How to have a Fantastic Disney Vacation
Subtitle: Jack, stop referring to yourself as Clark Griswold. This is not Wally World. This is Disney World. You're gonna jinx us.
Step 1: Select your destination. Now, last year, while I was able to scratch an item off of my bucket list, I was not as careful to pick a family appropriate destination. See, I wanted to see Graceland because I love me some Elvis Presley. Ergo, we planned the trip, got the tickets, convinced my best friend that driving from Texas to meet us was a wise idea, etc. Sounds well thought out, right? Not so fast. Memphis is scary, like people hanging out outside of the jail (which is IN TOWN) scary. And we camped, on the Mississippi. During storm season. And my family and my tent almost ended up in said Mississippi. Point being, while I did get to see the home of the King and where Johnny Cash recorded, that was a bad choice for ages 5 & 6. Pick Disney until you are child-free. (Although I have nothing against Memphis, they gave us those icons of music AND Ben Browder...yummy...wait! No mental cheating on Shanks!! Bad fan! Bad fan!)
Step 2: Book with a family member. My cousin is a travel agent. Very convenient. Not only does she NOT lie to us to get us to upgrade to stupid crap, but she will patiently sit and listen to me on the phone as I go on and on about stupid people, what I hate about hotels and my incessant whining about how hard it is to buy healthy food at a theme park (really Mrs. First Lady, you wanna attack obesity, let’s start here, have you SEEN these people!?!?). Then, she is kind and patient enough to listen to your best friend whine about similar things. And, she will find you deals and let you message her everyday leading up about stupid things like whether or not the room gets HBO so you can watch Sookie on Sunday. Or, even though you’re not related, you could just use my cousin. So...Heather...if that works, do I get a cut??
Step 3: Drive your own car and travel at night. Ok, we’ve talked about this before, but I have to add to my earlier posts that the sheer entertainment value of driving all night (and no I did not sleep at all and drove 4-5 hours of the trip myself - woo hoo 5 hour energy and my water plan) on this one outweighs the “kids will sleep the entire time”ness of the experience. Here is a short list of the things I witnessed on our trip down there:
- Billboards in North Carolina. OMA I could blog just about what these things said. They let anyone on the planet get a billboard in North Carolina and I saw everything from “Vets for Pets: A Premiere Animal Hospital” (which boggled my mind, what else do vets service other than pets? Cars? Small combustion engines? Do they do mani/pedis?) to an breadcrumb trail of signs advertising a club, it’s hours, it’s specialty nights where the last breadcrumb simply had the name of the club and “FULL TOPLESS” in all caps around the rest of the sign. That’s just a conclusion you don’t expect.
- Rest stops. Not only is EVERY rest stop the entire way to Disney also the site of a Civil War battle, which of course your geeky husband will take as an opportunity to keep on homeschooling and make the kids stand still while he reads the info sign and they roll their eyes, but these rest stops have the CRAZIEST vending machines. One rest stop in NC had items in ziploc baggies, like a vending package deal, in the machine. Here is my favorite ziplocked item. Yes, thems Beanee Weenies...
- Your own personal party. Since my entire family will, undoubtedly, sleep through the apocalypse in December (don’t laugh at me people.... “We are in our last days” to quote a wise woman I know - ok, laugh at that, that was meant to be funny) a long road trip is the perfect time to whup out that iPod and blast Salt n’ Pepa, because awake they still cannot appreciate that you know and can rap every last line of ‘Shoop.’ (Dude, I’m white, that’s impressive ok?). You can even kick it up a notch and have a little fantasy in your head where a certain...never mind, that gets old after a while doesn’t it?
Step 4: Have a friend in Florida to visit while you are there that has an insanely large house, will let you stay in it, will feed you, let you drag her to hot yoga and does not go tearing out of the class once she realizes that these people have put you in the advanced class and dear Athena I am flexible but that’s just unnatural, then takes you home and feeds you again and gets her future husband to make homemade margaritas, which you drink happily while playing Apples to Apples and get made fun of for always having your mind in the gutter. Which I DON’T. Have one of those friends. But you can’t have mine. I’ll fight you for her. Get your own friend.
Step 5: Know the rules of the road. And by this I mean tolls. Tolls are a state’s way of making extra money off of tourists. And not with the toll money. I mean the tickets. Because who in the world thought going all electronic and not taking cash anymore (Yes, no cash! Where are you tea-party folks when I need you? Since when is CASH not acceptable currency?! Get to work on this already!!) was a good idea??? So, know that not only does the state of Florida no longer believe in cash but that the SunPass that you must buy HAS TO be mounted no greater than 4.3196833568351 inches below the shading by your rearview mirror but no less than 2.013295625932 x 10ⁿ. Got that? If not, apparently, this technological marvel doesn’t work. And then it’s your problem. I have already started writing my strongly worded letter.
Step 6: Stay in the cheap resort, because in reality, why in the heck are you paying to see Disney World to stay at the Hotel!?! If I want to stay at a hotel, I go to the Jefferson. Your Disney resort room needs to let you sleep, poop and bathe and that is pretty much it. The downside to this is that by staying at the “Dude this is really a roadside creepy by the hour motel with a Disney theme” is that you will miss out on something things. First, no gym. Gotta to the Polynesian. Second, no HBO/Cinemax/Showtime. Gotta go to the Polynesian. Third, your bus stop in the Disney transportation system will always be DEAD last, like stop 15 of 15. Wanna be a stop #1?? YOU GUESSED IT!! Stay at the Polynesian. In fact, that became the running joke on this trip.
Me to Concierge: Do ya’ll have babysitting? We were thinking of going out late, after the kids go to bed.
Concierge: Not on this resort ma’am, I’m sorry. Here is an outside service, but it is not Disney related.
Me: Oh, I thought I read online that you guys had people.
Concierge: No, ma’am, you must have been reading the description of the Polynesian.
Ok, ok, not the real exchange, but pretty close. So, if you want resort amenities, go to the Polynesian. But really, the parks are like $100 a day to go. Save your money. You will need it for every frikkin thing else.
Step 7: Attack the parks with a plan. DO get maps online, figure out what you want to ride and see, try to visit parks on non-peak days, etc. DO NOT go to Animal Kingdom on a whim without a plan, get handed a FastPass at the door by a nice stranger that expires in 10 minutes, grab your best friend’s husband and make a mad dash across the park like 16 year olds while your spouses keep the kids and stand confused by what just happened. Because after you sprint about a half a mile, not even kidding here, you will get there and the ride will be closed. Oh, and that FastPass mess doesn’t work like you think it would either. Best Friend’s Husband and I got a great idea to run around the Magic Kingdom and collect passes for everything we wanted to ride so we could schedule our day. Apparently, you can only get one of these things at a time. We discovered this AFTER we power walked another half a mile. Two lessons in this: 1) Plan ahead better and 2) Bri &Thomas really have no idea what they are doing.
Step 8: Buy your own food. Not in Disney. There are grocery stores,etc. nearby. I promise, even if you flew, it will be cheaper to take a cab to the grocery store than to eat there. Our first meal we snacked, really didn’t even get real food, and it was over $50. For snack food. It would have been $80 if I hadn’t cut the kids off. In addition, besides eating in the room as much as possible to save $$, you can take your food in the park. This is important because Disney says their parks have healthy options. They lie. My steamed veggies at one stop were taking a nice hot butter bath and the only healthy thing I found in the parks was either a $2 apple OR you had to eat in Epcot. Which is a nice side note. Epcot, in an effort to preserve the cultural integrity of other countries, serves semi-authentic food. Which means it is not crap. Because in Norway (GREAT FOOD) they don’t eat Cheetos and Ho-Ho’s. Eat there.
Step 9: Don’t count on having the internet. I am assuming that since you are reading my blog that you like to use the internet and probably read other blogs. Don't expect to have working internet, fast internet or, for that matter, open internet. After getting to our room and not having internet (which almost caused me to have a melt-down - which was further exasperated by Jack making fun of me that I would have to go five days not knowing what Michael Shanks was doing, which really annoyed me because I just wanted to upload photos to the web for crying out loud!!) but Disney limits your content. Got some funny emails from my other best friend while we were gone and went to open them. Nope! Was straight up told by Disney that they included suggestive content and they would not open the page. It was a True Blood PODCAST for crying out loud!! Maybe I should rename this step to: Disney will control your soul. Yeah, that works better. On so many levels.
Step 10: Have some wine. And NOT from the Commissary (that is what they called the cafeteria in case you are unaware of such terminologies) because your only choices are Sutter Home mini-bottles at $7 a bottle and more Sutter Home mini-bottles at $8 a bottle (I didn’t bother to check the difference). Yuck to both. Go to the liquor store which is open till midnight, on a Sunday no less, and find yourself some good Spanish. Because after being trapped in large packs of sweaty people whose deodorant has worn off, getting rammed into by strollers and motorized carts, listening to your children whine and fight about what to ride next, and getting sun poisoning, your’e gonna need it. And after that car ride home. That you took during the day. Because you thought the kids would want to see sights. And then they needed to pee every damn hour. We’re never going to make it home....
P.S. -My birthday is on September 28th. I would like Apples to Apples please.
P.S.S. - We really did have an amazing time, but telling about the good things is not as funny.
P.S.S.S. - I got my internet working and kept up with my little obsession for the entire five days thank you very much ;)