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How to Disney (WELL!) When Your Kids are ALL Grown UP!
Everyone says it when you're a young mother: "They grow up too quickly." "Treasure Every Moment." And you know what? I did. But now they're GROWN, I'm no longer (as) young & we took a trip together to Walt Disney World PLUS a cruise on the Disney Dream PLUS Give Kids the World for the weekend PLUS I hosted my team for some training. Somehow we planned it well & it was one of the best trips we've ever taken. I'll tell you how.
BONUS: Gluten Free Review for 'Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World.
If you're at the same stage of life, you know it was a miracle we were all able to even travel at the same time. I needed to plan everything around two other Disney Affinity Agencys so we could combine our onsite training & I wouldn't have to meet a minimum requirement for our own team members attending. I like to accommodate Disney when I can + it took the pressure off my team to bring at least 15 of us to make the training happen. It was after all, our 4th team training in 12 months. (Can you even believe it? Who do we think we ARE?) I needed to relieve the pressure! And I'm grateful I did, because 11 of us showed up to train & that was just fine. It was great.
With that in mind, imagine how thrilled I was when both Joshua & Noah finished up their college finals the day before the training started. Not only that, Joshua was able to take a break from teaching classes for a week & Hannah would be finished with her latest musical performance and she could get off work, too! Against all odds, we were taking a family vacation with our very busy kids in their teens and 20's. Crazy awesome!
Finally, as we were closing in on this blessed week together at Walt Disney World, a fully planned adventure at one of our favorite places to travel, we received an opportunity to cruise aboard the Disney Dream instead. WAIT? WHAT? A weekend at Walt Disney World during training PLUS we would head over to cruise alone.....just our family......seriously? It was a no brainer. WE TOOK THE CRUISE!
I'm still amazed everything came together. Every time I get to be in the same room for a meal with all 3 of my busy kids, I revel in it. I was getting a full week of travel.
5 very different people, in very different places in our lives. How would we do?
Every vacation begins with the obligatory airplane ride or road trip. We're airplane people.
Our family is fully trained in early morning travel. To get the best price on our beloved Southwest Airlines, we fly out to Florida on a horrifically early flight, which means we are setting our alarms for 3:00 or 3:30 am the day we fly out. It's a long day, but we're used to it. And since we're typically a late family, the early morning darkness, mist and quiet falling over our neighborhood and the highways on the way to the airport become a part of our vacation rituals. We only experience the sunrise when we're traveling together, and it makes it special.
I mean, the kids still gripe at each other, but they're having fun while they're doing it, so there's that.
We exit on Mockinbird Lane to get to Dallas Love Field & as he does every single trip, David sings the song he made up over 20 years ago to accompany our ritual. It's not pretty.
I HATE THE SONG.
He sings it anyway.
He laughs at me.
It's what we do. #26yearsmarried
Security at Dallas Love Field was backed up the most I've ever seen it, but we got there 2 hours before departure to keep me sane. We only had one bag pulled during security check - Noah's, this time. It's usually me with an "Oh, I'm so sorry. I forgot about my water bottle."
One time I had a major search of my bag, as my 4 books stacked together looked like a bomb in the scanner. I've learned to kindle + one book it through the airport for many reasons now. Not worth the backache or the hassle to do it otherwise. Another time we were held up because overalls. Don't be us - unclick one side and throw it over the shoulder to prevent needless groping of your small child while she cries & the TSA worker tears up, too.
We arrived at Orlando International Airport after an easy flight where Southwest, as nearly always, made up time in the flight. I'm my own worst travel agent & had forgotten to order extra Magical Express tags, so we just picked up our luggage - something we often do, anyway. When the kids were little, it was fully worth it to have someone else handle luggage. Now that we can all pull our own weight, it relieves our stress to just grab and go and keep moving forward. #keepmovingforward <-- Walt Disney said that, did you know?
The Magical Express line seems to keep getting longer with every single trip I take to Florida. Even in the off season. I assume 30 to 45 minutes of standing and waiting now. When I'm traveling alone, I often find someone to share an Uber or a Towncar, because my time is precious on a work trip. With my family, I"m happy just to be with them. I"m such a MOM.
I took videos and pictures while we waited in line, but I'm fairly certain Joshua signed something inappropriate during both. He's earning his sign language interpreter's certification and has a wicked sense of humor, which I fully support until I'm the victim. I look forward to grabbing one of his signing friends for a full interpretation soon.
And then, we were THERE! Our family arrived at Disney's Contemporary Resort to check into our concierge level room.
I know. SCHMANCY.
Checking into the Concierge Level at Disney's Contemporary Resort
When you check into a resort at Disney on the concierge level, you're escorted to club level to (usually) check in and learn about the club lounge and all that's available. We were greeted by a sweet young lady, eager to get us in our room as soon as possible. I found her charming, but she didn't know she'd said something wrong when she looked at Joshua sideways to assess him.
My Joshua, with the beard and earrings, tattoos & dark glasses on top of his regular good looks. Joshua, with the swagger and the confidence bestowed on him at birth. Joshua who was working on too few hours sleep and already knew the drill, which meant our extra long tour was grating on his last nerve. This was the Joshua she checked out and said. "Well, isn't he just Too Cool For School."
Fortunately, only Hannah and I heard it & we were not fighting exhaustion at that exact point, so we laughed. We laughed HARD. And then we stored it up to tell him later, when he wasn't quite so volatile. We didn't want to throw that poor Cast Member under the bus, who was genuinely trying only to be kind. She didn't know the beast she may have accidentally poked. But we did.
Good grief, I love my kids and their strong personalities. I love that they're so *out there* it brings out strong emotions in others. People don't know what to think of us sometimes & that's okay. We are who we are & Joshua is a shining example of our family dynamic. "Too cool for school" indeed.
And then we were in our room.
The Real Deal - Traveling as a group of adults
And here is where the rubber hit the road. Every trip up until this one started the same way. We took planes & cars, buses and Ubered our way to where we were going every single time, so this is all familiar and it's not like we were going to lose someone in that process. The only thing to criticize during the necessary trasnportation is elements out of our control, and we'd long ago learned that wasn't worth the emotional energy it took to do it. Now, Wwat will happen after we arrive? How will this go?
If someone tells you it's easy to transition to being the parent of young adults instead of teenagers, they're lying. This is - by far - the most emotionally exhausting stage of parenting. As I type this, we're home and in the constant throes of relationships and pathways, launchpad decisions and the fallout from necessary mistakes on the way out the door. Thankfully, they all 3 talk to us. They respect us - mostly because we admit how fallible we are in this whole life journey, too. But this was the first trip we'd taken after all 3 of our kids were driving, were making their own decisions, were used to independence. If they chose to be a part of things I planned, it would be 100% because they chose to participate. That's new!
Turns out, it's AWESOME.
The 4 of them could transition to vacation mode quickly, as they weren't participating in Disney training for the first 3 days, like I was. I watched them do it, and I took my cues from them.
- Joshua's over 21 and thankfully, he has proven he drinks responsibly. It doesn't keep him from checking in with me periodically and asking "See? Do you see my good decisions?" And I do! He discovered the gluten free hard cider in bottles was kept in the concierge refrigerator and he could have one *for free* every night of his stay. Freedom to Joshua meant being treated like an adult who could make decisions. Easy.
- Noah is about to turn 20, yet he experienced a growth spurt all year. He set about making "being full" his number one priority, even if it interrupted life or we lost him from time to time. We supported it.
- Hannah is still in high school & a month into experiencing her first love. Freedom to her meant windows of opportunity to talk to him, text him and talk about him. I loved seeing her so happy. We all did.
None of this had anything to do with the travel priorities we made in the past. Joshua was on a new adventure, Noah was looking for food, food and more food. Hannah was reveling in the throes of young love. It's nothing that would ever go on a touring plan or in chats on Facebook, but it's what made our trip successful.
Finding My Footing
Moms are the WORST about getting in the way. I'm no exception, in that I need to guard myself against making MY priorities a bunch of vacation shoulds. You know what I'm talking about.
- We really should get up early to maximize our park days.
- We really should stay and watch the fireworks, since we haven't seen the new show.
- We really should use our Fastpass, since we made it ahead of time.
The best compliment I received after our trip was from David. He said he noticed I was actually ON vacation when we boarded the ship. He stepped around a corner and where was I? GONE.
I had literally never done that before. My vacations have been all about making sure everyone else's needs were met. As an adult traveling with other fully formed people, I knew my responsibilities had changed to this: 1) Supporting their priorities, and 2) Honestly seeking mine.
The BEST part
When we were together on our trip, it was because my kids wanted to be there. It wasn't because it was on a schedule or (God forbid) I had convinced them we SHOULD do it. It was because we all - all 5 of us - wanted to.
We ate meals together. We played miniature golf. We spend our time at Castaway Cay in the games pavilion, instead of the water. We stopped "Disney sponsored" activites to do our own goofy thing. We did what makes every vacation wonderful - we made memories. We laughed together. We grew closer. It was perfect. It was one of the best trips we've ever had.
BONUS: Gluten Free Review of 'Ohana
at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
On our arrival night, we all dined at 'Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. We've been many times before, but as 'Ohana is manned by actual chefs, the menu can vary. This review is as of May 2019 by two very different celiac diners - Joshua & Hannah.
If you haven't been before, you may not know what's on the regular menu - it's nearly the same. Grilled meats (not pictured), Won Tons & noodles (not gluten free). Regular and gluten free diners all receive the vegetables and wings. Gluten Free diners receive the rice and more veggies. The sauces are now ALL gluten free, which is Ah-Mazing! Different bread is served for different allergens and that can definitely vary.
Everyone LOVED the food. Where they really shined this time was in the dessert. Bread pudding is brought out with ice cream for regular diners. The gluten free offerings have been touch and go, but this round knocked it out of the park. Hannah, Joshua and the 3 other gluten free diners with our group that evening were thrilled!
If you're interested in trying 'Ohana on your next trip, make sure to plan ahead with your 3D Travel Agent. It's so popular, it can be tough to get in!
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