So two weeks ago, like millions of other stupid people, the hunky hubby and I took the kids to Disney World. With all of the available information out there on the internet about traveling, when to do it, how to do it, where to do it, it just never dawned on us that to go to Disney World when the entire universe was on spring break would be problematic, and that’s putting it mildly. For two over-educated people, the hubby and I were class “A” stupid when it came to this trip, for we actually thought we’d have the place all to ourselves solely based on the fact that our spring break occurred one week earlier than many in neighboring towns. Say it with me now…. “stupid.” Our apparent travel blunder also explained the look of horror that spread across people’s faces each time I answered the question, “You going anywhere over break?” and I’d cheerfully reply that we were heading to Orlando. Hey, where the hell were all of you when I was on Kayak trying to plan this nightmare?
You know how in relationships, you fall into a certain role replete with its own set of responsibilities? Like, he (he meaning my hunky husband) takes the garbage out, kills bugs larger than a fly, changes the light bulbs and sprays weed killer. And I handle butt-wiping, tear-drying, meal-making, bug-killing (of all bugs smaller than a fly), coordination of social engagements, laundry-doing (cleaning, folding and putting away!), food-shopping, bill-paying, homework-checking, toilet-scrubbing, dishwasher-unloading, bath-giving (which is concluded by a lively round of hair detangling accompanied by blood-curdling screams), vacuuming… (this list is illustrative only and by no means exhaustive). Well, packing for vacation also falls into my lap. And I hate packing, just hate it. But if I did not suck it up and just do it, I guarantee you it would not get done.
While there is some romantic allure to just hopping on a plane carefree and unencumbered, buying everything you need once you land in your arrival city, my people are just too uptight to live on the edge like that, plus I need far too many hair products (frizz control, color protection shampoo, leave in conditioner, Moroccan oil, detangling comb and huge round brush) that you probably cannot find in Orlando. Anyway, so yes, it is I who singlehandedly has to pack all of us up and I hate it primarily because I suck at it. I am not sure what my problem is exactly, because I have downloaded countless packing-for-vacation checklists, I have even found one specifically for packing up a family of four headed to Disney, and yet somehow I managed to screw it up. I start out well-intentioned, trying pack for every conceivable scenario, from lost luggage, to lost lunch on the plane due to turbulence, to major climate shifts, to unexpected dress codes, to “a girl’s gotta have options.”
So I over-packed, but not in a way that made any sense because by the end of it, I was just throwing all sorts of shit in the bags. Everyone got way more shorts than there were days, but not enough shirts. Some of us, but not all of us got pajamas. Three of us got sweat shirts in case of a chilly night, and three of us got sneakers. I did manage to get a decent underwear count for all of us and toiletries aplenty (six toothbrushes and a choice of four toothpastes!). But because I clearly live a life of delusion, thinking I would actually need a cute LBD (with cute small clutch to go with it) for a romantic dinner for two with the hubby (which never ever had a shot in hell of happening), I brought eight dresses (in my defense, some of which could double as tunics with cute leggings), five pairs of pants, four swimsuits, each with cute coordinating cover-ups, a bathrobe, four pajamas, workout clothes, and a few lightweight cardigans. But the worst offense by far was the shoes. I do believe that the reason why I had to pay a $100 surcharge for my luggage at Newark Airport was due to the fact that I was toting about 45 pounds of shoes to Orlando. But I do not believe that my sucky packing skills were the reason this vacation sucked.
So we got to Orlando, got the rental car, got directions to the resort from a man who looked like he worked at the airport, and directions notwithstanding, we proceeded to get lost. I didn’t think to procure directions from the airport to the hotel before we left, which is what a smart prepared person would do. The guy at the airport who gave us the absolute wrong directions must have sniffed out the New Jersey in us and was clearly fucking with us. The kids, who were remarkably amazing on the flight, after about 45 minutes of trolling up and down some really boring stretches of Orlando highway, were starting to unravel. They were tired and hungry (and though I remembered to pack almost all of my summer shoes, I neglected to pack vittles for the kids), and so we were headed down a spiral of moody despair. Everyone was pissy and moody and snappish. Way to kick off vacation in the “Happiest Place on Earth,” right? After what seemed like an hour of driving in cranky circles, between my smartphone and sheer instinct, we stumbled upon the resort and settled in.
The resort was pretty nice, lots of pools, lazy rivers, mini golf (or as they say in the South “put put”), and a playground. This was in fact all my kids really needed in order to have fun. They also had a few nice restaurants and a much-needed poolside bar, so all seemed right with the world.
Now what I have learned is that a vacation like Disney requires a lot of planning and strategy and I have also learned that I am not one who enjoys either planning or strategy. There are all these serious guerilla tactics one has to get down in order to really “do Disney,” from planning the days to visit the park, to what times to get there, to the order of rides to go on, to making dinner reservations. But as they say, “know thyself” and I know that thy is not the type of person to call to make the dinner reservations eight months in advance at Epcot, because all that rattles around in my head is, “how the hell will I know whether I will actually want to eat French food on a Tuesday night eight months in the future?” It’s too much pressure, too much planning. Just. Too. Much.
But there are people out there, and you know who you are, who study the guidebooks, who scour the blogs, who “pin” itineraries so you get the most for your dollar and your time. You are the Disney tourist army, fighting your way through the vast maze of Fast Pass rides, Mickey ears and dinner reservations to ensure victory and gobs of fun for the entire family, come hell or high water. The thought of all of that work for a vacation overwhelms me, but now after having lived through it my lazy-ass way, I can sort of appreciate the value in planning. I recall a wise adage my high school economics teacher was particularly fond of, “Prior planning prevents poor performance.” And I should have recalled it at the time I was planning this trip. The kind of person I am looks at the clock every day at 4:30 p.m. and says in a panic (as if it was the first time), “Shit! What can I throw together for dinner??!!” So as you can see, with this Disney trip, I was destined to fail. And that is why kids, that trip will be our last to Orlando.
Now while I did not have every minute of the day planned out, I did have some sort of a plan. Okay, it was a mere outline of a plan, and it wasn’t even written down, just in my head. I thought we’d hit one Disney park, the Magic Kingdom, because my princess is currently way into princesses. Then we’d check out that new Lego Land amusement park, since my son loves Legos, and visit the Kennedy Space Center and finally spend the rest of the time relaxing poolside.
That was the plan until some strange and powerful Disney force overcame my hunky husband and he proceeded to singlehandedly derail my hastily put together nonplan. We went over to the Magic Kingdom the first morning with the intention to buy tickets only for the Magic Kingdom and as he was buying the tickets at the automated kiosk, despite the fact that I gently reminded him that we were only going to the Magic Kingdom, I truly believe that what can only be described as some invisible yet powerful Disney force greater than one’s own free will took over his body forcing him to purchase a three-day pass for each of us, to the tune of about a thousand dollars. Really? Really? WTF? I asked him with eyeballs that were about to shoot out of my head. He looked at me helplessly and shrugged while I hissed that now it was “ix-Nay on ego-Landlay and asa-Nay.” He again shrugged his shoulders helplessly, grabbed the kids’ hands, and then sorta skipped his way over to the ferry to take us to the Magic Kingdom. Except that once we got there, the lines to get on to both the ferry and the monorail were each about an hour-long. We have a family policy that we do not wait on lines. Not for food, not for drinks, not for rides, not for anything or anyone. This was bullshit, and an immediate bad mood was cast over the family. And once again we were the Most Miserable People in the Happiest Place on Earth.
Just then a Disney cast member (as they like to call their employees), who was no doubt trained to hone in with speed and remarkable precision on bad moods, immediately swooped in and suggested that we monorail it over to Epcot (where there was no line) and then come back to Magic Kingdom in a few hours when things calmed down (after an upgrade to a park hopper pass, that is). So we heeded this cast member’s advice, and decided to try Epcot. Let me just say only this, that the monorail ride over to Epcot was quite possibly the best part of the day, for Epcot was just as crowded and it was a sweltering, stinky, sweaty 90 degrees out. The kids were hungry and had to use the bathroom (because this whole ridiculous ordeal took us about two hours) and so we immediately had to find a place for lunch and to pee, which was no easy task because the non-planning contrarian in me who just figured we’d “wing it” soon learned that without a reservation, one is almost guaranteed to starve in the Happiest Place on Earth. Luckily, we did manage to find a fast food type joint with no wait and scored us some lunch.
But the rest of the day was a decline straight into hell. There were no rides without a wait of at least 60 minutes, the Fast Pass return times were well into the evening (we would never last that long), and it was, as I said, 90 degrees and few places to retreat to for shade. The place was jam-packed with Disney delirious people, and the almost four-year old refused to walk and refused to ride in the stroller we rented clearly just to tote our shit around, so I had the pleasure of carrying her 30 pound sweaty little body as we walked in endless circles trying to find something, anything to do. The kids kept mumbling over and over something about wanting to go back to New Jersey, that they were bored and tired, and that they hated Mickey Mouse (!!!). I just kept using guided imagery to imagine myself poolside with my fifth margarita in order to avoid actually killing someone in my family in the Happiest Place on Earth.
It was no use, it was not in the cards for us to have any fun on this day, and so as the mopey tired faces set in and the whining reached a crescendo, I had had enough. I looked at my hot sweaty ingrates and cried “uncle”; we surrendered and retreated back to the hotel. The next few days we steered clear of the parks, opting instead for some R and R poolside. That phrase “R and R” used in this context for this particular vacation in and of itself is such a joke and clearly the heat had gotten to my head. To think that I loaded my kindle with eight books (one a day!) just makes me a fool who thought that this vacation would allow me to relax just a little bit. Now I know why my parents rarely took us on vacation as kids. Because, it sucks.
Someone always is hungry, someone always has to use the toilet, someone has to play mini golf, someone is hungry again, someone wants to go in the big pool, someone needs more lotion, someone touched someone else, someone doesn’t want to wear the cute pink bathing suit and wants to go topless (no, not me), someone else doesn’t get why we need to keep reapplying sunscreen, someone is bored, someone is always pissed off, someone is splashing someone, someone needs a tissue, someone will not eat the pizza because it is not like the pizza in New Jersey, and someone else will not eat the Mickey Mouse shaped ravioli because someone hates Mickey Mouse. You see, it SUCKS.
The rest of the trip pretty much went down the same way each day, and I too found myself longing for New Jersey along with my kids each and every day until the plane touched back down in beautiful Newark. I had never seen my kids so happy as when they got back home. They actually kissed the garage door. The whole trip the hubby and I were feeling sick that we spent all this money, thinking the kids would love it and we’d all have a blast, trying in vain like two stupid pathetic court jesters to make them happy, and finally realizing that they were just miserable, longing for the comforts of home.
But here’s the kick in the head: Later that night, we were with my parents and when they asked my kids how the trip was, the hubby and I braced for a retelling of what a hellish nightmare this trip had been. But my Mickey Mouse hating children pulled a 180 on us and stood there and in all sincerity had the chutzpah to tell my parents that they had an awesome time in Disney.
As I retell this story, I feel myself starting to twitch and so I am going to sign off here. Now I have to make breakfast and pack lunches and prepare to joyfully boot my kids’ asses out the door and back to school.