Monday, February 18, 2019

Disney-ing: Part 1

The name Walt Disney World is kind of a misnomer-with all that a trip to WDW entails, it may be more accurate to say Disney galaxy...or Disney universeIt's just all consuming ( mostly a fantastic way.) We took our first family trip to Disney last month, and while I thought the planning and anticipation of it was a lot, I'm finding that documenting it afterwards is just as big a task. How do I answer "How was your trip?" without lulling people into a coma with a 45 minute monologue? How do I record every single detail so that I don't forget a minute of the non-stop magic

I have a phone full of pictures and videos, a bag full of trinkets and souvenir mementos, and a brain full of stories. I could go on and on (and on and on) about what we did, what I learned, what we loved, what I'd recommend... But I know people may not have infinite capacity for All Things Disney and Adorable Stories About The Bowden Children so I wanted to try to cull my experience down into something manageable...(Spoiler alert- I've totally failed at that, accidentally writing a War & Peace length recap about the land of the magical mouse...So I'm splitting it up between multiple posts, to disguise how complete excessive this all is. 

I thought it'd be fun to borrow from our Life Lately format, and document all the "ings" of our recent trip. It was a once in a lifetime experience (that I may try to repeat a few more times in my lifetime), and I want to remember every single 'ing.  

Making: plans and plans and reservations and more plans. Disney is not a spontaneous game. It's a planner's paradise. You're rewarded...nay...required to think ahead. We booked our January 26-31 trip back in October, and that was basically last minute by Disney standards. (People book dining reservations SIX months in advance!) But as much as I love to plan (which is a lot) I was actually really happy that we only had two months to agonize over prepare for everything. It was a great time to go "all in" on getting ready for the trip, without dragging things out and consuming the better part of my year. We told the kids we were going right after Christmas, so they had about a month of waiting. I know some people love the last minute surprise approach, but I think part of the joy of a trip this big is with the anticipation so I didn't want to miss out on that. It was so fun to have a few weeks of countdown with them, checking off the days, getting familiar with movies and characters, and talking to them about all the fun stuff that awaited them.

Obsessing: over every last detail, wanting to make the most of everything, which is so. much. pressure! In a lot of ways this was a once in a lifetime trip. Sure, we might (read: probably will) go back again someday (read: soon) but regardless of how many times we return we'll never have this trip again. The kids will never be these ages again. We'll never approach it exactly the same way. When we started to plan this trip we agreed this would be our chance to do it right and "go big". That doesn't mean we were crazy extravagant, but even the most modest Disney trip is still a pretty hefty chunk of change, so this trip was an investment, to say the least. We wanted to get our money's worth, of course, but mostly we wanted to make the most of this opportunity that we knew wouldn't come around again. Good intentions, for sure, but for an Enneagram 3, it meant many sleepless nights worrying if I was doing everything "good enough" or "right". Yes, I know there is no such thing, but in another more real sense I don't know that at all...all I'm familiar with in life is the need to do things WELL, which translates to completely overthinking the most minor of details to "ensure" my success. I am aware this is crazy, and also powerless to stop it. So while I acknowledged there is no such thing as a perfect trip, and that no matter how well I prepped, there were still going to be things out of my control, I still wanted to give us the best trip possible, and poured myself into the prep work to make allllllll the magic happen.

Bookmarking: posts in a "Smart Moms Planning Disney" Facebook group. Also known as: the rabbit hole that stole weeks of my life (while simultaneously providing me with piles and piles of  valuable info). We had a travel agent (and good friend) help us with our trip, so honestly I didn't have to do much of anything. She booked our room, our dining reservations, our fast passes....everything! But...again, I'm a bit extra so I happily dove into the message boards searching any and everything that came to mind in the wee hours of the night. Some of the questions and comments in there made me feel better about my place on the over-prepared spectrum (these planners are next level even by my standards) and some gave me anxiety that the bar for planning this trip is unattainably high. At best, it gave me lots of insider tips and experienced recommendations that helped me get organized and know what to expect. (I have since compared planning this trip to planning a become a member of an exclusive community of like-minded crazies, learn a million things that have an extremely limited shelf-life for applicationspend far too much time and money, all in pursuit of the best day/week of your life. It's insane, nearly kills you and is also totally worth it.)

Visiting: all the parks except Animal Kingdom. We planned four days at Disney (plus a travel day on each end of the trip), so we technically could have had a day in each of the four parks, but I just didn't feel passionate about Animal Kingdom. I'm sure I'm shortchanging it, but I kept thinking: We already have a great zoo in Columbus! Plus a couple of the best rides there have a taller height restriction, so I just didn't think it was going to end up being the best park for us this time around. Piper emphatically disagreed with me once she found out we weren't going to visit ALL of them, but managed to get over it. Instead, we started and ended our trip with a day at Magic Kingdom, which I was really happy about. It was nice to know we didn't have to jam everything into one day (that park has so much to do! Especially for little kids.)

Looking: for fun stuff to do at Epcot. I know people adore that place, but it just wasn't our favorite park this time around. Dustin and I came to Disney for a quick day trip about a decade ago, and I remember loving it then, but for our kids it was a bit hit or miss. There were a few things we absolutely loved (Soarin', Turtle Talk with Crush, Frozen Ever After...) but then there was a lot that was kind of complicated or boring for them (they didn't really understand all the space and futuristic stuff...and didn't fully appreciate the history and culture of the world showcase). Epcot was our second day in the parks, and the slower pace (compared to all the stimuli in Magic Kingdom) felt a little strange too...I could have probably spent about a half day in Epcot and still felt like we got to see everything we wanted...maybe coming back for dinner and the show at night. If we were to do it over again we might try a park hopper pass, which would give us a bit more flexibility and allow us to split days up between multiple parks. But in the winter the park hours are shorter, so it's a bit harder to pack as much in.

Wishing: there was an easier form of transportation to get around Disney propertyOur resort had buses to all the parks, which honestly wasn't terribly inconvenient, but they were often pretty crowded (which is sort of shocking, knowing we visited at one of the "slow" times...what would it be like during busy season?), sometimes had a long wait for one to arrive, and then was about 20 minutes in travel time (not counting time to get to, and go through security). I know lots of people go to the parks in the morning and come back for a break mid-day, but that would have easily taken uan hour-and-a-half of our day just in travel time, so we just pushed through. Someday, maybe we'll be rich enough to stay at a resort on the monorail, but for now we made the most of the bus rideschatting with fellow travelers and trying to spot "Minnie Vans" (the customized Lyft rides, covered in red dots!)

Suffering: through a cold and rainy day. We knew going in January meant it likely wouldn't be super warm, but Florida weather is notoriously unpredictable, so we didn't know exactly know what to expect. We ended up getting a pretty chilly week (not freakishly cold, but certainly much colder than typical), with 100% chance of rain predicted for our first day. Fortunately, I planned for that, making sure we had coats, gloves, rain jackets, ponchos, spare shoes etc. etc. etc. And we used it all. Our first day in Magic Kingdom it never stopped raining. Not for a minute. Just constant- raining from a light drizzle, to full on drops, while temperatures hovered in the 50's. Rain at Disney is pretty much par for the course (throw on some flip flops, don a poncho, and hope it clears!) but it being so cold meant it was pretty much miserable. The rain cover on our stroller was a Godsend, but us big-kids (including Piper) didn't have much reprieve. But we didn't have much of a choice, so we made the most of it, sopping wet feet and all. We went on all the inside/covered rides we could find, hid out in restaurants when we could, and eventually called it quits when our shivers started to outshine our smiles. We made it until about 4pm, (after arriving at 8am) which I thought was a pretty solid showing, all things considered. I tried not to be too disappointed- choosing to be thankful for anything we did get to do. All in all, one day of rain isn't a bad deal- it certainly made us much more thankful for the sunshine on the other days. Plus it kept the crowd size down- the silver lining to a very grey day.

Listening: to Disney lullabies. After a long, wet day at Magic Kingdom, we were exhausted. After returning to our hotel for dinner, we called it an early night. The kids were begging for a show, so I compromised and told them we could listen to music while we fell asleep. Dustin had to scoot out to supervise our laundry (we were drying all of our soaking wet clothes, and our tennis shoes kept knocking the dryer door open!) so the remaining four of us fell asleep to the sounds of acoustic Disney Classics. It's one of those simple, unplanned memories that doesn't sound like much, but while stay with me for its sweetness. After a super tiring day, it was really nice to relax with my kiddos, and remember how special this trip is. 

Enjoying: the rides! And the characters! And basically every single thing! I really didn't know what to expect before we went...would they love the rides? (I thought so...after all, we've basically been training them on carnie life since they were born). Would they love the characters? (Not sure, as the girls aren't really princess-y, and Miller is a little oblivious to entertainment outside of Netflix). Our travel agenkept asking what types of things they liked, in order to customize our trip a bit more, but I wasn't sure what to tell her. We decided to take this trip now because of the kids ages...I hoped that they'd be big enough to handle the stress of the trip and take advantage of a lot of the fun, but also little enough to still really believe in all of the magic, but I really didn't know how it would play out. We've had friends who have gone in the past whose kids were too scared for any "big" rides, and other friends whose kids were terrified by (or uninterested in) the characters, so I didn't know what to expect. It turns out though...they loved it all! Now I keep saying that this was the best/worst part of our tripObviously being in a stage where they loved everything is the best but it also means it was hard to prioritize some things over others. If they hadn't liked big rides, we could have crossed a bunch of stuff on the list and focused on parades or characters...or if they found characters scary or boring, we could have spent more time on rides and shows (or eating waffles! I would have also been fine with that!) As it stood, we just embrace the idea that it was all good, and tried to hit up as much of it as we could!

Following: a plan...loosely. I poured a ton into the planning of it all (I may have mentioned that...) but I promised Dustin that even though I couldn't stop spazzing about things in advance, when we got there I would let it go, and just have fun. And I'm super proud to report, that for the most part, I was able to follow through on that. I really wanted to have a plan in place so that we could maximize our time there, but I also know that things with kids never actually go according to plan, so we'd need to be flexible. Every night after we got everyone to bed, I spent some time planning out our day- figuring out what time we'd need to leave, shifting meal reservations, mapping out what areas of each park we should start in- and we'd more or less go with that as our guide, but then once we were there, we more or less did what we wanted, swapping Fastpasses around, skipping attractions that were too crowded and bailing on things the kids weren't feeling. I had a couple things each day that I really wanted to make happen but I tried not to get my heart set on too much, so that I could just go with the flow a bit more and not get disappointed when my family had a different vision (or their attitudes took a nose dive).  

Missing: out on the late night fun. Listen, our kids just can't hang. They're early birds, not night owls, and I'm working on coming to terms with that. (Typically I'm super thankful for the me-time it affords me in the evening, but in cases like this, it would be helpful if they didn't turn into werewolves at 8:30pm) I had big dreams of seeing the night shows, and the fireworks, but we found that by the time it started to get dark (and guess what- even colder!) we were usually on borrowed time. It didn't make sense to push them past their breaking point, only to have to follow the masses out to the bus, ultimately getting home a few hours after their bedtime. They don't even like fireworks that much! So I tried to embrace the "you can't do everything" mindset, and remember that there will be other years when they are able to party a bit harder (and also don't wake me up at 6:18 every day).

(see you tomorrow for another round of 'ings!)
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