Mistakes I Made Visiting Disney World (written from the hotel bar)

Mistakes I Made Visiting Disney World (written from the hotel bar)

It’s our second to last night in Disney World, and guys, I gotta be honest, I just don’t get why people shell out what amounts to multiple mortgage payments to come to this place. From what I’ve observed, everyone with a child under the age of 10 looks completely overwhelmed. Everyone with a child under the age of four looks suicidal. The only people I’ve encountered who seem to be truly enjoying themselves are those without kids.

Mistake #1: We brought the kids.

Every day of our “vacation” begins the same: at roughly 6 am with my 3-year-old, Gwen, floating on a big pink fluffy Disney princess cloud. She can’t wait to get to Magic Kingdom—or whatever theme park we’re paying a week’s salary to enter that day—and see all the princesses and Minnie and Mickey. Everything is great for the first three or four hours, until lunchtime when that Disney princess cloud begins to darken. It’s not all her fault. It’s hot. It’s loud. There’s a lot of waiting in lines with nothing to do while my husband and 10-year-old, Owen, enjoy rides she’s not tall enough or brave enough to go on. My husband can’t watch her meltdowns. The pain of seeing Gwen pour chocolate milk over a $25 plate of chicken nuggets shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head is just too much for him. My own $50 plate of fast food gets cold as I scramble to pick up the pieces of her lunch or chase after her as she takes off into the crowds for the 100th time. Every time she runs, I try a little less harder to catch her. I know what you’re thinking. Why not just bring her back to the hotel for a nap? Hey, that’s a good idea! Why didn’t I think of that? For those of you who haven’t been to Disney World, here’s fucking why: it takes a minimum of 90 minutes just to get from the center of the park to the entrance to the monorail back to the massive parking lot where you will wait an hour for the shuttle bus to take you back to your hotel. If I did all that, there would be no fucking way I’d be going back to the park that day. I’d be sipping margaritas by the kiddie pool, which now that I think about it doesn’t sound so bad.

By late afternoon, Gwen’s cloud begins to darken even more. She’s now refusing to wait in any line—even if Princess Ellen or Elaine or whoever is at the end of it. Instead, she prefers to spend the rest of the day playing in a water fountain or feeding the $20 bucket of popcorn we purchased to the squirrels THAT ARE LITERALLY EVERYWHERE. They jump out from under tables and bushes. They dive out of trees. They have ZERO fear of humans. Every time we park the stroller to go on a ride we return to find one of the little rats looting the storage compartment for food scraps. There are also ducks. Lots and lots of ducks. Owen has taken to feeding them $15 French fries by hand. I think he’d rather feed the animals than go on another ride. And I’m pretty sure the only souvenir Gwen wants to take home wears a wig of cotton candy and is missing half a tail.

Mistake #2: We didn’t just take a vacation to a city park.

I didn’t want to lug the camera around everywhere, so we spent the extra money to have our photos taken by Disney’s photographers, who are stationed throughout the parks ready to capture the magical moments being had by you and yours. The only problem is that when Gwen’s big fluffy Disney princess cloud goes dark, she refuses to have her photo taken. No matter how much I try to bribe her, she not only refuses to smile, she won’t even face the camera. I break down and threaten to take her on the first flight back to Minnesota. This gets her attention. Now she faces forward for every picture. It isn’t until later when I view the images that I realize she has her eyes squeezed shut in every single one.

Mistake #3: We wasted money on an expensive photo package.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad. The Star Wars stuff at Hollywood Studios was cool. So were some of the virtual reality rides. This has to be my favorite photo, taken not by one of the Disney photographers, but by me, using my iPhone.

What have we learned from this experience? Vacations, like most things in life, are more fun without kids. And based on what my kids enjoyed most on this vacation, our next trip will be to the Best Western on Hwy.61 where they have a pool, drinking water fountain and, hopefully, squirrels to feed.

(For the record, I’m fully aware of how lucky I am to have the means to take this trip I’m bitching about. And with all the pain and bad things happening in the world, I’m also aware that this, and pretty much everything I complain about, is petty and stupid and very First World. I know I should feel grateful I wasn’t born someplace like Afghanistan or Kansas—then I’d really have something to complain about. Well, the truth is, I do feel very lucky, but I’m still complaining. It’s my right as an American.)

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