Three of my favourite things
I have been incredibly lucky. Don’t get me wrong, at times I have also been incredibly unlucky, but the luck I refer to being good is that since 1999 I have been able to go on holiday to my favourite place more or less every year.
So in some respects, each year follows a similar pattern as the countdown does exactly that. Depending on how early we book, I mentally tick off certain landmarks of the year as they pass. If we booked nice and early, then this mean Christmas, Easter, and then as we get into summer, the passing of Rebecca and Emily’s respective birthdays in May and July tell me that we are getting close.
During a countdown that is usually months long, some weeks I don’t really think about our holiday. I know it is there, like a long term promise, don’t get me wrong, but other life stuff takes over, and I am swept along with it. The business of life doesn’t really impact this, as some other weeks I can do little else but think about our upcoming trip, even if I am rushed off my feet at work.
I suppose this is the main difference between “normal” holiday makers and those who see it as more than just two weeks away. A trip to Florida is pricey. You can’t get away from that, but to coin a phrase, it is the holiday that keeps on giving.
With the level of preparation and planning required over things like –
- Accommodation (often several different places each trip)
- Park Tickets – A million different combinations
- Dining Reservations
- Car Hire
and a host of other things, it can be, and some days is, a full time job.
Then upon returning to the UK, if you are so inclined (and I am) you can then continue to enjoy the holiday for weeks and months to come. This, for me, takes the form of writing my trip reports. This takes a while, and I usually don’t finish mine until late October.
Then, often the cycle starts again, as the next trip begins to cross my mind!
I know that many of you visiting my blog do so (very kindly) as you have read and hopefully enjoyed some of these trip reports. This means that all this will probably make sense to you. I do of course understand that there are those outside this “club” that simply don’t get it.
Holidays for those not of this mind set, can be a very simple affair, and they certainly would never dream of writing about it when they got back!! That’s OK. I am not in any way criticising anyone for this. I fully understand that I am not normal!
I have given up trying to explain to non believers what this is all about. Disney is only for young kids, it is a theme park (singular) like Alton Towers, and isn’t something that adults could enjoy for two weeks, with or without kids. I have heard this a million times. As I say, no point arguing. Besides, the more people who don’t get it, the shorter the queue for Soarin!! If someone calls the Florida version Disneyland then you know they don’t get it at all!!!!
Last week has been one of the weeks when I have been thinking about the next trip. Aside from stressing about the abysmal exchange rate, I have been fine tuning the plan, and browsing various web sites, trying to inject a little of the Disney magic into an unseasonably cold and windy UK week.
I am re-reading for about the four hundredth time a couple of the Disney books we have hanging around. This all helps.
But why? What is it that keeps drawing us back?
Well, if I could put my finger on that, I could sell it, and make a fortune. All I can do is perhaps try to express how the place makes you feel.
In my rational mind, I fully understand that Disney is very much a for profit organisation. I can see the business elements hidden behind the magic, even as I hand over my handful of dollars, which I know is probably inflated for the privilege of spending them on their hallowed turf, but I don’t mind at all.
And so it begins....
Disney is built on nostalgia, on the legacy of generations, and of course family. It is a haven from the madness of the real world, and a sanctuary for a family to escape to, and make some memories. The beauty of their business model is that we market to ourselves. For me, I was hooked early. I first went when I was ten, in 1980. We actually stayed in Miami, but drove up Orlando to spend two days at the Magic Kingdom, and the rest is history.
Now, WDW is a common language spoken by the extended family. I am by far the most addicted, but we’ve invested thirty years and unimaginable amounts of money in the place, and this means that every time we go back, we stumble across a memory, a half remembered episode of a previous trip that sparks a warm glow, or in some rare cases a shudder!! But the latter are very few and far between. Disney have somehow found a way, like childbirth, of having their guests forget about the time when they queued for Dumbo for two hours and had a one minute ride, or spent a day in a park when it was so busy you couldn’t see the pavement below your feet.
The special memories, and the place they hold in the hearts of my family are unique, emotive and unforgettable. I may be an extreme case, but I feel many things as I step onto Disney property –
A heck of a pull.
I don’t have a favourite park, but the essence of the experience for me is the Magic Kingdom. Every penny that a trip costs is paid back on the first morning stroll up Main Street. The castle seems to draw everyone up Main Street towards it like some sort of friendly tractor beam, using smells unique to this one place on earth, sights that are both familiar yet ever exciting, and perhaps this is the crux of the experience, friendly, engaging, welcoming and highly professional Cast Members.
If you read any of the many books on the market that talk about some of the behind the scenes elements to how all this works, you know that the level of detail, and the attention to it is a massive part in the chasm between WDW and UK theme parks. Every smell, note of music and each blade of grass is there for a reason, and is controlled to be exactly as they want it to be.
This is where the detractors can be heard to bemoan the manufactured sterile nature of the place. I can understand that point of view. To be honest though, I live fifty weeks of the year in the non manufactured, natural, uncontrolled environment, and frankly, most of the time it sucks. With that in mind, I can suspend belief and normality quite easily and allow myself to be swept along with the magic.
I also think that there are two (well, there are hundreds, but bear with me) main types of holiday to WDW. Both are wonderful, and can honestly be a once in a lifetime (every year!), but they are different. This is where my Disney snobbery raises its head, be warned.
The first type of holiday is the one most probably undertaken by everyone going for the first time. If you haven’t stumbled across one of the many Florida planning forums you will still have a great time, but perhaps only skim the surface of the place and I have known people return from this type of trip and be less than impressed. One family we know were a case in point.
I spent not an inconsiderable amount of time writing up a series of tips, recommendations and things to avoid, all of which they seemed to ignore. Their main priority seemed to be that the hotel had a bar!! Having holidayed in the Med for years, their holiday focussed on the pool and as much alcohol as they could imbibe. Wow, I do sound snobby here, but let me explain.
Ironically had they read my tips, they may well have discovered an angle to Disney that not many do. One of the multiple faces of Disney, in their unending ability to morph themselves into the exact experience you are after, is the night time entertainment at places like Jellyrolls or Pleasure Island at Downtown Disney (which was still open when they visited).
As I type this, Louise is in the kitchen pursuing her hobby of ironing, and whilst she does she has Meatloaf blaring out. Right now the song playing only means one thing to me, and that is Jellyrolls. Paradise by the Dashboard Light is not a song I was really aware or fond of earlier in my life, and Meatloaf is by no means a regular on my iPod, but having had a couple of fantastic nights at Jellyrolls, this song now takes me there, and I can almost smell and taste the place, right here on my sofa in Bolton.
Disney even make getting drunk slightly magical, and classy, and you don’t really see that advertised on the telly…but it’s there if you know where to look.
So this second type of holiday is the one that sees the extra bits of Florida, the slightly more hidden gems of WDW, and you only tend to find out about these from –
- Someone who has been there and discovered them
- Knowledgeable folks on the internet
- Guide books
For me it was a mix of all three, but I was pointed in the right direction by a colleague who had been a DVC member for years. He dropped the bombshell that you can wander around Disney resorts whether you are staying there or not. This opened my eyes, and the door to many hours of doing just that. With appetite whetted, my thirst was quenched with endless hours of internet use and book reading, and like most things, you only realise what you know when you try to explain it to someone else.
In the case of the family I gave the tips to, I wish I hadn’t bothered.
As my colleague often quotes now, using a Star Wars analogy, back then I was the young Jedi to his Obi Wan. I have since spent many metaphorical years in the swamps with Yoda and I am now the one telling him about new things, and old, which I have discovered, and we can easily spend too many hours in the office swapping stories and experiences from our trips.
The real trick that Disney, and of course the rest of Florida have up their sleeve is that there is still so much to discover that despite all my trips and research, I still don’t know what I don’t know yet, and if I went every year for the rest of my life (what do you mean if!!) I would still find new things every time.
I’m not really sure why I have felt the need to write this post. I think it is undoubtedly part of the countdown process, and a rock to cling to in the seemingly unending passage of days to the next trip. I still don’t feel that I have managed to explain any part of why I feel like I do, and that is eternally frustrating.
There we have it I suppose. If what Disney did was easy, then everyone would do it. For their attention to detail, unending pursuit of excellence, insistence on quality, and the undefinable essence of magic, I salute them, thank them, and ask them to put the kettle on, as we won’t be long now.
Till the next time…..