It’s always interesting when I start getting revved up to go on a vacation. There are the last minutes of getting everything I need gathered (as if where I’m going couldn’t possibly have sunscreen or deodorant, should I forget them) and the long nights I spend thinking through my plans step by step by step. While there is a certain amount of excitement and anticipation, there is an equal amount of worry that gets me so churned up physically that I either have to resort to dark rooms and quiet breathing or an extra-large container of Tums. Either way, when the vacation is coming this girl starts to go off the rails just the tiniest bit.
I love vacation. My sole motivation for working is to earn money to be on vacation. Well, I may also want to provide a roof over my family’s head or make sure they eat, but it really is a very close race between them. The hubby reminds me of all the things we are doing to try to retire relatively early, but even retirement wouldn’t really mean a vacation- like straight up eating out every day, having someone clean my bathroom every day, having the option of using the phone to have someone bring me food every day…Wait, I might actually be able to implement that last one at home. I’ll have to think on that a little more…
My personal goal is to get out of the house and go somewhere different at least three times a year. The longer the time away the better. The more different from home the better. The more easy to do so that I don’t have to use my brain much the better. And I have found plenty of places around the world to find all of those things, but there is one place that I have truly bonded with and I just can’t seem to quit: Walt Disney World.
Bringing up the Disney word in my house has become the equivalent of using a certain four letter word of which I am intimately acquainted. Well, for my boys anyway. They love going on vacation too, but they would rather go somewhere, anywhere, that doesn’t involve Mickey ears, Mickey bars, or Micky Mouse at all. When the family gathers to talk about where to go or what to do this mom always tries to sneak in a quick trip to Disney. And honestly, it doesn’t even have to be World. So now they don’t like to talk about vacations with me much anymore. Sometimes I’m frustrated to know that they are not on the same page with me about the awesomeness of Disney, but then I let it go (ha!) and continue on with my plotting.
More often than not, I am out voted and told to put my Disney dreams on hold—and usually for a few years. I was actually capable enough to do that for a little while, but somehow I was sneaky enough to get four visits in over the last two years. And with this last trip, I might have just hit my wall. (Wait, I think I hear the hubby cheering.) Oh, it was a beautiful vacation with tons of memories, but I think I might be able to move on and go to other fun places after everything that was accomplished this time. But now that I actually think about it, I’m using the word “think” a lot. I’m thinking that I would like to be able to go somewhere else for vacation but wouldn’t be able to put actual money down that I could stay away from the big D…sigh. I know, I know, I know. I really need to defer to the boys once in a while and do my best to step away from the mouse.
But not just yet! Because I want to share. I want to share what I got to do this last time on my trip to Disney World. The good, the bad, the ugly (and boy was there some ugly)! The fun, the frustrating, the food! The bus rides, the swimming pools (we never got in), the cheerleaders that took over Epcot and made me wish I was at the Magic Kingdom riding the People Mover over and over and over again. I want to share it all. And if you’ve managed to make it this far in my story without puking, l assume that you want to hear all about it too.
For some strange reason, vacation just isn’t vacation unless I am waking up at some ungodly hour of the morning determined to get to the airport before the sun wakes up. The first day of this trip was definitely no exception. I hopped and bopped from one side of the house to the other, making sure that I wasn’t going to be leaving anything behind. Three suitcases? Check. Three backpacks? Check. Three people? Check. It was time to get the heck out of Dodge. My father-in-law showed up in relatively good time (I don’t start throwing the fit until he’s at least three minutes late) and we were on our way through the streets of Denver. I sat in the back seat with my ten year old boy and squeezed and kissed his hand the whole way there. I couldn’t help it—because he wasn’t going to Disney with mom and dad this time. We were sending him far and away to the wilds of Washington D.C. Score one for the parents!
My son had long been planning on going on a school trip to D.C. for months and I knew that I had the perfect opportunity to hit Disney on my terms. Well, the hubby (who, from this point, will sometimes be referred to as “Greg”) was going to be there too, but let’s face it—we both knew who was boss. I had immediately put in for vacation time and when it was official I went into full on Disney planning mode. And believe me—that is a thing. A BIG thing. I researched and reserved and I ployed (is that even a word?) and plotted and planned the most amazing vacation ever. But step one was to get rid of the kid (Hey, I said I loved him, right?).
Perhaps I was channeling the need to start my Big Fat Kid-less Vacation because my father-in-law was making tracks. Before I even knew what was happening we were speeding past the evil blue horse with red devil eyes (that really lives outside the tent walls of Denver International Airport) and miraculously making it to our destination without a speeding ticket or broken necks. Things were looking pretty awesome already. We tracked down the chaperones of the D.C. trip, threw our son’s luggage by their feet, peeled off a couple of twenties told them to have a great time and took off to our gate. But only we didn’t. I had a hard time letting go, couldn’t stop kissing him and embarrassing him in front of his soon to be friends, and kept looking back as we made our way to our own ticket counter. It was only then that things began to get real.
Greg led me to our ticket counter like he owned all of DIA. He had special status and we were going to get through all of the airport nonsense with no issues whatsoever. Except, he hadn’t traveled for a while and his status was just about as good as mine. We had our luggage trussed up to be sent all the way to our hotel at the Caribbean Beach Resort (nothing like seeing those skinny yellow tags plastered all over your stuff) but we hadn’t pre-paid the luggage before we got there. He thought we would get that for free. Uh, no. Fifty dollars to send our stuff to Orlando. Not a good start to our adventure.
We decided that we were not going to get stiffed for the money and instead dragged our things down to security and check them in as carry-on bags. The line was short (for once) and as soon as I was about to present my license and ticket to security Greg had a mini breakdown. Our shampoo! His deodorant! His hair gel! Before I could get him to stop he grabbed half of his things and threw them in the trash. I calmly grabbed his arm and made him give me everything else. All of our stuff was miniature and in original packaging and I had an empty plastic bag just waiting to be used. I packed everything up and threw it in my luggage. Ready to continue on I turned and found out that the line had grown quite a bit and there was now going to be waiting involved at the security gate. Strike one against the panic monster.
After finally getting through the airport strip tease and taking a ride on the airport shuttle, we finally made it to our gate. We were still early by a good hour so the hubby led me to the doors of the airline’s club level reserved for super special people. I had never even noticed the doors before because I never looked. Remember—I have no status. The hubby marched over and pushed the button to get in. Nothing. I looked at him as if to ask, “Are you sure we should be here?” and he pushed the button again. Nothing. Well, I was calm a few minutes before and now I was getting anxious. What exactly was going on? Turns out that he had a couple of coupons from earlier flights that would let us into the lounge. Wow! Now he was talking! I started to push the button until I finally realized that they weren’t open yet. I failed Librarian rule number one: Read all of the signs. I was a failure and it wasn’t even 7 am yet.
We found a couple of seats near the club doors and waited until they would let us in. At least it would be something to do as I waited to get going to Disney. The doors finally opened and we made our way to a magical world of free yogurt, oatmeal and cereal. Not gonna lie, it was cool. We sat down so that we could see to our son’s gate and waited to watch him take off. Back in the day it was nothing special to be able to sit at the gate, watch your loved one get on the plane and take off. Nowadays it’s a novelty. I watched his plane slowly move to the runway and take the long, long, long drive to where they would be taking off. I walked with purpose (ahem) across the lounge to the north windows and saw my baby take off. It was really real. He was off to have his fun and we were about to have ours.
I stood so long watching the boy fly away I didn’t realize that it was getting a little late for us to get on our plane. As I walked across the room and saw the hubby flailing his arms like Kermit I knew it was time to go. We flew down the escalator, ran through the doors and made our way to the very, very end of the line of passengers getting on the plane. Dang it. I knew that our luggage wasn’t going to make it on with us. We inched our way slowly forward and it soon became perfectly known that we would have to check our bags at the gate. All the drama, all the frustration, all of my husband’s hair products…Well, at least we didn’t get charged fifty dollars. And we had assigned seats—one less thing to worry about.
We made our way down the aisle and found that we were in the aisle and the middle of our row. The lady we were with seemed kind of shy and hunched herself tightly next to the window. A quick nod of her head and it was obvious that that was about how deep our relationship was going to get. I took the aisle because I wanted to, and the hubby got to sit between us both. He smiled at the woman and tried to get a response but it was pretty useless. His charm was going to be no help this time.
The airplane started taxiing and we were soon on our way to the Happiest Place on Earth! I loathed the fact that I would be squished in a plane for four hours, but I knew that there was real treasure at the end of the flight and I was pretty sure I was going to be able to be patient enough to make it through to the end. I started to pull out my essential plane travel kit (complete with crossword puzzles and Netflix shows) and slowly began to realize that someone around us was making some weird noises. I thought it was the plane at first but then I realized that the lady that was sitting by the window was having some issues with her breathing. Then with coughing. Then with a runny nose.
Can I just say that there is nothing more frustrating than being on a plane next to someone that is quite obviously ill? She had managed to keep the symptoms down to a minimum when we were on the ground and then it was as if she was going to collapse right then and there. From that point on all I could think about was that Greg was going to get sick and that my dream vacation was going to be over before it even got started. Of course, I wasn’t going to change places with him or anything (puh-lease) but I have to admit that I felt pretty bad for him. No sense in both of us getting sick, though. Yes, I am a bastion of human kindness—bow before me…
We both managed to get a little sleep and before we knew it we were getting ready to land in Orlando! We were assured that our luggage was going to be delivered to our room early that evening and that we wouldn’t have to worry about a thing. By that time I certainly appreciated hearing that. We rushed (okay, I rushed and Greg followed just a smidge behind) to the area where we could catch the Magical Express bus and be on our merry. But then I had to go the restroom really badly (tinkling on the plane is truly a last restort) and I was convinced that if we stopped we would miss the bus to the resort and have to wait an extra half hour. I considered just going for it but my bladder completely refused. Darn it.
Of course, I knew exactly where we needed to go to catch the bus and I trekked that airport like I was Lewis and Clark. Except for some unknown reason the escalator was broken and we couldn’t find the stairs (okay, okay they were right next to the elevators) but I wasn’t thinking clearly by then. My smooth transition from Denver to Orlando was in jeopardy and I just wanted to get to Disney, thank you very much. We marched up and down the hall trying to find a way downstairs until we finally decided to join the very large group of people waiting for the elevator. I was going to get a littleclose to a stranger that day and it was going to be worth it.
Somehow we made it to the bus without having to wait too long to board (hallelujah!) and I was jazzed to be welcomed to the Walt Disney Resort by the blonde lady on the video screen who assured me that I was just about to have the best vacation I could ever possibly have for the rest of my life. I believed her then and I would believe her now. I was ready for this thing to start. Get out of my way Florida traffic. I have a date in the Caribbean!
But I didn’t realize that there would be three stops before my own. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Go. Go. Go. Stop. I could actually feel myself starting to get anxious. I just wanted my trip and I just wanted my room and I just want to be there already! To make a long story short (too late) we finally made it to the resort and we were able to check in.
I don’t think that I explained it before but the reason that we had chosen to go the Caribbean Beach Resort was because they had been offering gift cards to people that were going to be staying for a certain amount of time while some heavy duty construction was due to be happening while we were there. Because of the inconvenience, the higher ups at Disney decided that they would offer a $75 a night gift card to people who decided to stay. When I heard that was going to be happening I quickly dropped the reservation to the original resort I had booked and decided to go with the offer. I knew there was going to be $450 waiting for me and I was more than ready to head off into the World and spend it. They knew it too. Fifteen minutes later we were free of the check in process and on our way to our room. Thank goodness!
After a peek around the room and a quick heave ho of our suitcases we were out the door and ready to start living the Disney life. (Begin montage here): Walked over the bridge to the main pool. Spent ten minutes walking up and down the food court trying to find just one sandwich we could share. Staked out two chairs at the pool bar and schmoozed with the bartender to find out if we could sneak in to see the new Pandora ride at Animal Kingdom. Pretended we were enjoying the pool by sitting in beach chairs and pulling our pants up to our knees—as if we were officially wearing shorts. Slow walked back to room and pointed out all the places we would never actually go back to for the rest of our vacation. Back to the room to make sure it was still there. Strolled around until we determined the closest bus stop to our room. Conclusion? There wasn’t one. We were in for a hike each and every morning. Eh. Oh, well.
We didn’t have any tickets to go to a park that afternoon, so we just went to enjoy some dinner in Disney Springs. A young boy on the bus singled out Greg as his best new friend and every person there got to hear about his own best day at Disney. It was just about the cutest thing I had ever seen. The ride was short and sweet and we were soon let out into the shopping and eating mecca that is Disney Springs. It’s a good thing that they have about forty or so places to get something to eat (probably more but I’m not feeling like doing any research right now) but it’s a bad thing that the hubby and I usually can’t decides between three. But, of course, my super special planning skills came to the rescue and we were able to just walk in (okay, I had a reservation) to Frontera Cocina, a newer Mexican inspired restaurant from Rick Bayless.
Now I can tell you that it was one of the best meals I had ever had anywhere on Disney property and that would be completely true. However, I’m still not sure that was because the food was really that great or because we were just starving out of our minds after a long haul across the country. I’m just going to give all the credit to Mr. Bayless. Our food was fantastic. Melty cheese, hot peppers, beers that never seemed to end. All while sitting on the patio and watching the good people of Disney Springs live life. I think the highlight was watching various cast members working their hardest to fish a pair of sunglasses out of the water. It was a close one, but they were victorious. Cheers all around!
We decided to work off our dinner by moseying through the walkways of Disney Springs and looking at their various souvenir shops. I kind of wished I had one of those kid leashes for the hubby so that we wouldn’t lose each other inside the labyrinth that is known as the World of Disney. It was like the entire world had converged upon that one acre (again, not going to do actual research) of shopping goodness. I’m just glad that we aren’t big spenders. We made it out alive and continued on.
By this time I was starting to get hungry again (hey, I was on vacation and my diet ended the second I hit the pavement at DIA) and contemplated my choices—a sundae at Ghirardelli’s or a cupcake from Sprinkles. I had a coupon for one and a reward for a free cupcake at the other. If I were alone it would be both (heh, heh, heh) but since I wasn’t I had to make a choice. Okay, fine: I’ll travel to the ice cream shop to pass the coupon off to someone else and then I will come back to get my cupcake. It took quite the effort to swim upstream to Ghirardelli’s, but I made it. And then no one wanted my coupon. I could have let it go, but I had made an EFFORT. Someone was going to take the damn coupon. I scoped out a young couple perusing the menu of various sundaes and I semi-forced the coupon into their hands. One of them looked grateful and the other one was intent on moving her body as far away from me as possible. It was awesome. Task complete. Enjoy your yummy goodness young ones. (I’m fairly sure it ended up in the trash.)
I swam my way back to my dessert (alone because by this time Greg had went to find himself his own—in the form of a beer) and found myself face to face with a line that wound throughout the store and out on the patio. Not ten minutes before it had been completely abandoned. Do they have touring plans for restaurants? I knew I wasn’t getting back to Disney Springs this trip, so I pulled on my big girl panties and got in line. Back. Forth. Back. Forth. Up. Down. Color me surprised that it didn’t take too long after all and I was soon digging in to my own personal heaven of a banana cupcake covered in chocolate frosting. It was worth the wait.
After making contact with my travel buddy we decided that it was time to finally head back to the hotel to get ready for our first real day at the parks. Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios were on the agenda and we knew that we would be walking a really, really, really, REALLY long time. As we made our way to the bus stop I thought I had seen a bus with CARIBBEAN BEACH just pulling in and I was determined to not to have to stand in line for any longer than possible. I strongly encouraged the hubby to chug the beer and get ready to run. I’m sure we looked just like Clark Griswold running to Wally World…not. I was full on cheese and bananas and Greg was practically swishing along beside me.
We thought we were going to make it. I mean, the bus is right there! However, we forgot to calculate that Disney is really great at the art of the mirage. It looked like the bus was close, but it was really, really far away. Like three roundabouts far away. We were still a quarter mile away from just the sign that would tell us which bus stop was ours. We gave up our marathon and heavy breathed our way to our stop. The bus was still there! A head popped out of the front door and encouraged us to hurry. I began flailing my hands around like a wild woman. I swear, I SWEAR, I had seen an arm reach up and start gesturing us to hurry up. We did our best to quicken the pace (by this time I was in a full on sprint) so that we could catch our ride. As I got closer I realized that the bus driver was scowling and telling to slow down and walk. But wait—he told me to run. I told him that. He disagreed. We got on the bus. It was all good.
As I sat on the bench and we began our slow journey back to the resort, Greg found another little boy wanting to talk to him but this time about a new light saber. The guy just has a way about him. We laughed and smiled and had a great trip home. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath knowing that my first official day of vacation was almost done, but the first real day of Disney magic was just a few short hours away…
Read Part Two here