Disney Now and Then: Advice From a Veteran
So, here’s a couple updates on me…
I’m moving back to California! And while it may seem that I’m moving back to be closer to Disneyland, I have to set the record straight: Disneyland isn’t the main reason I’m moving, however I’m THRILLED that I can get back to going 7 days a week and living on Dole Whips and churros and…sorry about that. Got a tad excited. Bottom line is, I’m leaving New York and going back to my home state because I need to stop being the person who is crammed on a train and walking at break neck speed and gaining unattractive frown lines and posting my hate for everything on social media. That isn’t who I am. I’m a happy California girl and I’m on a mission to find that girl again.
Returning home is tricky. A lot of people assume it’ll be a piece of cake. And its true, there will be a lot of things about living in California that will be incredibly easy in comparison to living in New York (Like not having to trudge through the rain with heavy grocery bags half a mile back to your apartment). Returning home is the acceptance that things won’t always be the same as how you left it. Sometimes it will be different (for better or worse), and that has to be ok with you. Returning home is the understanding that you as a person might’ve changed, but at the very core of it, you are exactly the same person you always were. I had to keep this in mind when I visited Disneyland last August. It was my first time visiting the park in 4 years. Things had changed so much. I would happen upon cast members who were grumpy and I would think to myself, ‘Was it like this when I worked here? Am I just seeing things through a different lens?’ I walked into the Haunted Mansion, and everyone in the room was shouting the opening spiel in the elevator. I remember a time when only a couple people knew the spiel by heart and would mumble it to themselves so as not to ruin the experience for people around them. 4 years later, I realized a lot had changed. At the end of the day, at its very core, Disneyland was the same. At least it was for me. At the end of the day, I sat with my mom and teared up during Fantasmic. I gave her a hug and stared longingly at the castle to hold the image of it in my head forever. I whispered goodbye to Main Street the way I always do. Home was the same for me, even though I had changed.
I get asked for tips and advice all the time on my Youtube channel. I try to answer every question to the best of my ability, but sometimes, I realized that so much has changed. And that’s ok, because at the core of it, Disneyland is the same. These are my basic bits of advice for those of you who might be returning home sometime soon:
Cast Members are Human Too
Cast members are held to an extremely high standard. Sometimes impossibly high. And they meet that level of expectation at any given turn. But cast members aren’t robots. They’re human. They have bad days too. I know I did when I worked in the parks. My advice to you is simple. Don’t be too hard on cast members. They are built to make your day special. It is practically a reflex. Think of every cast member you will interact with on a given day at the park. From parking all the way to custodial. There’s a lot of them. But we tend to only remember the bad experience. A great customer service experience is to be expected, so we will only remember the moment a cast member wasn’t smiling or was short with us or couldn’t assist us properly. If you ever run into a cast member like this, please understand one thing: It’s harder to work at Disneyland than it ever was before. It is more crowded now than it ever was. It’s even HOTTER outside in California than it ever was. Cast members are working under more difficult circumstances than ever before but are expected to work with that same glowing smile. If you’re noticing a cast member who is rude, I’m not making excuses for them, but I’m urging you to redirect your thinking. Tell yourself, ‘I’m on vacation enjoying my day. I hope this person has a better day.’
Probably Cleaner Than Your Apartment
Disneyland on any given day is cleaner than my apartment. It’s because there’s a lovely crew of people waiting for you to accidentally drop a napkin or spill your soda. They got your back. Disneyland is steam cleaned every single night after the last guest exits the park. It’s immaculate. And I bring up this topic, because on my last visit, my mom noticed a smudge by one of the ticketing booths on the wall. This tiny smudge stood out to her because Disneyland is always perfect. It opened my eyes to how pristine the park is all the time. Even as the crowds grow and grow, that custodial team is on it. With that said, if you do happen to see a piece of trash on the ground, please know that this is not the new Disney standard. The times are changing and custodial is playing catchup. My parents always tell me, ‘New York is so dirty!’ And I have to remind them of one important thing: If you take into consideration the massive number of people in New York, it’s pretty clean. There are cleanup crews everywhere and you will rarely see a trash can full to the brim or even so much as a single piece of trash on the train. It’s pretty incredible. Now, I can’t promise you that you won’t smell dog pee or human pee once in awhile (or all the time), but the rest is totally clean!
It’s ok to be Clueless
It’s the age of information. You can plan everything for your trip in advance from watching POV videos to map out your ride list, make dining reservations, etc. You can research the best walking paths and know where all the hidden Mickey’s are and memorize every single spiel for every single ride. For lots of people, being this knowledgeable is half the fun of it. Here’s my advice: Check out something you’ve never seen or done at Disneyland. Spend your time on the simple things and start new traditions for yourself. Ever walked into the Main Street cinema? It’s my favorite part of Disneyland. You can watch Steamboat Willie cartoons. Check out the penny arcade. Get some pennies pressed. Watch “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.” Sit on a bench in Town Square and watch character interactions. Breathe and take it all in. It is truly magnificent. If every plan you made goes out the window, don’t worry about it. I promise you there is plenty to do and plenty to see. I urge you to take the leap, and dare to be clueless. If you’re going on your favorite ride, it’s easy to want to tell your friend every fun fact you know and recite every single spiel. Try this out: Go on your favorite ride, and don’t say a single word. I promise you, you will notice something new that you’ve never seen before on the ride. You might even be able to experience your favorite attraction through new eyes. And that, is quite a priceless experience.
Crowds are fun!
Don’t you dare go into Disneyland and say that it is crowded. We know its crowded. There is no longer such a thing as the ‘slow season.’ It’s too busy and popular. And that’s ok. It means that its not shutting its doors anytime soon. Here’s the beauty of a park that is never slow: You know to expect the crowds. Take joy in the crowds. Hate parking and taking the tram in? The tram is my favorite part of visiting Disneyland. I used to ride the tram on my day off just for fun. Your day is just getting started and anything is possible! Say hi to the parking cast members. Start getting pumped up for what rides you’ll go on while you wait for the tram. Don’t complain about the crowd to get in. Enjoy it! Grab a coffee and remind yourself: You’re at Disney. There are some people who are at work. Stuck in the crowds of Adventureland that never seem to go away? Rather than worrying that you won’t get to Splash Mountain at break neck speed, enjoy your surroundings. Are there plants or signs that you never noticed? Take joy in the details that nature is forcing you to walk by very slowly. The world is telling you to slow down. On my last visit, I tried to rush with my mom after Fantasmic to get in line for Peter Pan. The line got cut off. It was too crowded. Rather than being upset, we sat on a bench by the Fantasyland bathrooms and found ourselves with front row seats to Paint the Night. We were next to a snack vendor, bathrooms, a water fountain and had a perfectly unobstructed view. Enjoying our minor hiccup turned out to be the best thing that happened all day!
Whether you’re returning to your Disney home after a long time away, or visiting for the first time, I hope my tips help to add a little sunshine to your day. Have a great week!
Posted on March 16, 2016, in Articles and tagged Advice from a Veteran, Cast Members, cleann, crowds, Disney, Disney Now and Then, Disney Parks, Disneyland, Erika Jenko, ideas, navigating, thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.