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The Disneyland Crowd Survival Guide

Partners statue in Disneyland

Disneyland attendance keeps going up, and even with increased prices and annual pass block out dates, there’s just no sign of attendance really slowing. It used to be that cast and fans could count on a slow down during the school year; that’s no longer the case. (Check out “Cleaning the Kingdom” to see how the expanded programs have affected maintenance.) With the slow periods getting shorter and farther between, it pays to be prepared with a plan for dealing with the crowds.

Aside from the increasing popularity of the park and its newest additions (Galaxy’s Edge, anyone?) bringing in more people, the individuals in the crowd are taking up more space. Americans are getting larger. Guests are using more wheelchairs and ECVs, and strollers now come in double-wide or double-long versions. All of this results in greater difficulties in maneuvering and the greater likelihood that you will run into someone.

The first thing to remember is that EVERYONE(!) is trying to do the same thing you are, and they have the same over-arching goals – have fun and get away from the cares of the world. They may have different smaller goals, like see all the characters or ride Haunted Mansion 999 times, but in essence, they are you and vice versa. No one is actively trying to keep you from accomplishing your goals.

You WILL run into someone. Someone will also run into you. How you and the other person react to the situation can make all the difference to improving the experience or causing an issue and not letting anyone have any fun. Disneyland is full of distractions: lights, details, characters, the castle… the list is long and diverse. Throw in a heaping helping of smart phones, texts and selfies while walking or driving a wheel chair, ECV or stroller, and you have a recipe for disaster and possibly dangerous collisions, especially as night falls and people become more tired lowering their reaction times.

Fortunately, most of the time, people bumping into one another won’t result in injury. A step on the back heel that causes a bruise may be painful and result in a “flat tire” or a blown-out flip flop. However, as long as no one gets truly hurt, there’s no need for throwing shade or exchanging dirty looks – even if the other person doesn’t apologize. When you take on an attitude of animosity toward someone or toward his or her actions, you hurt yourself and your ability to have fun far more than you hurt the other person. Walk it off, and like Elsa, let it go. (Easier said than done if you’re tired, hot and/or hungry.)

When a stroller or wheel chair are involved, the pain can be greater, but it’s the ECVs that can wreak the most havoc. If you’re in charge of maneuvering any of these vehicles, pay attention. You must actively scan more than the immediate foreground because people who are walking will believe they can cut in front of you. They will overestimate their abilities, and you will hit them. Some people in front of you may change their mind and come to a sudden stop, you must be prepared for this, or you will run into them. (It happened to me.)  If you’re in an ECV, this could mean a trip to the hospital for the person you hit.

Regardless of how you’re getting around the park, put away the distractions. Do not text, call, iPad, iPhone, App, use an etch-a-sketch, read a paperback or anything else while you’re moving. Simply walk or navigate your vehicle and that’s it. If you’re doing it right, it will take all of your awareness and leave no room for the latest cat video on your social media feed. (If it’s that important, you’re friends will tag you, and it will be there when you get back online at your next stop.) Only use your electronic devices when you are stopped and to the side of the street or walking area away from the intersection or any openings.

There are times when you will want to stop in the middle of the street. DON’T. Unless you’re trying to get a scenic shot of the castle, somewhere in the middle of Main Street, U.S.A., do not stop in the middle of any walking area. Move to the side and let those behind you continue on unimpeded. Do not stop in entryways or on ramps.

Families will want to spread out and walk side by side. A group of six people quickly becomes a wall that blocks everyone else from getting where they want to go, especially when the children are holding the parents’ hands and running out to as far as the parent’s arms will extend. If possible, walk like the animals of Noah’s ark, 2 by 2, to allow others to pass.

As the sheriff at Radiator Springs says, “Whoa! Slow down. You aren’t racing, yet.” Great words for getting around Disneyland. SLOW DOWN! Rushing from attraction to attraction will lead to more accidents, and you’ll get tired more quickly. Pace yourself. Take in everything Disneyland has to offer by walking at a comfortable pace. This may seem like a contradictory recommendation, but slowing down allows you to be more predictable, which allows others to make better decisions. It also gives you more time to compensate for the other people on the route while mitigating possible damage from collisions and cluing you into the things that others may miss in their headlong search for the next great attraction.

The two most important words for anyone trying to get through a crowd are “Excuse me.” Don’t try to wheel your vehicle or self around a group that may or may not know you’re there. (They don’t know you’re there even if they all looked at you and wished you a merry unbirthday.) Your ECV horn is also useless. People don’t listen to electronic noises anymore (even if it’s their ring tone). There are a lot of other sounds competing for attention, and horns get lost in the cacophony. Slow down, say “Excuse me” and wait for them to move. If there’s nowhere for anyone to go, don’t bull your way through, just go slower.

The second most important words are “I’m sorry.” Sure, you can shorten it to “sorry,” but the “I’m” takes responsibility for the mistake. Far too few people are willing to take responsibility in the real world, don’t be that person in Disneyland. Even if it’s not your mistake, a well-placed “I’m sorry” can defuse a situation that may otherwise go sideways. Do not assign blame! “I honked, and you didn’t move” is no excuse for running into someone. Acknowledge the mistake and apologize. (This is not legal advice; it’s human decency advice.) If someone bumps into you, there usually isn’t any malice or intent in it. Even if there is, you shouldn’t let it get to you and ruin your vacation.

For those who get annoyed with crowds, it’s important to schedule time to get away. This may mean going back to the hotel and enjoying the room, a nap or the pool. It could mean visiting a less crowded space in the park, like near the Wishing Well or the former boat ramp across from the Matterhorn on the “it’s a small world” side. Critter Country has expanded its Hungry Bear Restaurant footprint and, when it gets colder, it benefits from fewer people riding Splash Mountain.  The movie sneak peeks also tend to be less crowded places, especially when a film has already debuted. Check out the cartoons on Main Street, U.S.A. Do some shopping earlier in the day. Or just grab something to eat at one of the upscale restaurants (as long as you’ve booked a reservation). Some tours offer special parade seating, and the Tomorrowland Skyline Terrace, a dining option for the fireworks, is a great place to get away from the crowds.

People can be one of the joys of going to Disneyland. With the right attitude, good people watching skills, an increase in patience and a plan, your Disneyland trip will be even more amazing. Click for more on Disneyland. Check out the quick tips for crowd management. Leave a comment if you have any advice on dealing with the crowds when you’re at Disneyland.

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  1. […] those who don’t want to read the long version, here are the quick tips for dealing with crowds at […]

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