But how did I get to this point? How was I able to secure a job on a (mostly) Disney Parks-oriented blogging site? What life experiences have I achieved in order to attain this position?
Take a walk with me, will you?
I am a mere 3 years old. My parents decide it's high time that my family visit That Place Everyone Always Talks About - AKA Walt Disney World. And being the smart parents that they are, they ask my grandparents to come along to help with the kiddos. (My brother was 6 and my sister was 1.)
I didn't get too much out of this vacation (being that I was 3), but I do know one story that has been passed down from my mother and father. Since there were two children under the age of 4, we had two strollers. (And not those ginormous leisure-mobiles that they have nowadays. We had the strollers that were pretty much four plastic poles with wheels on the bottom and a piece of fabric for your rear and back that were always thisclose to folding shut...when we were still in it.) When my Mom and Dad had control, they were zipping around slower parents and children while on a mission to get to Dumbo ASAP.
A couple of times they handed the reigns over to my Nana, who didn't have a "hurry" gene in her DNA. Her idea of getting from place to place was as slow as the people in front of her.
Needless to say, Nana didn't get to take control of the strollers too often.
What I learned: Don't let slow-moving people slow you down. Do the stuff you want to do - then relax!
I am now a seven-year-old, and the idea of going to Disneyland makes me super excited. My mother is pregnant with my little brother, and this excursion to the Happiest Place on Earth is simply one of the stops on a gigantic multi-state, multi-week road trip that my family took many times and we still somehow never killed each other.
I didn't have too much with which to compare Disneyland, so I enjoyed myself. One picture I do have is my Dad, brother, and sister with Donald in Tomorrowland. I was convinced for a long time that this picture was taken in Walt Disney World, but as my Disney-Force was growing, I soon realized that we were posing in front of Star Tours, which was in Disneyland...but not in the Magic Kingdom.
What I learned: Each park is different. No matter what people may say, the Magic Kingdom is not Disneyland-East.
This was the Big Trip. We were staying at WDW for multiple days at the Fort Wilderness cabins and my Dad planned this trip for weeks before we went. I remember reading through the Birmbaum Guides: Walt Disney World 1995 and getting soooooo excited for the trip. That guide had tips for how to have the most fun at the parks, color pictures of the attractions, a guide to each ride, and cute cartoons around the sides of the pages! I was hooked!
The trip was fantastic. We saw "Spectromagic" and "Fantasmic!" I refused to ride Space Mountain because I thought it had a monster inside (turns out I was mixing up the Space Mountain and Matterhorn...from Disneyland), but did end up going on The Haunted Mansion - which I believe I closed my eyes for most of it.
But there was one day that I remember in particular. Even though my father had planned a lot of stuff (what park we'd go to, if we had a special meal, etc.) he didn't tell us when we would get to the parks. Usually we arrived mid-morning and still had a good time. But one day we got to the Magic Kingdom before the park opened! (*gasp!*) and were determined to be one of the first to ride Splash Mountain for the day. (It that time Splash Mountain was still a "new" attraction, opening the previous year.)
We got down Main Street and were being held by a rope and a Cast Member at the entrance to Adventureland. If I recall correctly, it was my Mom, sister (8), brother (13), and myself (10). There was a crowd at the rope with us, and I think my Mom told my brother to keep an eye on me, and she'd stick with my sis.
Anyway, this where the phrase "rope drop" comes from, because precisely at 9am, the Cast Member looked at us, said, "Please don't kill me," and dropped the rope. There was no bar you stayed behind as the Cast Member slowly walked you back to the attraction. No - it was every man for himself. And my brother and I were going to get on Splash Mountain first!
We sprinted to the attraction, and were one of the first boats to leave the station! It was only at that moment that I realized that there was a big drop at the end...uh-oh. (I survived. Barely.)
What I learned: Be at the Parks when they first open up. There will be minimal lines, and a greater chance of getting on the largest amount of rides in the shortest amount of time.
There was also the matter of my little bro (2). In all of our planning, we failed to realize that my little bro might get frightened of certain attractions, and the very first thing we did was go to Epcot '95 (for that is what it was called back then) and see Honey I Shrunk the Audience.
BIG mistake. BIG. HUGE.
He freaked out with the 3-D, the slithering snakes, and the giant lion head and promptly refused to go on any other attraction while we were there. I believe his quote was "I would like to go home now." We managed to get him on a few kid attractions, but not much else.
What I learned: Make sure to know the age ranges of attractions. Don't take a child to a 3-D movie.
I was in high school checking my e-mail if a message showed up from my father asking if I wanted to go to Walt Disney World again that summer. I believe this was my reply:
As you can see, my love for Walt Disney World hadn't changed in five years. The six of us took the long drive down and spent another week at the Fort Wilderness cabins and had the time of our lives! (Except for that one day...but enough about that.)
This was the time where I had my own camera and took as many pictures as I possibly could. I got some amazing shots of Cinderella's castle, Spaceship Earth, and the Tree of Life. My sister amazingly timed a picture of my mother and I on Dumbo as Cinderella's castle was behind us - I still don't know how she got that shot. And my big bro and I got to ride a Star Wars speederbike - one of my favorite pictures ever.
But there were many other Magical Moments during that trip. My little bro (7) and big bro (18) both got chosen for awesome Disney interactivity. Since my little bro was at "that age," he got selected to dance in the parade at the Magic Kingdom, plus he was brought out to dance during The Festival of the Lion King. He was cute doing it, as was expected.
It was my big bro that had the big moment. He got chosen to be an Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular actor, simply by waving his giant safari hat around so the emcee spotted him. He had done a lot of plays and musicals in high school, so he wasn't timid at all - he knew how to play the audience. 3000 people? No problem for him. I was so envious.
What I learned: Even if you don't get picked to do something while your family or friends do, enjoy it for them!
The Main Street Electrical Parade made its reappearance this year, and I remember absolutely falling in love with that parade. I had to get a postcard. I had to buy the soundtrack. I can now speak the entire opening in the proper rhythm. ("And electro-sythe-magnetic musical sounds...the Main Street Electrical Parade!")
What I learned: Get obsessed. It's okay!
Ten years later, I was on my own. I'd just completed my first year of teaching in the States, and to celebrate I decided to go to the World with one of my friends, who was just as Disney-obsessed as I was! I didn't have to ask my parents "Can we go back pleeeeeease?" I just decided to go!
We stayed at Pop Century, which was really all we needed, because we didn't hang out too much at the resorts anyway. We planned like a boss (to quote my students): what park, when we'd leave the hotel, where we'd eat lunch, what rides we'd go on, when we'd go back to the hotel for a break, when we would hop to another resort, which rides would get Fastpass, you get it.
This trip was probably the best trip I've ever had (including the ones after it) because we had total control. There were only two of us, and we'd done all the sorting out of what to do before the trip even started. We did Star Wars Weekends and got a shot of Jedi Mickey, Princess Minnie and R2-MK. We saw "Fantasmic!" and I cried because it was so awesome. We ate Dole Whips. We found the paint brush at Tom Sawyer's Island that gave us free Fastpasses. And we followed a Touring Plan (from the site mentioned above) and saw everything we wanted to see.
What I learned: Planning isn't bad. Planning helps you get the most out of your trip. DO IT.
Again? Yup! We got Annual Passes and made a Thanksgiving trip with a third friend. I loved this, because it meant I got to see all of the Parks in Christmas mode. I brought an MP3 recorder and used it to record all the special stories that were told at Epcot and say all my personal stories.
This was also the first trip where I spent a lot of time on my own. My friends were interested in drinking around Epcot, and each day they would get a couple of drinks in World Showcase. I had no interest in this, so I wandered around on my own and had no problem with it. I also arrived later than they did, which meant I got to do the big reveal of Cinderella's castle all done up in Christmas lights on my own. It didn't make it any less wonderful, in my opinion.
What I learned: Make sure to visit the Parks at different times of the year. They're always changing things!
This final trip of my Annual Pass was with yet another friend. We tried a few more sit down dining areas, including Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Via Napoli in Epcot. (Both were delicious!) We watched the Wishes fireworks from the Polynesian beach while eating Dole Whips. We went to Port Orleans - Riverside and caught Yee-Haw Bob's piano act. (It was hilarious!) And we did the Wishes dessert party - if I recall, we rolled back to the hotel.
This friend was different than my other two friends, and we were able to sample different things. But it also meant that some of the things I was used to doing were not going to be done this time.
What I learned: Always do some new stuff on every trip. Also: be mindful of your friend's wishes and preferences.
My final trip was a brief stop during my Spring Break visit to Clearwater and the Detroit Tigers' Spring Training games. I stayed at an off-resort hotel, only saw the Magic Kingdom, and was only there for 24 hours (evening, morning, and afternoon).
However, since I was by myself I had control of my schedule. I brought a video recorder with me, since I could stop and go with no one rushing me. I didn't follow a Touring Plan this time, and just wandered. I ate sushi at the top of the Contemporary resort, saw the Main Street Electrical Parade twice in one night, ate a chicken/spinach waffle wrap (surprisingly delicious!), and sat. Just sat. I'm very glad I did it, and wouldn't hesitate to do it again.
What I learned: If you've done Touring Plans for a few trips, don't hesitate to slow it down once in a while. Even if it means just sitting!
There is another trip in the works! I'm going soon so I can write more blog articles about relevant topics, and not just what I recall from trips in previous years. If all goes according to plan, I might even be going to a Halloween party! (Ninth Doctor costume, here I come!)
If you're curious, my TouringPlans.com blogs will be re-posted here a couple of days after they are posted on to the site. But please go to that site if you have any inkling of visiting a Disney Park, or just really enjoy that sort of thing. You never know what you might learn!