Saturday, June 29, 2013

Why We WON'T be Going to Disney Anytime Soon

When you've got two little girls who love Disney Jr, Princesses, Fairies, and Disney movies as much as mine do, the inevitable question is,

So, when do you think you'll take them to Disney World?

I've had several friends on my online moms group already take their not-quite-three year olds to Disney, with great results. They planned it out, and the kids did really well.


But I've also heard many, many tales of Disney disasters. Those parents planned it out too, but got not so great results. Overwhelmed, overstimulated, overtired and undernapped kids, waiting in long lines and melting down. There are some funny stories where parents have been overheard telling their kids to stop crying and start having fun NOW dammit!

When a vacation requires a good deal of time and money, you want to make sure it's "worth it". Yeah, no matter what, it'll make for a fun story to tell in ten years, and horror stories are memorable, but you certainly don't have fun living the horror story.

Adam and I decided long ago that the absolute soonest we'd make the trip to Florida would be in the fall of 2016 - when Reagan is four and a half and Madison is six. Both potty trained, both who would be done napping, both who may be able to handle a change in routine. 

Every once in a while though, I see a friend's pictures, or hear a story, or see Madison lust after something she sees on Disney Jr., and I think, well, maybe they could handle it sooner.

Then I get snapped back to reality.

Even though we're not planning a Disney trip, we have been considering a theme park about 20 minutes away from us - one with a water park. They've got a big toddler area, no air travel required, and it could be a good day of family fun.

Well, since any theme park basically requires triple digit ticket dollars for a family of four (even when two of those tickets are for toddlers), plus food, plus parking, you have to make the judgment call of whether or not it will be worth it.  We got an absolute bargain at the aquarium - 2 discounted adult tickets and two free kids under three and it still cost us over $50 - not including food. Because the girls loved it, we considered that money well spent for a family day trip.  But would an amusement park be worth it?

Last night, we did a test. There is a semi-run down tiny amusement park near where Adam grew up that does individual ride tickets as well as all day passes. Translation: you can get in the door (or through the gate) for free, pay only for what you do, and get an idea of what your kids can handle. Last night was even better - fifty cent Fridays after 5:00.

It does look like an amusement park that sort of peaked in the 1950s. They've upgraded their water area, but other than that, it is exactly how I remember it when I was about ten years old, and it was outdated then.

Still, you can't ride for fifty cents at most carnivals, so we figured this was a great deal and a decent place to see what the situation would be. Because it had just stormed in the afternoon, the park wasn't crowded, and we didn't have a single line to contend with. We got there right at 5:00, ate dinner, and figured we had until about 7:00. Perfect test run.

Test Status: FAIL

To be fair, Madison hadn't napped, and perhaps taking her into a brand new situation when she was tired wasn't entirely fair, but any trip breaks routine, so I say it still counts.

Madison went on three rides: all with me (she picked the first, which was the kiddie coaster. We all went on the second, which was the carousel, and the third was the teacups, which she was initially agreeable to). She screamed through every moment - from walking on to walking off.  That includes the carousel, which Reagan rode on happily with me. Choking, sobbing, screams of protest.

Note: as she was walking down the steps of all three rides once the torture was over, she referred to them as 1) great 2) awesome and 3) really fun. That's why we didn't stop after the first ride. Or the second. By the third we were over it.

She also threw an absolute fit and refused to the ride the train. You know, the train that families with babies ride on? That makes a loop around the park? Yeah, that one. Refused. I took Reagan on that while she pouted in Reagan's stroller with Adam.

Oh, and looked at the little toddler area, where the kids go on alone and the cars and planes and boats just go in a slow circle, and started backing into the benches in a panic.

She did like the walking around part, but she didn't want to hold anyone's hand, and tried to dart away several times, then, when realized she was trapped, she started using that special toddler passive resistance where they dangle from your hand and refuse to move forward because they are a big girl and don't need to hold hands.

All in all, doesn't sound great, does it? Adam and I were exhausted from fending off new fits and calming the ones we couldn't stop.

No, we won't be spending money on full day passes for a big theme park. And we'll be visiting the happiest place on Earth in about 10 years when these two hours are a distant memory. Forget Disney. We would have been the crankiest family there, hissing at her to stop crying and start having fun dammit, because we paid a BUTT TON of money to be here and we are making HAPPY MEMORIES.

We left this park at 7:00. I all but dragged her to the car while she screamed and cried about God only knows what at that point. Reagan was past her bedtime as well and was in the we better either being doing something where I can run or in a place where I can sleep because anything else is going to make me cry stage of the evening. My sister and I did a quick exchange of stuff while I buckled Reagan in, Adam buckled Madison in, and we all heard Madison say,

That carnival was so much fun. Thanks for bringing me guys. Can we come back another day?

Ok, maybe my resolve on Disney isn't wavering. But she just might convince me to try this place again.

Don't worry, you'll hear us coming.
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