In less than a week, we’re taking my almost-five-year-old to Disney World, and I’m having very mixed feelings about it.
First, let me say this was totally my idea. One hundred percent. About a year ago, I thought how cool it would be to take her to Disney for her fifth birthday — right at that sweet spot where she knows most of the princess stories, would recognize the characters, but would still find everything absolutely magical. My in-laws have a winter home in Florida, and I thought it would be a great way to visit them and do something special.
The plans have been in the works for almost that long. We researched hotels and packages, compared rates, booked flights, etc. It’s all ready to go.
I have never been to Disney World. I visited Disney Land for the first time at the age of 22, after the most disappointing day of my life, when I felt like all my hopes and dreams were going to hell in a handbasket. My husband-then-boyfriend and I were in California to look at apartments and for me to do the last round of interviews for a prestigious internship in Hollywood with the Director’s Guild of America, and that night, as we drove down Highway 1 watching the sunset, I got the call that I had been cut and would not get the internship.
My world came crashing down. I had no plan B. And when we woke up the next morning, my sweet boyfriend, (unsure what to do with the crying blubbering mess I had become) announced, “We’re going to Disney Land!”
So my impressions of Disney are a bit skewed. But the one thing I do remember with a happy heart were the expressions on all the tiny faces around me. For them, it absolutely was the happiest place on Earth.
And I want to give that to my daughter.
But I’m also feeling very ambivalent about the whole thing.
Last night, I spent several hours on the computer finalizing our Fast Pass reservations and our dining reservations, I felt this overall feeling of stress and disappointment.
Let me just say: I didn’t realize that when they say reservations open for fast passes and dining 180 days in advance, they really mean, you need to get on this website and make them 180 days in advance. It must be like the rush to get concert tickets for the hottest show in town.
I started making reservations more than a month ago — about 45 days before our trip, so don’t think I’m some sort of devil-may-care lazabout — and everything was gone. Fast Passes to meet Anna and Elsa? Hahahahaha. Nope. Reservations for Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Palace dining with the princesses? FUGETTABOUTIT.
It seemed like every time I read about a neat or interesting restaurant or event, it was already booked.
Beyond that, every time I discovered some cool gem of a thing to do, a memory to make, I was bowled over by the prices. My sister told me about a salon where they will do D up like a princess! Starting at $60. Oh, and the appointments are all booked up. Boat trip to see the fireworks from the lagoon? More than $300 for a family of 3. The Hoot-n-Holler (or whatever it’s called) dinner show? Booked that for $60 per person. Even the tour of the greenhouses and fisheries at Epcot costs extra.
In fact, it struck me last night as I was finalizing reservations, planning itineraries, etc., that planning this vacation felt nearly as complicated as planning my wedding!
And then it struck me that it’s also going to end up costing almost as much as my wedding.
After I shut down the computer, I tossed and turned in bed for a while, wrecked with a weird sort of middle-class, first-world-problems guilt.
What am I doing to my child, giving her this lavish vacation as a birthday present?
My sister and I never got to go to Disney as children, and we turned out fine. More than fine.
How do I feel about promoting and propogating “princess” culture that I feel pretty dang conflicted about anyway?
Wouldn’t this money be put to better use? Hell, wouldn’t it be better to put these thousands of dollars into her college fund and throw her a princess party here at home?
All moot, because the reservations are made, the tickets are booked, the plane leaves in T-minus six days. This morning I’m looking up lemon eucalyptus oil bug sprays to ward off Zika and making packing lists in my notebook.
We will go. We will have an amazing time. My sweet baby will not know that mama screwed up and couldn’t get Fast Passes to meet Elsa or reservations to dine with Cinderella. We’ll eat junk food and stay up late to watch the fireworks and parade (for which we also did not get Fast Passes) and I’ll take way too many pictures, and when we get home, I’ll put them all in a book for her and hopefully she’ll remember her fifth birthday.
When she got to go to the happiest place on Earth.