We all have opinions about proper theme park etiquette.
THIS is the way you should behave in public. THAT behavior is inappropriate. Can you believe he did THAT?
But while some tourist infractions are universally reviled, other perceived transgressions may simply be stylistic matters or mutable cultural differences. And as with any opinion-based topic, there’s bound to be a substantial gray area. What slightly miffs one person might absolutely horrify another. In the interest of promoting discussion, here are some commonly mentioned theme park infractions and my personal assessment of their level of severity.
I’m going to rank items on a scale of 1-5.
- 1 = Perfectly fine. No bother at all.
- 2 = Mildly annoying.
- 3 = Pretty yucky.
- 4 = Bad. This is really no way to behave.
- 5 = Really super bad. Just stop now, you’re embarrassing yourself and those around you.
Stopping in the middle of a walkway.
What’s the issue?: You’re lost and need to consult your park map. Instead of pulling over to the side, you stop in the middle of a walkway to get your bearings.
My rating: 2 to 3, depending on the crowd level.
My rationale: When you stop with no warning in the middle of a walkway, the folks behind you have to stop short or possibly run into you, or possible have others run into them. If the park crowds are low, it’s relatively easy for the folks behind you to course correct. If park crowds are high, someone’s going to get hurt.
Taking flash photos during an attraction.
What’s the issue?: You want to commemorate your experience. The ride is dark. You use your flash to take a photo.
My rating: 3 if it’s a standard dark ride. 5 if it’s an attraction with live human performers.
My rationale: If the attraction has no prohibition against general photography and you’re able to take shots without flash (It’s a Small World, for example), be my guest. However, if it’s a ride that takes place primarily in the dark (Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion) your flash will take other guests out of the immersive experience of the attraction as well as exposing machinery or other backstage elements that are meant to be hidden. Plus, flash photos rarely come out well, making your intrusion on the experience of others all for naught. If you’re taking flash photos during a show which involves human performers (like Finding Nemo The Musical), not only are you bothering other guests, you’re providing a distraction to the performers that could result in physical injury.
Talking during an attraction.
What’s the issue?: The show’s going on and you’re yapping with your companions or yammering on your cell phone.
My rating: 1 to 4, depending on the circumstances.
My rationale: I think we can all give a pass to a parent who quietly whispers “look at the giraffe” to a toddler during It’s A Small World. And “look at the giraffe” can be downright helpful on Kilimanjaro Safari. Comments like these are innocuous and related to the situation at hand. However, anything that takes other guests out of the environment is a big no-no. It may be your 50th time on the Carousel of Progress, but it could be someone else’s first. They don’t want to hear your singing. And no one, I mean no one, wants to hear half of a cell phone conversation during an attraction at Disney World.
Changing you baby’s diaper on a park bench.
What’s the issue?: Your little one needs a change so you decide to take care of business on the nearest flat surface.
My rating: Ewwwwww – 5.
My rationale: There are changing tables in nearly every rest room, male and female, at Walt Disney World. There are dozens of restrooms in every theme park. Take three extra seconds and head to the bathroom to change the nappy. You’ll keep the spread of diaper-related mess and germs to a contained area and you’ll have access to water for proper clean-up.
Saying it’s your birthday when it’s not.
What’s the issue?: You can’t make it to Walt Disney World on your actual birth date, but you want to celebrate your big event at the parks. Wear the birthday button and celebrate on an alternate day.
My rating: 1. Have fun!
My rationale: Disney makes it quite clear that if you’re celebrating, they’re celebrating. Those birthday buttons and occasional free cupcakes are a marketing tool for Disney. They make people happy; happy people spend more money; happy people tell their friends about their happy times at the parks. Don’t abuse the system by having 10 or 12 birthdays a year, but if you are legitimately celebrating something, feel free to do so whenever seems most appropriate.
Bringing a young child to a signature restaurant.
What’s the issue?: Signature restaurants serve gourmet food at gourmet prices. Is this the place for tiny tots?
My rating: 1. Go ahead and take the whole family.
My rationale: With the exception of Victoria & Albert’s, anyone is welcome at any Disney restaurant at any time. You’ll see babies, toddlers, and preschoolers dining with their families at signature restaurants throughout the World. That being said, you should be cognizant that signature meals can be expensive. Some folks may be there for their one vacation splurge or on an important date night. If you are bringing a little one to a signature meal, try to make it an early seating and be prepared to step outside for a bit if the child gets fussy.
Forcing your child to go on a ride.
What’s the issue?: The rest of the family wants to go on Space Mountain but little Bobby doesn’t. He’s crying and you’re telling him to get on that ride, or else.
My rating: I want to say 5, but I’m going with 3-4 because it’s your kid and I don’t know the whole story.
My rationale: Childhood fears can be real and quite intense. Forcing your child to experience an attraction he’s not yet ready for can inflict psychological damage and mar your child’s trust. Additionally, no one else on the ride wants to hear your child cry while they’re trying to have a good time. Maybe there’s something going on I don’t know about (he’s crying because he dropped his ice cream, not because he hates Space Mountain), but actually forcing your child onto a ride is bad news.
Feeding the birds.
What’s the issue?: In addition to Donald, there are plenty of avian ducks, and gulls, and egrets that make Walt Disney World their home. Maybe they’d like some popcorn?
My rating: 4.
My rationale: The food served at the parks is designed for people, not birds. Chances are whatever you’re tossing to the ducks has too much salt and not enough nutrients for their metabolism. You may be doing them physical harm. Also, feeding the birds makes them aggressive (I’ve been dive-bombed by a gull at The Boardwalk who had eyes on my funnel cake) and possibly contributes to disease by causing them to excrete in human areas.
Participating in group cheers or chants in the park.
What’s the issue?: We’re here with a tour group, cheer group, or sports team. YAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!
My rating: 4.
My rationale: I’m glad you’re happy, really I am. But I want to be on my vacation, not yours. When 200 people march through the parks cheering at the top of their lungs, it detracts from my ability to talk to my own family. Keep the noise to normal conversational levels.
Decorating your hotel room door/window.
What’s the issue?: I’m celebrating and I want to tell the world by decorating my hotel room door.
My rating: 3.
My rationale: To me, this is the visual equivalent of cheering in the parks. I’m glad you’re happy, but I don’t need your celebration to be my celebration. If I’ve paid gobs of money to see a particular type of decor at my hotel, I don’t want my sight line interrupted by incongruous clutter.
Leaving your used room service tray in the hall.
What’s the issue?: You’re done with your room service meal. You want it out of the room so you don’t have to look at the scraps any more.
My rating: 2.
My rationale: I get it, the protocol really is to put your tray in the hall when you’re done with your room service meal, but I don’t want to look at your half-chewed sandwich any more than you do. At least put a napkin over the plate.
Talking the hotel room hallways.
What’s the issue?: You’re chatting with your family, planning your day while you walk from your room to the elevator.
My rating: 4.
My rationale: This may seem harsh, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been woken by other guests chatting outside my hotel room door. The very nature of hotels means that people are coming from all over to rest and relax. If someone is from another time zone, their sleep hours may be different from yours. Maybe it’s taken hours for them to get the baby settled in a new environment. Maybe vacation is the only time they get to sleep late. Respect your fellow travelers and save the chat until you’re outdoors.
Not tipping your table service waiter.
What’s the issue?: What??? I’m supposed to tip my waiter 15%? Prices here are crazy, there’s no way I’m adding 15% on top of that.
My rating: 5.
My rationale: Look, you may not like it. It may not be the custom in your home country, but tipping 15-20% is standard practice at US table service restaurants. That’s just the way it is. Stiffing your waiter is wrong, and a “well, it’s not like where I’m from” argument isn’t going to fly.
Using R-rated language.
What’s the issue?: This place is @#$%^&*, ya know.
My rating: 5.
My rationale: I have no problem with your off-color language if you’re in adult company on your home turf. I’ll talk blue myself in appropriate circumstances, but dude, you’re at Disney World. There are little kids everywhere, even at the sports bar, even at the gourmet restaurants. Keep your chatter to PG levels, please.
Not having your camera ready during a character meet & greet.
What’s the issue?: Hey Mickey! Wait, where’s my camera? Ooops, gotta take of the lens cap. Is this thing on?
My rating: 3.
My rationale: While it seems like this might be only a level-2 infraction, I’m going to give it a 3 because lots of dilly-dallying means that fewer people will get to have time with the character. Picture something like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Line to see the Seven Dwarfs can easily be an hour long (or more, but let’s go with an hour). If eight people in the line take an unnecessary 15 seconds with the Dwarfs, then the two people at the end of the line probably won’t be able to get their photo op. Help out another guest by getting your camera ready ahead of your time.
OK folks, it’s discussion time. Let me know (nicely) what I got wrong. What would you rank differently? Are there other park infractions that merit ranking? Tell us what’s on your mind.