Monday, September 14, 2009

Disney recap: pre-trip and Day 1

I went to Disney for the first time twelve years ago, with Chad. Chad had gone numerous times throughout his childhood; the trip was my first. I went, I had a good time, but I was not exactly bowled over by the place. I remember thinking I was glad that I had seen and done Disney - kind of with a 'scratch it off the bucket list' mentality - and figured that if I was ever back, it would be at some distant future date. No need to hurry back.

The next time I was at Disney was 2.5 years later, in 2000. Also with Chad. But we were going to Disney not for the sake of going to Disney; it was so Chad could run the Disney marathon. With a few vacation days tacked on for good measure. It was a good trip (and it was lovely to be poolside in January!) but again - no thought given to a possible return date. We went on to do some serious international travelling with our vacation time, and spent some of the best moments of our lives in far-flung places. Which made a theme park-based vacation seem trite by comparison.

Still, since some of Chad's strongest childhood memories are tied to Disney, I knew we would be back at some point when we had kids. Originally the plan was to go when they were 5 and 3, and then that somehow got pushed back to 4.5 and 2.5. Maybe because late August, after the American schools are back in session, is a great, uncrowded time to visit. Maybe because Mallory's park entry and food are free until she turns 3. Maybe because the Free Dining promotion has historically been offered in late August through September, and we were counting on it being offered again (it was). Whatever the case, we booked this trip a year ago. Or, rather, Chad booked it. He was the family Disneyphile who knew the best places to stay and eat and how to tackle the parks. He set the whole thing up, choosing our accommodations last year and then booking our dining reservations (a total necessity when Free Dining is on) when the window opened at 90 days out from our trip.

And then something happened, and I got interested, too. I started trolling just as much as Chad did. I became well versed in the use of Fastpasses, and came to understand Extra Magic Hours, and learned the difference between Philharmagic and Spectromagic. I could soon understand acronyms like ToT, TSMM, and EE (Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, Expedition Everest). I was dying to try a Dole Whip.

By the time our trip actually rolled around, I think I was more excited than the kids. I was so, so excited. And the trip met my expectations in every way. It was fun. Just pure, simple fun. Yes, the kids had a few meltdowns along the way, but some of them were quite hysterical. And you have to expect that, with a 4 year old and a 2 year old in tow. I was able to take the trip at face value for what it was: a chance to get away from it all, relax, and spend time with the kids doing things we all enjoyed. It was no Macchu Picchu or Mt. Kilimanjaro, but I made no pretenses that it was. And unlike those trips - which had us slogging up mountainsides, eating unappetizing food simply for the sake of sustenance, and using some of the worst bathroom facilities imaginable - all of which was fascinating, but a pretty harsh dose of reality - this one was all about suspending the real world for a bit and having a good time. Totally hedonistic. The polar opposite of some of our earlier excursions.

In that vein, I totally recommend staying on-site when taking a trip to Disney. It keeps you immersed in your vacation rather than resurfacing in reality at stops along the way. We checked our bags in Detroit and they magically showed up in our hotel room. No waiting by the baggage carousel. We caught a shuttle at the airport that took us to the hotel, and resort transport took us everywhere we needed to be throughout the week: mostly buses, but boats and monorails, too. Hopping a bus from the hotel to a park, we were still on resort grounds. We weren't passing Target and Exxon and giant billboards along the way, there was destination-appropriate music piped in, and the scenery out the window was impeccably manicured... it all made the trip completely seamless.

Anyway... onto the Day 1 summary, which is brief. We left on Tuesday night after dinner. Got the kids into their PJs, loaded up the car, and headed to a park-n-fly hotel by the airport. The construction around the Ambassador bridge was mercifully complete enough that the detour through Mexican Town is no more. Made it to the hotel and checked in in record time.

Of course, this now presented the problem of how to get Mallory to bed in a hotel room that all 4 of us were sharing. The original idea was that she would share a bed with Chad and I would share one with Liam. Liam rolled over and went to sleep, no problem. Mallory, of course, was up for another hour and a half, talking, singing, poking her fingers in Chad's ears, etc. We had a 5:30 a.m. wake up call the next day so this was not boding well for our trip. What finally worked? We threatened to make her sleep in the bathtub, and made good on that threat for a few minutes when she didn't pipe down to let her know we were serious. After that, all it took all week to get her to settle down at night was a threatening "Do you want to sleep in the bathtub again?" I'm glad we figured that out at the start of our trip rather than the end of it.

Next up: Day 2 - Arrival in Orlando...


Dawn said...

oh wow, you so need to make me a cheatsheet version of your tips and tricks. I am sooooo not looking forward to our trip in February, actually I am quite apprehensive. Gavin's neuro already bedecked us with a medical clearance to get a fastpass to the whole world of Disney, but still.........sheesh......he is already freaking at the thought of an airplane. God grant me strength! Dying to look at all your pics! Get them up somewhere girly!