Convincing someone who doesn’t like Disney to go to Walt Disney World or Disneyland is no easy task. Many people have negative preconceptions about Disney, had a bad experience at some point, or have some other reason for disliking Disney. I think any Disney fan will tell you that they receive comments on a regular basis along the lines of, “Why do you like that place so much, it’s so [insert pretty much any negative attribute here].”
These negatives run the gamut from expensive to commercialized to fake and more. In fact, if you run a Google search on “hate Disney,” you’ll come across an incredible number of results presenting laundry lists of reasons why Disney theme parks are awful places. Many of these articles are from journalists and academics (the top professions predisposed to disliking Disney based on our highly unscientific research–lesson for Disney fans: never date a journalist or academic), not just online trolls spewing vitriol.
The good news is that if you search “love Disney,” you’ll come across even more articles extolling the virtues of the Disney theme parks. Moreover, these pieces are written by a range of individuals, from students to moms to world travelers to highly intelligent professionals. Despite what naysayers may have you believe, people from all walks of life do like Disney theme parks. They aren’t just places where parents reluctantly take their children as a rite of passage, or places frequented by unrefined adults who are too dense to comprehend that they’re being “duped.”
Point being, regardless of the background of the person you’re trying to convince, it is possible to convince them to go and (more importantly) for them to have a good time. You have to know how to approach the trip and convince them to go in with an open mind. Although this is (fortunately) not a problem Sarah and I have had since we share a passion for Disney, we have encountered many people with what we call “the problem of the reluctant spouse.”
Here are some of our tips for convincing your spouse, or anyone else, to take a Disney vacation.
Pick The Right Location
In many cases, a person’s dislike for Disney might be so deep that getting them to come around and take a trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland is going to be a long road. Fortunately, Disney is ubiquitous. Find the “Disney destination” that you think is most likely to break their preconceptions about Disney and go there.
Many of you are probably approaching this post from the perspective of convincing someone to visit Walt Disney World, and that’s fine. Walt Disney World alone is so vast that there’s truly something for everyone. However, if a person loves Yellowstone National Park, maybe your hook is the Adventures by Disney “Winter in Wyoming” trip, rather than staying at Wilderness Lodge and doing dinner at Artist Point. If your spouse is really into European history and culture, spending extra time in World Showcase might convince them, but your odds are probably a lot better if you take an actual trip to Europe with a couple of days at Disneyland Paris.
Working to optimize your chances of success are the name of the game here. Obviously, budget is going to be a factor, too (an Adventures by Disney trip or a vacation to Europe aren’t quite the same cost as visiting Walt Disney World), so adjust accordingly. The important thing is that you compromise enough to increase your chances of making converts out of them.
Here, compromise doesn’t just mean doing enough persuading to elicit a “yes” to a trip. It means planning so that the trip has things you’re both likely to enjoy, even if you’ve already gotten a yes. A reluctant yes isn’t the same as an enthusiastic one, and if your goal is to get them to actually like Disney, you’re far better off with the enthusiastic yes, even if it means further compromising even after you’ve secured the yes to exactly what you want to do.
Regardless of where you end up, Disney guest service and attention to detail is (more or less) the same all over. That winter Adventures by Disney trip may be worlds away from your ideal of sitting on the beach of the Polynesian relaxing under the rays of the Florida sun, but a positive experience on that winter trip may break down some of their preconceptions about Disney and make an enthusiastic “yes” for a Walt Disney World trip much more likely. In other words, that one winter trip to Wyoming might lead to years of relaxing on the beach of the Polynesian. When you look at it that way, the sacrifice isn’t that great, is it?
Plan Around Their Hesitations
Let’s say you’ve convinced your significant other, and gotten a “yes” for a Walt Disney World vacation. Now you need to figure out why they don’t like Disney and minimize all of those things to the greatest extent that you can.
If they say that the crowds are bad and lines are always long, plan to go when the parks aren’t as crowded and focus on attractions that don’t have significant waits.
If they say everything is for kids, keep them away from Fantasyland and show them the more adult side of Disney. Do attractions like Hall of Presidents, American Adventure, and Impressions de France. Do tours like the Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot or The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. Take them to counter service Walt Disney World restaurants that serve food beyond burgers and fries, and table service restaurants that appeal to foodies.
If they think Walt Disney World is too commercialized, zoom through gift shops and don’t buy a single souvenir on the entire trip. Avoid places like The Emporium and Downtown Disney.
This just covers a couple of common complaints about the Disney theme parks, but you get the idea. Find out what they don’t like about Disney, and then go to the planning board. Highlight examples of things that fit the profile (regardless of how you feel about common Disney stereotypes, there is at least a kernel of truth in many of them, so you will be able to find things that fit the profile), and determine how you will avoid these things. Then, think of things that disprove these stereotypes, and add them to your plan.
Oh, and finally, regardless of whether they bring it up, go when the weather is most likely to be nice. Florida humidity makes everyone cranky, which only exacerbates other complaints and makes them less likely to have a good time. There are no guarantees, but January-February and October-November are generally good months in this regard and in terms of crowds (just plan around any holidays that include school breaks, as those spike crowds).
Your Version of Fun Isn’t Their Version
A common mistake Disney fans make when trying to convince others to share their perspective is keying in on the things that made them passionate about Disney.
Everyone has their own preferences, and just because you really like something doesn’t mean they will really like it. If that were the case, you wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place! There are justifiable reasons why people really like Disney, and there are justifiable reasons why people really dislike it.
Convincing someone who really dislikes Disney is not as simple as taking them to the parks and allowing them to suddenly see the light. In some cases, it will be that simple. A lot of people do arbitrarily dislike Disney and become converts once they let their guard down. However, this doesn’t describe everyone, or probably even the majority of people who dislike Disney.
Instead of just going to Walt Disney World and doing things your way because “how could anyone possibly dislike Walt Disney World once I’ve shown them the parks?!,” do things their way.
If they dislike thrill rides and the dark, skip Space Mountain. Even if it’s your favorite attraction and you don’t see how anyone could possibly dislike it. If they’re an outdoorsman who loves fishing, book a fishing excursion on Bay Lake. Even if you think fishing is gross and The Seas with Nemo and Friends is as close as you ever want to get to fish. If they love craft beer, do research and find out the best places serving craft beer on property, and take them to those spots.
Here is just a (very) partial list of things very different from “regular” Disney theme park offerings that appeal to targeted interests:
- Richard Petty Driving Experience
- Dolphins in Depth
- Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian
- Fishing Excursions on Bay Lake
- Watersports (para-sailing, wakeboarding, water skiing, and more)
- Miniature Golf
- Surfing Lessons
- Segway Tours
- Horseback Riding
- Cirque du Soliel
- Jogging/Running Trails
- Private/Event Dining
- Wild Africa Trek
- Carriage Rides
Again, you get the idea here. The great thing about Walt Disney World is that it’s so vast that it features a form of entertainment that will appeal to virtually anyone. Whatever your significant other’s interests are, chances are there is some way to cater to those interests at Walt Disney World. Even if you don’t know it yet, it’s there’s a good chance it that at least something exists. To find out what, plug in “[interest] + Disney World” into Google. If it exists, chances are some dork like me has blogged about it! Do plenty of research, and put together an itinerary that they will enjoy.
Don’t Overdo It
If you’re a hardcore Disney fan who reads Disney blogs like this one on a daily basis (my apologies!), you may think there is no such thing as too much Disney. I agree with you. We are in the very small minority. Let that sink in. This much enthusiasm for Disney is not normal. (Then again, most people lack this much awesomeness, but I digress…)
Your idea of a perfect Disney vacation might involve 7 consecutive days in the park, going commando from park opening until the very end of Extra Magic Hours every single night. In 99.9% of situations where you’re bringing the reluctant spouse, this kind of touring will not do you any favors if you’re trying to get them to come around from the dark side.
It’s going to vary from reluctant person to reluctant person, but we think a good rule of thumb is doing one day of activities outside of the parks for every day in the parks. Whether this means a strict on, off schedule or a hybrid vacation that takes you to Walt Disney World for 5 days followed by 5 days exploring in the Everglades or Daytona Beach, is up to you.
For this same reason, staying in a non-Disney hotel (there are excellent luxury options on Disney property, and other options off-site) to give them some “Disney downtime” might be pragmatic. You know your significant other better than us, so only you know whether this is really necessary.
No matter what you do, our overarching advice is to compromise and not force it. While we firmly believe that anyone can enjoy a Disney vacation, we also firmly believe that not everyone will enjoy a Disney vacation. There are a variety of reasons why not, and even the best laid plans may not make a difference.
At the very least, gauging the situation and following this advice as applicable will put you in a better position for success. They may never end up sharing your love for Disney, but maybe they will see why it appeals to you so much. That in itself is a small victory!
For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.
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While we’ve listed a lot of things suggestions for those trying to convince someone else to visit Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or some other destination–BUT, we’ve never had this problem ourselves. If you have, we’d love to hear suggestions you might have to offer, or your own “Reluctant Spouse” anecdotes. Even if you have no personal experience but have ideas for what might work, we’d love to hear them! If you have other comments or questions, please leave them in the comments!