VIAGGI – FAMILY TRAVEL
On an afternoon like this one, I find myself drifting into daydreams. My thoughts turn to travel, namely the kind that allows me to escape into another world, become a kid again, and shut down my brain even if but for a moment. For me, that means virtually visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. I’ll admit, besides unlocking the memories in my mind, I seek out video on YouTube or read what’s new on some of the popular Disney blogs. Sometimes, I even delve into Disney history and read biographies of those who have made their mark on “the World.”
Some of my friends actually believe Disney is evil for its status as a multinational corporation and manipulation of children that has the company convincing them to buy their love of different childhood characters. I won’t even go into how they believe little girls are screwed up by all those princess fairy tales. If I’m being honest, they’re not wrong. Still, I’m walkin’ on the Dark Side, and I’m fine with that. Frankly, Disney is so good at getting you hooked, that I wouldn’t even know how to protest these practices. Here are some of the experiences that fuel my addiction and dominate my thoughts when I’m back home:
Yummy Treats – Hello Dole Whip! Only at Disney would the combination of milk and pineapple juice turn into a delightful, refreshing float that has people yearning in the way others seek true love. Then, there’s the moist, cake-like carrot cake cookie, replete with cream cheese icing filling, that might be the only draw at Hollywood Studios as it undergoes major renovation ahead of the arrival of Star Wars and Toy Story lands. Epcot serves as my own personal buffet of snacks – nachos in Mexico, pretzels and caramel corn in Germany, egg rolls in China, crepes and artisan ice cream in France, and fish and chips in England. The list of must-haves continues to grow as Disney expands its options and becomes more gourmet (at least by Disney standards).
Monorail – There are fewer sounds more soothing to me than the whizzing of futuristic trains that fly through the sky. Taking a ride on one is like a fantasy. As you swing around and visit each resort and the Magic Kingdom or head to Epcot, you are literally taken to another place, somewhere in a child’s storybook. I almost feel as though I’m hanging over Neverland. From your seat, you might catch a glimpse of the lit torches at the Polynesian, a wedding at the Grand Floridian, and Chef Mickey greeting guests at the Contemporary. Of course, you’ll see Cinderella’s Castle in all its glory, always beckoning you home.
Sound of Fireworks – The crackling explosion of colorful flames is like a lullaby. The best part is no matter where you are in the area, you can usually hear the fireworks every single night. Often, you can catch some of that color in the air. The sound of fireworks in Orlando is like a warm blanket on a cold day. It’s another way to get into your head and temporarily erase the usual to-dos and worries hanging out in there. Isn’t that the point of a vacation?
Peter Pan’s Flight – Everyone has her own favorite ride at the Disney theme parks, and this is one of mine. My parents took us to Disney just about every year when I was a kid, and this was always a must do. My father loved it because he said he flew away from his problems every time he stepped onto the flying ship. My mother hated it because she is afraid of heights and hanging a few inches in the air terrified her. She would clutch his arm and keep her eyes shut, but she never missed the flight. I think she wanted to be a part of our journey, which had us floating over Neverland, replete with Pan, Wendy, Hook, and the Tic-Toc Croc.
Mickey Mouse Ears for Everyone – The fact that it’s socially acceptable for full-grown adults to wear Mickey ears or capes or both makes Disney awesome. Grown ups like stuff kids like, including goofy string fights, chicken nuggets, and toilet humor. Normally, however, adults can’t admit this kind of stuff. Disney lets you be a kid again. In the World, you can wear the ears, take pictures with cartoon characters, and fill your plate with stuff from the kid’s section of the buffet. And nobody will judge.
All the Pretty Flowers – Flowers in a rainbow of colors, in a perfectly manicured bed, replete with water features or topiaries or statues inspire long, deep breaths and creative ideas. Coming from a family full of landscapers, I’ve been aware of this fact for as long as I can remember. While my family have the greenest of thumbs and have created gorgeous works of art with plants and flowers, even they can admit that Disney does it right. My father even learned a thing or two from Disney, like using cabbage as decoration in the fall and growing strawberries in a bag. Hello Land ride! Of course, all these gorgeous flowers and plants make lovely backdrops for your family vacation photos.
My Kid’s Smile – On any day of the week, my 4-year-old son has one heck of a smile, replete with a dimple on each cheek. Yes, I’m totally bias, but that’s not the point. When we are wrapped in the Disney bubble, his smile is wider and brighter. His teeth might actually sparkle and stars might circle around him as though he was in a cartoon.
Experts tell us that giving your child memories is a better investment than material items, such as toys. The pure joy I see in his smile when we’re on vacation at Disney proves that to me. Certainly, it helps alleviate the frustration at the significantly high prices of such a getaway. But it also makes me sure that when my son is older and I’m gone, these are the kinds of things upon which he’ll reflect. Sure, he’ll remember advice I give him and how I nursed him through the flu and all the stuff I will teach him (from tying his shoes to parking a car). But when he thinks about our bond – the love between us – I’m willing to bet shaking hands with Mickey Mouse and hopping on Dumbo’s Flight with my husband and me are going to be near the top of his list.