Peter Chianca: Disney proves teens can be magical too

Peter Chianca More Content Now
Peter Chianca, columnist for Wicked Local North of Boston.

Upon my return from Disney World this past week, I got the following actual query in an email from a co-worker: “How was Disney? I think it’s evil and hate it. But I hear some people love it.” And let’s face it, you can make a case for both arguments.

But no matter how you feel about the Disney experience, one thing I can say pretty confidently is that, after this trip, I’d highly recommend going with teenagers. Yes, teenagers, those much-maligned fonts of surliness. Last time we went my kids were 5 and 8, and this time they were 13 and 15, and it was WAY BETTER, for the following reasons.

1) LESS PANIC. The Magic Kingdom alone can hold, wait, let me check my notes … one meeeeeellion people. (OK, it’s more like 100,000, but it feels like a million.) When you have small children, you have to be perpetually hyper-vigilant lest they disappear into the crowd, whereupon they will be immediately shipped to a Disney island and turned into donkeys.

With teenagers you can just tell them, “If we get separated, get yourself back to the hotel. Take one of those buses over there somewhere.” And the good news is, by the time they look up from their phones to notice you’re missing, you’ll probably be back.

2) MORE HELP: Just getting to Disney World with little kids is an adventure(land) in itself -- you have to lug all your luggage, and their luggage, and often them, not to mention a stroller and a diaper bag if you make the mistake of bringing a toddler who not only won’t remember the trip, but will probably throw up on you at least once.

But teenagers can carry their own luggage, and sometimes even your luggage, and they can refill your Disney magic mug with root beer while you drool on a lounge chair near the hotel pool. It’s moments like that when you realize, “THIS is why I had children.”

3) FEWER CHARACTERS: When you bring small children to Disney World, you have not had a successful visit unless you’ve racked up a book full of “autographs” from Disney celebrities such as Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Buzz Lightyear, the monkey from “The Jungle Book” and some random character from “Mulan.” Teenagers of course are contractually required to find the characters to be no big deal, making it even more special if you do happen to meet one, say at dinner, and they light up like an excitable 5-year-old. Wait, maybe that was me.

4) MORE BETTER RIDES: The time you spent riding Dumbo and waiting to meet Daisy Duck when your kids were little can now be used for Disney roller coasters, not to mention giant flumes, fast cars and a massive free-fall elevator. This is arguably better, as long as you wait until afterward to eat a giant Adventureland turkey leg.

5) LESS MICKEY CRAP: Along with their filled-up autograph books, young kids go to Disney with what they see as an entirely reasonable expectation of bringing home a suitcase full of stuff with Mickey’s picture on it, along with all those other characters previously mentioned (Goofy, Buzz, “Mulan” guy, etc.). Teenagers, though, have no interest in any product that doesn’t have a lithium ion battery in it, and are far too cool to want a Disney character on their chest, so the danger of having to spend money on toys, dolls and clothes is significantly lower. So that money can go toward a shirt with a picture of Kermit the Frog holding a lightsaber, which I bought for myself. So sue me.

Finally and probably most importantly, though, older kids have a better understanding of the time, money and energy that goes into a trip like this, and -- whether they’ll admit it out loud or not -- may actually appreciate the fact that you thought they were worth it. They may even value the time spent away from their screens, sharing screams with you as you drop from the top of the Tower of Terror.

And even if not, they can still get you your root beer.

A version of this column was posted on Pete’s Pop Culture, Parenting & Pets Blog at Follow Peter Chianca on Twitter at @pchianca.