It’s the kind of vacation I want to cling to, one I’ve been reluctant to write about because that will mean it’s irrevocably in the past. I don’t want it to be in the past, especially not when I can still hear my aunt’s laughter, and see my youngest niece doing a toddle-dance around her stroller while her mom rides Big Thunder Mountain, and feel the squeeze of “adult”-sized Minnie Mouse ears against my head, and taste the best chocolate I’ve eaten in recent memory.
Sigh. Oh well. Let’s do this.
The vacation was orchestrated by my dad, who might just be the greatest vacation orchestrator OF EVER.
The plan: to surprise my mom with a family reunion at Disney World in honor of a milestone birthday that she’s celebrating this year.
The execution: PERFECT!
A group of us strolled into the lobby of the Shades of Green resort, and the look on Mom’s face when she saw all of us was priceless. Thus began a whirlwind extended weekend during which I learned and/or was reminded of MANY things. Among them:
- My family can vacation like nobody’s business. Early wake-up calls? We’ll do those. Efficient breakfasting? Check. Everyone still liking each other by the end of the trip? We manage it!
- It’s been too long since I visited Florida. Okay, Robin Hood and I honeymooned in Key West in June of 2015, which wasn’t THAT long ago, but still. Being around all that water and green vegetation — and the flowers! and the squirrels! and yes, the humidity! — just plain made my heart happy.
- Staying on Disney property spoiled me rotten for any future Disney World trips. Even taking a variety of transportation (at times, it felt like we were in Planes, Trains and Automobiles Part II) seemed much better than having to drive.
- There is, in fact, delicious food in theme parks. For example: a falafel burger, lionfish, the aforementioned chocolate, and a mouthwatering gyro.
- …But the classic foods shouldn’t be skipped. Mouse ear-shaped ice cream treat? Gigantic lollipop? Yes please!
- I’m on the fence about Fast Passes. Yes, they get you on rides faster, but the planning involved? Not sure it’s worth it. Waiting in lines at amusement parks as a kid taught me a lot about patience. Even if I’ve forgotten most of those lessons in adulthood.
- Amidst the not-so-pleasantness that can occur at theme parks (crying, squabbling, throwing up – and that’s just the adults!) there is romance to be found. On Valentine’s Day, Robin Hood surprised me with roses at the entrance to Main Street USA. I wasn’t wearing a gown, but I felt like a princess. Later, we snuck off to this spot on Tom Sawyer Island:
There’s no great love without a little adventure.
- If there’s still no line after your first ride on Big Thunder Mountain, RIDE IT AGAIN, because that kind of glory just doesn’t happen often in life.
- Listen to your nieces and nephews, because they know what the best rides are, and where the best chocolate is. Yes, I’m mentioning it again; it was that good. Go to Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in the France section of Epcot, and order the Duo. Do it now!
- If your family is as widely-dispersed as we are, it is undeniably challenging to get everyone together, but the effort is absolutely worth it. Because the biggest reminder I got in Florida is this: that family really is everything.
Thank you Shades of Green for being a great base of operations. Thank you to all the Disney cast members we encountered for living up to the hype, and then some. And thank you Mom and Dad and everyone else I’m lucky enough to call kin. I love you guys.