EDITORIAL: Five Rules For Annual Passholders at Walt Disney World

PHOTO REPORT: The Magic Kingdom 10/13/17 (Alien Encounter, Passholder Lines, Splash Mountain Closure, Etc.)
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Growing up in the early aughts, weekends were peppered with a phrase ubiquitous to modern American leisure – “Wanna go to the mall?” It was how one passed the time and all related actions, including shopping, were secondary to hanging out. For many, Walt Disney World is a far off destination – a once in a lifetime opportunity. To Annual Passholders, especially the Tamplando locals, it’s “the mall”.

While the world meticulously plans multi-day experiences, sucking up as much Disney as their dollars allow, FLAPers (Florida Annual Passholders) tend to go on a whim – strolling around at times with little to no agenda. It’s an odd feeling to realize our casual Tuesday may also be someone’s greatest day of vacation ever and it’s easy to forget our part in that experience. With that in mind, a few guidelines for the Annual Passholder may be in order.

5. Don’t Get Too Casual

There is a relaxation that sets in once you grow accustomed to an environment. Urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg discusses in his book “The Great Good Place” the concept of “a third place,” away from work or home, where playful conversation with others is a main activity. FLAPers do this in the streets of World Showcase and the queues for rides, but while the parks have become their place for casual chat, the majority of park-goers are there for distraction.

A moment several months back found several FLAPers discussing an acquaintance’s miscarriage in the standby line for Soarin. Eventually the group looked up to realize just how many people were stuck within earshot of the depressing tale. There’s nothing wrong with deep conversations of all types in the parks, but be aware of your surroundings and make sure you’re not imposing on those who have paid top dollar for a day away from the real world.

4. Don’t Photobomb

It’s tempting and Lord knows you have the opportunity, but don’t photobomb. Nobody wants to travel back home to find their favorite photo ruined by some dope with a goofy grin in the background (unless that person is either Dopey or Goofy). This goes for on-ride photos as well. Sure, you’ve rode Everest twenty-five times so a “looking bored photo” is in order, but what about everyone else? Have fun and get creative, but make sure it doesn’t overtake the photo and ruins someone else’s future living room photo.

3. Give Tourists Grace

A sure sign of a FLAP is their under-the-breath bickering about tourists. We become “get off my carefully manicured and appropriately themed lawn” at the drop of a hat and, while sometimes guest ignorance is dangerous for all, most of the time it’s innocent in nature. There is a reason maps are given out at the front. People will stop to gawk. They will never fill all available space in a queue. Sometimes they just need a smile and a nod that the line has started to move again. Give 90% of tourists the benefit of the doubt and save your disdain for the truly terrible ten percent.

2. Cast Member’s Best Friend

Nobody works harder than a Disney cast member on a hot July day. It’s not the actual labor – it’s the smiling. Can you imagine holding such a disposition while a sweaty tourist degrades you for something you can’t actually control? Not for that much per-hour. So be nice, say thank you and help them out. See barf in the queue of Space Ranger Spin? Tell them there’s a code V. It’s amazing how many people will just walk over it and not say a word.

Just one caveat – if you see a guest yelling at a CM don’t intervene. You’ll just make more paperwork for them if something goes down. Let them take care of the problem and, if you make eye contact later, give them that smile that says, “Yeah…that guy was grade-A garbage” and thank them for their work.

1. It’s Always Someone’s First Ride

For those who go constantly, rides become like a dance – we know it beat by beat and half the fun is hitting the marks, but, for others, it’s a brand new experience. When AP’s quote lines or talk casually during pre-shows, it’s not just rude, it kills “the magic” others have come for. Our Pavlovian response to our phones also leads to a glaring dose of annoyance while on dark rides. Take a recent experience where a guest spent the entirety of Splash Mountain on his phone – not filming it, but browsing Facebook. Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah indeed.

With few exceptions, reading these rules is easier than abiding by them. FLAPers have the constant allure of making Disney their “third place” and frankly, for some of us, it is. That doesn’t have to be problematic as long as we remember that we’re the lucky residents of a tourist’s world. We’ll see you at “the mall.”


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About the author

Nathan Hartman

A sunshine state resident, Nathan is an avid Disney parks wonk as well as a university film professor.

Twitter: @somestuffisaid


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  • Had to reply- On the flip side…
    5- Don’t Get Too Casual:: If a non regular great and welcome, but push that double or triple wide stroller off to the right and not the middle, no stroller the please walk or step to the side.
    4. Don’t Photobomb: Photos are wonderful but please be quick about it.
    3.- Give Tourists Grace- Same goes in return, please don’t make it a “Me or Us’ experience.
    2.- Cast members: Always because they have the greatest jobs and deal with so much for us- leave the bad Yorker attitude north.
    1.- Always Someone’s First Ride- Everyone be aware of the folks around you.

  • Nicely said! As a Jacksonville resident and FLAP-er, we try to make every visit worth it and special and not get complacent about being fortunate enough to go multiple times a year, or even many times a month. We should be kind and courteous to everyone’s magical experiences.

  • It all sums up to common decency… Manners… HOWEVER, Frequent Guests, (whether they are Annual Pass Holders of not), ARE Guests TOO! Indeed, their “Guest Experience” is different from that of the first time visitor… but the “Guest Experience” of the frequent Guest IS JUST AS IMPORTANT. Annual Pass Holder Guests are NOT second class citizens just because they have been to the Parks many times. They are in fact the BACKBONE of Disney Loyalty, and they are often revered by “first time Guests” BECAUSE they know all the words and details… Many ASPIRE to get to such a level of being such an ESTEEM Guest who knows everything about everything.

    • My overall point is that AP’s have the opportunity to set an example. We certainly are not second-class, but our overall ability to enjoy the parks several times a year (in my case weekly if I so choose) should lead us towards that common decency and, perhaps, an empathy for those who this might be their only trip ever. I’m not a cast member, but I do feel a responsibility to be a model guest.

      • I’m a cast member, have been for 7 years, and we do not like Annual Passholders honestly on the whole. We are pressured for efficiency, and to make profits. Annual pass holders remember the day when Disney was about top service and customer experience. Nobody can argue Disney has cut WDW staffing and experiences to the bone, but it’s a new day, and more cuts are coming. AP holders who feel any entitlement to it being how it was years ago creates issues. New customers will comply with our orders, more likely to spend money, and don’t care about the quality not being there so much, they’re in ‘awe’ of the size and crowds. And no, Tonya’s not my name, we’re never supposed to say anything that’s not bright and cheery…aka Lie. But I like Disney as a concept, and hope one day the parks will return to greatness. Until then, it’s a job. “Moooove people, if there’s in inch next to you, squeeze more, guests waiting to seat and my manager want’s the sheep hurled in 3 minutes or less…MOVE! Disney does not CARE how uncomfortable you are!”

        • Thank you for a very HONEST reply Cast Member “Tonya”…. So Disney does NOT like the Annual Pass Holders because they are EDUCATED to things the way they once were…. It is EASIER to please Guests who DON”T KNOW ANY BETTER! And that is COMPLETELY TRUE. It is the UNDYING LOVE that the CORE of FREQUENT GUESTS have for Walt Disney World, which made it the success that it is… And it HURTS these Frequent Guests to see things as CHANGES are made CHIPPING AWAY at the Magic which ONCE WAS…. Once the core is killed, it will be almost impossible to rebuild it. It is almost as if it is better to grab what you can now, because you know there will NOT be a tomorrow.

          • I sadly can’t agree with you more. Welcome for honesty. But in a way, Disney is cutting things back that the demand will exceed the supply. I wish the product was better, and you’re right, the management does not care. They’re bonused based on how much they can cut by the end of the day. Tomorrow doesn’t matter.

  • FORGOT BIGGEST ONE: Do NOT Expect much. DISNEY is in a stage the last 10 years of cutting back, not caring about how ‘good of time it is’. Bob Iger cares about movies and merchandise, not brand loyalty.

    They have cut back enough to create their own increased demand, by cutting back supply. Only recently are they adding new areas (yet have cut more to create these areas), and it’s a day late and dollar short. All attractions by mandate of above will be sales points for movie franchises, sales, etc. NOTHING is to be there for ‘the sheer enjoyment of it’. It must sell something. Disney does not need or want you. They want efficiency, money, and you are a means to justify that end. Keeping areas closed off to cut staff, running rides at lower hours or capacity, closing parks early for ‘extra paid events’, not much new added, except stores, and hotel rooms. Anywhere they can cut quality be it in food, services, and it saves them a penny, they will do it. You can still enjoy Disney. But do not expect much at all.

    • I suppose we may disagree on what we expect or what constitutes effort on the part of Disney, but, if you want to put blame on someone, I think your buck stops with Micheal Eisner setting a tone.

      • Eisner not a hit, Disney hires cheap talent, but at least Eisner put in an entire theme park (AK) and was committed to 1 new attraction at each park per year. Iger has let the Orlando parks rot for the better part of his tenure. Minus hotel rooms, very few additions, and taking away more than they’re adding, except for revenue and cross promotional things. They clearly have enough people by their cut backs to stop caring. It shows. Still we enjoy to go and walk around, we get free tickets all year, but we feel badly for people who save up for a trip like this.

  • I chat with CM’s frequently about some of these issues. I agree with Nathan, we should set the example for others. The fact that so many AP’s often have a possessive or acrimonious attitude towards the parks and tourists or their perception of how/why/what Disney is choosing to do is exactly why articles like this need to be written. We are choosing to frequent an establishment that is known to be a tourist haven, yet so many Passholders demonstrate indignation towards someone not knowing how to get to “Insert-Ride-Here.”

    • I fail to see anything wrong with the way frequent visitors, and/or AP Holders act. I do NOT see any “widespread” indignation towards “newbie”Guests who don’t know how to get to “Insert-Ride-Here”… Actually, I mostly see long time Guests take PRICE in HELPING “Newbie” Guests, and assist them in directions, and/or advice on what to do next and “Must See” Attractions… Frequent Guests have a “sense of pride” as if they are a PART of things BECAUSE they are Frequent Guests/// It is like a second home to them… so What’s wrong with that?? This entire premise is painting a FALSE picture about Frequent Guests and AP Pass Holders….. Trying to make them sound like terrible selfish people, and THAT IS JUST NO SO. I am at the Parks allot… AND I was a Cast Member too… I have a KEEN EYE, and I see everything… And when I SAY SOMETHING, it is JUST THAT WAY. So let’s NOT try to create some GREAT DIVIDE HERE with this baloney.. There are exceptions to every rule, and that goes for all GROUPS you want to create classifications for. In General, EVERYONE who goes to Disney World is HAPPY to be there for their OWN REASONS…. Pretty simple…. IF they become UNHAPPY, then they will simply STOP COMING. And let me say one more thing here on another point made…. Eric states that “so many AP’s often have a possessive or acrimonious attitude towards the parks and tourists or their perception of how/why/what Disney is choosing to do”…. YES, That is TRUE. And the reason should be very clear to understand…. These Frequent Guests are PART of the FAMILY at Walt Disney World…. They treat the Parks with LOVE because they are PART OF IT…. CERTAINLY they will have STRONG VIEWS when things are being taken away from the experience that they KNEW AND LOVED. They see things being destroyed and it bothers them… Go Figure. It is because they CARE. Yes, it is also TRUE that when a NEW Guest comes into play, the NEW Guest ONLY Knows the way things are NOW and ACCEPTS things at FACE VALUE, because they KNOW NO BETTER. Disney is STILL a Wonderful Place to go… although it could be even better.

  • Yes Bob Iger has not dumped a lot of money into the parks. He’s spent a lot of money during his tenure to acquire new IP’s that will eventually be used in the parks themselves. Every company has sacrifices it must make to stay profitable and competitive in this day and age. Yes, I remember when things were glorious and pristine at Disney, but opinions and tastes of the modern (Millennial) consumers have changed. Disney is adapting and will constantly change. I am not trying to defend the state of the parks (Epcot is way over do!), but I’d rather Disney take their time and do it right than do it half-assed just to put something out there.

    As for FLA-AP holders, I am one. I have never been a cast member, but I have been going to Disney since 1974. I think it’s true for “some” of these suggestions that us as Passholders act like and need reminding not to do for the purpose of this article. But don’t get me started on needing an article for certain guests that they too should have a “Five Rules” article for them (i.e. Foreign Country guests, Cheerleading Groups, Tour Groups, Parents that bring infants who won’t remember the experience, etc.) We all have our reasons for going to Disney and the bottom line for FLA-AP holders or any other category of “guests” that visit to Disney is to remember we are guests. Treat the experience and Walt Disney as if you are a guest at someone’s house. Be thoughtful and considerate to everyone (guests and Cast members alike) and “we” as guests at WDW can help make Disney a better place for everyone to enjoy.

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