I find traditions sneak up on you. They’re not often planned, but happen without you realizing they’ve grown beyond a repeated event and become something anticipated or cherished. Some take longer than others to develop this status and others barely finish before you know they’re part of who you are. This was the way of our Christmas since moving to the Boston area 11 years ago.
Here at the Jackpot, we get to do some very special things every now and again. This Christmas season we were given one of those magical opportunities that make you pause and realize how lucky you are, even when it seems like things aren’t as great as they could be. This time, we were invited to see one of our friends perform in New York City and that friend just happens to be a Rockette.
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.
For our first family trip to Disney, we were lucky to get non-stop flights from Boston to Orlando at pretty reasonable times. That meant we could have breakfast and surprise Miss O with the trip in the morning and be on Disney property by that afternoon. It also meant we could spend most of Saturday doing Disney things before our flight left. It did not mean we would have enough time or energy for a park on either day and didn’t want to waste a park ticket on a partial day. This is where Disney Springs, a big open-air mall area with dining, shopping and entertainment becomes and excellent, ticket-free place to spend time.
When you’re planning a Disney trip, it may get to the point where you simultaneously want to spend money on all the things that will make your family smile regardless of price and feel like you’re suddenly faced with spending money you may never have. Coming from New England, we were definitely in that place by the time we discovered that Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party starts in August and had not one, but two dates scheduled for the last week of August when we’d be there for our first trip with our family. I knew Miss O would love every second of it, but would it be worth the extra cost on top of our park hopper tickets?
I was worried the fifth day of our trip would be a struggle. After four full days, with one each at Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, I was concerned we’d be too tired for another day at Magic Kingdom, especially since we had tickets for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party that night, too. We only visited one half of the Magic Kingdom on our first day, and I couldn’t leave without Miss O experiencing the other half. I knew she was having fun, but our tired was starting to show and I wasn’t sure she’d make it.
I’ll admit when we first decided to include a day at Hollywood Studios in our park plans, I wasn’t convinced we needed an entire day for it. In the past, MGM, as it used to be called, really seemed more like a half-day park. There have been quite a few changes since those days and I wasn’t sure if those changes, and the addition of Toy Story Land, would make that much of a difference.
Rumors are flying lately about all the refurbishments at Epcot. After our recent trip, I’m sort of relieved to hear it. Just like our days at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, I had a solid park plan for our day at Epcot. What I didn’t know was how much Epcot has changed since I was last there and how much that plan would be affected.
I have been looking forward to Miss O’s first visit to Disney’s Magic Kingdom for ages. It’s my absolute favorite park. I hadn’t been since senior year of college, way before the new Fantasyland expansion (yes, that’s a long time ago, kids) and I could not wait share it with Miss O. I knew our day at Animal Kingdom would be a success because ANIMALS, but I worried Miss O may have grown tired of princesses. I knew Mr. A could care less about them and I worried about his influence on her. There’s a lot more to the Magic Kingdom than princesses, but is there enough? Did we wait too long to share this part of the magic?