As the glorious phenomenon of football season fast approaches, I am reminded of several human desires that fuel our interest in this primal blood sport: conquest, heroism, and fraternal bonds. In a far less menacing vein, I am also reminded one of my favorite old Disney cartoon shorts: “How to Play Football.” In it, Goofy – and like 1,000 other Goofy-like characters – provides a jaunty revue of all things pigskin and gridiron.
I’ve been watching it since I was a kid because I love Disney, sports, and anything hilarious…but there is nothing funny about the way in which my family attacked the buses at Walt Disney World ® this past spring. Not when my wife was Joe Montana calling the shots in a West Coast offense of parenthood, replete with passes, handoffs, and trick plays – the playbook for which I could hardly follow. And this is how my football analogy come comes full circle:
When staying on Walt Disney World ® property, successfully loading and unloading a family with small children on and off of the Walt Disney World ® Bus Service – especially when a stroller is involved — requires the same preparation and timing as a well-oiled NFL offense.
Like any great coach, my wife would sit her team down before game time (in our case, my one-year-old son and me on a queen-sized bed in a room and Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter ®) and discuss a plan of attack for the coming contest. All of this was done in that same spirit of conquest mentioned above. And since jocks – and dads – can be a bit on the dim side, it is best for a coach to simplify last minute preparations with, say, elementary acronyms. For instance, the legendary quarterback, Bret Favre, was known to use the “PASS” method of calling an offense during games: Peruse, Adjust, Streamline, Score.”
Now, in our case, my wife came up with the “PEACE” method of boarding a Walt Disney World Bus. Here’s what is stands for:
Prepare and inventory
Exit (in reverse)
Allow me to elaborate upon each aspect of the mnemonic device above:
1. Prepare and inventory: It is best to make a list of all of the essentials you’ll need on any given leg of your journey — and check it every time you are about to board a bus! Wallet? Check. Phones? Check. Diaper bag? Check. Portable chargers? Check! Mouse ears? Check, check, and check! I cannot stress this step enough. Physically writing down every “must-have” item in list format and checking every one of them will speed up your exit time and reduce travel stress immeasurably.
In doing this, make sure to condense material as much as possible: work backwards by size like a Russian nesting doll. Use large bags to contain smaller bags like diaper bags and purses, and use the smaller containers to house the individual items on your checklist. The key here is to corral as much stuff into as few carry-able containers as possible. This will make the next step of assigning carry roles as easier.
2. Establish roles: Now that you’ve successfully packed, you need to decide who will carry what. This will ensure that once those bus doors open, you and your family will be prepared to storm the bus quickly and efficiently. On our last trip, my wife took baby out of the stroller in the bus queue and wore him in an Ergo carrier while I collapsed the stroller and split the big bags between us. This division of labor was established before the bus arrived so that we eliminated any wasted time “figuring things out” when we should have been well on our way to the back of the bus.
(Quick note: the stroller discussion of whether to bring your own stroller from home or rent will be covered at length in another post soon.)
3. Anchor: Alright, you’re on the bus…it’s gonna launch soon…get your stuff wedged, NOW! That is to say, while the Walt Disney World busses are convenient, clean, and pretty spacious, they do sway and bump and curve, so loose items like strollers, wobbly humans, and light sabers may shift during transit. For instance strap-hanging grandparents and folded strollers are two notoriously tip-able groups. My suggestion is to secure as much as you can under your seat, between your legs, and in inconspicuous spaces on the bus. The key is to secure your own items so that they don’t hurt you or others while minimizing their infringement on your neighbors’ space.
4. Cling: Hold on for dear life.
5. Exit (in reverse): As your bus arrives at the appointed destination, wait patiently to exit the bus, and reverse your load-in process until you have a kid in a stroller and all of those bags your were packing stowed away under the wee baby. (Note: keep pressingly needed items in a handy spot for easy access.)
Now, while this system is pretty reliable, like any good quarterback, you may need to initiate an audible now and again. For instance, once in the parks for an entire day, you may pick up an ever-accumulating souvenir tally; to this, I say take advantage of the delivery service provided free-of-charge to your room. Depending upon the time of day in which you utilize the service, the items you purchase can be delivered directly to your on-property room that day or early the next. Again, this service is free of charge and reduces your “take-home” load. Heck, you can even have your purchased items shipped to your actual home, but there are obviously charges for this – speak to a cast member for further details.
Also, not all queues are created equal; most bus lines at the parks are snake-shaped utilizing stanchions while still others are merely open spaces where people blob together and impromptu lines form. In either case, during busy times, you may or may not choose to lag back and wait for a line to thin out before attempting to beat the crush of an already busy line. Again, this is up to you and based upon your gut reaction to the crowd ahead of you. (How much equipment do you have? Are there impatient people ahead of you? Are busses running frequently? etc.)
So, there you have it: an anticipatory system to consider when loading a family with little ones onto a bus at Walt Disney World. I wish you success in your own endeavors in navigating this tangled web of theme park transportation, For while I may be a literal Jet fan, I have a Hall-of-Fame quarterback of a wife to guide me through the figurative football game of my Disney obsession.
But now it’s your turn. Will your “team” score big or get thrashed due to poor transportation planning. I await the results with more enthusiasm than Goofy showed in his cartoon short, but for now, there is only one thing to say: “HIKE!”
(Photos from the author’s personal collection. Film images ©Disney.)
Richie McNanna is an 8th grade teacher from Westfield, NJ. He has been a self-proclaimed Disney nut since the age of seven when his parents convinced him that real ghosts lived in the Haunted Mansion, and his goal in life is to retire one day and become one of the Dapper Dans. Richie’s wife, Helene, is the most understanding woman on the planet for putting up with his Disney obsession and owed a great deal of emotional payback. His son is one year old and already owns several sets of Mickey ears.