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Our first trip to Disneyland wasn’t the milestone I expected it to be

standard August 13, 2014 3 responses

Last week, for the first time ever, the four of us went on a vacation that didn’t involve a family event or holiday. Just us, going away, for the sole purpose of relaxing as a family.

Novel, right?

In an effort to make the trip a roaring success I might have gone a little overboard in the planning process, thinking out the week with almost military precision, worrying about every choice I made, hoping against hope that the whole trip would be such a roaring success that a summer family vacation would become an annual tradition rather than that one thing we did the summer the kids were 7 and 9.

Please note, as far as I can recall, my family went on exactly two family vacations and both were when I was a teen. My concern wasn’t born out of nothing.

First I researched the heck out of our options, toying at length with the idea of renting a cabin by a lake for the week. Then I pondered whether the girls were old enough to enjoy a cruise. The first option basically meant I’d be cooking, cleaning, and catering to the family, just in a different locale. The second option meant that someone else would be cooking, cleaning, and catering to the family all while I relaxed in a deck chair.

Guess which option won.

The cruise I picked left from Los Angeles (Long Beach really, but who’s quibbling?) on a Monday afternoon, leaving me a whole weekend to play with.

Los Angeles Road Sign

And play with it we did!

Because what could be better than taking your kids on a four day cruise to Mexico?

A first trip to Disneyland the day before! That’s what!

Disneyland Ferris wheel

We drove down to LA on Saturday, taking our sweet time and enjoying the road trip.

The road to L.A. is beautiful in spots.

The road to L.A. is beautiful in spots.

Then, Sunday we got up at the crack of dawn and, with a little bit of trepidation, made our way to the happiest place on earth.

Why trepidation? Well, it has something to do with the reasons that caused us to wait so long to take the girls to Disneyland for the first time.

Reason one? Neither girl is very fond of characters in costume. C even has a bit of a phobia about it. Had we taken this trip any sooner, I’m pretty sure it would have ended with us having to leave the park, each carrying a hysterical child. At 7 and 9 I figured they could manage somewhat, especially after I learned that, unlike at Euro Disney, here the characters tend to stand in one spot and let the kids come to them. Much better than suddenly finding yourself walking hand in hand with Tweedle Dee instead of your best friend. (Why yes, when it happened that one time, it did startle me, making Tweedle Dum laugh rather uproariously.)

Big Green Men. More terrifying than Little Green Men.

Big Green Men. More terrifying than Little Green Men.

Reason two? We were heading to Disneyland on one of the busiest days of the year, in the middle of a heat wave. I worried it would be crazy crowded and hot.

No shortage of people here! Or of heat...

No shortage of people here! Or of heat…

Reason three? Until this summer, I honestly didn’t think M would have enough energy to navigate Disneyland. I mean, the man has been known to fall asleep standing up in the middle of Costco because the noise and people are so overwhelming. In that regard and knowing what he’s gone through the last three years, Disneyland seemed dauntingly overwhelming and I worried he’d have a horrible time.  I also worried that I’d be bouncing around the parks with two kids while he napped in the car or on a bench. None of which sounded appealing. Thus the trepidation.

You can rest in line while waiting for rides as it turns out!

You can rest in line while waiting for rides as it turns out!

I needn’t have worried.

About any of it.

We arrived moments after the gates opened and, firm plan in hand about which rides we’d try to score Fast Passes for first, headed off into the park.

I have to admit I might have shed a tear or two at finally seeing my kids in an iconic place I never thought we’d see as a family.

Disneyland arrival

We did it all. OK, almost all. In the 12 hours that we spent bouncing from Disneyland to California Adventures and back we hit most of the key rides, had two low key meals, saw a couple 3D movies, visited almost every gift shop, and had an all around blast. Yes, it was hot. Yes, there were a lot of people there. No, neither thing dampened our fun in the least.

Flying high!

Flying high!

At 8pm, one last Fast Pass in hand, we debated whether to stick around another 45 minutes to ride Radiator Springs, the popular new Cars racing attraction, or to call it quits on the fun and head home.

Look! We hugged Stanley. We can go now!

Look! We hugged Stanley. We can go now!

The kids, exhausted and utterly spent, begged us to leave. The husband, equally exhausted, begged us to stay. He just couldn’t get enough.

Reason prevailed and we gifted our fast passes to a family who was preparing to wait an hour and a half in line and headed out, knowing full well that this was only the first of our Disneyland trips, not the only. Next time we’ll make a real vacation of it, staying in a Disneyland Resort hotel, taking our time to savor each park and all they have to offer.

I know that Disneyland is a magical place, but I’d forgotten what it was like to see the magic in action. Watching my husband act like a kid, enjoying his day out with the actual kids, laughing, bouncing around, loving every minute of his day despite his mounting exhaustion, was more than I had ever dared hope would happen again. A lot of this summer has been about reclaiming the lives I feared we’d lost forever. Disneyland was yet another stop on the road to normalcy. A truly magical one; not half bad for a first time.


You can see more photos of our fun day at Disneyland here.

As for the cruise we headed out on the following day? That’s a whole other story which I’ll be telling in a day or two. 


Please note: M and I were graciously granted press pass park hopper tickets to the Disneyland Resort. I paid for the children’s passes and everything else. Everything experienced and expressed is based on my thoughts and opinions and in no way dictated by Disney. 

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