Having grown up in California, I went to Disneyland countless times as a child. I remember fondly trudging out of the park after a long, exciting day—my Mickey-shaped balloon bobbing along as we went. That was back when you could drive right up the front gate and walk right back to your car when the fun had all been had. Long before the days of parking trams and security checkpoints to get into the Happiest Place on Earth. I spent so much time at Disneyland and made so many memories that not all of them are good ones.
The very first time my parents splurged for a stay at The Disneyland Hotel, I came down with a stomach bug during our trip. I distinctly remember lying immobile on our hotel room bed, so nauseous I dare not move. As is typical of little brothers, mine identified it as an opportune moment for torture. One by one he lined up Bugle corn snacks under my nose. I was so sick that all I could manage in response were some guttural grunts which, unfortunately for me, were not loud enough to garner the attention of my parents. Indeed my lunch was lost that day. As revenge, I threw my brother’s beloved Cabbage Patch doll over our hotel room balcony. Also unfortunately for me? He managed a response worthy of my parents’ attention. As I recall, there would be no Mickey-shaped balloon for me that night.
In spite of the fact that not all of my Disney memories are overflowing with sunshine and rainbows, I still hold them among my most dear. It should come as no surprise, then, that as an adult, I’ve made Disney trips with my own family a priority. My hope is that when they’re grown and gone, my kids will recall their own magical moments at the Happiest Place on Earth (hold the Bugle corn snacks).
With my oldest daughter graduating high school this spring, I know our family vacation time is dwindling. And so when it came time to choose a destination for our next trip, the decision was a no-brainer. We’re going to Disney World!
If you know us personally, you might roll your eyes at our decision to—once again—choose a Disney destination. Too many times we’ve heard responses like, “You’re going there again?” or “Don’t you get tired of the same old thing?” With four theme parks, two water parks, a shopping district, exciting nightlife, recreational opportunities and delectable dining all within one sprawling resort, it’s easy to see why we’ve yet to grow “bored” of visiting Disney. But that’s beside the point. At the heart of the matter is, well, the heart.
As a family, we’ve traveled to New York City and Grand Canyon and Seattle. We’ve camped and hiked and toured and shopped until we dropped. And while we hold dear memories from each of those trips, those destinations aren’t the same as Disney. Whereas some people might turn a cold shoulder to Disney, criticizing it as commercialized, we don’t see it that way. When we’re at Disney, it’s as if age dissolves. My husband and I (okay maybe just I) dance along to the parade soundtrack right along with the kids. We throw up our hands and scream on the roller coasters. We smile and pose for family photos with the big cheese himself. No other vacation destination puts us on an equal plane as our kids during the day, while still allowing us the option to go grab a drink at a dueling piano bar after dark.
So yes, we’re headed to Walt Disney World. Again. The destination might be the same, but new memories are added each trip. We’ll make them while we can.