Black-Market Disney Tour Guides: How the Uber-Rich Avoid Long Lines
They say money can't buy you happiness, but apparently it can buy you a place at the front of the line.
May 19, 2013 - 7:00 am
I’ve vacationed at Walt Disney World literally all my life, and I can assure you of one thing: waiting in line is part of the experience. It’s often inevitable that you’ll have to wait in at least one long line during your trip. In my younger days, when there were fewer parks and attraction options, we waited in line for hours for nearly everything. The growth of the entire Walt Disney World property has led to shorter lines altogether.
Over the past few years, Disney has taken care to add interactive theming, games, and activities to many of the queues for the most popular attractions. They have also gone to great lengths to help guests avoid some of the longest lines. The FastPass system, introduced in 1999, allows guests to essentially make a reservation to ride certain attractions, bypassing the worst of the lines. This year, the company will introduce new RFID technology called MyMagic+ that promises to “take guests’ experiences to the next level.” Disney even offers specials during off-peak seasons to funnel some of the crowds to different times of the year.
Seasoned Disney travelers find their own ways to stay away from the crowds. Some families leave the parks during the most crowded times of the day and return to their resort to rest. Others ride the most popular attractions during parades and fireworks shows. My family goes in the fall rather than in spring or summer, and we meticulously research which days are more likely to be crowded than others.
And then certain people go to more nefarious measures to avoid long lines at attractions. The New York Post caught wind of a trend among Manhattan’s uber-wealthy: hiring handicapped adults to travel with them, giving the family access to the front of the line:
Some wealthy Manhattan moms have figured out a way to cut the long lines at Disney World — by hiring disabled people to pose as family members so they and their kids can jump to the front, The Post has learned.
The “black-market Disney guides” run $130 an hour, or $1,040 for an eight-hour day.
“My daughter waited one minute to get on ‘It’s a Small World’ — the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours,” crowed one mom, who hired a disabled guide through Dream Tours Florida.
“You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge,’’ she sniffed. “This is how the 1 percent does Disney.”
The woman said she hired a Dream Tours guide to escort her, her husband and their 1-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter through the park in a motorized scooter with a “handicapped” sign on it. The group was sent straight to an auxiliary entrance at the front of each attraction.
Disney allows each guest who needs a wheelchair or motorized scooter to bring up to six guests to a “more convenient entrance.”
The Post even attempted to contact the couple who runs the racket — I mean, tour guide company:
Ryan Clement runs Dream Tours Florida with girlfriend Jacie Christiano, whom the rich Manhattan mom indicated was her family’s guide.
Clement denied that his gal pal uses her disability to bypass lines. He said she has an auto-immune disorder and acknowledged that she uses a scooter on the job.
Dr. Wednesday Martin, author and social anthropologist, shed light on the black-market tour guide phenomenon:
“It’s insider knowledge that very few have and share carefully,” said social anthropologist Dr. Wednesday Martin, who caught wind of the underground network while doing research for her upcoming book “Primates of Park Avenue.”
“Who wants a speed pass [sic] when you can use your black-market handicapped guide to circumvent the lines all together?” she said.
“So when you’re doing it, you’re affirming that you are one of the privileged insiders who has and shares this information.”
Don’t get me wrong: I love capitalism. You won’t see me in a Guy Fawkes mask with Mickey ears or leading a protest at Occupy Epcot. Bless these folks’ hearts for trying to make a living. What I have a problem with is taking advantage of run-of-the-mill tourists who just want to enjoy their Disney World vacation. And I don’t begrudge the clients for their wealth, either. It’s their snobbery and willingness to flaunt the queues at the parks that make me so angry.
Oh, and by the way: you can go to Disney World without a tour concierge. Millions of people do it every year. But, if you insist on having one, Disney can provide it for you. Disney’s VIP Tours cost up to $380 an hour, and celebrities, heads of state, and dignitaries who require more security take advantage of this program.
Crazy as it may sound, waiting in line is part of the experience at Walt Disney World. These kids are missing out on the fun, interactive elements at some attractions along with a chance at family conversation, but they’re also avoiding one crucial lesson: that things won’t always go your way.