After every holiday gathering, show and fun plan fell apart over the month of December, my family decided to forge ahead with our vacation to Orlando, Florida that we had been looking forward to for months. My young-adult children had their sights set on Disney (15 years after their childhood visit) and we just had to take the (COVID) risk and go.
The week in the parks put a spotlight on some lessons that might be worth sharing.
I can honestly say that many of my life’s highlights were moments that were unplanned but making dreams come true seamlessly takes a dance of flexibility and structure.
Getting reservations for meals at Disney is a competition that requires 5:40am wake up calls. Two days of failed attempts did not yield a spot at Cinderella’s Royal Table. We didn’t do that when my twins were six so it was on the 21 year old girl child’s must-do list. By day three of my failed attempts at the most desirable experiences, I had perfected a multiple-tabs-open strategy and landed a perfect dinner reservation in the castle. Whew!
So planning was key but the unplanned made the experience soar. We were pleasantly surprised that the ridiculously overpriced food was excellent AND that the servers cared so much that they made sure to move us to a window seat for dessert so we could watch the nightly fireworks from inside the castle. Oh my! Magic. My twenty somethings were struck like little kids and mom scored major points.
Lesson: Prepare AND let go! The magic is in the moment. The preparation creates the moment.
Values Are Your Guide
When I planned my wedding, I had a dream location in mind that was a 1940’s supper club. The price was so prohibitive that my budget would’ve allowed ten people at my wedding. I valued being surrounded by loving friends more than the location, so we changed plans.
Values informed the approach to the parks trip too. Staying on property at Disney comes with perks but I cared more about a) a place to spread out with a family of five (vrbmo) and b) not waiting on lines. The ridiculous system at the parks these days is about paying more for the privilege to skip the lines and yet I played that game. It was worth every dime to me.
Lesson: Values rule your choices, not marketing
Humans are thrill-seekers
It is astounding what we put up with to have a peak experience. Despite some fantastically short waits, our luck ran out on the Star Wars Rise of the Resistance ride. We couldn’t buy our way on or take the single rider line nor plan a fortuitous time to bypass the wait. SO, we waited AND the ride broke down adding to the time stuck in place. But guess what? People behaved. People entertained themselves and each other. Phones sure help pass the time and the ride was WORTH IT.
Climbing EVEREST, jumping out of a plane, building your body to peak shape—-whatever it is, we endure pain to win the prize.
Lesson: We will test our own limits to gain a thrill or a perceived prize.
Surrender Allows Wonder
By the time you board an attraction at these parks, you’ve done the hard work. (planning, scheming, waiting) You sit down, strap in and prepare to enter the unknown (or relive the familiar waiting to gain something new). Often, it’s more than your senses can absorb.
Wonder is the key ingredient and the trip begins. Is this why people indulge in psychedelics? Is this why virtual reality is so popular? There is a great adventure in crossing over from anticipation to real-time experience of the unusual and unknown. It’s a visit to the ‘beginner’s mind’ as well—taking in as much as you can, your senses and brain firing on all cylinders, your willingness to stay fully present (unless you are one to need to close your eyes), and landing on the other side assessing your experience. Was it good? What is disappointing? Do you need another turn to catch more of it?
Lesson: Life can be as thrilling if we mimic this suspension of disbelief
Last thought: “Is it really a vacation if you have to get up before dawn and have to walk 24K steps a day?”
Answer: Heck yes! We came home down on the scale after eating anything we wanted and donated a fridge full of midnight snacks we never ate (because we went to bed way before that) and NOBODY CAUGHT COVID!
Take a lesson and try it on for size.
* This was by no means meant to be an endorsement or guide to these attractions.
** I realize the privilege and ridiculousness of participating in the game.
Alex M says
These are such wise words Laura. Life is a balance between structure/effort and letting go/waiting for the manifest.
Glad you had such a great break. Thank you for sharing your learnings.
My husband and I were fortunate to have our trip planned by 2 – 35 yr old Floridian park visitors. They got up early – booked the rides and took care of food reservations
We had an amazing time. Soaring was probably our favorite. Pirates an old time favorite did not disappoint. Yes it was different because spontaneity is hard when you keep having to book ahead! Of course we want to go back. The challenge how to have a magical experience without my daughter and her her roommate doing the planning