Friday, March 16, 2012

Real Men Wear Mickey Ears

For our honeymoon, 15 (!) years ago, I told my soon-to-be dearly beloved that I wanted to go to Disney World. I had never been, and wanted to experience it  "as a kid" before I went as a Mom.   I researched as much as I could, the internet hadn't boomed like it has now - gosh, that makes me sound like a dinosaur - and we had a BLAST!  We vowed to come back for our 10th anniversary with our kids. "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans."  That fits this vow.  Little did we know  medical intervention would be necessary to get pregnant with Big Princess, and how 7 years later on our 10th anniversary after being happily resolved to having one child, I would be very happily surprised and very close to delivering our Little Princess.

So.... our return trip was in the summer of 2009, with Princesses aged 2 and 9.  Yes, Summer.  July.  In Florida.  One of my best friends and her family went a couple of weeks before us, and promptly told us upon their return that they frequently stated how much my Dear Husband was going to hate it.  See, he hates: heat, crowds, people stopping in front of him to read maps, and lots of walking.  Hmm....  I was worried.

I had researched, and researched, and planned, and been consumed with this vacation. This last minute prophecy scared me silly.  Yet, my hubby earned his ears by the end of the trip. Not all "pure magic wrapped up in pixie dust" but some effort on everyone's behalf helped my dream become a reality.


1.  Do your research.
  I say this a lot.  I think my next Disney post will have to be how to research a trip.  For the short version - I had an Excel document that listed each day, the rides in the order we were going to ride them, where and when we were eating.  I had an extensive packing list.  I knew the hiding places, best times to visit each park, the best places for snacks, what to pack in our park bags, what to take for aching feet, how to hydrate.

2.  Find at least one restaurant you know he is going to love the food. 
 For my husband, and my princesses, this is O'hana at the Polynesian.  He would (and maybe has) made the return 12 hour drive to Florida just to eat here.

3. Involve him in planning, but only to the extent that he wishes.
You definitely need to work together on a few of the big picture details - like the budget, whether or not to do the dining plan if you are booking a package through Disney and staying on property.   Be sure to plan for the rides and attractions he wants to visit.  My husband's input for our for vacation was loosely based on his childhood trip to Disney World. (As hard as we tried, we didn't find the hat he lost at age 10.  Sorry, hon.  We'll keep looking!) 

One of the things that appealed the most to my husband was the fact that I planned it all for him.  Anyone else "argue" over what or where to eat, simply because neither of you wants to make a decision?  He was very content to follow my plan once we were there.  But he wanted to make sure he knew what it was!

Think about his personality - does he need to be in control, heavily involved,  or would he rather take a vacation from all the decisions he makes daily and just follow along? 

4.  Plan some down time. 
I crashed and burned on this aspect for our first family trip.  We didn't have enough down time, and he came home needing a vacation from our vacation.  As a teacher, I had time to recover.  He had to go back to work the next day.  The promise of more down time and a slower pace got us back the next year, and the next, and the next. 

5.  Communicate expectations
This goes along with the planning, to a certain extent.  If you are going in the summer, talk about your plans to beat the heat..  Talk about your parenting plans if you have kids - know in advance how you plan to handle the child who is tired, afraid of an attraction, etc.  Having that plan in mind will save a disagreement in the heat of an emotional moment.

Now that the thrill of that magical first trip is over, he gives a lot more input.  I listen. He's also quicker to say - "If I drive all night to get there, I'm going to need a nap on our arrival day."  I listen.  "I don't really need to do that this year."  We don't.  If we are walking out the resort door to the parks and he sees the pool and says "that would feel good this afternoon" we do it, instead of me saying "there is a pool at your parents' house when we get home."

6.  Get everyone excited for the trip
Granted, my husband said he felt like he was watching American Pie when I was planning our first trip.  Instead of "One time, at band camp" he came home every day to hear "Today, I found out"  Yeah, that's me! However, all the little secrets I shared made for a killer first trip, and he felt like part of the "in crowd" (as in, "in the know") We had movie nights, countdowns, watched YouTube videos of the rides, looked at the planning books together.  We made it special before we ever got there, because we were bonding over the trip!

Note:  I will admit that Disney is something you either get, or you don't.  Even if you do everything suggested, some Dads won't get it. (Reality check:  even if you are the chief planner and the most excited, you might not "get it") You have to respect that.  If he would rather visit one of Disney's great golf courses, stay in the resort  and watch television, sleep,  or swim, chances are his demeanor won't make things fun for anyone if you force it.

 If you, as a Mom, can handle the kids on your own, let it be.  If they are too young, or too many in number, for you to safely do that, you are going to have to compromise and work that out. See if he will play along for a while, and then spend the afternoon hanging out by the pool with the kids.  Disney can be done "less expensively" but it's still expensive.  We consider our vacations investments in our family, but not everyone feels the same way.  This is where you are going to have to do a lot of communication beforehand, you'll be able to tell what kind of trip it's going to be.


7.  Adopt the Disney mindset

For the week, or however long you are there, enjoying Disney takes a certain mindset.  I guess the best way to explain this is to give non-examples that I have heard on WDW vacations:
 "We paid a fortune for this trip, kid, you are not going to waste our time playing in this water."
  "You may NOT take off that princess dress, I don't care if you are hot, it was expensive."
 "You are too old to have your picture made with Peter Pan."
 "I don't care if you are scared, you are going to ride it without another word."
 "I paid good money to be here, and I'm not waiting in line.  Watch - we'll pass all these people."
 "What a waste of money, all the rides are lame."
 "Did every idiot in the world come here this week?"
 "I don't care if you've been waiting an hour to have this spot for fireworks, I'm going to stand in front of your daughter."

You have to be a kid, look over the jerks, be respectful of your family and others, and appreciate the immense attention to detail Disney puts in everything.  Take time to breathe on Main St., you'll smell the scent of cookies that they pipe out by the street, or in Soarin' and you'll smell the oranges when you fly over the orange grove.  Just. enjoy.

8.  If you have kids, focus on the kids.  Whatever your situation - live in the moment.
If your husband is like mine, he works too much and doesn't get to spend enough time with his children.  The kids will be loving (just about) every minute.  Make sure you love, and live, every moment, too.  I think my husband earned his ears when he really, really enjoyed the time with his princesses.  The looks on their faces when they met Mickey or the Princesses, or rode a "big ride" for the first time, or cried when waving goodbye to "our castle" made us realize how fleeting their childhood, and our time as a family all in one home, really is.

 If you take time to soak it in, everyone will be happy.  Whenever something worked out great, we recognized it.  It became a joke to say "pixie dust" every time a bus pulled up just as we got to the waiting area, we got in the short line at Pirates of the Caribbean, did everything we wanted to in Fantasyland in the first hour, had a short wait at a restaurant, got a great table or waiter, or just right place for fireworks.

We love Disney World, really. love. Disney World.  Many attractions and rides are MUST DO on EVERY trip.  And yet, some of the sweetest memories are those when we let the kids get soaked in the fire hydrant at Hollywood Studios, sat on a bench eating a snack and watching the castle change colors, tried to catch jumping water from the fountains in Epcot, talking to sweet Cast Members from all over the world, joining in the drum band in Animal Kingdom, taking a moment to say a prayer at the Animal Kingdom Wishing Tree, standing to the side and calling the phone booths in Epcot on our cell phones and talking to the people inside, trying on Viking hats in Norway, watching the performers in ALL the parks, saying the Pledge of Allegiance with the Fife and Drum Corps, waving to the characters in the Welcome Show and singing along, you get the idea.

9.  Be realistic and respectful
Chances are, many of you are reading this in preparation for a first or second family vacation.  You're beyond excited, have been making lots of plans. Abandon the thought that the plans will all go exactly as you have them in mind. As much as I advocate planning, I almost destroyed our first vacation.  I thought it was going to be a once in a lifetime trip and tried to "do it all" in a week.

My princesses will go and go and go and go, running on adrenaline,  until they crash head-on into a concrete wall with a concussion-causing boom.  We were up and out the door every morning by 7, and closed the parks many nights.  Dear Husband knew how important our trip was to me, and was sending clues that he was about to meet the wall with his forehead himself.  I very nearly missed them. When he asked one evening what the plans were for the next day,  I thought he was going to kiss the ground when I finally heard the exhaustion in his voice and asked "want to cancel breakfast in the morning and sleep in a bit instead?" 

In summary: watch him as closely for signs of a meltdown as you do your kids.  After all, it is a FAMILY vacation.

10.  Have some pretty great material to work with.
 My husband is really happiest when his princesses (and the Queen) are happy.  He knew how much our first trip meant to us, and was determined to help it be everything we had built it up to be.  He really is on his best behavior at WDW and holds his tongue well when people are being idiots or jerks around us (yes, they go to WDW, too). He has a collection of Mickey, Grumpy, and Donald shirts that he willingly dons on vacation.  He was the one that suggested we buy the girls the Cinderella Castle playset at the last minute.  And he was the one, that within a few hours of getting home, plugged in the photopass code, pulled up this picture of our girls waving goodbye to the castle with tears in his eyes.  Yep, he definitely earned his ears. 

I'm married to a Memory Maker, who knows there are only so many more mountains to climb together, or days before she finds her own Prince Charming.  It is a good life.


  1. this is a great post! I think a lot of people need to read this before going to WDW.

  2. Thanks Bex. I love my happy place, and I am always sad when others don't. I know some, no matter what, just won't get it. But I want to do everything in my power to share how to make it happen!

  3. This made me totally tear up! I'm anxiously awaiting our first trip to Disney next summer with our girls. My husband is choosing to share in my excitement but has never been to WDW. I will definitely show him this post. Thanks!