“This is the best day of my life!”

February 22, 2013 |  Category:   life travels












This is why you go to Disney World.


Sure, I mean we all had a good time, but when your kids go running down the street like giddy maniacs an hour after the plane touches down in Orlando yelling, “This is the BEST day of my entire life!!”, it makes the gazillion dollars that you spent on this vacation worth every penny. And I do mean that in all seriousness. We’ve never been on a vacation like this before as a family and I feel lucky that we were able to make it happen. I know not everyone can swing it – nothing about a trip to Disney World is cheap – but if you’ve been waffling about taking your kids, do it.

Just don’t make an intense roller coaster like “Everest” in the Animal Kingdom your very first ride in all of Disney World. Lord, what were we thinking?

But you know what happened…my competitive streak totally came out as I made strategic plans every morning on our course of action for each park. Of course, thousands of people had the same idea as well, which is to arrive a little before the gates opened first thing in the morning and make a beeline for the most popular ride. But as I’m speed walking and trying to steer my family through the crowds, all I’m thinking is, “hey, we’re from New York! We maneuver through pedestrian traffic ALL the time. This isn’t any different from Midtown or subway rush hour on any given day. This is normal for us, so step aside suckers and watch me move through this wall of people.”

Anyway…going back to Everest. I haven’t been on a roller coaster since I used to go to Great Adventure all the time during high school (so what is that, like 25 years ago?) and I pick Everest as our first Disney experience? It’s not that it was a super hilly or upside down twisty twirly track, but there is a fair amount of the ride that’s in complete darkness, including a portion of if going backwards with loud sound effects, and that’s the part that is scary because you are so disoriented you don’t know if you’re upside down or what. Honestly, I had no idea that the ride was going to be so intense, otherwise I wouldn’t consider letting a small 6 year old child get on (she was above the height requirements and there were plenty of other kids her age in line). All I kept thinking was, is Claudine bawling her eyes out? Is Mark going to throw up (he gets motion sickness easily)? I was sitting next to Mia who had her eyes shut tight the whole time, but I couldn’t see the other 2 behind me. Oh, and it was a frigid 39 degrees that morning in Orlando which experienced a weird, aberrant freeze the first day that we were there so the ride was extra frosty.

When we got off the roller coaster, Claudine stomped her feet and said, “I don’t ever want to go on that ride ever again!” She was clearly pissed. It’s funny though, because she was the one who insisted on going on the Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios on our last day when everyone else was ambivalent and tired of being tossed around. I convinced her that it wasn’t a good idea because I knew she would be scared of the visuals. All throughout our 4 days at the various parks, she kept asking me, “is that real?” any time she saw an animatronic person or creature on one of the rides. By our last day she declared, “I’m not scared of anything or any ride because I know that everything is fake.”

Other random observations about Disney World:

The crowd control is remarkably impressive. I mean, you’re sometimes waiting 30-60 minutes in line to go on a 5-15 minute ride, but most times the lines keep moving and there are enough distractions and things to look at in the maze-like lines that snake through various rooms that it doesn’t really feel like 30-60 minutes. I know a little something about the crowd control and lines since I worked as an elf at Macys Santaland when I was in college, but this was still remarkable to me.

There is no good coffee in Disney World.
You know, you get used to how ubiquitous Starbucks is (not that we like the coffee at Starbucks, but at least you know what you’re getting), so you kind of expect to see one as you turn a corner, but at the Magic Kingdom in particular, coffee wasn’t exactly easy to find. The house brand or whatever they serve kind of tastes earthy, like dirt.

Everyone really is happy.
The cast members and all the people who work there are all extremely friendly and they stay in character all the time. The kids encountered one young worker by the name of John at 2 separate times while we were at the Animal Kingdom and he was the most animated and hilarious guy ever as he lead them through a scavenger hunt. It made me wonder how he could keep that up all day, every day. I mean you have to be sort of crazy to be that “on” all the time.

John told us that he couldn’t say certain words like “dead” while on the job. He even spelled it out for us instead of saying it because contractually he is not allowed to utter those words.

There are a lot of senior citizens employed in and around the park. If you think about it, it’s kind of the perfect place to work after the end of a career if you’re not ready to retire yet.

We did 4 marathon days (more on that in a later post), but I think we were only able to do that because the weather was mild. After the frosty first day at the Animal Kingdom (we were totally freezing for much of the day), the temperatures were in the mid 70s the rest of our stay there. Perfect, I’d say. Anything hotter and more humid and I don’t think I could have done it for as long as we did. The thought of standing in lines, sometimes in stuffy crowded rooms in 88+ degree temperatures in the summer makes me claustrophobic just thinking about it.

Speaking of marathons, it’s really important to choose comfort over fashion. Nobody is looking at you. Besides, half of the adults are in mouse ears and goofy hats anyway. I’m surprised that I held up as well as I did, but I was pretty much in pain the last 2 days and I was popping pain killers for my sciatica and sore back by the last day. Even now, 36 hours after our trip, I’m still recovering on the couch. I’m also experiencing some mild vertigo sensations, I’m assuming from all the rides and movement. It’s completely weird.

You have to just embrace the cheese. I know I can be a cynical New Yorker in my old age, but I can totally embrace the cheese (hey, I really like big budget, blockbuster action movies too – go figure). You’ll have a much better time.

More on the Magic Kingdom on Monday!

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  • Lara February 22, 2013 at 3:47 am

    I am so thoroughly in love with seeing Claudine and Mia BOTH smiling in that last picture. It must’ve been an amazing time to catch Mia in such a sincere smile. Great job capturing that, Jenna!

  • jennifer February 22, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Aw, this is the best. I’ll always remember my trip to disney world as a kid (the swiss family robinson treehouse — is that still there?). Glad you made it back okay. The girls look pretty damn happy!!

  • Jenna February 22, 2013 at 7:59 am

    @Jennifer It IS still there! We climbed it. Most of the rides that I remember from childhood are still there!

  • Jenna February 22, 2013 at 8:01 am

    @Lara Ha! It’s really hard to get a smile from both of them because they ham it up and give me these extreme, silly smiles most times.

  • Lind February 22, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Where did you stay? We are planning our first-ever vacation — also to Disney — but haven’t booked anything yet. Looks like your girls had a ball!

  • Jenna February 22, 2013 at 8:53 am

    @Lind – we stayed at the Walt Disney Dolphin which is on Disney property and walking distance to epcot, but not technically a disney resort so you don’t get the free magical express shuttle to the airport. You do get all the other benefits of a disney resort though.

  • hnahk February 22, 2013 at 9:02 am

    gahhhhhh this makes me REALLY excited for our trip in may! love the smiles on the girls and it sounds like you had loads of fun too! (sans recovery and all)

  • Carol February 22, 2013 at 9:07 am

    You made me lol with your New York sensibility. People who stop at the top of elevators and subway steps and walk out of stores straight into pedestrian traffic are imbeciles – get out of my way!
    I did not go on Everest, but the Tower was our favourite – we went twice. My kids were your kids’ ages when we went, and when i was taking pics of those flamingos I turned around and my eldest was GONE. And I didn’t even freak out. What is in the air at that place? It makes you so docile and happy.

  • Linda February 22, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Thanks for the tip, Jenna. We hope to make our arrangements early next week. (I am Linda, by the way! Blame it on iPad keyboard and my too-fast typing in first comment.) It’s overwheling…and not at all the DisneyWorld I went to as a child in the late ’70s. So many choices and decisions.

  • Jenna February 22, 2013 at 9:13 am

    @Linda -it’s totally overwhelming – did you see my post a few months ago about the planning? I’ll be posting more about magic kingdom on Monday! Stay tuned…

  • Jenna February 22, 2013 at 9:14 am

    @Carol – I think if we went to Hollywood Studios the first 2 days, we would have gone on the Tower of Terror. We even got Fast Passes for it, but at that point, on our last day, I think we were all overstimulated and tired.

  • Claudia M February 22, 2013 at 10:07 am

    This is so sweet. Glad it was such a great trip!

  • Linda February 22, 2013 at 10:14 am

    I do remember you writing that…and here I am, hoping to piggyback on and benefit from your research and experiences! I will look forward to your reflections on Monday. Thanks for doing this.

  • diamondkelt February 22, 2013 at 11:14 am

    I warned you that “everyone in God’s Kingdom” tries to get to the gates early and it’s not really worth it because you get packed into the mob and end up waiting. If you go around 11am instead you can get right thru the gate and right on to your favorite ride with barely standing still to wait in line. No kidding!

    Did you try the Fast Pass stuff? That also keeps you from having to shuffle :)

    And it is scary how happy happy everyone is lol

  • Kate February 22, 2013 at 11:17 am

    One of the only family vacations I really remember well was going to Disney World when I was 11. So I can see it being worth it as it was SO magical to me at the time. It’s funny because in all of the photos my cousins and I are holding stuffed animals like your girls, ha.

  • Jill February 22, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Aw, so glad you guys had a good time. Mia and Claudine look SO HAPPY. Does Claudine have Simba inside her sweater like a baby? Haha. Awesome.

    Also, lest it not slip my attention… you were one of Santa’s elves?! I love it. LOVE IT. Please say pictures of this exist.

  • Jenna February 22, 2013 at 11:42 am

    @diamondkelt Getting there early was actually a great strategy because we breezed through the lines first thing in the morning. It got super crowded starting at 11am actually so we had the opposite experience. This was consistent for all 4 days.

  • Jenna February 22, 2013 at 11:43 am

    @Kate the girls carried those stuffed animals the whole time, all day long!

  • Melissa@Julia's Bookbag February 22, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I have some good friends who were there the same time as you, funny! I’m so glad you guys had a great time.

    When my daughter was 4 and a half, we went to Disneyland in California. She wasn’t up to a lot of the scarier, darker rides. We’re going again next yr, this time she’ll be 8 and I’m thinking she’ll be up for everything. For some reason when we went last time, she wanted to ride the Matterhorn and we decided to do it and she said that same thing as Claudine, “I’m NEVER doing that again!” She was afraid of the Yeti, not the ride itself.

    you know what really stays with me about Disney? The smell. I actually love the smell. Some kind of sweet-rancid popcorn smell, I seriously love it. I wonder if Disneyworld has the same smell?? (we’ve never been there

  • Margaret February 22, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Looking at your photos brings back many happy holiday memories. I’ve been so lucky to have had two amazing trips there – staying at Fort Wilderness and Port Orleans – and would love to visit again. So pleased you enjoyed it and I think you’re so brave to go on the rides. I was the scaredy-cat who sat and waited whilst my partner and children got tossed about. But you know, just sitting and waiting and watching was enjoyable in itself. And yes, the cast members, so happy and engaging all the time. I really do think it’s the best place in the whole world!!

  • Rachel February 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    This makes me so nostalgic!!! The trips my family took to Disney World were so amazing and fun. I’m so glad you guys were able to go!

  • elaineG February 22, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Love the flamingo photos! For a quick glance I thought they were pink cotton candy! :)

  • Gia February 22, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Fab! Since you didn’t hate it, I’ll admit I love Disneyland! 😉

  • Jenna February 22, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    @Gia Haaaa, I knew I wouldn’t hate it. Like I said, I can totally embrace the cheese.

  • Kat February 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Looking forward to more Disney posts! We’re planning a trip for next year to celebrate my daughter’s and husband’s birthdays. What ride/event did everyone enjoy the most? Did you visit any other theme parks or was the visit all Disney?

  • Sherry February 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    I love that you refer to a six year old as “pissed off” because I can see it and have experienced a five year old that way. Glad the girls had fun and you got to experience that great feeling of happy kids after all the time and effort and money for such an adventure.

  • Jhope February 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    You getting through Disney happily makes me think I could survive it. :) I’m really glad you all had a good trip!

  • Nancy February 22, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Ah! This makes me so excited for our trip in April. We are only going for two days but I’ll be almost 6 months pregnant then, so we’ll see how I hold up! LOL Looking forward to the Magic Kingdom post. I haven’t been to Disney since I was 7 or 8, and I don’t really remember a lot of it.

  • Kelly February 22, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    I work at a Disney resort and have for almost 14 years now. We aren’t allowed to say dead??? LOL That’s the first I’ve heard of that. Sounds like John might be a little loopy. haha So glad you had a great time!!! I’m sure it’s worth it to see your kids smile and say things like “best day ever.” :) Come back soon!

  • Jenna February 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    @Kelly ha! We loved John. He was so animated. He worked at Animal Kingdom and lead kid activities so maybe it’s a specific rule for AK? It was in context of animals…

  • Kenny Engels February 22, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    You are making me rethink Disneyland/world! Of which I usually feel so anti-!

  • Jo February 23, 2013 at 7:58 am

    This post defines happiness to an extent.
    wishing u all many more happy rides along the journey of life

  • Susan February 23, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Thanks for the early am laugh Jenna, but also confirming that a trip to Disney World will be in our future when the twins are older, as much as I have resisted the thought, as you did at first. Knowing that you guys could handle the cheese and enjoyed it gives me confidence that we would!

  • Karen February 23, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Your girls look so happy in those photos that I couldn’t help but smile – and Claudine’s assertion that “it’s all fake” couldn’t be more true. My brother and his family used to live in Celebration – right outside Walt Disney land and planned by Walt Disney studios – it’s was so fake that it was creepy, right down to the fake snow that was sprayed every year at Christmas time. One thing that didn’t seem fake though was the cheeriness of the staff. I have a friend who has worked for Disney for years, including in the parks and on a Disney cruise, and she is happy like that all the time. It gets a little annoying – she is definitely not someone you want to snark with.

  • Jen February 24, 2013 at 12:37 am

    It is fun! It’s my hubby’s favorite vacation spot. Oh, and I kind of remember getting a decent cappucino at the Writer’s Stop in the Hollywood Studios park… :)

  • Annie From Seattle February 24, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    I LOVE IT! You cheesed out! You went all in! It’s the only way to go! So glad you had fun :)

  • krystal/village February 25, 2013 at 5:43 am

    i’m glad you had a fun time! disney world gives me anxiety problems…haha :)

  • RJ February 27, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Love this – I can’t wait to take my boy to Disney! The girls are looking lovely. x

  • marissa (stylebook) March 3, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    okay i love these disney posts! i just found your blog from another’s blogroll, on an nyc high after a recent visit, and this! i’m a south floridian with a disney annual pass and these made my sunday.