Our latest trek to Disney starts tomorrow and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years – when it comes to traveling to Disney World – you either love it or you hate it – there’s not many people in-between. Inevitably, we get the question often, “But why Disney?” to which there are not enough heart-eyed emojis to answer people. But I thought it might be time to share a bit about why WE love Disney so dang much and why we try to make a trip out there at least once a year if we are able.
I still have fond memories when I was around five, running around Magic Kingdom with my Minnie Mouse backpack on, meeting all my favorite characters for the first time and that memory is so embedded in my brain that I can close my eyes and picture myself there. I want my kids to have that.
Our family’s Disney story started about four years ago when I won a trip to Universal Studios with a blog conference. Knowing we would be making the trip to Orlando, we knew we couldn’t NOT travel all that way and not visit THE Mouse at least one time while we were there. We settled on ONE day at Magic Kingdom and decided with our two and four-year-old, we were going to make it THE most magical day in the world, if it killed us, which meant an 8 am arrival and an after-fireworks departure.
And boy, were we surprised! It was also Jim’s first time at Disney (and yes, we got his first time visit pin) and it was THE MOST spectacular day. We ate all the things, took in all the sights, and the boys were ANGELS – no, seriously. Our crazy normally wacky two-year-old was on his best behavior and Charlie was a prince. They were so enchanted by that place and we had THE BEST time. Even Jim commented on just how magical the day had been. We walked out the gates and knew immediately we were “those Disney people.”
It didn’t take long for us to start the plans for our next trek and we opted to go there for a winter extravaganza in February – a year and a few months later. We drove down and did Disney BIG time, hitting up all of the parks and getting hepped up on Mickey pretzels and Mickey bars. We have never fallen so in love with a place. We stayed at the Caribbean resort and enjoyed the off-peak lines. This is the time we fell in love with pin-trading.
We then made another trip there the following year for Jim to run the Princess Marathon weekend and Glass Slipper Challenge in February and stayed in a Finding Nemo suite at the Art of Animation (IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR ECONOMY, THIS PLACE IS LIFE!) Since we spend almost the entire day at the park, this place is PERFECT for us!
Jim and I also had an unexpected two days at Disneyland come up when I ventured to California for a work trip – it was HEAVENLY!
Which brings us to this year. We had nothing planned and knew that with a cruise in February, we couldn’t make both work. I dreamt of strolling through Epcot for the Flower & Garden festival and mentioned it to Jim. Next thing I knew, he found a race and we were planning our April excursion that we leave on this week. And it’s then I realized that perhaps my hubby might just love Disney more than I do.
And already we were wistful this week about the end and leaving a place we have not even gotten to yet this time. It is truly our home away from home and for us – THE happiest place on Earth (no lie).
So Why Disney? And if you’re crazy like us, why so often?
In an ever-changing culture that pushes all of us to grow up a little too quickly, it is a reminder that childhood is still pretty dang awesome. It gives you the freedom to go back in time and experience all of the very best things through the eyes of your kids. The excitement (or fright!) they get when they see their favorite characters. When you eat ice cream sundaes at 9 am because you can. When you buy the light up do-hickey thing because life outside the gates just seems so much more boring.
It’s about our kids, yes. But it’s also for us. It’s those moments when I can close my eyes and take the mental screenshots and say, years later, remember that time when Jack was so small and slept through all of the character meet and greets? Or the time when Charlie carried the Disney map all over creation and decided to tell us which way to go? Or the ant show where Charlie was so terrified that even still, years later, he refuses to enter it? These are the memories I will so deeply treasure because it feels so much like it happened just yesterday.
Our kids are only small for a moment. They are only pint-sized and child-like for so long, but at Disney, it feels like that time goes on forever. A time where even the biggest kids get all the heart eyes over the sweets, treats, and dancing delights. Where they race to their favorite ride, stroll down Main Street, and feel like there is no one else in the world except you and your family. And I can only hope that my kids look back as fondly on these trips as I do.
For us, Disney lives up to all the expectations – it is the happiest place on earth. If you set realistic expectations for yourself, you will know your kids’ limits, you will be able to curb those tantrums, and you will enjoy just being for a change. No agenda, no crazy schedule (unless you’re us and HAVE to meet Anna & Elsa when they first open), and most of all, no one else telling you what’s right for your crew.
I want my kids to experience SO MUCH OF DISNEY before they get too old to feel like they are too cool to ride Dumbo. I want to experience that WITH my kids because we have a lifetime for them to be adults. Disney is an opportunity to relive the very best parts of childhood while your kids see that in real time and for that, I will always cherish our time with the big Mouse.
People may not understand the obsession, but when we enter those gates, I am reminded of why we love it so.
I will never regret downsizing our life to pursue one that is well-lived.