Julie Kaiser: Off to Disney World ... we guess

Julie Kaiser

Thanks to a mouse named Mickey, the excitement in our house has been elevated to record levels.

We are taking our kids to Florida. They were stunned Thanksgiving night when we gave them formal invitations complete with stickers that accompanied their SeaWorld, Kennedy Space Center and Walt Disney World destinations.

Our goal was to avoid the “Florida is Disney” mentality. We smiled at each other when the idea of flying on a jet elicited shrieks of delight, especially from our 5-year-old daughter who has never flown before.

The 8-year-old cannot wait to see the rockets, Apollo relics, astronaut gear and space shuttle equipment at Kennedy. But, he was onto us.

“That’s the ‘educational’ part of the trip, right?” he said, using his fingers to make quote marks in the air around “educational.”

Our kids, who have heard from their friends about Disney World since preschool, can’t believe we are actually going to take them to the famed park. I’m reluctant to admit we have succumbed to society’s seeming expectation that all children go to Disney World at least during childhood.

But we aren’t Disney people.

Despite the clamor from friends and acquaintances who started extolling Disney’s virtues upon our son’s birth, my husband is apathetic about Walt’s World.

My excuse stems more from ignorance. Sure it sounds fun, but when you grow up the eldest of eight kids, Disney doesn’t rate as even a remote possibility. Up until a few months ago, I had no idea what I’ve missed all these 38 years.

But now I do.

I’ve wrestled through the dining system to wrangle reservations for meals with princesses and mermaids. I’ve researched rides, FastPasses and prime character locations.

I’ve cut deals with my husband — one princess breakfast in Norway at Epcot for one dinner at Germany’s Biergarten, complete with oom-pah band.

I’ve taken notes on high priority rides, exhibits and must-see shows categorized by age and interest level. I’ve calculated the commute to Disney from our rented condo, when we will need to arrive to “beat the crowd,” and whether we can leave the park to collapse in a heap by the condo’s heated swimming pool before returning to Disney later in the day.

We have planned this trip for nearly two years to perfectly coincide with our children’s ages. We pray they will remember their experience at Walt’s because we don’t plan to return.

After all, Disney is why we signed up for a special VISA card that gives us a “Disney Dollar” back for every $100 we spend. For the past year and a half, we have put every last household expense — including our mortgage — on this card.

Thanks to unforeseen home repairs and health issues, we have racked up nearly a thousand Disney Dollars to help offset the costs of this trip, which are stunning. Admission alone for four days at Disney will account for more than $800. I know, I know. The price comes down the longer you stay.

The problem is, we don’t want to stay.

Yes, I’m convinced it’s the cleanest, most litter-free place we will ever visit; the characters and personnel will be charmed to meet us; and the sights will fill us all with wonder and amazement.

As God is our witness, we will have fun and live to tell about it.

“But Mom,” my 5-year-old mermaid interjects. “I just really, really want to see the beach.”

My carefully calibrated schedule wavers in the wind.

“Let me see what I can do,” I promise.

State Journal-Register contributor Julie Kaiser is a freelance writer and columnist living in Chatham, Ill. She can be reached through the features editor at 217-788-1515.