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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Magic of Disney

THE MAGIC OF DISNEY - we have just returned from our 11th trip to Walt Disney World, and it was more magical than ever. Sometimes, I feel the world breaks down into two groups of people: Those who can appreciate the Magic of Disney (you don't have to actually travel there to appreciate it) and Those who do not. I will never forget sitting in a judge's chambers in another county a few years ago. The case was over and I was chatting with the Law Guardian, the attorney assigned to represent the children in the custody case. I was on my way to Trip 6 or 7 to Disney. The LG told me that his kid was "over" Disney, he was too cool for it. How old is your kid, I asked, thinking he would say 18. "He's 11," said the LG. I didn't pull any punches. "Honestly, that's your fault in not preserving the Magic for your kid. Mine are 8 and 11 and they can't wait. I honestly question whether you are qualified to be a Law Guardian, as you seem to have no understanding of children,” then I turned on my heel, clutched my Disney purse and marched off. He was flabbergasted. But I meant it. My kids are now 13 and 9 and still love every single minute that we are at Disney World, and can't wait to go back next year.

Our first trip to Disney was in 2006. I was only working part time, from home, picking up spare hours from different law firms, to maximize my time home with the kids. Anthony had just become partner at a new law firm, and they had agreed they wouldn’t take any profits out for the first year, giving the firm time to build a profit. We didn’t have a lot of extra cash for lavish vacations. I spent two years banking money every week into a vacation club savings account, just as I had seen my parents do my whole life. Eventually, it added up to enough money to book a budget-conscious vacation to Disney at the Carribbean Resort (a “moderate” from those who know the Disney hotel scale – it goes Budget, Moderate, Deluxe, Deluxe Club Level, DVC). I couldn’t get my husband to agree to book a Disney vacation, he was trying to save money for college and retirement, and everyday expenses. So I surprised him. One day at dinner, I announced we were going to Disney World in a few months. The kids were over the Moon with Joy, holding hands and jumping up and down. My husband was a little more cautious. “Did you play Lotto or something? You’re not gambling on college football again, are you?” I showed him the bank book and he finally relaxed into the idea; but he wasn’t feeling the Disney Magic. I, on the other hand, had the Disney Magic instilled in me at a young age.

My first trip was 1971, I was 6 years old, and my parents managed to take us 3 times total, thanks to their Vacation Savings Club account.

There is no describing the first time your kids see Cinderella’s Castle in person. Truly, there are no words, it is beyond Joy, seeing the wonder and magic in their faces, reflecting back your own joy; and reflecting back that this is how your own parents must have felt when they saw the Joy on our little faces. The first trip was tough because we were all such Disney rookies. Even though I visited every Disney chat site, called Disney all the time, and read the Unofficial Guide to Disney World cover to cover (800 pages) twice, nothing can prepare you for your first visit. The logistics are overwhelming and I definitely overbooked us. I ignored the advice to build in some “magical rest time.” We’re all young and healthy and athletic, we don’t need rest, I thought. Wrong. Everyone needs rest. We hit the “Disney Wall” mid-trip and spent a whole day at the hotel napping and watching Disney movies in our room. Then we were refreshed.
Flash forward to our most recent trip, last week. The last few trips, we have been staying at Deluxe Resorts, Club Level, meaning we have our own floor for Club Level guests, with our own Concierge, who will do everything from book dining and shows to go out and get makeup for you (true story). Club Level also has almost 24 hour beverages and food available, with Open Bar from 8 pm to 11 pm, and a “Club Room” with lounge, TV, and Fireworks viewing in some. I have gone from Disney Rookie to Disney Expert. I don’t need a map in any park except for Animal Kingdom (it’s so big!). I know the Disney transport system like the back of my hand. I often know more about Disney than the people who work there and am happy to share my knowledge with the obvious Disney Rookies I encounter. I consider myself a “Disney Ambassador,” spreading Disney cheer and knowledge everywhere I go.

There is definitely a Science to Disney World. I book our ADR’s (Advance Dining Reservations) 180 days in advance (the maximum advance booking time) and make sure I get every restaurant we want. I buy Magic Your Way Park Hopper passes so we can “hop” from, park to park. I get the Disney Dining Plan so we get the discounted meal plan, and I even book our Fast Pass rides in advance. We didn’t wait one minute for any ride in Disney. And I build in at least 3 big chunks of rest where we just hang out at the Resort Pool and chill. I spend all year planning our trip, and it is worth every penny and every moment.

Our very first trip, Mr. Lo wasn’t really feeling the Disney Magic at first, he was too overwhelmed with all the events I had planned. Then we went to the Disney’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parade, which is the best Christmas event in the world. Christmas parade, fireworks over the castle, hot cocoa and cookies all over the Park. As the music swelled during the fireworks show and we looked at the faces of our 2 and 6 year old boys, awash with the glow of fireworks, and magic, and Christmas, and exhaustion – my husband turned to me and said, “Thank you, my Beautiful Wife, I now get the Magic of Disney thing.” It was a simple but beautiful way of saying, this is Us, this is our magic, let’s do this every year, and sometimes twice a year.

Michael still isn’t big on the thrill rides, so Anthony usually elects to stay with him while Christian and I do the thrill rides, like Aerosmith’s Rockin Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Everest. It’s our little Mother-Son tradition. After riding Expedition Everest 3 times in a row with him, Christian was so happy, he picked me up, threw me over his shoulder, spun me around and said, “Thank you, Mom, for always going on the roller coasters with me, you are the best mom ever.” I felt a twinge over vertigo but all worth it. That was thanks enough.

And Michael. Well, Michael IS the Magic of Disney. He can’t remember a time when he didn’t go to Disney every year and he has never been exposed to Television News. He want to become a veterinarian and work at Animal Kingdom helping the African Safari animals. He believes in everything from Tinkerbell, to the Tooth Fairy, to (of course) Santa. Everywhere we go, whether it’s Disney, or just swimming lessons, he spontaneously hugs me and thanks me for being the best mom ever.

This year, we finally took the plunge and bought a piece of the Magic. It has long been a dream of mine to buy into the Disney Vacation Club, and we finally did it this year, with our home resort being the brand new Grand Floridian Villas. So we know we’ll be back every year, and we bought enough points so we can vacation somewhere else as well. It definitely takes the sting out of going from 86 degrees to 36 degrees. We know for a fact we’ll be back next year because we have a place in Disney.

Do you have to book a trip to Disney to experience the Magic of Disney? Not at all. For the years leading up to our first trip, I made sure we watched every Disney movie in the theatres, owned every old movie on DVD, and decorated our tree with Disney ornaments. I listened to (and still do) Disney music on my iPod and read Disney story collections to the kids at bedtime. I shopped at the Disney store and made sure the kids had every Disney stuffed animal. But really, Disney is a state of mind. The best way to keep the Magic of Disney in your Heart: turn off the TV news FOREVER, turn on old Disney movies on your DVD, and remember: All it takes is faith, trust, and a little bit of Pixie Dust! Remember to Count your Blessings, everyone and have a Magical Day! For more of the LoBiondo Family Adventures at Disney World,