Oh look, it’s a new year. Did you miss me, dear readers? I sure missed you.
I said I was going on vacation in my last post of 2022 and I meant it. We’ve been trying to do family vacations since 2019 around the holidays when Dr. S and her sister swindled their parents into taking everyone to Hawaii after Christmas.
Then 2020 and COVID happened. It put a lot into perspective for my wife and I. We resolved to start alternating holidays with our parents because the time they get with the grandkids isn’t exactly extending, and we’re determined to maximize the minutes each gets with our children.
When my in-laws proposed going to St. Lucia after Christmas, Dr. S and I both said no. Beach vacations may be relaxing to some. When you’ve got a 7 year old who’s shy of his own shadow and a 9 year old who loves the ocean so much she doesn’t grasp the concept of undertow it’s not exactly all it’s cracked up to be. Plus it meant updating our passports and getting ones for the kids, which we didn’t have time to do.
So I picked up the phone and called my folks.
“Mom, Dad,” the call began, “How does Christmas at Disney sound to you?”
And so the plan was set for the biggest vacation we’d done as a family: Christmas at Disney World in Florida.
I’m not going to go into detail over every step of the trip, because that would rival the Year In Review for the size of the post. Rather, I’m going to share with you certain observations and tips I picked up during our experience. Here at the Friday Funny we do strive to inform on a few occasions while we entertain, and today’s one of those days.
Let’s get to it!
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY THROUGH THE NOSE FOR
Disney at the holidays is very, very pricey. They know they can charge an arm and a leg and force parents to take out a second mortgage because it’s Disney World at Christmas and what kid doesn’t want to spend winter break dancing their way through the Magic Kingdom?
For what you’ll pay it’s an incredible experience. No one, and I mean no one, does Christmas like Disney. All the rides and shows were updated for the holidays with Christmas themed stuff save for a few select options. Even the dome housing Spaceship Earth at Epcot is lit up at night with lights synchronized to Christmas music piped into the park.
And the quality of the experience definitely equates to what you pay for. My sister was intent on going to the Droid Depot at Galaxy’s Edge and the makers there were basically standoffish and cold to all the confused parents and kids trying to figure out what parts to select for their droids. When Dr. S. and I took the kids to Savi’s workshop at Galaxy’s Edge for lightsaber builds we were attended to by one person who looked over our creations and tested them for safety before the blades finally ignited.
THERE’S AN AGE LIMIT FOR KIDS AND IT’S 7-9 YEARS OLD
We really got lucky taking the kids to Disney at their ages. My two kids at seven and nine were absolutely enthralled by the whole experience and loved every second of every ride and show we could experience. My sister, on the other hand, was more interested in finding every shop in each park she could blow money on.
If you do Disney, take the kids when they’re young. I’m not saying older kids won’t enjoy the parks, but I do think there’s a time when some of the wonder might get lost on children as they age.
EPCOT IS BETTER WHEN YOU’RE A PARENT
Epcot was the one park out of all I was least interested in save for their brand new Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster. On a previous trip as a kid I remembered it for the World Showcase and Spaceship Earth. That was pretty much it.
Fortunately Disney’s put in lots more kid friendly experiences since I last was there, including an aquarium where kids can talk to Crash the Sea Turtle from the Finding Nemo movies. Getting to see the sights through my children’s eyes was really a kind of unique Disney magic I never expected to experience.
Speaking of Epcot and kids, when we visited the World Showcase we got clued into this thing called KidCot by one parent. It’s a free “scavenger hunt” with a stop located in each area where kids get a postcard and sticker from that part of the world. At the last stop your kids get special “World Traveler” stickers for their effort. I was especially grateful when the last stop (Canada for us) just took us at our word because I’d walked 9 miles by that point and I would’ve murdered someone if they asked to see every postcard.
THE LIGHTNING LANES ARE YOUR FRIEND
Disney has two lines now. One is called the Standby line where you’re expected to wait before you get on a ride or see a show. The other line is called the “lightning lane” and it allows you to skip a large portion of the wait, if not bypass it entirely.
It’s different depending on what options you select, but highly worth it. For us, we had to select a time on the Disney Experience App that we wanted to use our Lighting Lane pass for. Then we went and did other stuff until our time was called, went back and entered the lighting lane.
Enjoy your brief sense of smug self-importance as you stroll past large crowds of people to the attraction of your choosing. It’s almost like having a blue checkmark on Twitter.
Speaking of Apps, let’s move on to
EVERYONE IS ON THEIR DAMN PHONES ALL DAY
It’s 2023. What did you honestly expect? At least the My Disney Experience app you’re basically required to download for your trip is useful. It’ll let you mark the location of your car in the parking lot, pay for and get food quicker, and tell you roughly how long each standby line is.
If you really want to go hog wild there’s the “Play Disney Parks” app that allows you to do things like translate alien languages at Galaxy’s Edge or have your kid play with Slinky Dog while you wait on the roller coaster bearing his name.
With heavy phone usage comes immense battery drain. Fortunately Disney’s ready to sell you pricey “Fuel Rods” that will power your device throughout the day and can be recharged at several outlets throughout the park. These are a serious waste of money. Buy an external battery (or two) before you go and save some money.
TAKE NO METAL WITH YOU INTO THE PARKS
I’m serious about this one. Even the slightest bit of metal on your person will get you smiling on your way to extra security, where you’ll be wanded and your bag searched for your efforts. This can take an extra ten to twenty minutes according to my wife, who had to put up with this four out of the five days we spent at the parks and Disney Springs.
You’ll get dinged for the metal in your glasses case. Carry change? You’ll get dinged for that too. The night before our final day I even took the metal money clip out of my wallet and that was the one day your humble travel guide didn’t get passed off to security.
YOU’RE PROBABLY NOT GOING TO SEE EVERYTHING SO ACCEPT IT
We tried, but the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are all ridiculously huge tracts of land with countless things to see and do. Among the things we didn’t get to do included Peter Pan, the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Tower of Terror, Epcot’s Test Track and Expedition Everest.
That’s okay. You’re at Disney. You’re still going to have a ridiculously good time even if you don’t see every show or ride every ride. Just smile and go with it.
PED: PLAN, EXECUTE, DISNEY
That three letter acronym was our rallying call for the whole of the trip and it’ll serve you well if you try it. Make a plan of what you’re going to do that day before you get to the parks. This will help with scheduling around your Fastpass/Lightning Lane reservations. Execute that plan when you get to your destination, and finally enjoy all that Disney has to offer.
ANIMAL KINGDOM IS COOL, CROWDED AND THE SMALLEST OF THE PARKS
You’re going to do Animal Kingdom? Great. Enjoy the safari, because it’s probably the best thing you’ll do all day. Make sure you’ve got room for the photos you’re going to take.
And with the smaller park space comes huge crowds. There were times it did feel like we were in a crowded market in Africa because of the sheer number of people milling about.
Sure there’s some interesting rides and shows, and you’ll get to see all kinds of animals in Disney’s version of a zoo, but that’s what it comes down to: Disney saw a zoo and said “hold my beer.” There’s better options out there that are more cost effective when it comes to zoos, so I don’t know if I would go back to Animal Kingdom again.
GO FLY THE MILLENNIUM FALCON IN GALAXY’S EDGE
“Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run” sees you and five other people attempt to pilot the Millennium Falcon through a First Order blockade in an attempt to stea—I mean legally separate cargo from bad guys that you’ll sell later for money.
It’s a super immersive experience. Two of you will pilot, two are gunners, and two are engineers. All of you have to work together to successfully complete the mission.
We did pretty good because the young lady who rode as our sixth person told us she’d been on the ride four times and we were the first flight crew she’d seen that didn’t crash and lose the mission completely. Given my nine year old daughter and I were the pilots one wonders what that says about the fate of humanity as a whole.
Screw it. I flew the Millennium Falcon, and as a kid who cut his teeth on Star Wars that’s a memory I’ll never forget.
That’s all for this week, folks! Happy Friday, here’s to a great 2023, and no matter what happened this week to you at least a Florida rat doesn’t own one of your kidneys!
We’ll see you next week, everybody!