For nearly fifteen years, our family has been going to Walt Disney World for our family vacations. In the memories of those visits is where my greatest happiness can be found. In the early years when we could not afford to fly our family of 5 to Orlando, we hopped into our jam-packed minivan with a full Thule on top and headed out for our 16 hour drive from Texas. We always loaded the van the night before, went to bed early, woke up at 2:00 a.m. and were out the door before 3:00 a.m. This allowed the kiddos to sleep for several more hours before we would stop at the same restaurant for breakfast every single trip. We played the ABC License Plate game, ABC billboard game, sang songs, stopped at every state’s welcome center, and grinned from ear to ear when we knew we were getting close to being at our happy place.
For the past few years, we have been flying which gets us there in only 2 hours and that is a blessing (although I miss the times when the kids were young and we drove). Still, I wouldn’t trade being in Texas for breakfast and in the park by lunchtime for anything.
For us, there are a million reasons why we love it there. We each have our favorite resorts, favorite rides, favorite dining locations, and even favorite family traditions we began years ago like our Monorail Mania Meal. Whether we are watching the Castle Dream Lights at Magic Kingdom, standing in the middle of the Streets of New York for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, screaming on Rock N Roller Coaster, or riding Expedition Everest in the pouring rain and laughing our heads off, there are priceless memories at every turn. We can even taste ‘Ohana’s Bread Pudding with Bananas Foster Sauce if we close our eyes tightly enough.
It is all those things, and something much more, the something our family becomes when we are there. The best version of our family “lives” there, relaxed and connected with each other, sharing our lives, our time, and making new memories. We don’t have to be anywhere at any time and we are happy to be able to just enjoy whatever comes next. We can stay up late, go to bed early, go swimming late at night, or just have a drink and sit up and talk – and, most importantly, we do. It is the very best time of my year. Sharing time with family is what my life is all about, and what a true blessing from God that we have these times together.
Before I became an agent and I was just someone who visited Disney a lot, people used to ask me “at what age do you think is best to take the kids” or “do you think it’s crazy to take a 2 year old to Disney?” I had many people ask me this and I would offer my standard answer, that I thought 5 years old was a great age to start visiting Walt Disney World. Then, a tragedy struck our town, a 4-year-old boy died suddenly while playing at the YMCA. I grieved over this death like it had been the most horrible tragedy imaginable, because it was! I thought of all the things he would never do. I especially thought of all the things his parents would never get a chance to do with him – things like taking him on a wonderful family vacation to Walt Disney World and sharing joy and fun in a way that, to me, cannot be matched. I thought about my past answer to other families who had asked me “what age for Disney?”
Although I did not know the family, this tragic loss profoundly changed my way of seeing things. Family vacations have always been extremely important to me. When I was growing up, we took a family vacation every summer and those were some of the best times of my life. Taking my family to WDW year after year has meant the same. Families need to go on vacation together. To me, it is so very important. Even more importantly, I need to help families to have wonderful, magical, one-of-a-kind vacations together. I believe from the depths of my soul that it strengthens the family unit. It is what I feel I am called to do.
When someone asks my 2 year old granddaughter what Mimi does for her job she will quickly tell them, “Mimi helps families go to Disney World.” Yes, precious girl, I do. It means the world to me. If it is all I can do to try to help families form unbreakable bonds by sharing memories and laughing and having fun together then that is a wonderful blessing for me. The family that vacations together may not always stay together, but I certainly believe they have a better shot than families who don’t take the time to build those bonds. Whether it is going to a Disney destination or going to a local beach for 5 days, just do it!
Here’s hoping your bonds are unbreakable and your joy is constant!