I was about 10 years old when my family first went to Disneyland and I remember it being a huge deal. I wanted to give that same sense of excitement to my girls, to make their first time at Disneyland really special. Mike and I devised a plan: we told the girls I was going on a business trip and they were just dropping me off at the airport (nothing out of the ordinary). Then, at the last minute, sitting in the airport, we broke the news. We were going to Disneyland!
Our cover story was so well-rehearsed (I had so much luggage with me because I had extra samples to ship; Grandma came to the airport so Daddy could take her to a nearby plant nursery after dropping me off; I had to show their passports to that man because they have to keep track of who is at the airport) that it took a minute or two to properly sink in. Michaela (my youngest) had cried the whole way there because she doesn’t like it when I go away and now here we were, minutes away from going on our first big family vacation. I was so happy that we had managed to pull off such an elaborate surprise. I felt like the best mom in the world!
The last time I went to Disneyland was with my parents, and my older sister and her family. My dad was already pretty ill (he passed away in 2007) so the memories are bittersweet. This trip gave us the opportunity to create some new Disney memories with my mom. The girls loved sharing the trip with their grandma and it was nice to have another adult around as another set of eyes and an extra pair of hands!
My favourite part of the trip was Cars Land because the main attraction – Radiator Springs Racers – is set up like a slot car race. My dad used to race slot cars and I know he would have loved the 50’s feel. We finally managed to get a Fastpass on our last day but when we showed up for the ride, it was shut down. I was so disappointed. We went for dinner and then decided to try our luck one last time. We were happy to find that the ride had re-opened while we had been gone and we were able to enjoy a “race.” It was nice to feel that closeness to my dad while enjoying the ride with my girls.
The low point of our trip came in Tomorrowland. My youngest was tired and cranky; the long days and excitement had taken their toll on her and we’d been dealing with tantrums and whining all afternoon. The long days had affected me as well; finally I snapped and spanked her bottom. I felt like the worse mom in the world. Now, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve spanked my kids; it’s just not something that Mike or I use to parent. I instantly felt like I’d turned from *good* mommy into *bad* mommy in that one moment of exhaustion and frustration. I felt incredibly guilty for losing my temper.Days later, when we were back home, I sat down with Michaela to talk about what had happened. I was surprised when she said that she didn’t remember me spanking her! In her mind it was like it had never happened but there I was, punishing myself by reliving the moment over and over in my mind. It also drove home just how exhausted she truly was.
In retrospect, the four-day pass may have been a bit much to push into five days but we (meaning me) wanted to get the most out of our time. I was so excited to share all of my past Disney experiences with my girls that I found myself pushing us from one attraction to the next (it’s difficult not to get caught up in the excitement!). If there’s one thing I learned from our trip it’s that you don’t have to see everything, especially since the girls would have had no idea what they were missing.
If I could back and do things differently, I would have stayed for at least a week – having a few relaxing days to just hang out at the hotel pool or go shopping would have provided some much needed rejuvenation and could have prevented the meltdowns. Our days were long (on average we were gone from the hotel for twelve-hour stretches) and that’s hard on kids (my girls were 8 and almost 6 when we went and still sleep 11 and 12 hours respectively). Another thing I would change is staying closer to the park. We booked last minute (and got a great deal!) but that meant we didn’t have much choice when it came to our accommodations. Our hotel was about a 30 minute walk from the park and at the end of a long day that 30 minutes felt like 30 hours. The main thing I would do differently, though, is try to be less Type-A and just relax and enjoy the moment instead of trying to push to see everything.
On the flip side, one of the areas where I feel we were successful was with our meal budget. Our hotel room had a fridge so we stocked up on items like yogurt, bread, cereal and fruit, and ate breakfast in our room every morning. We packed lunches and snacks so that we didn’t have to stand in line at the busy park restaurants or pay their exorbitant prices. I don’t know that bringing your own food into the park is encouraged but we were never stopped or told we couldn’t when they checked our bags. We ate our dinners at one of the many restaurants across the street from the main entrance. It was nice to have a break from the hustle and bustle of the park and a lot of the restaurants offer free meals for kids under the age of twelve. We were able to stick to a fairly manageable food budget and we will definitely do the same on any future trips.
I’m so happy that Mike and I were able to surprise our girls and I love that we have started our own family Disney memories. I can’t wait to go back in a few years!
Have you ever had a similar good mom/bad mom moment during your family vacation? Do you have any Disney tips to share?