Walt Disney World may be a dream vacation, but never again for me

Walt Disney World may be the dream destination for many, but it's a place I'll never go back to and here is why.
Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World / Anadolu/GettyImages

I have given it a lot of thought, recently, and I don't think I will ever make another trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Just on the surface, Walt Disney World is a mere shell of itself. It’s a world (no pun intended) away from what Walter Elias Disney had dreamed for it to be.

Just as an example, every Disney fan is aware that EPCOT is not quite what it was supposed to be. Well, maybe not EVERY Disney fan. How many people are actually familiar with what those letters making up that acronym stand for? Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Community of Tomorrow. Where is that?

For that matter, where is what we all grew up to know AS Walt Disney World? Walt Disney World (WDW) has evolved over the years and has picked up steam in recent years, from a theme park focused on entertainment to a hard and fast amusement park. It’s more thrills and adventure than Spin and Marty.

I have been to WDW a total of 58 times over the years. I have been there during the summer vacation months, during holidays, and even during what is considered “off-season.” I also have been there for Marathon Weekend, running in the RunDisney events.

I remain a huge Disney fan. I’ve had some great times visiting the Orlando resort, and I’ve had some bad experiences as well. Here are the top three reasons why I will likely never go to Walt Disney World again:

1) Walt Disney World is very costly and not for those light in the wallets

How can any family afford it? Walt Disney created a place for families with children to enjoy themselves. I am not quite sure that he structured his dreams to mean “families with a lot of money.” Everything associated with WDW costs a lot of money a LOT of money.

The park admission tickets are expensive. The hotels are expensive. The food is expensive.

There are four theme parks in WDW – Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. A 4-Park Magic Ticket – admission to ONE of the parks each day with no “park hopping” – is $396 (plus tax) for persons 10 years old and above. (Children 3-9 years of age get a small discount.)

It will cost $1,679 for a family of four to enter the Parks during a four-day stay.

One of the “value” hotels let’s go with the Pop Century Hotel is $269 (plus tax) per night for a “standard” room.

It will cost $1,141 for a family of four to place their heads on a pillow on the grounds of WDW for four nights.

People have to eat. And the food can be expensive. There ARE dining plans available for those staying on WDW property, but you are limited and, let’s face it, you may not want to adhere to those limitations.

So let’s figure main three meals (nothing special) at an average cost of $25 per meal, per person, per day); two snacks (at a total average cost of $25 per person per day for Mickey pretzels, Dole Whip, and bottled waters).

And I am not including any specials like character breakfasts and dinners, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, or just a beer in Germany in the World Showcase in EPCOT.

Without any of the “specials” tacked on, it will cost $1,600 for a family of four to simply sustain themselves.

You want to eat with Mickey, Minnie, Winnie the Pooh, or Stitch? Add on an additional $100 per person…another $400.

And how am I getting there? What about airfare? You can’t just close your eyes, click your heels, and appear there. Figure an airline cost of $350 per person…for economy seats and one checked piece of luggage.

It will cost $1,400 for a family of four to get themselves to the magical land.

Oh…and if you ARE flying in…there is no longer that Disney Magical Express that whisks you from the airport (MCO) to WDW resorts. The free service is now gone. So consider a ride service at a cost of $150 each way…a total of $300 for transportation to and from MCO.

And you can’t forget to come for one souvenir? How is anyone NOT getting a t-shirt (average costs of anywhere from $35 to over $75) or a stuffed animal (anywhere from $15 to well over $100 depending on size and if you are willing to buy an extra seat on the plane for it) that will just end up gathering dust somewhere?

Let’s just say $100 per person is not unrealistic for unnecessary spending a total of another $400.

Any other add-ons? You bet! We all have cell phones now so we can take pictures and know right away if they are blurry or not. But you can’t take your own pics on the rides, right? So that’s right! You will need to get that PhotoPass option. And how much is that now? The Memory Maker package is $185.

So, I haven’t taken a math class since my sophomore year of high school but…let’s see…it will cost $7,105 (and that’s really conservative) for a family of four to enjoy a magical visit for four days in the four themed parks in WDW.

After that do you need any other reasons? Well I will still give you the other two.

2) The crowds at Walt Disney World can be overwhelming and even stifling

I’m a germaphobe. So let’s get that out of the way. And if you, too, are a germaphobe, what on EARTH would make you go to a place like WDW anyway? I guess I got past it.

I have been to WDW during the busy seasons and during the off-season. I have been there during Christmas and New Year’s even on New Year’s Eve and I have been there in the time periods where kids are in school and it is not peak vacation time. I have to admit that while the holidays are special in WDW, I would NEVER want to do it again.

The worst I have ever experienced in WDW was during a holiday. It was July 4, Independence Day. But it was a special July 4. It was 1976. The Bicentennial. I convinced my parents to take us on a quick weekend getaway. It was disastrous and it really was the worst trip ever.

The throngs of people were just so overwhelming. It was long before they began stopping guests from entering once there was a certain number of people already in the Park. And it was hot. VERY hot. We had gotten to the Magic Kingdom when it opened in the morning and, by 4 p.m., we were hungry and tired.

My mom wanted to eat. But every restaurant was overflowing with people. Every food stand either had a very long line wrapped around a nearby building or was out of food. As I was the one who knew the Park like the back of my hand, my parents asked me to navigate and find us a place to eat. And so I navigated navigated us right into a wall of people gathered to watch the next parade on Main Street.

There was literally no place to go. I thought we would try going in yet another direction, not yet realizing that the Park was OVERFLOWING, when my mom stood in the middle of Main Street and screamed, “I’M NOT MOVING!!!” But she WAS moving carried by the masses of people slowly moving down Main Street. It only served to infuriate her more.

There WAS NO escape. Every exit route, every path, was jammed with people. The monorail back to the parking lot had a two-plus hour wait. The steamship across Bay Lake back to the parking lot was even longer. (This was long before there were transport buses to take you anywhere around the property.) Perhaps WALK around Bay Lake? That was a bad suggestion and didn’t end well.

The end of a journey for food that began at 4 p.m came at 2 a.m. at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant.

The worst of the crowds, though, really has to do with the long lines for all of the attractions. The truth is, you spend more time WAITING than actually DOING a LOT more time.

Spending 60-90 minutes waiting in a line for a 2 to 5-minute “experience” is not that uncommon. Seeing wait times in excess of two hours is also not that uncommon.

Of course, the longest wait times are for the more popular “rides.” Splash Mountain and Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom; Test Track and Soaring in EPCOT; Rockin’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror in Disney’s Hollywood Studios; and Avatar Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom have all traditionally had extremely long wait times.

Believe it or not, while the “thrill” rides will always have long waits…the one attraction that always seems to have a really long wait time…Peter Pan’s Flight in Magic Kingdom. Although it’s been revamped over time, it remains as one of the original attractions remaining. I actually saw a wait time posted of 300 minutes. 300 minutes! That’s close to five hours?

Let’s, again, do some math, but if you have only one day in the Park, and you have to wait so long to experience each attraction then what kind of value are you actually getting for your money?

Oh yeah at some point in the past they implemented a way to circumvent the wait times. It started with FastPass and evolved in 2021 into something called Disney Genie Service. Oh yeah…I have to go back and add some costs on to the package because it’s an average of $35 per person, per day for the privilege of cutting in line.

So that’s another $560 for a family for four during a four-day, four-park visit.

That’s okay just keeping piling it on.

3) Walt Disney World has changed so much even Walt himself would be surprised

Time moves on. I understand that. Even purists realize that you have to move forward and changes happen.

But when you are a fan, and what made you so love the place no longer exists, then the love affair is over.

What made Walt Disney World so special was that it was NOT an amusement park. It was a place to experience all of the things that you loved about Disney. Just a simple walk down Main Street lets you know that this is not the place Walt intended it to be.

The outside of the buildings on Main Street was always a façade, built to look like an old-time Main Street. But, initially, the insides of the buildings were just as much a part of the experience. The movie cinema was, actually, a small movie cinema where guests could venture in and view a number of early Disney shorts. The arcade actually had early 20th-century arcade games that you could play. There was a barber shop…where you could really get your haircut and an old-fashioned shave. There was a magic shop an old-fashioned candy store and it’s all gone. It’s been gone for a while.

Maybe a precursor to the place moving away from its early beginnings to become a place of merchandising and maximizing the profits for its shareholders. All of the buildings along Main Street are basically a long congruous store on either side of the street, so they can get you (in your wallets) coming and going.

The entertainment aura is just not there. One of the original Disney attractions that actually got its debut at the World's Fair in New York in 1964, Carousel of Progress, is there...but it's almost as if it's not. For the loyal fans who actually still go in and view "the show" it is very sparsely attended if at all. The same can be said for the iconic Country Bear Jamboree. That attraction has recently closed...reportedly to be updated. But that, too, is so sparsely attended.

Room is constantly being made for more thrills and heart-wrenching adventures. Dumbo...always pretty much the center of the Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, was moved off to another area to make room for the more breathtaking Seven Dwarfs Mine Train a clear indication of a shift from theme park to amusement park status. A need by Disney, the corporation, to keep the masses coming in and spending money for hair-raising fun. Where is Mr. Toad's Wild Ride? I guess it wasn't wild enough.

The fact is it’s just not the same. The landscape is not the same. The feeling is not the same. It’s just not what it used to be. And that could be said for a lot of things and a lot of places. But when you thought of Disney, you would always get a feeling of family and warmth. WDW no longer reflects that, and hasn’t probably for longer than I was willing to realize.

So my need to go to WDW has changed. My WANTING to go to WDW has changed. And nothing could convince me otherwise.

Well except for maybe my granddaughter. She might be able to.