When Good Trips Go Bad

by Debra Martin Koma
ALL EARS® Senior Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the
February 24, 2004, Issue #231 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Did you ever have one of "those" trips? You know, the kind where it seems like everything is going wrong?

Well, having just returned from one, I have to tell you, it was definitely a learning experience. Maybe it's because I've been to Walt Disney World so often -- we've had so many positive experiences, maybe I'd gotten lazy about paying attention to trip details and just took for granted that things would just work out. Or maybe we had a black cloud hovering over our heads. Whatever the reason, we had more than our share of mishaps and misadventures this trip, and it got me to thinking about how folks can cope when things don't go exactly as planned.

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DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT
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Everybody forgets something when they go on vacation, right? A toothbrush, a bathing suit, maybe like I did once, socks. Those things are fairly easy to replace, though -- a quick run to the hotel gift shop, or even a local store and you're all set.

But what if you forget something a little more expensive -- like your annual pass? That's what happened to us this time. My husband thought I had his pass, I thought he had it. We were both wrong.

Luckily WDW is equipped to handle this kind of emergency -- believe it or not, it has happened to others before. Just go to Guest Relations at any of the theme parks and show your ID, and they'll be able to cancel your old pass and reissue a new one. Yes, they may charge you a $20 replacement fee, but that's a lot better than shelling out another $400 for a new Annual Pass.

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TICKET TROUBLE
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After our Annual Pass Problemo, we thought the rest of the trip would be smooth sailing. Wrong. The morning of our second day, I was meeting a group of friends for breakfast at Spoodles, while my husband and son slept in. Just as I was taking my first sip of coffee, my husband phoned. "Do you have Alex's ticket?" I knew I didn't -- we'd trusted our nearly 12-year-old son to hang on to his own park pass for a few years. But this time the unimaginable happened -- he lost it. After frantically searching our room and belongings, we concluded he must have dropped it out of his hippy sack when he took his disposable camera out to take a photo of The British Invasion the previous day.

So? What to do when you lose your WDW ticket, in this case a 4-day park hopper pass?

Well, if I'd followed the advice that we often give WDW visitors, I would have copied the numbers that are written on the back of the ticket before I left home. But two dozen trips over the last few years without a major mishap had left me complacent -- I had NOT recorded the ticket numbers anywhere.

Guest Relations was eager to help us out of our predicament, and said that they might be able to track the ticket down if I had the receipt with me.

Oh, I did have the receipt, but I had bought the park hopper from a discount ticket vendor, who did not print the ticket numbers on the receipt. When I called them, I found that they didn't keep track of the ticket numbers either.

We were out of luck. But you needn't be, if you're properly prepared.

Remember: before you leave home, take any park passes you've purchased and look at the side with the magnetic strip. Either photocopy that side of the passes, or take a digital photo, or write down all the numbers you see, and keep that copy in a safe place, separate from where you keep your park passes. This way, if you lose the passes, Guest Relations should be able to help you replace the loss.

Also remember if you've lost your passes (or anything else) to check with Lost and Found. Each of the parks has a Lost and Found location at Guest Relations, but items are only kept there for one day. If you realize later that you've lost something, you'll need to contact Central Lost and Found at 407-824-4245. Since you're at Walt Disney World, the chance that a Good Samaritan will return your lost item is better than out in the world at large. Well, you can hope, anyway. Central Lost and Found is open seven days a week, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. They can also be reached by mail at PO Box 10000, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000.

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WANDERING CHILDREN
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Losing a park pass is a big deal, not to mention a big expense... but what if you lose something even more precious, like your child? Walt Disney World is a big place, and it's easy for someone to get lost in the crowds, especially if they're under 3 feet tall.

It's probably best to establish a meeting point at the start of every day, so that each member of your group knows where to go and wait if you should become separated. But for small children, this approach may not work. One thing Disney suggests is to introduce your children to a Disney Cast Member and specifically point out the Cast Member's unique name tag. Tell the children that if they get lost they should go to any Cast Member for help. Another thing to consider is taking a digital photo of your children each morning, so you can remember what they were wearing if they get lost and you need to describe them.

If you do lose track of your child, the best thing to do is to stay calm. Try to stay about where you were when you think you were separated from the child, and contact a Cast Member. They are specially trained to deal with this situation, and have a remarkable way of finding a lost child before he or she even realizes they were being looked for.

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I THINK I'M GOING TO BE SICK...
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Even though we had a few ticket catastrophes this most recent trip, at least no one ended up ill or in the hospital. But this is one thing you really can't plan for. A stomach bug, a broken leg, or even a serious sunburn -- these things can and do happen, even when you're at Walt Disney World.

This actually happened to me about six years ago -- I came down with a 24-hour stomach bug right in the middle of a family trip. Since we didn't have a car and couldn't get to a doctor on our own, my husband called Guest Services to get a cab and find out where we should go. Instead, the CM offered to send a doctor to US -- yes, a house call! Obviously, it wasn't cheap -- about $120 if I remember correctly -- but the doctor came and took care of me, then phoned a prescription in to a local pharmacy, which also delivered the medication to our resort. It was an expensive experience, to be sure, but it was comforting to know that WDW would help take care of us when we needed it.

If you should become ill at WDW there are a few things to remember -- each park has its own First Aid Center, which provides treatment of minor ailments and cuts and bruises, and also has a medicine cabinet of over-the-counter items, some for sale, such as Pepto-Bismol and Imodium for upset tummies.

For a more serious illness, Florida Hospital Centra Care has four walk-in Urgent Care Centers in the area and they'll even provide transportation if necessary. They can also refer you to someone should you have a dental emergency.

If you need a prescription, Turner Drugs will make deliveries to the WDW resorts.

There's also nearby Celebration Hospital -- but let's hope you never have to go to the hospital when you're on vacation!

Unless it's an extreme emergency (in which case you should call 911 immediately) Guest Services at your WDW resort is the first place to contact -- they'll direct you from there.

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CAR SICKNESS
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So what if it's not a person who gets sick while you're at WDW? What if it's your vehicle?

If you have a rental car, it's not such a big deal -- you can just contact the rental agency, and they should be able to come to your rescue with a replacement.

But what if it's your own car? What if your battery dies in a parking lot? Or your radiator does a permanent overheat?

There's the AAA Car Care Center, located near the Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza, which provides auto repair services (407-824-0976). AAA even provides complimentary towing to the Car Care Center if your car can't make it under its own power. And if you really get stuck, there's an Alamo Rent A Car office at the Center, which offers shuttle service (407-824-3470).

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BAD WEATHER BLUES
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As well as you may know your own mother, there's no way to predict what Ma Nature is going to do when you're in WDW. We've endured unexpected cold snaps, rainstorms, hurricanes, smoke from fires... you just can't be sure that you're going to have 80-degree, blue sky days. So what to do? Hunker down in your room and hope the worst blows over?

Of course not! Bundle up if it's cold -- buy a new sweatshirt if you have to. Don a poncho if it's raining -- they're sold every few feet in the parks when the weather turns nasty. Then get on out there and have some fun.

If you were really planning on a warm weather vacation, but you encounter nothing but cold, as we did a few weeks ago, visit some of the more tropically themed WDW spots. Walking amongst the palm trees in the lobby of the Polynesian can almost make you forget that a brisk wind is blowing outside. Or visit the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge and sit in a rocker by the fire, which is almost always going on cooler days... you'll feel toasty in no time.

If it's raining, head over to Disney-MGM Studios -- it's a smaller park to walk around, and many of the attractions there are longer, indoor or covered shows: Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Muppet Vision 3D; Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, the Great Movie Ride, Who Wants to be a Millionaire. By the time you come out from seeing a few of those attractions, perhaps the storm clouds will have passed over!

In other words, since you can only complain about the weather, not actually change it, try to make the most of it. A chilly day at Walt Disney World is far better than a warm day at home or at work, right?

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THE SKY (AT WORK) IS FALLING!
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Even though you're on vacation, the outside world spins on. I'm sure that many, like my husband, are convinced that their businesses or offices are going to fall to pieces without them -- and sometimes work crises do arise. Fortunately, WDW offers a variety of services that allow even the busiest of business persons to "take care of business" without interrupting their time off too much. Many resorts have a Cast Member at Guest Services who can act as a Notary Public if necessary, and most resorts have fax machines to allow for the sending and receiving of important documents (for a small fee). Other business services, such as photocopying, Internet access, currency exchange, overnight shipping and telegrams are all available by contacting a resort's Guest Services desk.

So the next time you're on vacation at WDW and things start to go wrong, don't panic. Remember the words of the Maelstrom narrator, and know that you are probably "not ze first to pass zis vay." Most likely, a WDW Cast Member will know exactly what to do to help you.

They don't call it the Most Magical Place on Earth for nothing.

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Have you encountered some problems during a Walt Disney World trip? And how have you coped? Drop us a line or two and share your stories of how you "made lemonade" when life gave you lemons on your vacation!

http://allears.net/forms/feedback.htm

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RELATED LINKS:

What to Pack: http://allears.net/pl/forgot.htm

What to Tote around the Parks: http://allears.net/pl/tote.htm


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.