Friday, January 21, 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth

(Much like our week, I’ll get through negative before we can embrace the positive. I promise; I’m not a total whiner.)

For the happiest place on Earth, there sure are a lot of rules for keeping that happiness. I seem to remember a more abundant and less inhibited celebration of all things Disney when I toured the parks as an 11-year-old. Certainly, there was no standing in line to meet characters.

Hold on to Your Hats, and Babies
For all the rules, it is shocking how many rides my one year old (at the time, 13 months) was allowed to enjoy. That said, Disney must have some inventive way of deflecting liability for injuries, because parents are entirely responsible for securing young ones on these rides. The entire idea is a little daunting. As the parent of a very active little man, I am all but certain that one or two kids have escaped a parent’s grip to find themselves soaking wet in the Small World river. Yikes!

Choose Your Hotel Wisely
Like, say, if all but one of your family members comes down with a severe bug causing all sorts of vomiting. I’m not saying you need the Ritz, but make sure that the maids come when requested, that they don’t leave your sink overflowing, that the room phone works, that room service will actually take your order ("I understand that you don't begin service until 7 PM, sir, but I there is nowhere in this resort that I can purchase some apple juice for my sick child."), that there exists a shuttle that can return you to the hotel from the parks (~2 miles) in less than an hour and a half, or a security staff on site to ensure that drunks and parentless teens are not screaming at all hours. You know, these kinds of things. You see what I’m getting at with my rant. In short, despite its “luxury” status and hefty price tag, I would not recommend “The Palace”.

Here’s my five cent wisdom on making the Disney hotel choice: (1) Stay in the park, at an official Disney resort; (2) Rent a car (free parking at all parks with those official resorts); (3) Be within walking distance of something; (4) Find a multi-room layout to accommodate everyone (this we actually did, but the only hotel offering this at the time we booked was our loser); and (5) Accept that you will pay a steep premium for all of the aforementioned conveniences. 

Traveling with the Extended Family
Understand, respect and love your in-laws for what they are – at times an extra set of very useful hands, and at times, an extra set of (insert your descriptive term of choice so that I don’t get myself in trouble) kids.

Despite all my complaining, I should make this clear; we actually had a couple of very nice days after getting through a few hellish ones. On to the good stuff…

Make Meal Reservations
C, perfect husband that he is, volunteered to take up this task, and he was on it. We actually had a perfect seafood feast before the illness set in (and no, it was not the cause). Because we weren’t particularly hungry for the rest of the week, our other reservations were not necessary, but come NYE at Disney, you are going to want a reservation. C and I found ourselves at Epcot during the day on Dec. 31 and there was not a seat to be had at any of the sit-down eateries. This actually resulted in a rather delicious brat and apple strudel from lunch counter at the Germany pavilion (seriously, it was remarkably delicious), but that’s not my point exactly. Reservations make everything easier.

I should note that we also had one other reservation-free meal, a character buffet. But, this one wasn’t about the food; it was about the experience. We paid $42 a piece (yes, I’m still reeling) for, essentially, chicken fingers. That said, the smiles on H’s face, and the pictures with Pooh and Tigger (his faves) will last a lifetime. We’ll just have to remind him how much these memories cost when he turns 15 or so.

Make Unorthodox Plans for New Year’s
Or other holidays that might result in an overcrowded park (basically, you can’t get near the Magic Kingdom after 9 AM on Dec. 31). We saw a 6:30 showing of Fantasmic (or something like that – it had all of the characters and lots of Mickey for the little man) at the Hollywood Studios Park, which included fireworks. It was packed with families who had also chosen this route. A little hot chocolate, a half hour show, and early to bed. It forced me to relax, and I enjoyed the ringing in of this particular new year (I had been snoozing for a good two hours) more than most.

Acknowledge Your Fans
My Spartans were in the Capitol One Bowl on New Year’s Day, in Orlando. That meant that the parks were full of MSU fans all week. We fans represented well through the week, though the team itself broke our collective hearts come Saturday (as did those who felt the need to point out that we were in fact walloped in our bowl game – yeah, I’m aware, thanks – some wolves in sheep’s clothing can be rather cruel and callous, you know?!). The fans, however, did not disappoint. Clad in the proper colors all week, it become common place to acknowledge one another with a simple nod and “Go Green” with the expectation of “Go White” in return. No need to catch up on one another’s family histories. Rather, we just found our own way of saying hello.

Accept, but Choose Not to Comprehend the Craziness
I found myself repeatedly gawking at the descent into childhood attire by adults. That, and the abundance of sequins and leather floating around the parks (even if it is NYE, folks, please keep in mind that you chose to celebrate at Disney World). Then, I would check myself and remember that happiness means different things to different people.

Remember Your Parking Lot
This was my job for the week (I remember many useless, and sometimes very valuable, things). We parked in Unicorn, Imagine, Future, Happy/Sleepy (somewhere in between), and Television.

Purchase Euphoria
This is where the real happiness at Disney descends…in the stores. I call this phenomenon “purchase euphoria”. Basically, it goes like this...You, park visitor/shopper/otherwise rational consumer, walk into one of the countless stores around the parks (or Downtown Disney, where the real action is)….madness ensues and you walk out having spent more money that you can fathom. I can blame this curse on the fact that I’m a relatively new parent with an opportunity to spoil (and Amma and Agong were also around for the spoilage effect), or that I was in the Christmas spirit, or that photo frames are a must for vacations, or that my parents had gifted us a Disney card for Christmas that we obviously had to spend. But, the fact is, utter insanity ensues, and I really cannot explain what precisely occurs to make mush of one’s brain. All I can provide is anecdotal evidence (evidently, this curse is not gender specific): While in the Pooh store, C and I went to find one another, both of our arm’s full of stuff (most of which, granted, was for Baby H), and both of us unwilling to relent on the items we had chosen individually, resulting in a rather large haul for the little man.

Speaking of the haul, here’s a few highlights: 

There were mementos for Baby H....

When the euphoria descended, tt became my mission that Baby H would have a set of ears. We built him a custom pair, along with a patch to commemorate his inaugural trip.
I told you before about the race to purchase all things Pooh...H's favorite character, Tigger, was on many of the items.

As well as a few things for mommy....

I found this scarf to be one of the more demure (yes, it's colorful; no, it's not completely obnoxious) ways of incorporating the Mickey silhouette into adult attire.
I chose not to pack my gloves for Florida...Mistake...The first night was under 30 degrees. People are always asking, "What's the point of fingerless gloves?". Well, (1) the iPhone, and (2) this particular pair allows for finger freedom along with mitten coverage, which I recently learned is the more sensible warming route.

My one foodie purchase (it's an oven mitt). I thought it was the perfect fun incorporation of Mickey in our kitchen.

For those of you looking to enjoy pics of our smiling mugs across the parks, full photographic evidence will be posted to facebook soon. Oh, and Harry Potter is on his way too. These are long posts!

1 comment:

Manimal said...

The purchase euphoria is definitely crazy. I am impressed with the atmosphere the "Mouse" creates - it's like stuff you would never buy in a million years at home is suddenly a must-have. Say what you will about how they manage the park, but they absolutely print money :). Great review!!