/ Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

In our first edition of WWDPD: Family Dryers, we asked readers to evaluate the merits of including family dryers outside of Disney water rides.  The vote was 32 in favor, 14 opposed, and 5 unsure.  Thank you for weighing in!  Now, please join us as we consider changing the way Disney handles strollers on the railroad.  Check out my analysis and then please vote on the idea.


There are times when I have been a really bad Disney mother.  While I want my children to experience all the joy of a Disney vacation, I will confess that after just one attempt to load three, stroller-riding children under the age of three onto the Main Street Railroad, I proceeded to ignore their requests to ride the “choo choo.”  I can still hear their plaintive toddler voices saying “choo choo” and pointing their tiny pointer fingers at the train station as I did a near sprint down Main Street USA.  Why, you may ask?  Because of the utter frustration of dealing with strollers on that train.

Get the kids out…make sure they don’t toddle away while removing the contents underneath… Folding it up… Holding the kids’ hands….  Doling out sippy cups…. Glancing at the slowly inching hands on my watch… loading the three children and folded stroller into the row of seats, trying to hold everything… and then completing the process in reverse when getting off the train while people rush past.  NO WAY JOSE is that kind of frustration worth it.  So, I was a bad mom and just refused to ride it again.

As I shared how mean I was to another Disney-loving family, they informed me that because they rented Disney strollers, that had never even taken the kids on the railroad, as these strollers could not be folded. (“See, Christy?  You aren’t the most evil parent!”)

It was when I was at “another” theme park (Busch Gardens-Williamsburg) that I saw two interesting ideas photo (5)relating to strollers and their railroad: stroller storage and a stroller exchange station.

For guests who did bring their own strollers, the Busch Gardens trains have compartments in the back of most cars where guests can slide their strollers.   I could not determine if the strollers HAD to be folded while in the compartment (some were and some were not). So, while this does not necessarily solve the hassle of the folding and unfolding of the stroller, it does allow a family to comfortably sit on the train without squeezing into a row of seats with squirming children and a massive, bulky stroller scratching at their knees.

For guests who had rented park strollers, there was a stroller exchange station right at the entrance/exit to the train stations; guests were able to take their photo (6)child out of the stroller, walk to the the train station, enjoy a family ride, and then pick up a new stroller at the next station.

To be clear, in doing research for this piece, I did find reference on the Touring Plans website to a way that you can in Disney Parks, in fact, swap out your stroller by taking your family ID card and belongings on the train.  However, I couldn’t find any other information about this policy, nor have I ever seen stations as clearly  marked and easily used as the ones at this park.  (If you HAVE done this, please let us know how it works!)

So, What Would Disney Parks Do?  In my wanna-be Imagineer mind, I love the train, which is VERY appealing to children, but needs to be as easy as possible for families to navigate.  Putting in stroller storage and stroller exchanges seem like ways to make that more possible.

Advantages:

1. Guest Satisfaction: Parents and children will be happier that they can access the railroad more easily. This is a great way to spend an afternoon with a cranky child, who might just need a couple laps around the park to take a quick snooze.  This also opens up the train ride to those who rent Disney strollers.

2. Increased Seating: With fewer people stuffing themselves and their three strollers into a railroad aisles, there will be more room for other guests to be seated comfortably and enjoy the train.

3. Organization: Having a secure place to store strollers will ease congestion in the platform areas and below the train station.

Disadvantages:

1. Staffing: Just from the sheer number of people who rent Disney strollers, I am sure there would need to be a cast member to monitor the stroller exchange.  Sadly, I am not convinced that the human spirit would prevail, and strollers would just be “borrowed” from the exchange location.  Honestly, I was shocked the Busch Gardens area was not monitored by an employee, but I am guessing their stroller rental volume must be much lower than Disney’s.  Given that a salary will now be involved in covering this location, I imagine Disney would not be wild about a non-revenue generating concept.

2. Cost: Of course, money will be a factor in any Disney decision.  The cost of adding the stroller compartments to the backs of the cars on the train could be pricey.  Not being a master of train engineering, I have no way to judge that, but again, this is a non-revenue-generating proposition.

3. Tradition: Traditionalists (and I consider myself one) may not like the concept of altering the train’s cars to add a storage compartment at the back.  While I did not think it affected the aesthetic appeal of the Busch Gardens cars, I am not sure how people would react to a change in a mainstay of the Magic Kingdom experience.

So, What do YOU think?  Should Disney look to change the trains and stroller policies to enable guests with small children to more easily ride the railroad?  Please vote in our poll below, and feel free to leave your observations or stroller experiences (in Disney or at other parks) in the comments below.  And stay tuned for our next edition, where we will examine refillable drinks… and POPCORN!

Should Disney look to change the trains and stroller policies to enable guests with small children to more easily ride the railroad?


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6 Responses to "WWDPD: Strollers and the WDW Railroad"

  1. I have never had a real issue with strollers anywhere in the Disney parks. My wife and I have used several different strategies over the years to deal with it and having four sons, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to experiment.

    The biggest problem I continually see is that parents simply carry around too much baggage with their kids. I have an Eddie Bauer jacket with LOTS of large cargo pockets which became my default “Disney” outerwear. Between that jacket and a backpack, we could carry all of our son’s equipment… sippy cups, diapers, wipes, binkies, etc. I also learned early one to wear cargo pants as well, so that if it were too hot for a jacket, I’d put wipes in one pocket and diapers folded into another.

    Our stroller? We gave up on the fancy Peg Perego on our first visit because it wasn’t a quick enough solution. We got into the habit of always having a “Walmart Special” folding umbrella stroller on hand that we could hang the backpack from, fold in seconds to take ON the ride between our legs, or sometimes just leave anywhere in the park and pick up again later. If we rented one, we’d quickly plan out a strategy to leave the stroller at either an easy stop to get back to, or purposely drop it at a midway point before heading to a train station, so we could come back by later and get it back.

    The BIGGEST problem with strollers is that they get nicked by other people. We’d go back to the location we’d dropped it, and someone would have taken it. This has happened several times elsewhere too, so it seems to be human nature to steal someone else’s property in our society. Sad commentary to be sure. This is why the default stroller was a discount one. We didn’t really care much if the umbrella stroller was stolen, because it was dirt cheap. The rental was always easy to replace at the Star Traders in Tomorrowland. Over time though I found that if you leave some trash and one “full pee-pee diaper” sitting IN your stroller… nobody is going to take it! ;)

    All of this allowed us to jump on and off of trains and rides in moments. Our boys learned early the pattern of unbuckling, pulling up backpacks,folding the stroller, etc. so that getting on and off of the rides became a lesson in efficiency timing.

  2. Tony E (BacksideOfWater) says:

    i don’t have kids so no need for a stroller but this sounds like a great idea to me

  3. Having four children of my own, I’m sympathetic to your plight. But most Disney World visitors don’t have that many children, let alone three under the age of three, so I don’t expect this to be anywhere on Disney’s radar. Don’t worry, though, your kids will be teenagers before you know it. ;-)

  4. Steamboat Eddie says:

    I can not relate, but my opinion would be to make the experience at the parks as enjoyable as possible even if that means modifying things. It should never be a nightmare to board the WDW Railroad and i’m sure Walt would agree. So if the train cars need to be customized to accommodate stollers then so be it.

    Have a fantasmic day!

  5. I know I’m a bit late responding, but another thing that Busch Gardens-Williamsburg has that Disney is missing is a parking lot tram that holds strollers. We went a few years ago with my sister (who at the time had triplet 1 year olds in a single stroller) and instead of making us unload the kids and fold the stroller, they offered us a tram car large enough to load the stroller in, kids and all! I know it couldn’t be done for everyone one with a stroller, but at least one car like this for sleeping children in strollers or children in strollers outnumbering the adults would be a good idea.

  6. WDW does indeed have stroller swap stations for the train ride. They are located on the train platforms. We did this last summer (2012) when we visited and it was very easy and convenient.

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