I've always been a fan of the National Lampoon Vacation series. Chevy Chase's depiction of the clueless, giddy yet ultimately gracious and humbled family man is one of my favorites, and the underlying plot asserting Murphy' law of vacations that " if it can go wrong, it probably will in some fashion" rings true when reflecting on our recent initial full-family sojourn to Florida.
Before I go into the details of our trip which at times might err on the negative tip, I want to emphasize that we had a great time overall, and I mean that in all earnestness. We had a wonderful visit with Geoff's brother Mike and his fiance, Jessi, and this in itself was reason enough to travel to Orlando and encourage future trips.
Oh, and the wizarding world of Harry Potter was awesome as well.
Now, onto our Chevy Chase-esque adventure.
This was Arlo's first time as an air passenger, and he assumed the role like a pro. He navigated the airports with the ease of a pharmaceutical rep from Eli Lilly slinging Prozac, and was very calm during the flight. Well, the first flight. The flight back he was somewhat restless and at one point began to take his seatbelt off. Geoff and I were completely frazzled by that point in time and mentioned to him that the police " air marshals" would come and tell him to put his seatbelt on if he didn't listen to us, to which he very loudly exclaimed " BUT I DON'T WANT TO GO TO JAIL".
Once we arrived in Orlando, we disembarked our flight and had a little trouble locating our baggage claim area. Once we found it, I'm not sure what happened, but Arlo wasn't having any of it. He conveyed his frustrations through his many attempts to run away " MOMMY, IT'S HARRY POTTER AND MINIONS AND SHREK" ( after escaping my grasp and sprinting towards a poster for Universal Studios) , refusal to walk, and just generally not following instructions.
And it was H-O-T. Like camping that year at Deer Creek for Phish hot. But with luggage and a very tired 3 year old and many miles still yet to go. We got our car and set out for the hotel and we pretty much guessed our way to the hotel( Geoff has a great navigation sense). Once there ( NO thanks to Onstar) we all collapsed.
Next day we awoke and immediately got ready for what I thought was going to be our vacation "it" factor. Little did I know it would be more like our vacation "shit" factor... Through media and Disney stores and Disney junior and mass marketing etc etc I mistakenly thought that my kid would become the happiest kid on earth in the " happiest place on earth". I. was. SO. WRONG. In retrospect, I had encountered several telling reactions towards our " Disney demise"- most notably from a momma friend who would giggle nervously and look the other way when I would discuss our trip details with her.
So we got to the park early, as everyone else in the world apparently does. 18 dollars later, we walked to the entrance and made a beeline for the monorail. Arlo was pumped about riding the monorail, but when we got to the line to get on said monorail, IT WAS CLOSED. " Sorry folks, gotta ride the ferry!" exclaimed an overly chipper park attendant. This should have been our first sign to just turn around and go back, but we pressed on. Now about 8:45AM local time, I was already sweating buckets, waiting in line for this magical ferry. We were herded on board and smashed together like some theme park crazed sardines. Once off the ferry we encountered more difficulties getting into the park, as their finger ID system eluded Geoff and I. We were yelled at by the ticket guy " only one fingerprint per person!!"but were finally granted access to the " land of dreams and creativity". We rented a stroller and Arlo immediately began to cry even though we had just purchased a gold plated water fan thingy for him ( I say gold plated because the price indicated that it had some sort of value other than plastic and dirty water). Main street was packed already at 9:30 AM, and an eccentric crowd of over-eager mouse eared wanderers and enthusiasts were already scavenging and devising their plans for the day. We, however, managed to simply score a map and decided to just try and play it by ear. Apparently you can't do that at Disney world.
We started with a walk towards somethingorother. Fantasy land, Future world, something. I think they all start with the letter F. At any rate, Arlo threw a fit the entire walk towards the castle muttering something about being scared. Never did figure out what that was about. We walked towards whatever land houses the dumbo ride and the little mermaid stuff and attempted to take him out of his stroller and stand in line. He freaked out. Put him back in the stroller, walked him towards the race cars. Tried to stand in line for that. He started hitting and screaming, so back in the stroller he went ( sorry, i don't care if i'm at Disney world, if you throw a fit, you get a time out). Had him watch dumbo ride. Screamed and cried. Bought him a cookie, refused to eat it. Finally we decided to cut our losses and go back and sit somewhere for a few minutes. Geoff had to go to first aid for a huge cut on his foot, so we tried to watch a parade. Again, another epic fail. FINALLY we decided on embarking on the train that goes around the park, and that was a success. Oh, and I got my Dole Whip thing. That was cool.
We go back to the hotel ( our checkbook is now uncontrollably SOBBING with our costly mistake) and contact my brother-in-law and his fiance, who quickly come to our aid and whisk Arlo off for a few hours so that we can all take a breath and realize that Disney is not our thing, but we can still salvage this trip, which is what we did. The next few days were awesome. We went to Universal, which was much more our speed. Arlo enjoyed all the kiddie stuff and I pretended I was a student at Hogwarts. We went to dinner and had laughs playing in the pool. I think I saw the guy who played Jacob on LOST at whole foods. I finished my JK Rowling crime novel( which was excellent, BTW).
Most importantly, we SURVIVED our first real trip as a family of 3.