Now that I have done the program once there are so many things that I learned when I was out there that would have been so much easier had someone told me them before I went. I figured other people had the same issue so I put a plea out on Facebook to other alumni for the one thing they wish someone had told them before they did their program and they answered. In this post I have put the best ones…
…To take photos, lots of photos!
Anyone who has read this blog will know that I take a LOT of photos. But on my program I didn’t really start taking them until more than halfway through. When you come home at the end of the program the photos are all you have to trigger the memories, the more photos, the more happy memories you will retain. Take LOTS of photos of everything, nights out, nights in, sitting on the bus, wandering around the parks, that stupid sign you saw that one time… Take it from me if you don’t the memories will fade and you will have a hard time remembering if you saw that silly sign when you were at Universal or at SeaWorld and whether it was with Joe or Jack.
…That having a bit of a breakdown is normal
Let’s be honest here, going to Disney is running away to the other side of the world. At some point in the year you are going to stop and think ‘Wait, am I doing the right thing?’. THIS IS NORMAL. For most people this tends to happen at two major times in their program, 2 months in and 6 months in. At this time I highly recommend taking Emma’s advice from the last post and taking time to head to the parks, chill out and remember why you did this in the first place. Working at Walt Disney World is not always easy and living and working with the same people day in, day out even more so. It is therefore important to take time for yourself every now and again and before you take any rash decisions visit the Magic Kingdom, watch Wishes and see how you feel in the morning.
…To get a Car
This is a controversial one. Disney provide Bus transportation which is not bad 95% of the time but clearly it does not go the most direct or fastest route to places. Buying a car is a big commitment both financially and in terms of the time needed to find a car, do a driving test and sort out all of the paperwork but hiring a car for occasional trips is very easy and can be as little as about $30 a day and you can walk to Hertz from housing. The car debate is a big one and there is no right or wrong answer but a car for a few days here and there is an amazing freedom. If you don’t have a car, make friends with someone who does… but maybe buy them a drink every now and again to say thank you.
…That taxis are pretty cheap if you know where to go
When you don’t have a car, get a taxi! There are various taxi drivers that basically only work with the various countries of the World Showcase. When you arrive in Orlando you will pretty quickly get their numbers from people who are already there, they are really pretty cheap. A taxi to work with a group of people is $2 each. When you just can’t face the bus journey or want to stop for a cheeky food stop on the way give them a call. They are a lot cheaper than the other taxi companies as well for longer journeys, if you want a trip to Universal you could save yourself quite a bit sometimes.
…To escape the Disney Bubble
There is plenty to do in the Lake Buena Vista and Orlando area but the USA is a big place and there is plenty going on. Doing all the Disney stuff is important, you will only get to do it once, but in between take time to escape. Go to Miami, go to Tampa, go to New York, go to Las Vegas… An internal US flight is a lot cheaper than a trans-Atlantic one and when are you going to be this close again? There are some crazy music festivals all across America, some of my friends went to Bonaroo in Tennessee, when are you going to have a chance to go to a Music Festival where there is a good chance the sun might shine most of the time?
Travelling is expensive so you have to manage your money. By all means don’t spend every penny you earn, you will need some of it when you come back, but don’t save every penny and miss out on the experience. It is a delicate balancing act but one that it is worth doing for the experiences you will get.
…To wait for Holiday Discount
Between October and February Cast Members usually get extra merchandise discount of 40%. If you have a Disney souvenir you just have to have try and wait until then to buy it. You could save yourself a bundle.
…Not to bother buying food
I can honestly say I think I cooked in my apartment kitchen on less than 10 occasions. Unless you are a gourmet chef or you know for certain you are going to be cooking a meal I wouldn’t bother doing a lot of food shopping. You will eat out a lot, even if it just McDonald’s because you are just too tired to do anything after work. Eating out is not expensive and quite often happens spontaneously after work, planning food ahead of time is a fool’s move!
…To get a taxi to WalMart on the first night
The night you arrive you are going to need to buy stuff, bedding, towels and something for breakfast. There will be a bus to WalMart but you will just have been on a 9+ hour flight and potentially been travelling for the best part of 24 hours – GET A TAXI. You will be there and back in under an hour and a half as opposed to almost 3 hours on the bus. It will probably cost you a maximum of $20, less if you are in a big group.
…That no matter how much you want to come home, a day later you will want to go back
By the end of your program you will probably be looking forward to coming home as well as sad to be leaving. Take it from me, the minute you are home you will be wanting to be back! A year is really not very long, make the most of every minute and every opportunity and for god’s sake if you are thinking of leaving early take time to think it through and remember all the good things you have.