Last weekend, my husband and I went away for a long weekend. We visited a beach that we haven’t been to often, but it was within an easy day’s drive, so it was a great place to go when you only have a few days. Now you may think it is odd that I am writing about this today on The Affordable Mouse, but there is a reason why:
Because we spent the entire time saying, “it’s just not Disney”.
So I thought it would be a great opportunity to share why we kept saying this, and to explain to those of you who are wondering “is a Disney vacation really worth the money?”….that YES, it is worth the money….and then some.
I have written in the past about when/why I think it is really important to stay at a Disney resort, and we have also shared what makes staying with Disney so “magical”. But aside from those things, are some very real, tangible, practical things that add so much value to your vacation, that it truly can spoil you for anything else. I know we have hundreds of pages here on The Affordable Mouse about how to save money on your Disney vacation, but I honestly think that the value you get for what you spend is huge….and it’s a big reason for why we vacation with Disney so often.
With that in mind then, let me share a few details about our little excursion and why it made us yearn for a more Disneyfied experience.
Just Whistle While You Work
If there is one thing that sticks out for anyone who visits the Disney parks or cruise line, it’s that things are clean….always. You always see folks cleaning, and rarely if ever see trash cans overflowing, dirt/sand/water in public buildings, or fingerprints/smudges on windows and doors. And things work the way they are supposed to work. Lights turn on and off. Appliances aren’t broken. And if there is a problem, you know that calling someone will have it fixed pretty darn quick. The thing is, spending a few days with Disney, you really get used to this kind of philosophy, so that you don’t think twice about it….until it isn’t there and you’re back to reality. I think that is one reason why Post-Disney-Depression is so hard (and yes, there is such a thing): the real world is not nearly as nice as the Disney one! So on our little weekend, what were our experiences in this area like? Well, constant water/sand in the elevators, dirty windows and doors, a lamp that could only turn off by unplugging it, and a frig that never got cold……for starters. Yes we were at the beach. Yes people are walking around that are wet and sandy. But wouldn’t you think that at some point in the day…..even once….you would have clean elevators, floors and windows? It just wasn’t Disney for sure.
It’s all About the Details
Disney regularly closes rides, attractions, pools/water parks, and even entire sections of it’s resorts on a regular basis, for “refurbishment”. And while it can be disappointing when that happens to your favorite ride during your vacation, there are real and important reasons for this. For one, it keeps things functioning well. But second…and perhaps equally important….it keeps things looking nice. New. Fresh. Updated. Makes you want to spend time there. And it makes you feel like your money is going towards something.
And of course there are those delightful Disney details that are everywhere. We’ve talked about Disney design a lot here, as I am a bit of a design geek, but honestly, those little things all add up to big things. Again, things that make something that could be ordinary, actually quite extraordinary. I mean, yes, you have to have paint on the walls and carpet on the floors, but isn’t it more fun to have the blues and greens on the walls and floors, along with seashells, undersea creatures, and music that all together, immediately make you think “Finding Nemo” ?
I will spare you the interior design details of our hotel last weekend. But what I wrote above should give you a hint, and bears repeating:
“New. Fresh. Updated. Makes you want to spend time there. And it makes you feel like your money is going towards something.”
(So the next time you see Disney doing refurbishment, don’t complain. The alternative is far worse, let me tell you….)
Be Our Guest, Put Our Service to the Test
For sure, we do talk about Disney service a LOT, and it is admittedly legendary. Not for nothing do so many major corporations bring in folks from Disney to train their employees on the Disney way. But really, what does that mean?
Disney never, ever, ever calls those who visit them, customers. They are Guests (and yes, with a capital G) because every Cast Member knows that each person, no matter the age, no matter where you stay, is to be treated as if he/she is a Guest in the Disney home. (And yes, Disney is unique, in my experience at least, in that whether you stay Deluxe or stay Value, everyone is treated in the same, special way.)
So every Cast Member from the front desk to the person cleaning the bathrooms, is going to go out of their way to make sure that the Guests are comfortable and happy. Got a question? Someone, somewhere will have an answer. Need help? They’re on it. Have a problem? They will fix it. And while it is not a perfect world, and yes I know that you can encounter a cranky Cast Member, the vast majority do take their responsibility to their Guests very seriously…if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be hired, and/or certainly wouldn’t continue working for Disney.
But the real world? Well that’s a different story, isn’t it? So last weekend, what did we find? Well, how about a lobby filled with wet, soggy guests who had arrived before their check in, so they could spend time on the beach…only to be chased inside because it was raining. All they could do was sit in the lobby and wait, with antsy kids and equally frustrated adults. Yes, the weather wasn’t the hotel’s fault, I know. But haven’t you ever noticed how Disney always has things for folks to do while waiting? How every hotel has multiple areas for folks to sit while waiting, with tvs, and chairs and activities for kids, and places for adults to charge up and get connected? You can’t help weather, and you can’t help waiting. You can help the experience that folks have while doing so.
Then, there was the breakfast buffet that was virtually empty of food an hour before it was scheduled to close….and no one in sight to really do anything to change that. And we won’t even mention the front desk folks who acted like we were a bother when my husband’s room key stopped working.
Did we feel like Guests? Ummm, no.
So after all of this, I know what you’re thinking, so let me say that:
- No, we did NOT book a budget property. Not even close.
- I did TONS of research, checking out reviews on a number of websites, doing pretty much anything that one can do when planning a trip to a new location.
The bottom line is, it wasn’t Disney. It never really is. Disney adds value to your hard-earned vacation dollars in so many ways, both tangible and intangible, that it is impossible to calculate everything you really get for your money. It’s not just the amount of rides, or the number of days on your park ticket, or how much food is on your plate. Sure, that’s part of it. But all the other things, those things that make you say “yes, I am special here”…..you really can’t put a price on that at all.
That’s the Disney way.