When I was younger, I always dreamed of visiting Disney World. I loved the movies, the characters, and the idea of being able to see it all in person. I never had the opportunity as a child because it was just too expensive, so my first visit was when I was 22 years old.
I graduated from college in May 2004. Sometime in March or April of that year, I decided that my boyfriend (now husband) and I should do something big to celebrate. We already knew that we didn’t want to attend the actual ceremony (Sitting around for hours with a bunch of strangers and not even having your own name called nor receiving any kind of actual diploma on the day? No, thank you.). I figured this would be the perfect time to take my dream vacation! He had been with his family when he was a kid, but he didn’t remember much. I looked up some information online, bought a couple of guide books, and ended up booking a hotel off-site (Springhill Suites, right outside of Downtown Disney). I assumed that staying on-site would be too expensive, and none of the Value resorts appealed to me. I bought us park tickets (5 days) at a AAA office and also grabbed some tickets for Universal since I had never been there either.
We drove down – left at night and drove straight through. We were terrified and I remember printing out a list of all of the exits along I-95 in advance so that we would know where it was “safe” to stop and where it wasn’t. The drive ended up being absolutely horrible. We were exhausted by the time we got to Orlando. I was dizzy and weak as we were checking into the hotel and I thought I might faint in the lobby. We ended up going to a nearby Friday’s for dinner and I think it was the worst meal of our lives. We were both just so tired and worn out that we could barely eat. We went back to the hotel and passed out immediately.
Other than that, we had a fabulous trip – so much so, that we knew that we HAD to go back again and stay on property next time. Thus began our Disney obsession. We have now been to Disney eight times – every year since 2004, except for 2011. We have stayed at Pop Century six of those times (once for two weeks for our wedding/honeymoon – so much for not liking any of the Value resorts), at Port Orleans Riverside once (totally not worth it), and we spent one night at the Polynesian in 2009 as an anniversary treat (I booked a standard concierge level room and we were upgraded to a huge two-bedroom suite with a Magic Kingdom view!).
Disney has become my happy place. A lot of people think that it’s only fun for kids (or parents of kids) and they don’t understand why two adults with no children would want to return year after year. I don’t know how to explain it, other than to say that it makes me happy. I know that when I’m there, I don’t have to worry about anything else and I can forget about the real world for a while. The cast members will go out of their way to be nice to guests and we’ve had lots of magical moments there.
When we announced to our families that we were going to get married there, I knew that my mom wasn’t thrilled. Not only was I not getting married in the Catholic Church, but she was never a huge Disney fan. She despised the princesses and the image that they portrayed, and she just didn’t care for Mickey (although she was always a huge Donald fan). Well, she ended up having a wonderful time – so much so that she and my dad asked if they could come with us when we went in 2009. We had a great time during that trip and planned to go again in 2011. Obviously that didn’t happen because she passed away in November 2010, and I decided that it would just be too hard to go without her in 2011. Instead, we spent a few days in the Outer Banks and a long weekend in DC.
This year was our five year anniversary and we have said for years that we would celebrate it in Disney. I have to admit that I was very anxious about it – now I have a lot of memories of not only my mom, but also my best friend, connected to Disney. I was worried that my happy place would be full of reminders and sadness. I was scared that it was ruined, but there was only one way to know for sure. We ended up spending nine nights there… Next post: all about Pop and where we’re staying on our next trip!