We’re back. Mouse ears in tow and meal card balanced at zero. I am also prepared to chow down on a few of my words from the pre-Disney blog (below). Particularly the part about Disney being just for the kids, an energy drain (your savings account may beg to differ) and a cuckoo farm in general. Don’t get me wrong, it is a little bit of all of those things with a whole lot of magic woven into the place. No, my drink did not get spiked with pixie dust (or maybe it did?). Bottom line. I am still tired from Disney World. I was bone tired after one day. We stayed for five such days and never stopped walking unless it was to sit on the toilet or sleep. I swear I may have done both of those at the same time on the next to last day. My feet still hurt like I would imagine a true athlete’s might after a training session with mean girl from Biggest Loser. My kids absolutely loved it aside from the debacle called Turner riding Space Mountain the very first night. That did not go very well. When Matt reached forward through the headrest to make sure that he was still in his capsule seat at the end, he had to dig arms deep to find him hunkered down near the floorboard. We are talking about prying fingernails from the foam shoulder harness afterward. Rookie mistake for sure.
So after all of the misconceptions have been shaken out of the magic carpet and the genie bottle has been rubbed to sleep, here are a few hard but fun won truths on the Disney matter:
Some Tips From A Scared Novice:
- Beware thinking that you’re safe from getting drenched just because the weather report is crystal clear. You say you’re steering clear of Blizzard Beach? You are still not safe, unless you get kicks out of being showered with amoeba-soaked water. Bring one of those Dollar Store ponchos that can be wadded into a cinch bag afterward. You will want it for Kali Rapids at Animal Kingdom in particular. Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom can easily live up to its name if you are sitting in a lucky spot. Because let me tell you that traipsing around an amusemark in wet undergarments is for the birds and simply put not good for anyone’s health.
- Get set for the mouse ear phenomena sink in. You will start to see mouse ears in the oddest of places. For example, one morning as I stared up at the shower head, I noted that its innards were literally patterned with them. You will see them in the clouds…. in the clump of toilet paper that your kid forgot to flush, and most certainly your pancakes will arrive on a plate with ears. The pancakes too- they will have ears.
- I don’t smoke anymore which is a good thing on so many levels. For those who do or who are driven to do so by the mayhem and throngs of crowds, there are patches of concrete where you can puff away in each park. Be prepared for the stinkeye if you partake. You will get the same glare that you might if you exhaled an entire Camel into the face of an Olympian before a sprint trial. The reason that I bring up smoking is because many former smokers are now gum-chewers. Gum smacking warrants its own stinkeye at times BUT if you plan to have your Juicy Fruit, Hubba Bubba, or Double Bubble fix, you will need to bring your own. They DO NOT sell it anywhere in the park. Don’t even bother looking. And don’t think that you can bribe the last piece off of the easy looking target either because they don’t even sell it at the Orlando International Airport. For real. I checked on the way out because it helps my kids pressurize their ears on the plane. Walt and Co. must have called the airport and offered them a chunk of change for the embargo in order to keep their park sticky gum-free. It works. The parks are pristine. No sooner than your napkin floats off of our funnel cake and a smiling employee appears out of nowhere to practically fetch it in their teeth and alley-oop to the shiny trashcan…which may or may not be ear-shaped.
- Autograph Book. Do NOT leave home without it. If your kid gets caught in a a picture with Cinderella and you come up empty handed, you have failed. Have your child make or save for an autograph book before the trip. Watch what they pick for show and tell after the trip. Just trust me on this. It bears no more explaining that you would need if you were backstage with your own Höfner and Sir Paul McCartney asked you for a pen.
- Don’t splurge on the hotel. Splurge on the meal plan. When I say you will only be at your hotel to sleep, I am being truthful. The meal plan was a lifesaver and the savings (after seeing the regular prices without the meal card) were borderline absurd. I cannot imagine how many $25 burgers we would’ve consumed before I lost my head and tried to make a duck burger of Donald. Probably two.
- If you feel like happy hour has become imperative and yet you don’t actually drink anymore (like me), then I kid you not- the Jungle Juice from Tusker House in the Animal Kingdom is almost worth the flight itself. Guava, Passion Fruit and Orange Juice. Safe to try at home.
- If you think that your kids are too old for strollers but too big to carry, bring a stroller anyway. Again, trust me here. Neither of my kids cared that they were among riding a double buggie the last day when we were trying to catch the last events. You know how the old saying goes. Choose your battle. Well, carrying a 6-year-old is not a mountain I’m willing to die on. Today, anyway.
- The FAST PASS dealio. This is BIG. That is why it I am writing in ALL CAPS. That is why I am SCREAMING right now. These fast passes (unbeknownst to me) don’t cost a thing. Essentially, you are allowing a kiosk to spit out a ride ticket that tells you when to come back for the FAST PASS entry that will get you on a ride in just 8-10 minutes. As opposed to 70 minutes. I am not exaggerating. Business was slow while we were there according to many sources. The park was far from capacity despite the spring breakers. Still, the most popular rides such as Soarin’ (Epcot) and Rock n’ Roller Coaster (Hollywood Studios) will almost always have an hour long wait even on the sabbath at 10 pm. Fast passes are a gift. Use them. Know this though. You can only hold one Fast Pass at a time. Meaning, until you use your last Fast Pass, you are SOL on getting another. So don’t get your wet drawers in a wad trying to run from spot to spot stacking up your Fast Passes for the day. Apparently, it used to work that way. Times, they have a-changed.
- The Castle Fireworks: Tinkerbell rides the most badass zipline I have ever seen from the top of the castle over the Magic Kingdom at fireworks time. I actually envied her job for a full minute in time. Me, the cynic…wanted to BE Tinkerbell.If you want to watch her fly right above you, meander to the right side of the park and stand anywhere in the 4 o’clock line of vision in front of the castle. It was one of those accidental freebies that we scored. Those are a grand thing in and of themselves.
- Fish n’ Chips in Ireland and Epcot. Right after you stop into the pub in the UK. Your spouse will need and deserve that detour. The crepes in France were lame. The pretzels in Germany were not. The chocolate in the German gift shop passed the Matt Bevins test. That’s a little like a Rick Steve’s endorsement.
- The Hall Of Presidents will not have a long line. Let this not deter you from darting inside. It is wonderful in a goosebumpy, patriotic way. Or maybe I just liked sitting still in the air-conditioned dark theatre for 15 minutes.
- Do not plan to return the day before you report to work or the real world. I know that you are a big girl or big boy. I am sure that you think that you can handle it. You are certainly welcome to try it that way. Let me know how that goes.
Since too much advice can make a Disney goer spin, the crazy train will stop here. I understand a bit more about why this place is a rite of passage. I understand that I will never forget the look on my daughter’s face when she saw Cinderella’s castle for the first time. I understand that I will see Mouse Ears in clouds and gravy and burning fireplace logs for months to come. I am ok with that. I will even go back again one day…with my grandkids.
* Breakfast with Mickey and Friends.