Editor’s Note: This blog was provided by ToaD friend Mary Beth. Thank you Mary Beth!
It all started out innocently enough during our Disney trip last August, when my 9 year old daughter asked to call her friend back home. As my daughter narrated the sights and sounds, I heard her friend say, “I wish I could go to Disney World” in exactly the same way that Cinderella says, “I wish I could go to the ball.” By the time Wishes started that night, I had already booked three character meals for a weekend in January and was able to confirm airfare and a Theme Park View Grand Villa at Bay Lake Tower once DVC opened the next morning. When my daughter called her friend to ask what kind of mouse ears she wanted for her trip to Disney in January, her friend said, “I need to ask my mom if I can go.” I don’t think this child believed she was actually going to Disney until her feet touched the ground in Florida 4 ½ months later.
We arrived at the Orlando airport around 1:30 on Friday, and headed straight for the Mickey Bus (aka, The Magical Express). As the bus pulled into the Polynesian to offload some passengers, my 11 year old son announced that the monorail would get us to the Contemporary faster than the bus. We allowed all three of the tweens to ride the monorail to the hotel, as long as they kept their iPhones (with tracking capacity) with them and met the bus to claim their luggage.
By 3pm we had checked into the grand villa at Bay Lake. The view was spectacular, as long as one looked toward the castle and Space Mountain. Looking down, we had a parking lot and dumpster view. Willing suspension of disbelief is important when going to Disney World, so I preferred to focus on the castle view. The tweens loved the grand villa. With a master bedroom, a girls’ room plus a room for my son, we had plenty of space. The kids were so enchanted by the closet space that they actually unpacked their luggage and hung up their clothes before our 5 pm dinner with Chef Mickey.
My 11 year old son and 10 year old daughter have had the good fortune to have years of Disney experience. They have been on several Disney Cruises, visited Disneyland, and have spent nearly a month of days in Disney World. To them, the characters are old friends. For my daughter’s 11 year old friend, Chef Mickey’s was like landing on a strange planet. She wasn’t sure what to do with the characters, why she had an autograph book, or if she even wanted to pose for a picture with Mickey. During the celebration song, she asked, “Why do we have to spin our napkins?” My only answer was, “Because you are in Disney, and that is what people do here.”
After dinner, we returned to the grand villa to watch Wishes, just so we could have the experience of watching Wishes from all four balconies of a grand villa. My kids each sang along to their favorite parts, anticipating their favorite fireworks. At the end of the show, the friend mentioned that they still had some bottlerockets at home, so she didn’t need to see the fireworks again. In that moment, I realized how difficult it is to sell the magic to someone who does not want to believe. So, I distracted her with a trip to EPCOT’s evening extra magic hours. First stop, Soarin’, followed by Living with the Land. Test Track won over our bonus child, as did the create-a-story portion of Spaceship Earth. (We intentionally bypassed Mission:Space due to health concerns.)
After too short of a sleep, we were up bright and early to get to the Magic Kingdom for rope drop. As the kids made their way to the castle for pictures, we discovered a crane. How unfortunate that this child’s once in a lifetime castle moment included a crane! We moved along to Breakfast with Pooh, and all had to laugh when the host announced that they were going to have a Poohrade. After nuzzling with Pooh and bouncing with Tigger, we were off for a morning of rides. Some seemed too short, but Small World always seems to be about twice as long as I would prefer. At the Speedway, each child was awarded a driver’s license. My son grinned from ear to ear and said, “It is amazing how different a little piece of paper can make you feel!” We then discovered that the legs of three tweens and one adult do not actually fit in a spinning teacup. Space Mountain brought the biggest smiles from all of the tweens.
A note from Tinkerbell had advised us to check in at the castle at 12:40 pm. By then, the kids were ready for lunch or a break. They were not ready for what came next—The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. My daughter was excited, my son was perplexed, and my bonus child was pondering any possible means of escape. The girls had each selected the same princess up-do, while my son had the Knight Package—spiked, colored hair topped with Mickey confetti and a green Mickey head painted on the back of his head. While my daughter was fully cooperative in her transformation, her friend was not. Eventually, the Fairy Godmothers in Training resorted to bribing her, much as they would a reluctant 2 year old, by saying, “If we paint your mom’s nails blue, will you let us put just a bitty bit on your nails?” (We had given up on pointing out that I was not her mom. The girls look like twins and it just takes too long to explain that they are not related.) By the time we left the boutique, the children were transformed into a knight and princesses, and I had blue fingernails and a blingy butterfly on my left cheek. We then headed off to lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table. The girls realized that they did not have autograph books, so our waitress provided each of the children with a card signed by all of the princesses.
After lunch, everyone was ready for a break. The girls wanted to swim, though one only wanted to swim as a reason to remove her princess up-do. Dozing in the Grand Villa was encouraged. At a quick Contempo Café dinner, my bonus child reported that she felt unwell and asked to call her mom. She described her symptoms—tired but excited, thirsty, queasy and tired. I diagnosed her with Disney Syndrome, and explained, “Oh, everyone feels that way in Disney World at some point. It means you are having a fun and busy trip.” She recovered spontaneously after a caffeinated beverage and some chips, and was ready to take on 11 more rides in Magic Kingdom. While my own daughter started to fall asleep while walking at 10:30 pm, the other tweens kept going until they were among the last riders of the night on Space Mountain.
We all felt much more refreshed after 7 hours of sleep, but the girls were feeling sad that the trip was coming to an end. We headed to ‘Ohana for breakfast. Lilo met a lukewarm reception at our table, but Pluto stole the show when he snuck up behind my son and sniffed at him persistently. By the time Stitch arrived, my bonus child had forgotten that he might not be real. The picture of her hugging Stitch will always be priceless, because in that moment she let herself believe.
Back at work on Monday morning, I heard lots of, “I can’t believe you went to Disney for a WEEKEND.” Yes, yes I did. 48 hours, 2 parks, 26 rides and 4 character meals….and I would do it all over again.