Do you want to be accessible on vacation? WDW and wifi.

It’s being reported on several sites (like WDWMagic.com) that Walt Disney World areas – resorts, restaurants, lobbies, bus loading areas, pool areas – now have free wifi available.

This is great. And also not so great.

Great – because I travel to cover Walt Disney World for the Boston Herald – both as a travel columnist/feature writer and the travel blogger – as the author of the “Mousejunkies” books and for this blog. It’s going to make life a lot easier with wifi accessible in all these areas.

(Here’s a double-truck I did for the re-opening of Star Tours.)


Not so great – At the risk of sounding like an old coot (Get off my lawn!) maybe I don’t want to be accessible while I’m on vacation. Sure, I’m a friendly guy and I want to meet all kinds of people – it’s not that. It’s just that Amy and I got talking about our first trip to Walt Disney World in 1998 when the world was a vastly different place.

Back then, even cell phones were positively prehistoric. I think they were made out of wood. We didn’t even carry one with us. When we got on the plane in Manchester, N.H., we were all but inaccessible for the next week. We were completely enveloped in the Disney magic. We were in their world, and there was nothing to worry about or think about outside those purple signs. Sure, there was the TV news, but when there was Zip-a-dee-doo-da Tips For Today to watch, who changed the channel to catch anything else? (Wait, I take a little of that back. Both the Swissair Flight 111 crash and the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run race coincided with that first trip, so we watched a little news.)

Getcha some Zip-a-dee-doo-da here:

My point is though, you could travel to Walt Disney World and never have any hint of an outside world. No phone calls, no Facebook, no Twitter, no communication of any kind to interrupt the spell Disney was weaving around us. I honestly think that’s part of the reason I was so unexpectedly enamored of the place.

So there’s where I see two sides to this announcement.

It’s not negotiable, however. The horse is out of the barn at this point, and there’s not an option of ever going back to those days of being technologically walled-in. Smartphones, iPads, laptops – they exist. They’ve fundamentally changed how we communicate. A perfect example: Has anyone ever happened upon Lou Mongello walking through the Magic Kingdom, holding his laptop up and ushering his box people through the World? It’s an amazing way to share an experience, and it’s a great way to communicate to and build an audience. (I’ve often wondered – the guy’s got to have massive forearms, right? Right?) And I’ve been one of those box people walking alongside Lou as he hoists that laptop up high. I love traveling vicariously through different live feeds straight from Walt Disney World. So I’m not really complaining. It’s just a different experience now.

I’ve covered Walt Disney World for the Herald occasionally since the early 2000s.

(Here’s a double-truck I did on Disney’s Best Friends Pet Resort.)

On a trip to write about 100 Years of Magic, there were hundreds and hundreds of media representatives from all around the world. At that time there was a media lounge just behind One Man’s Dream in the Studios. Inside there were maybe a couple dozen desktop computers connected to the Internet. We’d cover the event, grab a few minutes and hoof it back to the media lounge to file a story or write a blog. (Though that may have even predated blogs.) You had to hope the lounge was fairly empty, and you had to hope you got a computer that had a decent connection. It was certainly thoughtful of Disney to make our jobs easier, but it was reflective of where the technology was at the time.

On a later trip, the media lounge was on the upper floor of the Atlantic Dance. Only this time everyone had their own laptops, and I believe there was wifi there. As time went on, the speed with which media representatives and bloggers covered Disney shot up to a lightning-fast pace.

Just look at this past week’s soft-opening of Storybook Circus. Banks Lee was there instantly, Tweeting pictures and updates, and Ricky Brigante of Inside the Magic was there within minutes – providing video and blogs about what was going on at that very moment.

Mousejunkie Facebook Group member Cheri Lord started sending us photos almost right away.

Cheri Lord: Mousejunkie-on-the-spot as the new Storybook Circus opens. (Cheri Lord photo)

I guess where I’m going with all this is that instant communication is normal and expected, and now with wifi at the resorts and other areas, it’s going to make getting in touch with your audience that much easier. (Said the guy who won’t spring for a full data package.)

Anyway, that’s how I see it – great for reaching other Disney fans, not so great for someone who wants to get away completely.

It became really apparent to me on a trip where we stayed at the Wilderness Lodge Villas about two or three years ago. We were there with my sister, brother-in-law and their two kids in a two-bedroom. I also brought my Macbook along. The plan was to get back from the parks, meet in our shared living room area and talk about the day. Instead, we each waited our turn to get on Facebook. Of course I could’ve just, you know, NOT gone online. But there it was. So I did. It was almost like being at home, which is not what we really wanted it to be.

It actually cut into my Stacey-watching time, which is saying a lot.

Getcha some Stacey time now:

From that point on I made a conscious decision to leave my laptop behind when I’m enjoying Walt Disney World with family. It allows us to focus on our vacation and on each other. We talk more, laugh more and check status updates much, much less. We do have a smartphone, but I just don’t ever want to be one of those people walking through the Magic Kingdom staring down at my phone.

So my take on the reportedly free wifi now available throughout resorts?

It’ll make the working part of my WDW experience a lot easier, and I guess it’ll make my gadget-addiction a little harder to kick. Sharing our vacation with friends back home and other Mousejunkies is part of the fun, though.

Bring on the wifi. I’ll just have to show a little self-discipline when zoning out on Facebook or Twitter while at Walt Disney World. How likely is that? They don’t call me IrresonsiBill for nothing.

(Disclaimer: This is my problem, in particular. Most people can balance gadget-addiction and a WDW vacation.)

(Actually, no they can’t. Too many people not watching where there going. Put the phone away.)

(And get off of my lawn!)




  1. Christy

    I never thought of it from the “getting away from it all” perspective, but I suppose you’re right. We just want to use it to check our bank balance with no fees.

  2. Tim

    If people want to get internet at WDW they will. Data plans are common enough that a lot of people will have them. Tether the phone to the laptop and it’s pretty much the same as a wifi connection. Last time I was at WDW was a solo trip, and being able to take pictures of what I was doing and upload them to FaceBook while chatting with the wife and kid back home was what made that trip fantastic. They got to see what I was doing, and I could feel like they were there with me. People staying in their resorts to browse youtube for an extra hour just means fewer people between me and the attractions :)

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