Why Disney World is the only ‘guaranteed’ vacation in America

Written By kom nampuldu on Minggu, 01 Maret 2015 | 18.18

"A day at a Disney park is unlike any other in the world," spokesman Bryan Malenius wrote to the Orlando Sentinel upon the announcement last week that a one-day pass to Disney World had surpassed $100.

It's a wonder they stopped there. As one industry observer told Fortune magazine, the Disney experience "is seen as being essentially priceless."

Which was not quite my attitude while I was eyeing the Manhattan restaurant prices at our Disney hotel a few years ago. Shelling out more than $30 for a plate of pasta (no meat included) at a restaurant where toddlers were screaming was more than I could bear. But looking around, I saw plenty of families who were in less of a position than I was to complain. Working-class parents had clearly dumped their life savings to make this outing possible for their kids.

But like moths to a flame, the families keep on coming.

"It's become an American ritual," says Kay Hymowitz, "and we don't have many of those these days." Hymowitz, author of "Liberation's Children: Parents and Kids in a Postmodern Age," tells me, "It's communal; just about every kid, white, black, brown, rich and all but the poorest of the poor, go to Disney World."

Indeed, Orlando is the most popular tourist destination in the United States, surpassing New York in 2013, with 59 million visitors. In 2013, Disney parks were responsible for almost a third of Disney's $45 billion revenue, attracting more than 130 million customers, according to Forbes. So what gives?

There is something fundamentally unmagical about a trip to Disney.

For one thing, Disney World is constant stimulation. Between the fairy tale music, the character meals — because God forbid you eat breakfast without running into Winnie the Pooh — and the fact that the parks are open until 9 p.m. and sometimes later with fireworks, there is never a moment of boredom. Well, except when you're in line. Like the 30 minutes you wait in to have your picture taken with Snow White. Or the 45 minutes for the Dumbo ride — we could have gone on the same one five times over at Playland, I kept thinking to myself.

What people get from Disney is the "total experience" vacation, as one mother of two in Washington tells me. This is particularly true for the budding princesses out there. At the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, parents can spend more than $200 so their little Cinderella (or more likely Elsa) can get a princess hairstyle and manicure, among other things.

And once is not enough for many families.

Visitors to Disney get the full "princess experience."Photo: AP

As Lou Mongello, author of books about how to save at Disney, notes, people often go back multiple times. They say, "We have been there before. We know kids the kids are going to have a good time. Disney guarantees the kind of experience you're going to have."

It's the kind of guarantee that, say, Yosemite National Park is not offering. Touring the monuments and museums in Washington, DC, can be kind of hit or miss too. Even New York has bad weather and the view from the Empire State Building is nice, but it's not interactive. In any urban or rural tourist destination, there are interesting things to see, but it takes a while to get from one to the other. And sometimes the kids get bored.

At Disney World no one asks "Are we there yet?" because there's always something to entertain you. Disney has made itself the perfect destination for the ADD age.

We set up our kids to be Disney lovers from a young age, and a visit to Disney World seems like it should be the culmination of all those magical movie-going experiences. But there is something fundamentally unmagical about a trip to Disney. It is safe and packaged, without the chance for something unexpected to happen.

You can pay $100 a head for a "guaranteed" experience. But how about a little less for an adventure?


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