7 Ways Walt Disney World Was Better Than I Ever Expected

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Here are 7 ways Walt Disney World was better than I ever expected…

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Here are 7 ways Walt Disney World was better than I ever expected...

When I was 6 years old, I remember looking out my bedroom window one night, spying a twinkling star in the sky, and repeating a familiar rhyme to myself:

Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight;

I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight.

My wish was a trip to Disney World.

And it came true when I was 9. My family spent one day in the Magic Kingdom and two days in Epcot. In July 1985, the weather was hot and the lines were long, but I loved it. Even though we rode a handful of rides, I always wanted to return.

But I only made it back to Epcot for one day as a 20-year-old.

When I became a mom, I remembered my childhood wish, and knew that at some point my family would need to make a Disney trip.

As much as I wanted to see what Disney had become, I also was nervous:

  • Would it cost too much money?
  • Could my children handle all the walking?
  • Could I figure out Disney’s FastPass Plus system for rides?
  • Would a Disney vacation be as fun as I hoped?

After saving and planning for six months, my family just returned from our first trip to Disney World … two days in the Magic Kingdom.

And we loved it.

7 Ways Disney World Exceeded My Expectations

Planning a trip to Disney World? Here are 7 ways Disney World exceeded my expectations...

I especially loved our trip, for the 7 ways Disney World exceeded my expectations:

1. Disney does everything so incredibly well in their theme parks.

From getting masses of humanity into the gates to cheerfully welcoming them all day every day, Disney is a well, well-oiled machine.

While some guests may take the near-perfection for granted, my family appreciated the attention to details:

  • We loved how cast members called our daughter “Princess.”
  • We loved how they cheerfully joked with our son.
  • We appreciated the wait times posted by each ride.
  • We were so thankful for the free cups of ice water.
  • The complimentary “1st visit” pins made our kiddos smile.

To us, little things meant a lot.

2. The Magic Kingdom is an amusement park suitable for all ages.

There are no kiddie rides or adult thrill rides. My husband and I took our 6-year-old and 8-year-old and rode – and enjoyed – every single ride. Nothing was too scary. Nothing was too babyish.
Planning a trip to Disney World? Here are 7 ways Disney World exceeded my expectations...

3. Disney is focused on families.

Children can keep busy with fun activities while waiting in lines.

Restaurants include a wide variety of food choices to satisfy all ages.

So many accommodations are available for guests with special needs, including parents of young children. (Is your child too young to ride something? Use the Rider Switch program. One adult can wait with a child and then switch off – without waiting in long lines.)

4. Cast members are incredibly friendly and helpful.

I loved being greeted on Main Street USA each morning by smiling, waving cast members. If and when we had questions, cast members would go out of their way to help us.

When we were at the park’s various Nikon Picture Spots, the professional Disney photographers would take photos with their own camera … and then take photos with our family’s camera.
Planning a trip to Disney World? Here are 7 ways Disney World exceeded my expectations...

5. Wait times were minimal.

Even though we booked our trip for the absolute busiest time of the year, with a little planning ahead of time, we never had to wait more than 30 minutes for a ride.

That was truly amazing, especially since we visited the week before the 4th of July. (I’ve shared our strategy in this post.)

6. I never expected to be so absolutely happy while we were at Disney World.

From the time the park opened to the time the park closed (and we were there the whole time), I had a ton of fun with my husband and children.

(The only time I got a little anxious was leaving the Celebrate the Magic fireworks show with throngs of visitors. But my anxiety was simply because of being so utterly crowded with our children in the dark.)

I was surprised that I blocked out the rest of the world while I was there – what happened anywhere else during those two days, I have no idea. For the first time since the days my children were born, I was able to shut out everything else that was going on and simply focus on enjoying the moment.

And time passed so slowly. Normally my days fly by with routine and I’m left wondering exactly what I did at the end of the day. Not so at the Magic Kingdom.

I didn’t mind the crowds. I didn’t mind the extreme heat. We kept walking and riding and laughing and screaming with fun on all of the fast rides. (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is, by far, my most favorite ride of all.time.)

I never expected to well up with tears of happiness during the Festival of Fantasy Parade. But watching my children’s delight at seeing all of the characters definitely brought tears to my eyes.

Planning a trip to Disney World? Here are 7 ways Disney World exceeded my expectations...

And I never expected that I would want to return to Disney World. While it may take a few years to save up for our next trip, we definitely want to return to experience all of the Disney magic again.

For more tips to help you plan your own Disney vacation, read:

If you’ve visited Disney World before, how has it exceeded your expectations?

All images courtesy of Hilary Bernstein and Unsplash.


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  1. The bathrooms are always so clean at Disney! When we returned, our son (who was 3 1/2 at the time) had turned into a public restroom snob. It was great ;)

    1. Now that I think about it, you’re right! And some of them were extra nice inside!

      As a separate note, whenever I come home from a vacation, I am always ready to wave my hand at a sink to automatically get it to turn on. :)

  2. We’ve never been to Disney World, but we went to Disneyland last year – it was the first time for my husband and kids and the third time for me. (We live in Australia but I grew up on the west coast of the US.) It was absolutely wonderful. In an attempt to recreate the magic, earlier this year we went to the big Australian theme parks. They were so bad by comparison. Last month we went to Universal Studios Japan. Again, nowhere near as good. The point you make about all the rides being for everyone is so true – at the Australian theme parks the rides were all for very small children or for thrill seekers. It wouldn’t have taken too much effort to make the rides for everyone. Instead we were bored. I love the fast-pass system; at USJ you have to pay for a fast pass (which allows you to ride 7 rides without waiting, 1 time each – and 4 of the rides were things my kids were too little to go on) and it’s the same price as your ticket. As a result we’d be waiting in line for 90 minutes while other people would casually stroll to the front of the line because they’d forked out an extra $100 – talk about resentment! One other thing I appreciate about Disneyland – and I assume it’s also true for Disney World – is that the prices for food and souvenirs are affordable. At Harry Potter World at USJ, the cheapest souvenir, a little key chain, was $15. Who’s going to pay $15 for a key chain? Evidently quite a few people; but I’m not one of them. Disneyland had a range of very affordable souvenirs; there really was something for every budget. At the Australian theme parks, a hot dog was $9. That’s not a hot dog “meal” mind you just the hot dog and bun. At Disneyland you can get a decent meal for the same price you’d pay outside the gates. As far as I’m concerned I’ve tried the rest and from here on out, it’s Disney for me every time.

    1. Yes! We were so surprised that the prices for food were completely affordable … like what we’d pay going out to eat anywhere. Plus, they give free cups of ice water if you ask. AMAZING. I never thought I’d be completely pro-Disney, but when their prices are about the same as any other amusement park, they do everything so well, it’s hard to not become a repeat guest!

  3. Yes! I am shrouded by how everyone young and old is so happy at disneyworld. And how everything has a story to it. Regular amusement parks, by comparison are just roller coasters and funnel cakes. Here, you feel like part of a story and have a blast even if you don’t ride rides. The attention to detail is awesome.

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