many “big ticket” rides like Pirates or Space Mountain, so we didn’t feel the need to spend the money. However, we can understand why people would go this route if it was their first time at a park and they wanted to hit all the big rides within a limited period of time. We also felt the usual frustration of waiting in a standby line and watching all the Lightning Lane people swarm past. We’ve never been fans of FastPasses or Lightning Lanes, or whatever Disney chooses to call them, whether we paid for them or not.
Let’s Hear it for the Return of Real Rope Drop!
There was one highlight regarding the lack of technology. When we visited Disneyland in February 2020, they were still using a virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance. To enter the virtual queue you had to be in the park at 7:00 am. This meant everybody and their mother were in the park at the park opening, with their noses in their phones. The rope-drop strategy was no more. But since the virtual queue was gone in 2022, rope drop was back, and we were able to knock off seven rides in 30 minutes!
Strike four… each time we go to either coast, it is more expensive. This trip ended up being even more than we’d anticipated. We did splurge for the first time at staying at the Grand Californian. However, while the direct entry into the park was great, it simply didn’t make up for the price. Even if we’d stayed across the street at a “friendly neighbor” hotel for 1/3 of the cost and free breakfast, the ticket prices, and food expenses were high enough to make us notice, which we had never done before.
We realized before we arrived that the timing of our trip was bad. We missed the Main Street Electrical Parade by 10 days, there was no Fantasmic! or fireworks, or parades of any kind. Our entertainment factor was limited. And worst of all, the “neon lights coming on” in Carsland at dusk was usurped by Oogie Boogie singing “I put a spell on you” instead of the traditional “Shaboom Shaboom’ song that we love. This was just wrong. And all of this doesn’t mention that California Adventure closed early twice for Halloween parties, which cost extra and were sold out. We wouldn’t have paid for the extra time anyway but it limited our ability to see California Adventure at night.
We Reached Our Tipping Point
So for the first time after going to Disneyland, we left for home thinking “that was disappointing” and wondering when/if we’d go back again in the near future. It wasn’t any one thing that made us feel this way. But the cumulative effect of cost and technology, and time limitation on the park hopper all added up to a disappointing visit.
Don’t get us wrong… a bad day at Disneyland is still better than a good day at work! However, all of this made us decide that we’d reached our “tipping point.” Our planned 60th birthday at the Asia parks has been postponed, if not scrapped entirely, in preference of a less expensive trip to Egypt.
However, not all is lost! We’ve found Disney Cruise Line to be a possible alternative/replacement to the parks. Yes, we’re following Pete’s advice. For the money, the less stressful use of technology, and the ease of planning we have decided that cruises are the way to go. So our next vacation to Greece will be on a Disney Cruise! We won’t give up Disney completely, but for now, the parks are on hold. At least until the park reservation system and park hopping limitations are eased or eliminated.
Hear that Josh and Chapek? We’re only two people out of millions… but we’re focusing our Disney dollars on more relaxing and better-quality products. Maybe if enough of us vote with our wallets and our feet, the higher-ups at Disney will take notice, and we can return to our beloved parks and resorts.
What is your tipping point?