When we booked our return trip to Disney this summer, my only questions were whether we’d repeat Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and if I’d really humor Miss O with a reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table for a character meal since she’d already met all the Princesses. I should have known her love of Harry Potter was growing exponentially as we worked our way through each book, followed by its movie version, at a fairly steady pace. Lately any hint of vacation elicited an exuberant cry of “Universal!” from Miss O. Perhaps I needed one more round of consideration for our upcoming trip.
I don’t know about you, but for me it’s been one of those weeks where more often than I thought possible, I needed to pause for a moment, close my eyes and wish I was anywhere but where I am right now. It’s just been one crisis after another, none of them terribly real, but all of them incredibly stressful and migraine-inducing. Work, home, family – all of it one big cluster of insanity. As I sip my warm peppermint tea out of my favorite Chip mug, I realize part of the ritual is the mug itself and part is the memory and warm feelings it holds.
As this long, biting winter slowly drags to a close, I feel myself finally getting ready for not one, but two trips we’re lucky to go on this year. I don’t get to do too much preparation for France and the UK, since it’s my mother’s trip, so it’s been harder to get into the swing of that trip. Fortunately, our return trip to Disney World requires a little more planning on my part. I have the blessing of hindsight on my side this time and there are a few things I think we’ll do differently this time.
After we returned from our first family trip to Disney World, I understood why people love it so much they go back year after year. If you’re enjoying your trip as much as we did, you get this indescribable joy. We were positively giddy for days and everything was new, even though Hubs and I had been there so many times before. It wasn’t until I tried to scan my magic band at Trader Joe’s almost a week after returning home that I realized how much I embraced that magic. The return to regular life suddenly seemed so mundane. A few months later it was downright depressing. I really didn’t think it would hit me that hard, but I definitely had been hit with Disney Depression.
Our final park day of our first family trip to Disney World came all too quickly. Miss O had one more day to finish her mission to collect all the Disney Princess autographs. We had amazing success in Animal Kingdom, our first day at the Magic Kingdom, and Epcot. Even though Hollywood Studios wasn’t a hit, we still met a few friends there, too. When we started, I was hoping Miss O would get one or two, but wouldn’t push her if she didn’t want to. Now we were determined to meet our final Princesses and maybe find a few extra friends. After four long, fun-packed days, I hoped we’d all make it long enough to see it through.
Hollywood Studios presented an interesting challenge for our first family trip to Walt Disney World. It’s not a park that has ever held a lot to grab my attention, so I was a little concerned it wouldn’t do a whole lot for Miss O. She was still pretty entrenched in her love of Star Wars, but her past experiences with StormTroopers at our local zoo did not go well. With her definite lack of interest in costumed characters at the other parks, would there be any characters there to hold her interest?
When I scheduled our character breakfast at Akershus in Epcot, I had no idea if Miss O would want to meet the Princesses or not, let alone have half our autograph banner filled by the time we got there! While I was over the moon with our success so far, I still wasn’t pushing her into meeting characters as a priority of our trip. As it turned out, Miss O was on a mission to fill that banner and meet every Princess Disney had to offer.
With our first character greeting at Animal Kingdom a complete success, I hoped our scheduled meet and greets in the Magic Kingdom would go equally well. I knew Miss O loved Minnie and Mickey, but I wasn’t sure she was over her uneasiness around costumed characters. I had FastPasses for both days in the park at Fairytale Hall and a park plan that included as many characters as I thought she’d want to see. What I wasn’t sure of were the lines, the weather and our patience holding out.
At six years old, Miss O was starting to grow out of her obsession with all things ruffly and sparkly, including her devotion to Disney Princesses. She could also still be terribly shy. With our first family trip to Disney coming up, I started to worry that she wouldn’t want to do any of the character meet and greets I scheduled during times when the rest of our group was thundering and splashing down mountains. I prepared myself not to get upset and not force her to do anything she really didn’t want to do. This trip was for her and my nephew, Mr. A, and while I was determined to honor that, I still hoped the Disney magic would find her for just a little longer.
Character meals are an iconic part of a Disney vacation, and for good reason. They are efficient, allowing the characters to come to you while you eat saving you the agony of waiting in lines, and you get some pretty good return on investment for your time and money, with multiple characters, food and beverage all at one event. I wasn’t sure Miss O would want to meet any characters, let alone the four or five we’d meet at any given event. The trip was still a surprise at that point, so I couldn’t risk asking her and somehow revealing the trip early. Nevertheless, something inside me said this needed to be part of her first trip to Disney World, so I took a chance and added a character meal to our wishlist.