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Children / Family Travel / Humor / Single Parents

Disney World: The Magical Land of Forced Fun

I’ve seen many helpful blogs here in the Mile High Mamas about tips for getting the most out of your trip to Disney World. And I’m just going to be upfront about this right now: This is not one of them. But I’m betting that if you’re planning on making the trip any time this summer, it will be one that you think about while you’re there.

I just returned from taking my kids to the Magical World of Disney thanks to a sa-mokin’ deal I got from my travel agent. Five days of park hopper passes, accommodations and meal plans for kids 3-9 years old…free. That’s right, people. The only person I had to pay for was myself. My parents, who were kind enough to come with me, actually had to pay more for the two of them than I did for my family of four.

Sorry, Dad.

I didn’t tell my kids we were going ahead of time. I had visions of creating that “Disney commercial” moment, waking them up on Monday morning for school and then saying, “Guess what? You’re not going to school today! You’re going to Disney World for a week!” while they screamed and jumped around with excitement.

But since my kids are not “morning people,” instead all I have is a video of them looking at me through sleepy eyes and slowly saying, “Huh?”

The excitement started to rise about mid-way through our 4-hour plane ride to Orlando and by the time we got to our hotel, we were ready to go. We couldn’t wait for the kids to get their first glimpse of that magical castle or step onto Peter Pan’s ship for the first time. So as our Disney shuttle neared the Magical Kingdom that first night…we were all squirming in our seats a little bit.

As we started walking around, my dad and I took notice of all of the people who were dragging reluctant toddlers into lines for rides and the kids who were just flat-out laying on the cement pitching fits. We saw parents standing in lines with children dead asleep on their shoulders and we wondered to each other, “What kind of parent would force their kid to get on these rides? What’s the point?”

Little did we know that in about 48-hours…we would become those people.

I hadn’t been to Disney World in years and my parents hadn’t been since I was 5-years-old. I quickly realized that they were using this opportunity with my kids to make up for all of the rides they wouldn’t take us on (or we chickened out of) when my sister and I were little. It seemed like after many of the rides, my dad would say with pride, “Don’t forget to tell your sister we did this!!”

It’s good to know that grandchildren can be a way of easing parental guilt later in life.

It’s easy to get caught up in the “magic” of Disney. Everyone is moving at such a break-neck pace and as an adult, you have this constant feeling that you should be somewhere right now, standing in a line for a ride that will forever change your child’s life. After awhile, it wasn’t the kids saying, “MOM! I have to get on a tea cup!” It was me saying, “I don’t care how tired you are! Get in this hour-long line for Splash Mountain and like it!!”

It wasn’t pretty.

As the days wore on, the kids wore out. I started realizing that we might be in trouble when, after our character breakfast, my youngest daughter fell asleep on the bus on our way back to the theme park.

At 10:30 in the morning.

I started getting a little punchy myself. By the fourth day, the kids seemed kind of “over” seeing all of the characters. I, however, never missed an opportunity to take a picture of them with someone in a plush costume. I’m embarrassed to say that I even had them in line to take a picture with a character they didn’t even know. I listened to the three of them have a quiet conversation amongst themselves in line, saying, “Now…who is this? What movie was it in?”

I swear that if someone had been walking around dressed as a Disney tampon, I’d have probably made my kids get a picture with it.

By the fifth day, we were done. I realized that I hadn’t really seen my reflection in a mirror for a week because (and I’m sure there is a very Disney explanation for this) there are no mirrors in the bathrooms. When I did manage to catch a glimpse, I was horrified at what I saw.

A ring of zits around my mouth because, in the Magical World of Disney, it’s okay to have a funnel cake and a Coke for breakfast every day. Make-up smeared in sweat and sunscreen. My hair curling in the Florida humidity and looking like a tight poodle “do” with wings on the side.


My dad started getting concerned that, once we got back home, my kids might see a person standing still and automatically go stand in line behind them for no reason. I was more worried that they might start walking in a permanent zig-zag, thanks to all of the lines we had been through.

It got to the point (and I don’t know if I have PMS or the Disney experience to thank for this) that I was just over hanging out with the general public. I sighed with impatience when a scooter had to be loaded on the bus to the park, delaying my “fun” for an extra 10 minutes. (Incidentally…I think that’s why they don’t have a “Wall-E” ride. When you see all of the scooters rolling around, you’ll realize that we’re living it.) I was done seeing the multi-layered-muffin-tops with the no-bra chaser. I wanted to belt the “newbies” getting on the bus who gasped with glee upon first seeing the top of the castle because I had lost my “gasp” somewhere in a line to see a Disney princess who was probably counting the minutes until she could take off that pancake make-up and grab a smoke.

And that’s when I knew it was time to go home.

In reality, I know that what my kids will remember about this trip in the years to come is all of the fun they had. The fireworks, the rides, the stores with everything a kid could ever want. They won’t remember the crazed look in my eye as I dragged them to grab a Fast Pass for one ride so that we could go stand in line for another one while we “waited.” They won’t remember my mom’s green complexion as she stepped off a particularly unforgiving space ride at Epcot with my son. And, hopefully, they won’t remember the week after the trip when I had to slowly reintroduce their little bodies to fiber.

The only thing that might keep ringing in their ears is my impatient voice saying, “Get over here! We’re making a memory!!!”

Catherine Tidd is a writer, widow and mother of three. She is the founder of, a free peer support website dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other and has a Facebook peer support page under the name Widow Chick. Along with being published in several books on grief and renewal, Catherine is also a humorous motivational speaker who focuses on ” finding joy in a life you weren’t expecting.” She is also a volunteer speaker with the Donor Alliance of Colorado.

Author: Catherine

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  1. I can somewhat relate to this. I was thrown in without a paddle when my local tour guide bailed at the last minute and I had no idea where I was going. It was hot, my kids where whiny and it was crowded.

    After about three hours of this, I snapped when my daughter begged us to leave. “We are in the happiest place on earth and this may be your only chance to be here. Other kids would die to be where you’re at so suck it up now!”

    OK, maybe those weren’t my exact words but you get the point.

    And my point is after that, they did snap out of it and dealt with the conditions the best they could. And in the end, they forgot about all the bad and only remembered the good–Space Mountain, Soarin’, meeting the Disney characters. That, I think was the true magic of Disney to transcend any frustrations and still have the time of your life.

    • I worked for Disney for an internship one year. In the Magic Kingdom. In the sun. We used to call it the Disney Whine. About 2 in the afternoon, everyone under 4′ tall had had enough. They were hot, tired, dizzy, hopped up on the utter crap we serve for food in the park, dehydrated and really needed some down time. It usually started in the center of the Kingdom, where the sun is hottest. The whine. The tantrums, the immovable toddler who just will not take one more step until they get some shade, or A/C, some water and a nap. Lasted about 45 minutes, and then the park emptied.

      I still shudder. It was the longest year of my life. Happiest Place On Earth, my left foot. More like the Baatan Death March.

  2. Wow! Sounds like Disney is not the place for you. We’ve gone to Disney World twice. 7 day than 10 day the second time. We went pretty much from opening to closing each night and EVERY morning the kids were just as excited as the first. I remember the lines being long but honestly I don’t remember how bad it was. Not bad enough for us to not want to go back as we are already planning our third trip. The kids passed out on the bus on the way to the hotel most nights, but that was part of the fun. We never got grumpy or cranky, there were no sibling fights like there are almost every minute at home. No one was in a bad mood at all that I can recall on either trip. That is… until it was time to go HOME! We survived our second trip with 6 adults and 12 kids and had an amazing time. We can’t wait for the next one, just wish we could stay longer and maybe make it over to Universal Studios as well!

  3. That is true! I felt like by the last day we had survived something together! :>) It was like we came together as a team and worked that Disney magic!

  4. Yikes! But it does work out in the end.

    Last year we took our 4 year old and just turned 6 year old girls. We had the opportunity to be there about 10 days and took it. We knew that the youngest would have a harder time handling the heat and excitement.

    With my mom’s help we had a plan of attack 🙂 We purchased multi day passes, without hopper, and planned on spending only part of the day at a single park. The rest would be at the resort at the free pool with activities, visiting family, shopping which they sometimes enjoy.. this was more unstructured.

    It worked out well. But the heat, even in mid may, was too much. If I had to do it again I would go at a cooler time of year.

  5. Jennifer…that is the one thing I WISH we had had time to do — Universal. I wanted to see the Harry Potter thing! And we had a great time. It was just one of those vacations where I needed a vacation after! :>) My two oldest (9 and 7) did great. My youngest (5) was done at about noon every day. Thank God for my parents…couldn’t have done it without them!

    And Disney Veteran…I’ve had friends who have worked for Disney before. They’ve said it’s different experience, to say the least! 🙂

  6. OMG, I felt the same way! My first trip ever with my husband and four children( 9,8,3, and 18 mos). Yes, I know the baby was probably too young, but she was free!! It’s expensive enough with out adding another dining package(we also got the deal). We felt like we spent the whole time waiting, and the buses sucked!

    The rides were more experiences. They were fun, but not great! I did enjoy the shows at Hollywood studios. Epcot was my favorite. The Magic Kingdom didn’t impress me. We might try the cruise, but will have to wait 5 more years!

    Thanks for not making me feel weird for not loving Disney 🙂

  7. I can totally relate to this, after just getting back from Florida ourselves. With two 13 year old boys, and no other person than myself with them, I did it for my son, who has always wanted to go to Florida. But by 3:00 PM, in the Magic Kingdom, with a blistering temp somewhere in the 90’s, I was the one who was determined to stay and watch the parade, not them–no matter how hot and tired they were, we were watching it. The lines were exasperatingly long, even with Fast Pass (but thank God for that invention, because it could have been worse I guess). He had his experience and now has the memory of it too, I hope a good one. Thank you for sharing with us your your adventure with us because I totally get it!

  8. Pingback: Comment on Disney World: The Magical Land of Forced Fun by Joan Stoltzfus | Quick & Fast Sports News

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