EDITORIAL: No “Phoney” Business – Connecting to What Really Matters at Disney Parks
No “Phoney” Business
We recently returned from our latest trip to Disney World. It doesn’t seem to matter how often I visit the parks, I fall in love with them more and more with each and every trip. One reason for my love of Disney travel (although there are MANY) is how Disney makes it so easy to be involved in your trip. This is especially true for those of us who enjoy planning and organizing. Although I like to be flexible once I’m actually on my trips, I also LOVE being able to plan as much, or as little, of my vacation as I want using the My Disney Experience tool.
Another way Disney is keeping park-goers engaged is with the brand new app called Play. The mobile app is a gaming platform that allows guests to interact with their surroundings at the Disney parks. From trivia games to scavenger hunts and access to your favorite attraction soundtracks, Play is truly changing a trip to Disney from a visit to an amusement park to an immersive experience. (I get excited just thinking how Disney will incorporate Play with Galaxy’s Edge when it opens in 2019. The possibilities…)
My Disney Experience and Play are just two of the many examples of how Disney is literally putting fairy dust (of the digital sort) into the hands and back pockets of their guests. But just as Peter, Michael, and Wendy found out, perhaps too much pixie dust isn’t what we’re really seeking for our dream vacation. I mean, yes, we all want to escape to Never Never Land, but even in such a magical place, all anyone really wanted was their “mother”. So while all of these digital tools and games are capable of infusing any Disney trip with more planning, more fun, and more magic, perhaps we need to have an honest-to-goodness conversation with ourselves on just how much “more” we need. We’re becoming increasingly “connected” with our devices when we already have so much more to connect with sitting right next to us on the monorail to Magic Kingdom.
One of the most common scenes I saw while I was there at Disney World just this past week was mom and/or dad staring at their phones while their children were either on a device of their own or were left to their own devices (pun intended). Families and couples at restaurants often sat in silence while they looked at the latest YouTube videos or checked their inboxes. Children would argue and fight in line while their parents texted away and gave the occasional, “Stop climbing on the railing” without actually looking up or correcting the behaviors.
Now, please understand that I’m not sitting here in a guilt-free zone. Let me just point out that I am a Millennial. I literally grew up with the World Wide Web, I’ve been through the stages of cassette tapes, VHS, stationary phones, phone books, the Nokia phone craze in the early 2000’s, Y2K, Napster, MySpace… am I forgetting anything here?! Heck, I even make a living as a Web Developer, so finding me without some kind of technological device nearby isn’t all too common. I understand the impulse to look at my phone when I’m waiting in line (*because 2 minutes is too long to wait) or that same impulse to “Google” everything. And I most definitely understand wanting to use the My Disney Experience to book my next Fast Past or make a new reservation. I. Get. It.
But while using all the great apps and tools can really make for a seamless vacation, I also recognize that for all that planning goodness, there comes a point when it just becomes distraction from why I’m really on vacation. And on a Disney vacation in particular. I often joke with my travel buddies about how quiet I can be on my Disney trips because I get so lost just taking in the ambience and surroundings. Walk down any path, go into any shop, stand in any line and find one corner of a Disney park that isn’t designed with care. It’s all that theming that give Disney parks a step up on any other amusement park across the world. But who will notice all these little details and secrets if our noses are bent over our phones? Who will notice the look of sheer awe on our 8-year-old’s face when he sees Buzz Lightyear come around the corner? What memories are going overlooked because you’d rather text your friend or beat the next level in Candy Crush?
Remember how it seems like your high school and college days were just last year? Well, time goes even faster when you watch your children grow up. Moira from the movie Hook says it perfectly when she cautions Peter about being addicted to his phone: “We have a few special years with our children, when they’re the ones that want us around. After that you’re going to be running after them for a bit of attention. It’s so fast Peter. Just a few years, and it’s over. And you are not being careful. And you are missing it.”
There’s no “phoney” business about it… Take full advantage of the technology that makes life so much easier and organized, but also don’t forget that life happens WITH you, not inside your phone. Get those FastPasses, make those dining reservations, play a little trivia game together while you’re standing in line, but don’t forget that the pixie dust in your hands from earlier is most effective when you’re making happy thoughts instead of letting them become like shadows lost on the playroom wall.