Because there just aren't that many rides at Disney World.
As at Disneyland, extended hours are offered to those staying in resort hotels. But because nearly everyone at Disney World is staying on-site, this means nothing. We checked into our cabin midday and decided to relax for an hour or so and take advantage of the extra nighttime hours at Hollywood Studios.
Because it was open until midnight, we arrived at 6 p.m. only to discover that many of the shows closed at 7 and there were no Fastpasses left for the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, which had lines two hours long. While waiting, I learned from a Disney veteran that you must show up at the park the minute it opens, hang out long enough to collect a few Fastpasses (you can get only one an hour) and return in the evening.
If I had that kind of strategic mind, I would have gone to West Point. I thought I was on vacation, and the fact that I paid three grand for four days would buy me a certain amount of ease. I had a much easier time getting us into the Louvre, the London Eye and the Vatican. The Vatican!
The next few days were a blur of very early mornings — we decided to take advantage of the 8 a.m. openings, which meant we had to be at the Outpost by 7:15, which meant we were up at 6 — and sprints to various Fastpass kiosks. Not surprisingly, the need for speed, the heat and the anxiety of time management made it impossible to enjoy the landscaping at the various parks or to keep track of various showtimes. And it wasn't just me. All around me, I saw hot and frenzied parents hustling their kids along so they could get to one ride or another before the line became prohibitive.
The water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, were the high points of the trip. There were long lines for these big slides, but the lazy rivers were open to everyone, and the little kids' sections were great for our 3-year-old — and Animal Kingdom is a wonderful place with its mini-safari and terrific Expedition Everest roller coaster. But there were so many paths to travel, so many buses to catch and it all cost so much that we felt fiscally obligated to walk and ride until we dropped.
For those people who don't live within spitting distance of Disneyland, no doubt Disney World is a revelation, especially during a longer, more leisurely stay. For every hot and frustrated visitor, there were two others who seemed to be having a great time. But even to them, I would say: If you enjoy the faux worlds of Epcot, the mini-Eiffel tower, the fake Mexican pyramid, don't forget to see the real ones. Yes, the airfare is higher, but the day rate is nowhere near as expensive.
"Next summer," my 12-year-old son, Danny, said, laying his hot and weary head against the hard plastic of the tram seat, "let's go to Ireland. It's so much easier."