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Slice of Life 2: Dreaming of Disney

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).

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From our last trip to Disney in 2012.

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.


slice of lifeThis 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.

12 Comments

  1. Pingback: Slice of Life 2: Dreaming of Disney | Slices of Life

  2. Ahh, control! So that’s why I have 27 VRBO tabs and 12 KAYAK flights tabs open! I have to admit to loving planning travel, too – and I am all about seeking out and analyzing the options, for sure! It sounds like you are in for one fabulous trip in May!

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  3. For me, it’s the joy of having something to look forward to that I love about planning trips. Sometimes just that speck of joy on the horizon is enough to get me through a lot of long days and nights. Happy Disney planning!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m with you on the travel planning…although my recent travels have been planned by friends that I’m visiting! But I hope everything goes smoothly!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this, Tricia. I haven’t been to Disney in ages, and I had no idea one could even book a reservation for a restaurant in Disney online! I like spreadsheets, but I have to say I’m a fan of your post-it note cubby (think Denver) planning too. That mind of yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jeni Lannen

    I would love to see your spreadsheet and the plans. It sounds amazing. Have a great trip.

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  7. I love going on vacations, too. I’m a wanderer at heart. But I grew up in Orlando, near Disney, and have a whole different perspective of the place. My dad calls Mickey Mouse, “That Rat”. Haha

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  8. I’ve seen vacation spreadsheets like yours, Tricia, and I’m in awe. My nature is be a fairly spontaneous traveler, but I’ve had to adopt some of your planning habits — mostly so my kids wouldn’t end up sleeping in a flophouse on our cross-country treks. I’ve also discovered that though I like the freedom to take unexpected detours, there is calm — and even fun (as you say) — in making many of the decisions ahead of time. As you mentioned, it has let me revel in the moment and soak up some pretty unbelievable places — as opposed to scrambling for lunch when my kids are plunging into low-blood-sugar hell. It’s like that old Yankee saying: “Wood heats twice” (once when you’re cutting/stacking, and once when you’re burning it). You experience some of the joy of your trip as you plan and prepare, and then again as you live it. Have fun on those Disney mountains this spring!

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  9. principalkatie

    I actually decided this year that the BEST part of summer vacation is looking forward to it and planning for it. I now have a map of the pacific northwest and california on my bedroom door with printouts from hotels and state parks taped up alongside locations. It’s my planning tool, but it’s also my calming tool… and my seeing beyond today tool.

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