Mixing Heigh Ho & High Tech – Phone Habits at WDW!
I hear my mother say it all the time: “these kids today have no idea what it was like for us before ____ came along!” As I was looking back through some restaurant photos while planning an upcoming trip to Walt Disney World, I suddenly found that phrase echoing in my mind. My next thoughts were memories of the days when we just showed up to restaurants without knowing ahead of time what might be on the menu or how our food may look when served. I then couldn’t think of a time in the last decade when I hadn’t looked up as many details of a new restaurant as possible on my phone before visiting. I know I’m not alone in this. It’s the new normal – especially when planning a Disney trip!
For many of us over a certain age, a lot of our vacation memories from childhood include bulky cameras, canisters of film, and waiting for weeks to see what our snapshots would turn out like. Driving directions and itineraries were written by hand, and airline tickets were purchased by phone. There wasn’t a cell phone in sight! Nowadays, however, your mobile device plays a pretty pivotal role in a Disney World vacation.
If you’re anything like me, it all starts at the time of booking. With a huge grin on my face, full of excitement and anticipation, I race to link my resort reservation to my My Disney Experience account as soon as it’s been secured! Once that’s done, I scroll through articles, photos, and websites, dreaming of that next trip while my fingers dance across the screen of my iPhone. There’s also an immense amount of tapping out texts with the rest of my travel party as we make our plans and count down the days until we go!
Once the countdown is over and you’ve arrived at the Orlando Airport, chances are you’re pulling out your phone while waiting at the luggage carousel to see if your room is ready, pulling up a rideshare app to get to your resort, or maybe even checking ride wait times if you’re heading straight to a park!
With Magic Bands no longer being a complimentary perk of a Disney resort stay, guests can also use their My Disney Experience app on their mobile devices to enter their hotel rooms and the parks alike. You can make purchases, check transportation times and entertainment schedules, check in for dining reservations, order quick service meals, and so much more. Of course, this is also how visitors access virtual queues for new attractions and purchase and use Disney Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane selections if they choose to do so.
If you have chosen to purchase Disney Genie+ during your trip, chances are you will spend a fair amount of time on your phone, checking for Lightning Lane availability and times and snagging selections as your booking windows open through the course of the day. This system is fully reliant on the consistent use of mobile technology, making it convenient while on the go. However, I do find that it’s now vital to carry a fully charged power bank in my park bag, as my phone battery sees more use than ever during a day of park hopping with Genie+!
While the use of the My Disney Experience app and its features play a crucial role in the WDW vacation experience these days, I would say there is another app on my phone that I use even more frequently during my trips. That’s right; it’s the camera!
I remember walking down Main Street, U.S.A. as a kid and feeling so envious of the families toting around camcorders! I imagined how amazing it must be to relive the highlights of a day in the Magic Kingdom on-screen in your living room, just as you had seen them live, over and over again. Disposable cameras were what my family typically used, and I would envision each snap as a postcard-worthy shot as my finger pushed down on the hard, plastic button. Even though it inevitably happened every time, I was always shocked (and slightly disappointed) by any photos with a blurry finger blocking the view or a portrait subject who blinked and was captured with their eyes closed. Little did I know that as an adult, I would end up carrying a tiny camcorder and camera all-in-one in the palm of my hand and be able to check the quality of photos immediately!
With modern technology, the days of carrying sizeable video cameras and waiting what felt like ages to see our vacation photos are behind us. Over the past couple of decades, as cameras on cell phones became standard and advanced, the average tourist looking to photograph the pinnacle moments of their trip no longer needed multiple pieces of expensive equipment. There’s no more worrying about running out of space on filmstrips or if your photo came out as you hoped! Taking photos and video is now as easy as a quick flutter of a finger; we can see the results instantly, and our phones can easily store thousands of images! We are able to capture more magical moments and memories than ever before, and I know I am very grateful to now too be able to watch videos from my trips with a simple tap on my phone’s screen!
With all that said, while there are so many ground-breaking and convenient ways that our phones assist us at WDW, I have to say there are some things that my iPhone just can’t deliver. For most of us, our instinct now is to whip out our phones to fill our downtime and document each moment with a photo or video, but I think it’s also important not to live life entirely through the lens of a screen, especially on vacation! Some of my favorite Disney moments and memories are captured only in my mind, and though I may not have a physical copy to refer back to, those snapshots stored in my heart are just as special and unforgettable!
It’s all about finding the right balance of taking advantage of the high-tech planning available while still remembering to leave some room for spontaneity. Walt Disney himself was a huge fan of innovation, and I like to imagine what kinds of photos he would take or what Lightning Lanes he might choose on his phone during his visits to the parks if he were touring around with us today. As technology continues to advance, I can’t wait to see how it will continue to bring even more magic and convenience into future trips!