I am not a person with a lot of time. But in the chaos of my life, I’ve managed to find time to plan—and overplan—our upcoming Disney vacation this summer.
I have mixed feelings about Disney. As a company, Disney seems to have its hands in everything these days, especially now that it has the Marvel and Star Wars franchises. I’m well aware of how the marketing geniuses in Anaheim, Burbank, and Orlando have conspired to infiltrate my life in any number of nefarious ways. I’ve seen nearly every Disney and Pixar movie, and I will openly admit to listening to the Moana soundtrack as I shuttle the boys around in my minivan (I mean, if Lin Manuel-Miranda’s involved, it’s got to be okay, right? And as a fellow island person, and despite criticisms of misrepresentation, I was surprised by how powerful it was to see a heroine like Moana on screen and to watch that heroine with my boys).
Our first and only trip to Disney as a family was in 2012. The boys were 7, 5, and almost 2. Only our oldest remembers that trip with any kind of clarity, but his brothers, even the youngest, remember that they enjoyed it. We weren’t planning to go for another year or so, but after my mom gave us Disney travel gift cards for Christmas, it was hard to pass up the opportunity to go sooner rather than later.
So somewhere in the constant state of busyness that defines my life these days, I steal time—minutes-that-turn-into-hours researching everything Disney World-related. I’m a planner, an asset in teaching and vacationing. I mean, we’re talking spreadsheets. I know some people might not think that Excel spreadsheets and summer vacation mix very well, but then again, they haven’t seen my spreadsheets. 🙂
I once had a student who liked to plan trips in her spare time. It was a hobby and the subject of an essay she wrote. She would sit in the library, and when she needed a break from her history notes or her chem homework, she would open up her favorite travel websites and start planning her dream vacation. She had no concrete plans to follow through on her trips, but she said that the act of planning—of browsing hotels, reading tourist blogs, and even checking out flight costs—helped her relax. She didn’t mind that she wasn’t going anywhere; dreaming about it was enough. And she learned a lot in the process; it’s thanks to her that I happen to know that Tuesdays are the least expensive day to fly.
As for me, I’ve done it all. Like I said, we’re talking spreadsheets. As I looked at hotels, I’m both proud and ashamed of the cost-benefit analysis I did to determine if staying onsite or off was the better option. After narrowing down Disney onsite properties, I read reviews on forums and travel sites. I took advice from well-informed, more-experienced Disney travelers like DisneyMomGuru and Belle1023. I can tell you which hotels offer what types of transportation, how many restaurants they have, which rooms are closest to the bus stops, and what various bed and room arrangements are available. I subscribed to TouringPlans.com to analyze their crowd calendars and use historical data to determine the best day to visit each park. I’ve read and bookmarked countless “must eat” Disney food blogs, and when our 180 day window opened, I not only made reservations for every quick service and table service restaurant we liked, but also additional reservations “just in case” our schedule changed (because it’s important to have contingency plans). When May 20th arrives, I’ll be online making our FastPass Plus reservations, and now that the boys are older, that means reserving rides on all the Disney mountains: Space, Splash, and Big Thunder.
As overwhelming as it all sounds, I find it strangely relaxing. Calming. Even fun.
The way I see it, the more planning I do now, the less thinking I have to do when we’re actually on vacation. And the less thinking I have to do, the better. The worst part of a vacation is the moment you need to make a decision about where to eat or what to do next as you try to corral hot and tired children and no one has an opinion. This way, we make the decisions ahead of time and enjoy the parks on auto-pilot.
In another life, I’m pretty sure I’m a travel agent.
All this said, if I’m really being honest, I think the real reason for my Disney-planning-obsession is that it’s a distraction—a welcome escape from the stress of work and teaching. And most of all, planning for a trip like this is something that I can control. There’s a lot I can’t control—my kids, this weather, the creeping gray hairs—and teaching is often more improv than planning these days. But I find comfort in being able to log into My Disney Experience account and make a reservation for Friday, July 21 at 11:30 am for lunch at the Beauty and Beast Castle in Fantasyland. It’s a small thing, but it’s something.
Of course, as I watch the news these days, as I’m reminded of all that’s out there to worry and feel angry about, so much to fear—I think about what a privilege it even is to dream of Disney, to indulge in my spreadsheets. And then I reach for the phone and make my daily call to my senators.
It’s a small thing, but it’s something.
This post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.