Each February, we take a family vacation smack in the middle of the school year. Hanover County Public Schools love us. Each year, we’re told that ‘next year, the kids will get dinged for this.’ Evidently cruises don’t count as excused absences, despite educational visits to Mayan Ruins, explorations of caves, tours of retired military forts or time at sea turtle rescue centers. We often get the side eye and an ‘oh, you’re not going over spring break?’ No, we’re not. We’d rather risk our children’s academic futures to avoid the longer lines and crowds that come with March or April trips. We also have proof that standing in any line for too long produces grumpiness which escalates from activity to activity – a time bomb of boredom, overheating and hunger just waiting to throw our vacation completely off track. The kids don’t do well with it either.
This year we gave the kids a bit more input as to our destination, in that we gave them any input at all. As 2020 likely marks the last year Zoe will be with us for a February fiesta (assuming college gets in the way) we asked her to throw out some ideas after we tossed out a few – San Diego? London? Seattle? Another cruise to ports unknown? We were quite surprised when she returned our volleys with ‘Disneyworld.’
Wait now, what?
‘Think how much less expensive it will be,’ was someone’s next sentence.
Wait now, what?
Did not expect that. We’d been to Universal Studios to visit Hogsmeade and took a trip around the world at Epcot, but the kids had never been to Disneyworld. They’d just never been ‘Disney’ kids – no interest in princesses or mice. But still, it did seem like our duty to get Zoe to the happiest place on earth prior to her departure from the nest (which in her teenage opinion, borders on the unhappiest place on earth). I spent months planning, organizing, and weighing options (okay, with a great helper – thanks @kimandchrismagicplus!) in an effort not to break the bank. That did not pan out – but nonetheless we were off on another adventure.
As we grew closer to go time, I implored all members of the traveling party to start checking the status of shirts, shorts, swimsuits and sunscreen. There is something amazing about not having to run the assembly of goods. ‘Please,’ I said, ‘Do not make this a last minute ‘oh, nothing fits’ event.’ It should come as no surprise, then, that I spent a frantic hour at Old Navy and Kohl’s, two days before our flight, collecting shirts and shorts for Zack. True, buddy, Wednesday night was not the last minute to announce the discovery. Except for the one doing the hunting and gathering. The one with a job and a schedule and the keys to the car.
Packed and mostly ready, we learned that our flight was pushed an hour later. Excellent news…none of us being morning people (God bless our Magic Plus contact… fitting in all our fast passes after 11am). When I told Rich the new take off time – 11:54am – he said something to the tune of ‘oh great, so we won’t have to leave until 10:45am’ at the very same time I said we’d need to leave by 9:30am. Errr…. this is what they said, right? That marriage would be a series of compromises? Back and forth we went before landing on 10:15am.
Which he followed with ‘Good, I’ll be able to get gas on the way.’ Lawd, send help.
We did, in fact, screech to our gate after encountering a rather long TSA line – unheard of! Truthfully, Rich often takes the 6:30am (weekday) Delta flight to NYC – so often, that when he hits Terminal B, people cheer for him, waving banners and offering tidings. This trip provided two slaps back to reality – one, in that we were in Terminal A, and two, that it wasn’t Delta, home of his feather pillow status. He had to fly in steerage with the rest of us. There was no one waving him thru…these weren’t his people. So, on February 22nd at approximately 11.37am, he did inform me that I was right.
We arrived in Orlando, ditched our luggage and took a pretty quick spin around Epcot. It was essentially pub crawl night (Saturday, a drink in every country – sounds great for the younger set), and between travel exhaustion and relaxation setting in, we made it a quick night. Better to get a good night’s sleep before we really dug into life at the parks.
Disney Day 1, 7:30am: okay, apparently sleeping in isn’t an option when staying on site. We were woken to the noise of, what?, a herd of tiny footed elephants playing soccer in the room above us? Oh, no. Just a dozen or so princesses launching themselves past our room and into their day. Right. So, groggily, we made our way to Magic Kingdom in time for our first ride (Space Mountain) – after totally cheating and calling for an Uber from the long bus line, basically saying ‘see ya!’ to the multitude left waiting. It was a boujee move.
Regarding Space Mountain – this was one of my biggest goals on this trip. Not for me, but for Rich. The one and only time he’d been here and on Space Mountain was on that day the world changed – 9/11/01. He was on the ride, speeding through the dark, when it abruptly stopped. The lights came on and participants were asked to climb from their seats and traverse the belly of the ride to leave on foot – with no explanation. Upon exiting the ride back into the park, he was told that the park was now closed and to head to the exits immediately, still with no explanation. It wasn’t until in the parking lot that he learned of the planes hitting the Towers and the Pentagon, bringing an abrupt, terrifying and shocking end to his vacation. Today was a strange little victory.
We took a break after six hours at Magic Kingdom before heading to the Barlow Mecca – Galaxy’s Edge. Having much less Star Wars’ knowledge than my counterparts, I did what I do best – swapped out my cute Disney ears and matching top for a surprise (to the teens) Chewbacca sleeveless dress. Yes. With faux fur. It was epic… the level of mortification at an all time high. Truly, I did not think I could top the feeling of glee at completely throwing the kids off their hanging with their parents’ game.
Until we got to Hollywood Studios. At which point I was reveled and stopped and winked at and interviewed and fawned over – by patrons and employees alike – as if they’d never seen a grown woman doodling around dressed as Chewbacca. It was epic… now my kids were even more thrown…how had I, their clueless mom, become the star of Star Wars. I’d reached an even higher level of glee – unbeatable.
Until I was spotted by Chewbacca himself. Have you ever watched a romance movie where the two lovers reunite after certain permanent separation? It’s nothing in comparison to the look of total adoration that came to me from across the park from my six-foot-counterpart. Running across an edge of the orbit field, furry arms spread, Chewy scooped me up in a monumental embrace that sent my husband fumbling for his phone to document the moment he lost his wife. Onlookers stopped, flashes popped…I mentally prepared to resign from my royal duties and move to Canada. It. Was. Epic.
And with that, I won Disney, vacation over.
Well not quite. We’ve got days and miles to go. It’s just sweet that we’ve already loaded up our memory banks with so many more yet to come.