Ah, Spring! The weather starts to warm up and people start to come out of hibernation. Many have been house bound and stir crazy for months. They want to get out – to enjoy the sun, soak up the vitamin D and release some pent up energy. Many will often plan a trip to warmer weather so they can feel the sun on their face.
Spring at Walt Disney World is beautiful! Epcot is in glorious color thanks to the Flower and Garden Festival. The flowers and topiaries are a sight to see. The additional food booths are on par with the Food and Wine Festival. Add all that with lower crowd levels and it’s a wonderful time to travel to Orlando!
The only thing that seems to mar the idyllic spring theme at Walt Disney World is the dreaded “cheer competition”. It’s fairly common to hear someone say they don’t want to go to WDW if there is a cheer completion happening. They want to change their dates to make sure it’s not occurring while they are vacationing. This statement saddens me on many levels. So, I would like to clear some things up.
I can feel the eye rolls as I type this – “she must be a cheer mom”. Well, that could be one way to look at it, but you’d be wrong. If you were to read my bio on our agency website (shameless advertisement plug for (www.uponastartravel.com ) you will see that I classify myself as a band geek. Between my personal Marching Band experience and, now my children’s,- I was the Color Guard and Rockette /Winter Guard director for my alma mater and community high school marching band, for over 8 years. So, while I am not a cheer person, I understand the situation.
Keep in mind that Walt Disney World doesn’t just have one cheer competition week. Throughout the spring (and holiday season) many groups are hosted by Walt Disney World. Dance, Cheer, Marching Band, Concert Band, Orchestra, Choir, Winter Percussion and Winter Guard are just some of the groups you will see. Orlando is a competition and school trip destination that can help organizations with recruitment. If you are being honest with yourself, you’d agree that you would be more inclined to fork over money for your child if they were to join an organization that was spending a couple days in Disney over a week Dayton. As a director, I can attest to being able to grow a program for up to 3-4 years with a “Disney year”. They join to go to Disney and end up loving the program and stay until they graduate.
Most of these programs travel in the spring. Partly because of the competition season, which is generally from mid-January to mid-April. Partly because of school district policy. Standardized testing has made many school district narrow the window of travel for school groups. In PA alone, the Keystone and PSSA tests have made most school districts unable to travel after April 30th. Add to that the winter weather and you will see most student groups at Walt Disney World from early March to the end of April.
Here are my tips on getting the most out of your Walt Disney World vacation if you plan to travel at this time of year.
1- Avoid the All-Star resorts. Yes, I said it – avoid resorts. The main reasoning is simple -All Star resorts are the least expensive on property resorts. Groups have a very tight budget to adhere to it, so they tend to stay at the all-star resorts. They also follow a very stringent travel itinerary. This means the whole group will report to the resorts quick service restaurant, en mass, for meals, making the food court feel crowded. They will have scheduled down time so the pool and leisure areas will feel cramped.
The main reason they are there is their performance. It is their goal- and what they have been working toward all season. These groups tend to rehearse whenever they can get it. This means they will rehearse in the common areas of the resort as soon as soon as they are able (usually 6am). It’s not uncommon to have cheerleaders practicing their cheers and tricks, guards practicing their flag or equipment spins, dance teams blasting music and musicians/percussion playing around the resort whenever they can.
2- To go along with No. 1; stay at a moderate (or better yet) a deluxe resort. Not only are the standard conveniences available, such as better restaurants, shopping and larger rooms. Travels groups tend to avoid these resort classifications in an effort to minimize group participation fees. Their budget simply will not allow them to stay at the higher room classifications.
3- Convention Center properties. Walt Disney World has resorts with convention centers; The Boardwalk Inn, Contemporary, Coronado Springs, Grand Floridian, the Yacht and Beach Club, are the most used for onsite competitions. These resorts may notice some addition traffic during the event times to their common areas, such as well as quick service dining.
4- Kids! – It’s all about the kids. I think the biggest thing to remember is the kids. Kids of all ages from 2-20, it’s all about them. Walt Disney World is about families, children, magic and hard work. These kids, that are performing to entertain visitors, have worked all season (12-20 weeks) to get to WDW. They have probably practice 20-30 hours the week prior to arriving to Disney (on top of their school and community commitments) to get to this week - to get to this moment. This leads me to number 5…
5- Go and Support our youth!! If you find out there is a group performing go check it out, watch and support our youth programs. Whether it’s a cheer competition at the Contemporary, an Orchestra at Disney Spring’s Amphitheater, a Choir in the Candlelight Processional, a Winter Guard performing at Indy’s stunt show stage or a Marching Band marching down Main Street USA. These kids have spent hundreds of hours to get to this performance. Go cheer the on!!
6- Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk to the group’s personal. The Directors, Coaches and Chaperones want to know that their group has been on good behavior. They also want to know if there have been any issues such as line cutting, rowdiness and outright rudeness. Directors and Instructors understand the importance of representing not just the organization but the community. Interaction with patrons, resorts guests and spectators, help the staff to understand how we are perceived and what we can do to make sure the students are behaving in a proper manner.
So if you are traveling in the spring, know that school and performance groups may be visiting Walt Disney World with you. Enjoy their hard work but plan accordingly. Contact one of the professional agents at Upon A Star Travel and Concierge to help you plan a wonderful, stress free trip. Utilize our team’s experiences to make the most of your vacation.
You can find out more about agent Carrie at http://uponastartravel.com/agents/#/carrie/
Follow her on facebook, twitter and instargram @uponastarcarrie