If you’re lucky, you get to plan. You pick an ideal time, you hope for the best, and oh, happy day, it works! You’re going on a Disney vacation with your family!
You tell your children. They jump up and down and ask a lot of questions.
“Yes, you will get to see the castle! Yes, you might see Mickey Mouse, but remember, he’s very busy since Disney World is his headquarters. Now, remember, you’ll have to wait in some lines, but yes, we should be able to go on Space Mountain!”
For months the anticipation and excitement builds. You count down the weeks, the days, the hours. You daydream about all of the joyful memories you will create with your children. You imagine your family skipping through the park, marveling at the wonder and magic.
The big day finally arrives.
You stand in line for an hour at the front gate and start getting nervous. “Okay,” you think. “Par for the course.”
You go through the turnstile and walk down Main Street. It is adorable. There is music. There are horses and quaint, old-timey cars.
There are also people. More people than you have ever seen congregated in one place in your whole life. So many people that you can barely walk through the crowd.
“Hold my hand and don’t let go! Do you hear me? Don’t let go! I’m serious! ”
You start getting nervous again.
“Mom, where is the castle? I thought it was right in here…where is it?” The first tantrum is starting to build.
It is a good question, though…where is the damn castle?
You turn a corner, and there it is, off in the distance, occupying a special, majestic place on the horizon.
Now, I’m not a sappy person. I usually wear my cynicism with pride, but the first time I saw this thing I melted. It truly is magical.
“Let’s go get a picture!”
The tension subsides. You ooh and ahh and marvel at the sights, the sounds. Again, speaking as the ultimate cynic here: no matter how you feel about Disney, there is one thing no one can deny: The Mouse knows how to deliver. The attention to detail is astounding. You aren’t just riding rides; you are transported into a story. From the characters, to the shows, the parades and the rides, Disney knows how to create magical experiences.
You spend the first hour soaking all of this in.
Then it starts to get painful. Really painful.
There are people EVERYWHERE. You can’t move. The heat is oppressive. The lines are loooooooong. The hours start bleeding together and you lose all sense of time. The food is expensive. Your kids start whining, and the volume and intensity of the whining is turned up to eleven. They throw a fit because you won’t buy them something at every gift shop you find yourself in. They throw a fit because the line to meet Thor and Captain America is too long. (Okay, maybe that was me.)
There is fighting and bickering. Everyone gets crabby and short with each other. You start snapping at well-intentioned family and Disney Park employees in the heat of the moment and are horrified by your behavior after the moment has passed.
You’re physically exhausted. (On our recent trip, the first day we were in the park my FitBit registered 13.07 miles.)
You make a definitive statement.
“WE ARE NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!”
There are amazing experiences around every corner.
There is joy like you’ve never witnessed. There is laughter, and so many precious moments you never, ever want to forget.
Depending on the length of your trip, the physical and emotional ups and downs can last for days.
And then it’s over.
With the park behind you, a part of you is glad it’s over. You’re recovering from the physical and emotional exhaustion. But even though it was difficult, if you’re lucky, the main thing you are left with is the joy. You relive the precious moments. You look at the photos over and over.
And if you’re lucky, you get a chance to go again.
And while you have vague memories of how hard it was the first time, you feel a bit more confident this time.
The same excitement builds. You count down the months, the weeks, the days.
The big day arrives again. The experience is similar, but different. Tantrums, tears, physical exhaustion, bickering, fights.
And the joy. So much joy.