It’s true. I’m back! After a little over a year, THPB has returned with a brand new look and some new tricks up its sleeves. But more on that soon. Right now, I want to say thanks so much for stopping by to read today—which also happens to be my dad’s birthday. Yes, I did this on purpose. My dad has always been a big fan of the blog and I thought it was only fitting to make my grand re-entrance on this very special day. Here’s to you dad and with that a little story about our family…
The saying goes if you tell a teenager she is going to miss vacationing with his or her parents someday, they will probably deny it very passionately. I remember those last few trips we took as a family—not just short ones either, these were 10 days plus—I couldn’t wait until a time when I’d have a chance to travel with friends or my boyfriend… without my parents in tow. Well, I started a full-time job with limited vacation days, I moved out at some point, and those family trips (a.k.a. the fully paid for) trips didn’t come as often. The last time I was on a family Disney getaway was actually 2008 when I took a long weekend and joined my parents on part of their trip. (Due to cloud cover or some other weird weather scenario, my flight was actually cancelled and I got to stay an extra day.)
Fast forward to now-ish: my parents are still going on two Disney vacations a year and we are trying to make one work. Except, of course, never together. My mom works in the school system and goes on vacation when the rest of the population of New Jersey goes, and since James and I had more freedom with our calendars but less with our wallets, the stars never aligned to make a co-trip work. In the past 2 years, I got it in my head that I wanted to surprise my parents on a trip. We would have our own room booked and everything, but how awesome would it be to just pop up in the middle of their vacation and hang out?
This idea would not leave my brain.
With James back to work full-time after graduating law school, 2016 seemed like a great time to give it a try. So after making sure my mom was blocked from seeing any of my scheduled trips on the My Disney Experience app, I booked decently priced rooms at Pop Century Resort. (Spoiler: I soon found out they were decently priced because flights were out of control but more on that later.) With five months out before the big surprise, my sister was our only co-conspirator.
I should mention right here that at this point in our lives, James and I had not been on a Disney trip in over a year. That had almost never happened in our relationship. Without sounding snobby, that had almost never happened since I went on my first trip when I was 12. These traditions were really important to me (just as going down the shore every summer was before we started these bigger trips), even if I could never duplicate the kind of trips I had there as a kid on my own salary. It was enough just to visit for a few days and I was beyond bummed we couldn’t work something out in 2015. I tried; I really did. We had been hoping to see the Osborne Lights in their final year, but it felt impossible to pull the trigger when our work life wasn’t totally stable and prices had skyrocketed.
So the excitement of of the trip was basically multiplied by a surprise and squared by the fact we hadn’t had a Disney vacation in awhile. (I’m not a math person but I think you get the idea.)
Our next hurdle was the park ticket situation. Full disclosure: the price of tickets is one of the main reasons we never cemented a trip in 2016. The flights and the room may be affordable but the price tag for park entrance is always painful. We did luck out for most trips because as an employee of a retail location, my mom does receive a certain number of complimentary passes per year—but that was never a guarantee because 1) they were her tickets; she earned them; and 2) she and my dad had vacations to go on too.
In an effort to consolidate costs and create a cover story, we decided James would take one for the team: he would tell my parents that he was planning on surprising me with a trip a week or two after their planned trip. As we expected, my mom jumped right in and wanted to help. By this time, we were about a month out from the trip and even though I had been looking for flights since May, nothing was good enough to book yet. When did flights from the NY area to Florida get so expensive? In the time I wasn’t flying to Orlando, I suppose.
Down to the wire, park tickets courtesy of my mom “secretly” in James’ wallet, we almost decided we couldn’t make it work.
I was bummed.
James was bummed.
My sister was bummed.
WE WERE ALL BUMMED.
(I still didn’t cancel my Pop Century reservations though.)
And then, because we are indecisive and stubborn and also lovely people who want to hang out with our family, we said eff it in a big way and bought the tickets. What if we didn’t have a chance to do something like this again anytime soon?
I COULD NOT WAIT TO SEE THEIR FACES.
Despite a small flight delay due to a gate change, James and I made it to Pop Century, managed to get our room, have lunch, and we were ready to surprise some people. At first, I thought we would meet them in Animal Kingdom (the best!) but it was so hot out, they were already back at the BoardWalk lounging and swimming. There went that idea. Weirdly, my parents plus sister had lunch at Yak & Yeti, and, kid you not, look at the fortune my mom got with her check:
Disney magic at its finest. For Plan B, James and I packed our bathing suits in our bag and grabbed a cab to the BoardWalk (which is so nice and close to Pop!) to see what would happen. My sister was already hiding upstairs in the room from the sun, her phone was pretty much dead, so we decided to wander around and get some ice cream at Ample Hills. (Best decision ever.) Every surprise should begin with ice cream.
To catch you up: I’M SWEATING BECAUSE IT’S AUGUST IN ORLANDO AND BECAUSE I AM SO EXCITED TO MAKE PEOPLE I LOVE HAPPY.
After a quick walk around half of Crescent Lake (oh, how I missed it), we met up with my sister closer to the pool and near the General Store. We decided to be casual about this whole thing. She casually returned to the lounge chairs she had just left like that wasn’t weird or anything, and we would start walking in when we saw her chatting with my mom and dad, and then BAM! We would be reunited.
Okay, I was a little bummed there were no tears but my mom and dad were smiley and super happy to see us. (Turns out my mom was especially happy we were using her tickets for a trip with them and not a few weeks after them. HA.) Maybe it was the heat, but I also got the feeling it took them a little while to understand WE WERE ACTUALLY REALLY THERE, and not a mirage. They looked shell shocked.