During the half day I spent sitting in the airport with three kids after missing our 7 a.m. flight home from Orlando, I took a sliver of what seemed like eternity to reflect on good, the bad…the magic, of Disney.
For me, going to Disney is just one of those things you do because that’s where your parents took you, as a kid. So, come mid-April, we joined the thousands of other families choosing to spend school vacation at Disney. Grab your wallets and SPF 70…family fun, here we come.
But just as other childhood experiences go, like getting a family pet you never have to walk, and a pool you never have to vacuum, Disney takes on a whole other dimension from the eyes of a parent. There are a few more trials, challenges and truly hilarious experiences no brochure or YouTube link prepares you for. Here are my faves:
Priceless People Watching
I don’t care where in Disney heaven your path leads-Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot or the home of the mouse himself, you will without fail sight some dad so desperate for shade, he’s rocking a Minnie Mouse hat, or a Wall Street type sporting mouse ears, or even better, some severely overweight individuals huffing around in excessive mouse apparel, looking one Peter Pan flight away from a cardiac arrest. Disney consists of 5 lands on 10-mile property and it’s an all-out survivor race to get to your fast pass stations on time. There should seriously be some kind of pre-training to prepare these folks for the physical trials that await.
This comes in at a close second to those visitors clearly having the most fun on Earth, and they’re not afraid to show it. While waiting for 20 minutes for a soft pretzel in Tomorrowland, I spotted a dad making the very most of a live, interactive dance show led by Buzz Lightyear himself. This man-picture George, from Seinfeld- was doing the “watch me whip/nae nae” with his kids like his life depended on it. I mean, every step, hands in the air like he just don’t care, kind of boogying, in front of hundreds of on-looking strangers with a smile wider than Texas. He paid $500 to get the fam through those rodent gates, sacrificed the yearly golfing trip for this nonsense, and dern it, he’s getting his Disney on. Priceless.
When the Magic Turns to Mush
Proving God is as gracious as he is good, there were miraculously shorter lines at all the parks, despite going during the busiest time of the year. Either that, or the Obama economy has officially rid the world of family fun. However even when lines are manageable, there is always waiting. Waiting for food. Waiting for character signings. Waiting for…wait what ride is this again? Oh yea. Waiting for the Country Bear Jamboree. “No they’re not real bears, guys, but they’re spectacular. Trust.” Waiting for the endless pilgrimage it takes to get to Magic Kingdom-the parking lot tram-remember: Simba row 4, Simba row 41…- that eventually leads you to the gargantuan choice of traveling by monorail or ferry boat that complete your odyssey to the final park entrance. I swear illegals traverse the border with more ease.
And even when the lines are short, you will without fail become more acquainted with mutual line dwellers than your neighbors of 10 years after the Jungle Cruise temporarily stops for what seems like the new dawn. Spousal fights-“did you seriously not bring the sunscreen?!,” toddler meltdowns, and if you make your way to the more youth-driven Universal Studios…you’ll get a dose of PDA from the Brazilian couple that’d make a sailor blush. This is the Harry Potter ride, not Carnival, people…hands above the waist.
A Frugal Girl’s Nightmare
I hate unnecessary spending. Hate it. So my voyage to Disney included 10 pound backpack full of Luncheables, snack packs, soda and water I thought would resourcefully save the easy Benjamin it costs to feed a family of four for one day. Never happens. Your CheezeIt packs and warm PB & J stand no chance against Mousescream cones, super pretzels with mouse ears and strangely savory turkey legs the size of T Rex femurs around every turn. Same goes for the gifts. Guests are funneled through themed-gift shops after nearly every ride, decreasing your resolve to only buy ONE special souvenir for each kid for the whole vacation. My return home included a pirate sword, three Disney-themed Lego sets, two stuffed animals, an authentic Marvel comic book and some horribly overpriced Star Wars paraphernalia. And let’s not leave out the $10 rain ponchos you’re forced to buy for the whole fam after it suddenly pours buckets for two hours of tropical goodness. Yep, an easy $40 for hooded hefty bags that leave you smelling like rubber for a day.
Where the Yankees go to Fry
Anyone traversing to Florida from CT in April, where it snowed a week prior, might as well be journeying from northern Canada to the equator itself, and should plan on nothing less than repetitive applications of SPF 50. We, unfortunately severely overestimated our pasty skin’s tolerance for six hours at Cocoa beach, and paid the price for the next five days. The kids were okay, thank God, but not only was I so burned I couldn’t touch hot tub for the entire rest of the week, I was reduced to wearing my black yoga pants to Disney in 89 degree humidity. I think part of me melted on the west side of the Haunted Mansion. Near second degree burns.
Lost and Freaking Out
And of course no family trip goes disaster-free. When we were little, it was my sister having her first asthma attack the day we were scheduled for Disney. This year as an adult, it was my technologically-dependent teenager losing is iphone on Disney’s Carousel of Progress…never to be found that day. They found the phone two days later, thank God, but those days without was like witnessing a meth addict detox cold turkey. “Mooooom did you call lost and found again yet!?” Oh. My. Gee.
Yet the Magic Prevails
But somehow, despite the burns, blunders and investment properties you had to sell off just to visit, Disney is always worth it, and is still magical, especially for parents who grew up going to Disney. Something about it just makes you feel like a kid again. The tikki tikki tikki room. The Swiss Family Robinson House. When my boys refused to go in Cinderella’s castle, I might have made them anyways. C’mon guys, it’s the way to Frontierland anyways!
Especially in a world where most things change, and very few experiences and people stay the same, Disney remains classic, timeless and dedicated to the family. I love how in my favorite ride, Pirates of the Caribbean, that same dog is sitting there with the key in his mouth, taunting the prisoners for the past 30 years. That boat ride in Epcot’s Mexican restaurant still has those cheesy fake fireworks blazing the Cancun skies. And there’s that first and last glimpse of the castle after you arrive and leave I practically tear up leaving…”say goodbye to the castle guys…sniff.” The way every “cast member” says have a magical day/time/dinner/trip to the bathroom, and darn it, that’s the way it should be. It’s the one place that despite the heat, crowds, incredulously priced popcorn, and fanny-pack touting platoons of foreigners, you really do feel an indescribable sense of happiness only Disney brings. Worth every ounce of sweat and Aloe, I tell ya.