First things first, thanks to Shannon at Milk and Cuddles for inspiring this trip down memory lane. Shannon, and assuredly hundreds of thousands of people, are thrilled to learn they are expanding Disneyworld. So I have a parenting confession here: To me, that would be like Dante writing The Inferno~ Part Deux. But then I realized, maybe he DID write the sequel already. It was typified in the short foray our family took there several years ago. We left NJ and landed in Dante’s hideaway for this millenium, DisneyWorld.
We took a 3 night cruise and then after disembarking, surprised the kids with the news we were going to Disney for 4 days. So hindsight do-over #1, for starters, would be to stay on the cruise ship. Though my surprise seemed like a good idea at the time, when the cat was out of the bag where we were going, I’d secured myself two insanely excited kids with ADHD, which is like giving Red Bull to someone already on speed. Do-over #2 would have been to slug some wine before telling them, just to steel myself.
Within the first 30 minutes it was plain to see everyone on property was going to be happy and insist upon us being happy – DAMNIT. We had two kids trying to climb into the Polynesian gardens while some poor overheated woman (?) in a Lilo suit was trying to lei us up. Hey Li- how’s about greeting moms & dads with some tropical drinks instead?
Once checked in and having scoped out all amenities, it was off to the parks. We did a different park each day, but in a way in didn’t matter. We could have just as easily driven to our local mall and walked in and out of the Disney Store 50 times. This is because EVERY ride exited through a gift shop. You have now been warned. The shops feature (of course) the ride’s theme or characters. But wait, there’s more! Because if perchance your child is not in to that particular theme, they will scatter other characters sure to catch your over-stimulated child’s eye. We thought we could breath easy leaving the Toy Story ride-cum-strip mall, only to be met head on by a pleading Son1 in a Darth Vader mask with light saber. Huh? Son 2 found at least one stuffed Winnie the Pooh everywhere we went for 3 days. And whatever you do, do NOT try the excuse the things are too big to carry around or fly with. Some perky little jit is ready to breathlessly assure you in front of your child that you can buy it and send it right to the hotel, or even ship it straight home. Fabulous!
I think the bathrooms had gift shops. I think the gift shops had gift shops. And then there were the fixed and the mobile kiosks, so we could dodge the same Pirate firearm stand every 90 minutes.
If you are planning a trip, I suggest you get a heads up on photo opp times for the character(s) your child adores. They publish it ahead, but we found it not always accurate. Disney, if you say “Tigger” I do not expect to see Belle, got me? Tell Belle to scoot her Beast-loving behind back to the “cast area” and don the Tigger garb. Maybe Tigger was hung over or something. He did surface but two hours after planned. And wham bam 30 minutes and they’re GONE. Why? Why so short, why so soon? Why not just encircle us unsuspecting parents in souvenir kiosks for the character in question and then make us cool our jets? Oh wait- you do that. You just pull the character once we’re trapped.
Next, you may want to look at websites that review rides to see what to avoid. Unbeknownst to me at the time, there are apparently some rides with a reputation for downtime. I don’t mean they don’t open. I mean they open, you wait and wait and wait with everyone’s blood sugar dropping, you get on, your car pulls out, and the ride breaks down. The Toy Story one seemed to be going through a rough season the year we went. It stopped 3 times while we were on it. THREE. The Haunted House ride had several issues. One hour into the Dinosaur ride wait, after being herded into an enclosed “prep”space where they play this recording to kick off the ride (all the rage on attraction rides there), they lost power. So there we were stuck deep inside a spiraling maze of crowd control, having invested all of this time and spent the “in case of emergency break glass” ½ xanax in my bag. We waited the 20 minutes for it to resume simply out of laziness.
Once the “sketchy reputation ride search” is completed, I suggest you scope out in parallel: 1) the location of any child care or playroom to which you can exile the cherubs 2) all bars and convenience stores that sell wine. Day 1 we caught sight of the “Peter Pan Room.” Day 1 we also noticed Florida (happily) had different laws regarding the sale of wine and beer than NJ did. This was very handy knowledge to have. By the end of Day 3 which felt like Day 3,333, after being badgered for the umpteenth time for a souvenir purchase, I did not lose it. The hubs did not lose it. Before we had a chance to say a word, my mid 20’s stepdaughter whirled around on her little brother, the stunned Son1, finger pointing into his wee chest and shouted, “I thought I was the most spoiled child on the face of the Earth. UNTIL I MET YOU!!” He was motionless, passersby uncomfortably watched, we kind of snickered, and she merely walked past hubs and me to announce we were sending them to Peter Pan-land ASAP and getting a bottle of wine. It was touching really. Son1 was put in his place by someone other than me, and the hubs from then on looked at his little girl as a grown up. Who likes white.
My final bit of awareness has to do with the safety measurements for “how tall you need to be.” Disney- yours are completely inconsistent. Whatever the number, it should equal the same height all the time. 40” should be 40,” not more not less. At Busch Gardens, they measure kids once and issue a corresponding wristband for what kids are cleared to ride. This is genius. But Disney had them at the start of the line, the midpoint (in event of growth spurt? Or osteoporosis collapse?), and at the ride entry. We learned the hard way they just don’t match.
With an early afternoon flight, we figured we’d try to cram a few hours at the Magic Kingdom before heading out. Never can get too much magic, eh? After 2 out of 6 attempted rides with mechanical issues, we thought, ok, we’ll do Space Mountain and then go. We measured Son2 at the start, all clear. We measured Son2 at the midpoint. Still clear. Close, but clear. We got up to the actual entrance, 2 back from departure and BAM the ride stopped. They ended up turning the lights on, which really killed the “magic” of Space Mountain, but still we waited. In the glare of the now illuminated space, a “cast member” spied Son2. The ride resumed, the lights went out, and we nearly boarded. But then she stopped us and said she had noticed him in line and wanted to measure him. (You couldn’t have done this with the lights on? 10 minutes ago?) Well you know where this was heading. He was too short. He was too short by like 2 inches. TWO INCHES? WTH? We told them we had used their own height guide and it had been fine. After trying to make us feel like parents unconcerned with our child’s safety, her hot idea to calm us was to offer one parent a ride w/Son1 and then on the very next run, allow the other parent to board and ride with Son1 again. Well, Son1 loved that idea. How she envisioned that helping Son2’s tantrum, I’ve no idea.
At some point, and I don’t know exactly when it was because I was trying to calm Son2, magic finally did occur. The magic that occurred had to do with taking my normally calm and composed hubs and turning him into a yelling, cursing, madman. It was like he was me for a few brief, albeit very public, moments. The last few minutes of our Disney vacation were spent listening to my overtired, over stressed, father-of-a-sobbing-7 yr-old hubs unleash on all things Disney to the Disney employees present. It was lyrical. It was epic. It ended with, “If I NEVER see that F’IN mouse again, it’ll be too soon!” And then he stormed out, leaving me with Son 1 and 2, amid dumbfounded Space Mountain workers and some shocked teens waiting to board. And I really wish he had used the abbreviated “F’in.”
Yes, it will be quite some time before we attempt another Disney trip. Maybe in a few years after they’ve added some new attractions, we’ll work up the desire to head back… if they let us back in the “magical” f’in place.