This was our third trip to Disney since having kids. Third. I have shame about this, Internet, and I need to hash it out.
See, TRULY cultured people do not like Disneyland. And even the people who DO like Disneyland wouldn't prefer it over, say, a national park, or a great American landmark, or a ski trip or a road trip. Not THREE TIMES.
And I think of my parents, who found jobs in Europe for the prime purpose of their kids getting to see Europe. And how they always ask if we're driving on our trip and then I say we're flying and then they say, "But you see so MUCH when you drive!" and I think "But... that's less time I have in Disneyland."
Many of my growing up memories are traveling memories, but it serves me well to remember that we didn't do our first big trip until I was nine and my youngest sister was five. (Five kids in five years, y'all. I was not quite five when my youngest sister was born. Shall we have a moment of silent respect for my parents?) I know we did smaller trips (they took my brother and me to Disneyland when we were 1 and 2!) but nothing big until I was nine and we road tripped to Dallas to visit my grandparents. I am positive my affinity for cities and utter dread of driving to Spokane was born on that trip, when on hour seventeen zillion of driving through a Southwestern desert I thought for sure we would run out of gas, die of thirst, and become bleached white bones for some archaeologist to find in the future.
Then the summer I turned 10 we moved to Sicily and every weekend after that I was sitting in the back of a van getting car sick on Italian streets, on our way to yet another ruin, another cathedral, another historical town. When we moved to the Air Force base on the remote Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic we got an extra free plane trip per year - the island was THAT small and mental illness-producing for adults - and we went to Spain for Christmas, London in the summer. I had an aunt and uncle in Germany and when we moved to northern Italy they took us skiing in Austria over Christmas break. I went to different countries on sports trips. We flew back to the states every summer to visit family, and we almost always made a point of spending a few days somewhere interesting on the East Coast. All of this to say that traveling was the NORM in my life for a long time and now the best place I can think of to share with my kids is a THEME PARK?
If I could take my family anywhere I wanted, for sure hands down no contest we would be on an airplane to Italy right this second. We would spend half our time eating and half our time wandering around beautiful cities. But plane tickets are nearly double what they were when I was in college. And there are five of us. And Phillip doesn't get three consecutive months of vacation. It seems... difficult.
Next up would be New York. Or Chicago. DC. Big cities with lots to see and do.
Then Hawaii. We loved Hawaii. We went there with kids! It was for a wedding, otherwise we probably would have deemed it too expensive. I never thought I was a laying-on-the-beach-all-day person until I went to Hawaii, but now I have seen the light. And it is beautiful and makes the water sparkle.
I hate camping. I don't especially like being outdoors, although I appreciate the outdoors as a backdrop to something else going on, like a concert or theater in the park, or something like that. All the mountain sports that my part of the world so enjoys are not really my thing. (Those Austrian ski lessons were totally wasted on me.) I APPRECIATE the Grand Canyon without being excited to go there. So my kids are sort of up against their mother's unfortunate distaste for scenery as the purpose.
And then there's Disneyland. After the second time Phillip was all, "Let's go to southern California and... DO SOMETHING ELSE." Which... yes. I am a fan of sunshine. I like the beach. A vacation rental in San Diego sounds great. But I felt SAD that he didn't want to go back to Disneyland. And that he thought Sea World or Legoland would be just as cool, because NO, THEY WOULD NOT. This time I floated Disney as something for Emma, because we loved seeing Disney through our other babies' eyes, and Emma is 2 and a half and therefore still free, and hey, maybe we could bring the in-laws along as a sort of MIL retirement celebration?!
Which is how we went again and I secretly got my wish: more Disney. Because I LOVE THAT PLACE. It is not cool. (Unless you are there. When you are THERE it is the HEIGHT of cool to be wearing one of those lanyards with the million pins and the special pass identifying you as a Frequent Disney Visitor. Oh, I was jealous.) But yeah, not really that cool. People want to spend all that money on something more meaningful or cultured or whatever, but I just want to walk down Main Street and hear the music and see the colors and the castle and the perfectly pruned trees and feel happy because it IS the happiest place on Earth, dammit.
But I realized something else this time. Phillip had a way better time, namely because the big kids were big enough (and willing) to go on the big rides. I refused to let them try the giant roller coaster in DCA, but everything else was pretty much on the thrill ride table. Several times I let them go on ahead while I stayed back for a repeat parade viewing with Emma, or even just walking around pointing out the Mickeys with Emma. I realized that I could go to Disneyland and not ride a single ride, but still feel like I got my money's worth. I love the parades. I love the constant live singing and dancing. I love the crazy water shows. We caught the last half of Fantasmic this time and HOLY COW THAT WAS AMAZING. I love how clean it is and how everyone at the park is trying to make sure you have a good time. I only encountered a few less-than-cheery employees, and that seemed to be a matter of catching them at the end of a long shift than anything else. I love how easy it is to take care of your kids' needs. I love that it's big, but not too big. I love the feel and mood of each "land". I love the fakeyness! I even love the crowds. Honestly. (I am someone who was sort of sad she didn't go to the Seahawks victory parade, not because I wanted to see the players but because I thought it would be so awesome to be in the middle of that ecstatic crowd.)
Anyway. I know it's as lame to be ashamed of my penchant for Disneyland as it is to HAVE a penchant for Disneyland. Own your uncoolness, etc! If it helps I am now planning (over a year in advance) a trip to Italy - we're planning (hoping) to tag along with my folks when they go back for a high school graduation next June. And Phillip and I are trying harder to get out more with the kids (despite the disaster that was Victoria). There's a way that Disney feels easy and known and a sure thing, in a way that even a trip to Hawaii doesn't. I don't think I feel AFRAID of going new places with the kids necessarily... I know that Phillip is often apprehensive about managing our family and I am apprehensive about his apprehensiveness. I think, actually, I just really like Disneyland.
I have specific thoughts about this trip. I thought I would write them here (tips and new things and such) but I ended up writing THIS instead (sorry) so if you are going soon and interested, email me. I'd be happy to bore you via email instead.
ETA: I feel compelled to add a quick acknowledgement of the fact that I am blessed beyond measure and not everyone gets to go to Disneyland and for God's sake shut up about not liking your Austrian ski lessons, POOR YOU. I will shut up. Apparently this post is mostly about how it sucks that *I* am not a teacher for American schools on military bases overseas and therefore cannot See The World for cheap, even though 1) I don't want to be a teacher, nor would I be any GOOD at teaching and 2) I don't even think we should HAVE those military bases anymore and 3) THANK YOU, MY PARENTS. Okay, NOW I am shutting up.