Friday, November 5, 2010
The biggest culprits, I think, are parents, including myself. We’ve come to view little luxuries as necessary for our children’s happiness. Most of us weren’t raised that way, of course, even if our parents had the money. If we were lucky enough to visit Disney World as kids, we likely remember bringing in baloney sandwiches for lunch and staying at cheap roadside motels. But we don’t remember it bitterly: It’s with fondness—and maybe a bit of gratitude that we didn’t get sick--that we recall the smell of those sandwiches on a hot day, not disappointment. We had fun.
Today it’s totally different. We all feel the pressure to buy our kids the latest clothes and electronics, anything that will give them an edge. We live in a society where our kids can turn on the television and watch shows where spoiled teenagers are given cars worth more than most people make in a year; as the parents look on disappointedly, their little princess stomps her designer-clad foot because it’s not the right color. Surely when compared to that kind of excess, giving own children have an extra special vacation isn’t too much to ask?
Well, it’s not, if you can afford it. But if you’re wringing your hands wondering how you’re going to pay for tickets to a special event or all those souvenirs, it’s time to put down that credit card and look at what’s really important. The fact is, despite what you’ve heard, you don’t need a trip to Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, matching t-shirts for the whole family, and any number of perks that you can purchase. What you need is to realize that your child is going to love his visit to Disney World, regardless of what you spend.
The thing is, I don't blame Disney for this trend. Most Disney commercials simply show guests having fun in the park. That’s it. You'll rarely see an experience depicted that isn't accessible to anyone with more than a basic ticket. Unfortunately, as much as I love Disney planning and message boards, I think they do a lot of perpetuate the idea that the only good trip is one at a deluxe resort spent throwing money around the entire time. That’s just not true. Clearly, I’d be a hypocrite if I told you that, all things being equal, I prefer staying at the value resorts or that I think a counter service meal is better than dinner at the California Grill. But the truth is, I’ve had bare bones vacations and I’ve had splurge vacations and I’d be hard pressed to tell you that one was better than the other. They’re just different.
Look at it this way. Disney park tickets are expensive, there’s no getting around it. But the value for your money is pretty extraordinary and once you pay that money, your trip just got as good as they guy paying thousands of dollars more. Just about everything you see in the parks is included in your price. You couldn’t possibly do everything on one trip if you tried and you certainly wouldn’t enjoy trying, believe me. With all that, why would you need to do more?
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that everything at Disney World is magical. It’s sometimes hot and crowded. You will encounter the occasional grumpy guest, to say nothing of a toddler having a meltdown. And then there are those frustrating lines. But there’s something about a Disney vacation that makes you shut out the outside world that facilitates closeness with the people you’re travelling with. Maybe it’s just the fact that Disney resort TV is pretty bad and the internet service isn’t much better, but at some point, despite the sometimes frenetic pace of a Disney trip, you find yourself descending into that happy bubble where the most important thing is having a good laugh and getting fastpasses for Toy Story Midway Mania. You see it all around you. I’m a people watcher and it’s touching to see teenagers, sleepy at the end of the day, leaning on their parents on the bus or the happy smiles of an exhausted older couple who just spent an entire day running around a theme park, acting like kids. Tell me where else can you get that kind of experience?
And that, really, is what it’s all about. Your vacation is good enough because you’re spending it with people you care about. And that’s what your kids will remember.