When our extended family got together for dinner on the first night of our family reunion to Disney World the main topic of conversation was how to get the most out of our Disney World vacation. My teenage nieces and nephews, especially, had spent months researching other people’s stories to learn the best tips, tricks, and Disney hacks. The most interesting thing that I heard from them is that there is some rule (Official? Unofficial?) that Disney World cast members are required to do whatever they can to keep guests happy.
This place does have a reputation for being the happiest place on Earth to maintain, after all.
After spending four days park-hopping Disney World parks and staying on-site at a Disney World resort, here is my list of the top 5 nicest things Disney World cast members did for us.
1. Comped Resort Meals
As guests of Disney’s Art of Animation resort, we were given Magic Bands for the length of our stay. The Magic Bands were customized to each person in our group, and included our FastPass reservations, park passes, room entrance, and credit card information. With a swipe of our Magic Bands we could go anywhere and buy anything. Magic.
We were still getting used to this form of magic when we decided to eat at the resort’s cafeteria for dinner our first night. I approached the cashier with a tray of mine and Whit’s food plates and had just swiped my Magic Band when Ben stepped in behind me. “Oh, darn! I could have magic’d your meal, but now you’ll have to swipe your own!” I said, as if it were any real inconvenience. As my back was turned telling this to Ben, Whit hit his head at the cashier’s counter and started to cry.
Without skipping a beat the cashier said to me, “I’ve cancelled your transaction. You can both go ahead.”
I’m not sure if it was because Whit had started crying or because we were about to be inconvenienced by swiping our magic band a second time, but we sure did beat it out of there after a quick “Thank you”!
2. Entrance to FastPass Lane
With a couple of hours to spare one afternoon, Ben, Whit, and I skipped out on the group to head to Animal Kingdom. Our plan was to make it to Expedition Everest, one of our favorite roller coasters, and ride it a couple of times with parent swap tickets. We’d spent a few days at Disney World three years ago and this was one of the highlights of that trip: one of us would wait to ride Expedition Everest in the FastPass lane while the other played with Whit outside. The first rider would get a paper parent swap ticket to give to the waiting parent. The second parent could then use the parent swap ticket to skip to the front of the line. With this tactic we rode Expedition Everest four or five times each!
This particular afternoon Ben and I each had a FastPass to the ride, but Whit didn’t. As we talked to the cast members in charge of the FastPass lane to confirm our passes, I noticed that the height requirement was lower than I expected. This time around Whit could actually ride with us! We were so excited to try to share this roller coaster together, since it was one Ben and I each have such fond memories of. The cast member happily let all three of us through the FastPass lane, even though Whit didn’t have a pass.
A true adrenaline junkie, Whit absolutely loved it. This was the biggest roller coaster he’d ever been on, and we were so excited to ride it together and relived that he loved it so much!
So I insisted on going back to the front of the ride wait line to capture this momentous family moment. Whit excitedly told us all about how much he loved the ride on camera, and then asked if we could ride it again. I looked up at the standby line and told Whit that, unfortunately, we couldn’t wait 110 minutes to ride it again. The cast member (who had watched our giddy video recording) whispered, “Is it just the three of you?” We responded that it was. She pulled the rope back and motioned for us to get back into the FastPass lane and to enjoy our ride.
Sounds small, but the ride only fits two people across. Her act of kindness meant that, not only could we ride it two times, but that Ben and I each got a turn sitting next to Whit. His happiness was absolutely incredible to witness!
3. Server Turned Photographer
The second of two fancy Disney World meals we had was at Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom. Be Our Guest, as expected, is a Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant. Beauty and the Beast is my (and every other 30-year-old’s) favorite Disney movie, so I was pretty excited to dine inside the Beast’s castle.
It did not disappoint! The restaurant was beautifully designed with incredibly real touches from scenes from the movie. When our food was brought to our table even it was beautiful. We asked our server to take a picture of our table; not a small feat considering the size of our group. It was meant to be a quick pic but small kids from our party kept moving around to stand next to their favorite cousin, closer to the camera, etc. All in all the photograph took around 3-5 minutes to actually pose and capture, all by a server who stood waiting and smiling.
I’m sure they get photo requests all day long, but we never saw one server act anything less than happy to be of help. As the one usually behind the camera, I really appreciated her willingness and positive attitude!
4. Free Park Hopper Upgrades
When we reserved our Disney World resort stay we also bought three park hopper passes for our family, but only one park hopper pass for our second day for Whit. We kept meaning to buy ours, as well, but ended up waiting until the morning of our second day in the parks to buy our adult tickets.
In the time between buying Whit’s ticket and the day of the park our larger group had decided to only stay in one park, so Ben went to the concierge desk to buy two single park passes, not park hopper passes. The cast member helping him, however, decided to upgrade our two new single park passes to park hopper passes! Why? She told him that it is cheaper to buy park hopper passes for 2 days vs. 1 park hopper and 1 single park pass. The 2-day park hopper pass package is supposed to be bought all at once, but since our son already had a second park hopper she upgraded us, anyway, so we could all be together. Nice!
Additionally, the system was down so we couldn’t reserve FastPasses with the rest of our family for that day so the concierge upgraded that to the Magic Your Way Experience, which gives the holder 3 FastPasses to use on any rides at any time, not just specified rides scheduled in advance. Knowing we probably wouldn’t get the same FastPasses we’d reserved for Whit and the rest of the larger group, we’d already planned for an aunt and uncle to take him on certain rides. Getting the free FastPasses gave us so much more flexibility to stay together!
5. Special Treatment for Handicapped
My mom has had trouble walking long distances since getting a hip replacement 8 years ago. She reserved an electric scooter for our Disney World trip, and it was a great decision. Not only did it save my mom miles of walking, it also became our ticket to stay together as a group.
Handicapped guests get some well-deserved special treatment at Disney World. My mom was automatically ushered through the handicapped entrance to rides, which often meant bypassing even FastPass lanes, taking unseen elevators, and even riding rides twice to get us to the right handicapped exit (since some rides end in different places). Anyone who was with her was given the same perks.
For the most part our 20-person group had made the same FastPass reservations, but every now and then there was a family member whose reservation didn’t go through or was for 10 minutes after someone else’s window. In those situations it was so nice to automatically be let in as a large group when we were with my mom! And since it was around 35 degrees outside it was amazing to be let in to each ride without having to wait for even the FastPass lines!
This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it meant so much to us to see our mom respected this way. And it would have been so understandable for each ride’s cast member to limit the number of people who could get through with my mom to just a couple of escorts to keep her company, but no one ever hesitated when we said there were 20 people in our group. It just felt like they were going the extra mile!
6. Check-in Freebies
When we requested our Magic Bands a month before our trip they arrived in a cute box with luggage tags for each person on our reservation. A couple of weeks later we decided to have our niece stay in our room with us, which triggered the Disney World resorts system to re-create our original Magic Bands and luggage tags. When we checked in, then, the cast member helping us brought out our second pack of Magic Bands and luggage tags and invited to keep them as extra gifts. It was a small act, but they could have re-used them and it turned out to be a fun, useful keepsake of our trip!