When we go to Disney, the excitement of being on property and visiting the parks whether it be for vacation or just a quick day trip can often cloud our situational awareness. Let me define this term for those who have never heard of it before, situational awareness (SA) is simply knowing what’s going on around you. You don’t have to be Kim Possible or one of the Rescuer’s to use this skill. You can develop it easily, and chances are, you have some sort of situational awareness skills already. Unfortunately, they are easy to put aside when Disney has created this environment, what I like to call “the Disney bubble” where we inherently feel safe walking into the parks, or staying on property. Cast members (CMs) for the most part are friendly and helpful, service to guests must meet standards that each CM is trained extensively on, there isn’t trash on the floor, everything is shiny, happy and uniformed; all of this to meet the vision of Walt Disney himself, of a place where all your troubles and your fears fade away. I often wonder if Walt was alive what he would think of some of the things guests have experienced at the parks, which aren’t so happy and shiny, and are we to blame for getting lost in the Disney magic?
No Main Streeters, we aren’t to blame. Even though Walt Disney World is the Happiest Place on Earth, not all of its patrons or employees are the happiest people and have the best of intentions. That’s the first key rule to remember in staying safe. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, bad things can and do happen to good people, even at Disney when you least expect it, but you can learn to still enjoy the parks and property all while staying safe if you follow some of these simple tips to live in the Disney bubble, but still be situationally aware. Part one of this series will focus on Disney hotels.
Staying On Property:
If you are staying at a Disney resort, it’s important to know what amenities are available to keep you and your valuables safe.
I recently learned that there are no security cameras in the valet area at the Grand Floridian Resort. This got me thinking about the other hotels on property. How many resorts have security cameras where it matters? In my research, I couldn’t find much information on-line to provide a solid answer. This completely changed my perspective on security when checking luggage at the hotels. I want to emphasize that it’s okay to ask Cast Members about this, and if not having this level of security makes you uncomfortable, then make sure you take extra precaution when checking in with lots of luggage. I recommend purchasing locks for your luggage if you intend on checking them with valet, and never leaving anything of value unsecured. It doesn’t matter if a CM says “nothing bad will happen, this is Disney”. If that statement makes you cringe, just like it did for me, that should be your first red flag to take your belongings back and with you to your room. You should NEVER feel pressured to leave anything with anyone at the hotels. If you have a substantial amount of luggage you can also request to stay and walk with your trolley of luggage to your room, no CM should ever tell you that you can’t do so, as there are also no camera’s in the luggage bay. You also don’t have to use valet, you can absolutely keep your possessions on your person if you don’t have many items to transport. My recommendation, be aware that there are no camera’s where it matters most, and if you don’t lock your luggage up, keep it with you or in your sights.
Many resorts have a safe or a lock box in each room. Before you leave your room for a day of activities, I would highly recommend using the safe to store valuables such as jewelry, cash, passports, or anything that has information that identifies who you are, where you live, etc. It’s a good idea if you plan to bring items of identification on vacation with you that you make photocopies of these items and leave those at home in the event that your identification is stolen.
Do not leave any physical money lying around unless it is for Mousekeeping, and even then, place it in an envelope that is clearly marked that the contents are for them. The Main Street Mouse has free printables on the site you can use to build a Mousekeeping envelope, and there are tons of places online that you can download designs for free to leave a tip for staff. They most definitely appreciate your hospitality for the work they do at the hotels to keep your rooms looking lovely.
Do not leave your door propped open with the security latch on the door, even if you are walking down the hall for ice, don’t risk the safety of your space. I wouldn’t even recommend doing this if members of your family are still in the room. I also recommend not leaving the curtains drawn wide open when you are in your room and especially when you are out of it. There should be no reason anyone is looking in, but surprisingly many guests leave their curtains open and place gifts, merchandise, and other items on their beds or thrown around on the floor, and you never know who is watching and is willing to wait until the right moment to snatch something. Better safe than sorry.
Consider attaching a credit/debit/gift card to your magic band. In this day and age, you don’t really need to carry around cash on property. Your magic band that opens your room door can be set up with a pin to work just like a debit card if you attach a method of payment to it. All your charges will show up on your hotel folio at the end of your trip. If you have a specific budget you want to stick to, let the Cast Member know at check in and request that they cap your spending. You can even have each member of your party use a different pin so you can track who purchased what. I highly recommend the only currency you carry if you stay on property are pennies to press as souvenirs in the park. Everything else, use your magic band.
In the event that something is stolen during your stay on property. Be Proactive. I cannot stress this enough. Disney understandably doesn’t want any bad press, so they will try and smooth over any issue a guest may have. If your belongings have gone missing, report it to the hotel, and immediately call the police. It is better to get a police report going as soon as you discover the theft and Disney will have to start an investigation into your claim as well, but if the event occurs after 4:30 PM or on a Saturday or Sunday, your claim is only being handled internally by hotel staff. It is not being escalated to the right parties, and those precious hours that staff has made you think it is being handled can be the difference between recovering your stolen property or never seeing it again. This is why I cannot stress it enough, call the police, and get a written police report in place with a case number.
If the incident does happen to fall into the time frame mentioned above, and you don’t think to call the police immediately or during your stay on property, you can fill out a police report online on the Orange County Sheriffs Office website. You will also need to call Guest Claims Walt Disney World Co. during business hours Monday through Friday 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM. The hotel should supply you with the contact information for this department immediately when you report your property stolen. It is important to note that when you call to place a claim it can take anywhere from 24-48 hours for your claim to be assigned to an adjuster, and another 24-48 hours to receive a phone call to discuss your claim. You will then have to wait an additional period of time for a formal investigation to be conducted by the adjuster and this can take anywhere between one day to one week or more depending on the circumstances. If you have a police case number to provide them, make sure you do so. You also need to be aware of your rights. If you had property stolen from the room you were in, there is a Florida Statute that only allows hotels to reimburse a maximum of $500 worth of stolen goods. This is called the Inn Keepers Statute. If you had more than $500 worth of property stolen from your room, you will not be able to recover the difference. If your property is stolen before you are in your room, say you left your belongings in the care and custody of a valet employee, then in such situations, the hotel will be liable for the full value of the goods since they are in the hotel’s custody; this is called bailment, not to be confused with bail.
Finally, if something terrible happens to you during your stay on Walt Disney World property, it’s important to not beat yourself up. It’s okay that you got caught up in the Disney bubble, Walt created a world where CM’s make you feel safe and protected, but believe it or not, there are more incidents of theft reported on property than you know of, or that get out to the media. Orange County Sheriffs are constantly on patrol on property because something has gone wrong, and we don’t think twice about it. Typically, Walt Disney World does its absolute best to right what wrong was done to a guest. Sometimes it’s not an immediate solution, and you will have to make a lot of phone calls to get to the right person, you may need to tell your story a dozen times to more than a dozen people, but if you don’t give up and you seek out the right people, with a little bit of patience, you will hopefully and ultimately end up on the winning side of an otherwise losing situation.
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