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Saturday
Oct132012

BFTP: Lessons from the mouse

A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past.   Original post October 16, 2007.

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Recovering from a few days spent at the Disney parks in Orlando with my two adult kids and oldest grandson. We had a wonderful time. We got along well, the weather was great, we got to all the parks and rode on everything we wanted to ride, saw a bunch of shows and fireworks and parades, and just enjoyed each other's company. The hotel had nice enough rooms, a great swimming pool and easy access to the efficient Disney bus system. The FAME conference sessions went pretty well, too. 

I was feeling really good about the whole trip until I got on the car park shuttle at the Minneapolis airport. During the 10 minute ride back to my truck, two couples discussed their week in "the Magic Kingdom." It was hot. The rides were lame. The crowds were impossible. The food was inedible. All the kids wanted to do was play in the hotel pool. They dropped a bundle. On and on they complained - with their elementary-school-age kids right beside them learning just how terrible a vacation they'd just had.

How could we have had such a great experience and these folks such a poor one - at the same place at the same time? Am I just too dumb to know when I've had a bad time? Are my expectations too low? 

I starting thinking about how these families and mine approached the experience in quite different ways... 

1. We read about where we were going. The Unofficial Guide to DisneyWorld is about the best $20 a person can spend to make one's trip a better one. It describes and rates everything you find in the parks including restaurants, hotels, shows, transportation systems and the rides. It gives lots of advice on how to manage your visit when the parks are busy. And it is spot-on accurate. I even bought my grandson Paul his own kids' guide which was nearly in pieces by the time we got there. He about had it memorized and knew just what things he really wanted to do. He's my kind of 6-year-old! (My bus companions seemed to be surprised that some of the rides were old, some were too scary for young kids, etc. They went in clueless.)

2. We got a jump on the day. We were at each park by the time it opened at 9AM. We went on the most popular rides first, grabbed and used FastPasses when possible, and tried to eat a bit before standard dining times. We followed a touring plan and the longest we had to stand in line was 15 minutes and for most attractions is was less than 10 minutes. We had fun at the less glamorous attractions. Mid-afternoon when it got really hot and crowded we headed back to the hotel for a nap and a swim and then sometimes went back out again in the evening. We snacked often! (For my shuttle companions, it wasn't a vacation unless they could sleep in until at least 11.)

3. We knew the reason for going. At least I knew my reason - to spend some time with my kids - to get a chance to talk to my busy daughter, to watch my son shop for gifts to take home to his first girlfriend, to see the excitement in Paul's eyes and voice when he talked about being chosen for Jedi training and tell his dad about it on the phone. Yeah, the rides and shows are fun, but not as much fun as seeing the whole experience through the eyes of kid who adores Star Wars, dinosaurs, and pirates. And who probably did like the hotel pool and playground as much as the parks. (My shuttle group seemed to go for the adults rather than for the kids in the group. The vacation was all about them.)

It sounds trite but the visit was a wonderful reminder of that happiness is less a matter of circumstance and more a matter of attitude. I chuckled the entire flight back home about my daughter's response when I asked if she wanted my upgraded first class seat or to sit back in coach with Paul. "Is this a trick question?" just popped out!

I sincerely hope my shuttle bus folks next year just find a hotel with a nice pool close to home where they can sleep in, let the kids play, and come home happy. 

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A thank you from my kids. I guess they don't realize it was their inheritance I was spending ;-) 

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