Our family recently returned home from our second trip to Disney World. Before our first trip two years ago, I was convinced that I would not enjoy “the happiest place on earth” … I was wrong. It is true that I don't like crowds and that I have always had a healthy fear of roller coasters. Add these things to the fact that a perfect vacation to me includes a good cup of coffee, a good book, and a mountain view … none of which are available in Disney and you can see why I was a little unsure about our first visit. But, I have learned some things about Disney and about myself (and about my kids) during these trips … here's a hint, most of these things have to do with experiences (good and bad) outside of our comfort zone.
#1 You shouldn't expect a 9 year old to enjoy gourmet food just because he doesn't want a kid's meal. We chose to buy the dining plan that includes a table service meal each day. Ronnie and I carefully chose the restaurants and made reservations. We even looked at the menus to see if we thought that the kids would be able to find something they would like at each one. What we didn't anticipate was the fact that our youngest would simply get tired of the foods that he isn't used to eating. This little guy of mine isn't an extremely picky eater. Actually, he can be quite adventurous at times. But several days of eating under-cooked veggies (we are from the South, people … we don't eat our green beans crunchy!) and having raw beef delivered to your table (we sent his back … I wish I had sent MINE back) will likely take away any kid's adventurous spirit. So, we learned to ask for a kid's meal, just with a little larger portion (since we had paid for him as an adult). This worked well, but the process of ordering almost always brought on tears...and he usually ended up eating cereal back in the room before bed.
#2 Another thing about kids …. you shouldn't try to make a 15 year old ride the rides if she is dead set against it. And, you should ride the kiddie rides that she does like with her. With that in mind, I finally gave up on getting LB to ride the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Big Thunder Mountain with me. These are my two favorite roller coasters, but my totally un-adventurous (when it comes to rides, at least) daughter is terrified of them. So, she rode Peter Pan's Flight and Winnie the Pooh and It's a Small World and the other slow-moving rides. She did ride one of the boys' favorite rides – Star Tours, but I can't say that she enjoyed it. She does have an absolute favorite ride … Soarin' … it may not qualify as a thrill ride, but we all like it. So instead of riding rides, she and I spent plenty of time browsing in the shops and we even met a few princesses and along the way LB rediscovered her desire to do the Disney college program and spend a semester working there. I hope she does.
#3 Someday, I really want to go to Disney with just Ronnie. That may sound a little strange and I hope it doesn't offend my kids, but I just can't help but think that it would be fun to get to walk around and do exactly what we want to do and actually spend some quality time together while we are doing it. I'm not talking about leaving our kids behind while they are still kids … just thinking ahead to future days.
#4 Another thing about food … there are a few things anyone going to Disney for the 1st time should know. First of all, seared is not the same thing as cooked. I realize that I am revealing just how unsophisticated I am, but I don't really care. If I order a roast beef sandwich, I DO NOT want blood soaking into my bread. So, by the end of the week, I just made a point to choose poultry … no one serves chicken raw! The flip side is that I found out that I do like Brussel Sprouts if they are cooked properly and blueberry barbecue sauce may sound strange, but it is actually extremely yummy. In other words, a little gourmet never hurt anyone, you just have to know how to order. One more little tidbit about Disney food … thanks to my friend, Donna, we took time to try one of the cinnamon rolls at Gaston's Tavern in Magic Kingdom. Every visitor to Disney world should make time to indulge in one of these massive and delectable treats. It is well worth calories!
#5 This one is the most important thing that I have learned in Disney. The number one way to have fun (especially with your kids) in Disney World, is to step outside of your comfort zone. To that end, I did my best to ride every ride my kids wanted me to ride. It is true that there were some rides that I really wanted to ride. There were others that I really didn't want to ride (like Rockin' Roller Coaster and Expedition Everest) but my 13 year old son really wanted me to, so I did, and I LIKED THEM! It is also okay to do things that make you feel silly … like riding the teacups or taking pictures with characters. These are the things that the kids will remember and I want them to remember that I did these things with them, not just that I let them do them.
One more thing: I love to travel, but I also love coming home! As a matter of fact, I think traveling is a perfect way to remind myself to be thankful for my little house in my own little hometown ... not to mention my friends and family!
So, now you have it. A little bit of my own personal, Disney inspired, life-lessons .... now, go be silly with your kids!