If you’ve been following for the past few months, you might know that Katherine was part of the inspiration for me to start this series in the first place. I’m so happy that everything has come full circle as she shares a story of returning to her Disney roots, an overplanned family vacation, and realizing what matters most. Enjoy! -e
My simple moment actually arose from a bit of a turmoil and ended in an epiphany, so I’m not sure if it is truly an organic simple moment, but I keep going back to it, so…
My parents started taking me to Walt Disney World before I can remember, and my earliest memories of the place actually involve me poring over Birnbaum’s WDW guidebooks and telling my family all the places we should stay, swim and eat while we were there. I was a meticulous planner before the age of spreadsheets and Google docs. I wanted to make sure not a minute of time was wasted at the Most Magical Place on Earth.
Our annual family visits tapered off as my little sister and I aged, but when my interest in the parks was piqued again as an adult, I immediately reverted to that mindset. Guidebooks were replaced by websites and personal blogs, but I still planned out every part of the trip in a wild-eyed frenzy. EVERY SECOND WOULD BE ACTION-PACKED AND MAGICAL.
In the midst of my full-blown Adult Disney Renaissance, I was trying to plan a return visit to WDW around Christmastime, but couldn’t figure out how to balance a few days at Disney with my boyfriend with seeing my family for the holidays. Then I realized that my family probably hadn’t been to WDW in years and they’d probably want to go again, right? As a family, just like we always used to?
I talked them into it, and a few days after Dec. 25, 2011, I touched down in MCO with my mom, dad, sister and boyfriend for a weeklong trip to WDW. I took care of everything, from booking the flights and hotel and Magical Express to planning out what park we’d hit each day, where we’d eat and which attractions we’d go on. I was beyond thrilled to do it and I wanted to make sure everyone had an amazing time and didn’t have to worry about anything.
It never crossed my mind that my idea of a good time wouldn’t exactly align with my family members’ ideas of a good time. Through a mix of overscheduling and miscommunications, I found myself getting yelled at in the Main Street Confectionery by my overtired, worn-out parents. I stared blankly at a row of oversized lollipops as tears pricked my eyes. How did I manage to ruin everything?
I can’t be sure what was all said in the candy store, but before too long I remember a gentle hand slipping in mine and guiding me out of the store, away from the rancor. My boyfriend led me out to Main Street, where the Dapper Dans were performing.
We stood and watched them for a few minutes, then he leaned over and whispered, “It’s OK, we’ll meet up with them later. They just need to relax a little bit and so do you. Let’s get you some ice cream.”
I immediately started protesting, saying we had FastPasses for this and that and we would be wasting time by not visiting attractions. He looked at me firmly. “No. Ice cream.”
So we walked down the street to the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and he bought me a cookies and cream kid’s cone, which comes adorned with two chocolate discs to make Mickey ears. And we snagged a table outside and sat and watched the mayor greet guests and trolleys going by and kids buying balloons.
And for the first time, it really sunk in how wonderful it was just to BE on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom instead of racing down it and ignoring the details so I could ride Space Mountain five times in a row. I realized every moment in Walt Disney World counted, not just the ones where I was on an attraction. This was the reason I valued this place so highly above any other amusement park … this moment, with the boyfriend and the ice cream cone with Mickey ears and the Dapper Dans’ voices in the background.
Ever since then, I’ve given up on meticulous planning and spreadsheets. I know that if I miss out on an attraction on a particular trip, there’s nothing to worry about. Because sometimes a moment with a loved one and a frozen treat or an hour in a well-scented lobby or another loop on the resort monorail will be a better memory than a Fastpass for Splash Mountain or another ride on Pirates. And besides, it certainly won’t be my last visit. Not by a long shot.