The Guest Experience Begins in the Parking Lot

Guests coming to any theme park in Disney World are excited about seeing Mickey Mouse, a Princess, or Kylo Ren. They can’t wait to be a part of the magic inside the parks. There’s only one problem…

Who will a Guest’s family interact with driving into Walt Disney World?


Not hardly! (Though if you’re lucky you can catch this guy in Hollywood Studios!)

The magic at Walt Disney World begins before you get inside the parks, and is the first indication that you are truly in for an Experience (yes, with a capital E!).

The first face of Disney is a parking team member.

With the exception of the Magic Kingdom, all of Disney World parking is outside the main entrance to the theme park. At the Magic Kingdom, the lot is located at the Ticket and Transportation Center. Once you park here, you will need to take either the Monorail or the Ferry to the Magic Kingdom.

The Ticket and Transportation parking lot is HUGE, with over 12,000 spaces and more on the way. Fortunately, you aren’t expected to start your park visit with a marathon run to the entrance. There are trams that are constantly in use to get you from the lot to the entrance.

Cast members are very visible in the lots, directing traffic to fill up all the spaces in a row before moving into the next row. They are courteous and helpful, informing Guests of the tram schedule, and making sure Guests remember which section they are in (hint – write it down somewhere; after a long day in the park, you will be tired and might not remember where you parked). If you do forget which section you parked in, tell the tram driver approximately what time you parked, and they will be able to tell you approximately where your car is located. That’s service!

The humorous picture above notwithstanding, security in the parking lots is taken very seriously at Walt Disney World. There are marked and unmarked cars constantly patrolling, there are security “towers” in use at many lots, and the parking team itself is always keeping an eye out.

Even with thousands of cars and tens of thousands of people walking from the lots to the gates or taking a tram, it’s relatively quick process. With well-lighted and marked lots, most people can get out quickly at the end of the day.

The parking signage has been well thought out and has been designed to convey the appropriate message with impact. At the Magic Kingdom  you park in either a Hero or Villain section.

The parking lots are also one of the first places you will notice something, even though it might take you awhile. The place is CLEAN – really clean.  That’s just an indicator of what you will be experiencing inside the parks.

It’s just a parking lot, and already Guests have had a great experience. What does that say about what is coming inside the parks themselves? Here’s a story that illustrates the power of a positive parking team.


You must know up front that I have a parking lot bias. It comes naturally: I have served as a Guest Services Coordinator for Elevation Church in Charlotte’s Uptown Campus as well as on the parking team for the Lake Norman campus. In the Uptown campus capacity, I led two teams that provided an audacious welcome to the Uptown Campus, greeting them and starting their experience off on the right foot. Oh yeah – and helping them get in and out of the 7th Street Station parking deck a block from the theater. I’ve also helped on parking teams at special events at our Blakeney Campus and other venues. So, I know a little about parking

…or so I thought.

Disney takes the mundane, often troublesome act of parking a car and elevates it to a new level. It sets the bar high for the rest of the day. It subtly informs the Guest that this is going to be a very special day. And this happens tens of thousands of times every day in every park.

At this point, you should be getting the picture for your place: what ever is happening inside starts outside. As Andy Stanley says, “The sermon begins in the parking lot.”

What are you doing to make sure that your Guests are welcomed even as they pull into the parking lot?

#2 in a series of Ten Takeaways from a Disney Immersion

How crazy am I about parking? This is a shot of my rental car at 5:45am on one visit at Walt Disney World. I wanted to come early to observe and talk with the Parking Team Cast Members, and ended up parking in the #1 spot at the Ticket and Transportation Center lot. Yeah, I’ve got it bad…


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