Eva and I have been planning to go to Disney World for our tenth anniversary since...well, since before our first anniversary. Eva's never been; I haven't been since 1984, which means I really haven't been, either.
When I went with my dad twenty six years ago, EPCOT had barely opened and nothing else existed (besides the Magic Kingdom, of course). In any event, Disney was just one of the things we did on that trip and even then it was a real stretch to see the Magic Kingdom in a day. Now, there are four parks in the complex, six if you count Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Disney World is twice the size of Manhattan Island and it'd take a full week to see everything we want to see.
A week we shall have. What a week we shall have.
This may be not just the best vacation we ever have, but the best we ever could have, thanks to all the planning that must go into it.
I'd better explain that.
When we drove to Florida two years ago, I resolved to make the drive down part of the vacation. In truth, planning the drive down became part of the vacation, for me. We bought a copy of Dave Hunter's excellent travel guide Along I-75 and by the time we embarked I had that sucker memorized. It turned me from an awful navigator ("uh, I think we should have turned back there") into a damned good one ("you want to get into the left lane soon"). Better, it gave me a grounding in what to expect over the trip down...for a guy who values stability as highly as I do, that can't be understated. Novelty's all fine and good, but I like to have something to relate it to, even if it's only words on a page. The book made a point of suggesting we stay at a Jameson Inn, and we appreciated that suggestion so much we stayed at two and plan to hit a third this time.
Again, we plan to drive down, this time taking a more scenic route that also shaves a couple of hours off the drive time. We'll be hitting parts of nine states on the way down...may I digress for a moment?
My wife collects shot glasses for all the places she's been. On that previous trip, she had accumulated glasses for seven states: Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. We had them in a paper bag on the floor of the backseat of the car...that is, until yours truly spiffed up the car just before the border. Let's get rid of all this detritus, I thought as I scooped up coffee cups, burger wrappers and some paper bag or other and deposited it all into a Michigan garbage can. When we discovered the missing shot glasses back home, I briefly resided in the marital doghouse. This trip will give Eva a chance to replenish her stock...and love, I promise not to throw them out this time, okay?
The drive down is only part of the planning, because you don't do Disney on impulse. You just don't.
We have a copy of The Unauthorized Guide to Walt Disney World for Grown Ups. From Google Books' rendition of the larger Unathorized Guide To Disney World:
"One of our all time favorite letters came from a man in Chapel Hill, North Carolina:
'Your book reads like the operations plan for an amphibious landing. Go here, do this, proceed to Step 15. You must think that everyone is a hyperactive, Type-A theme-park commando. What happened to the satisfaction of self-discovery or the joy of spontaneity? Next you'll be telling us when to empty our bladders.'
As it happens, Unofficial Guide researchers are a pretty existential crew. We are big on self-discovery if the activity is walking in the woods or watching birds. Some of us are able to improvise jazz, and others can whip up a mean pot of chili without a recipe. When it comes to Walt Disney World, however, all of us agree that you need either a good plan or a frontal lobotomy. The operational definition of self-discovery and spontaneity at Walt Disney World is the "pleasure" of heat exhaustion and the "joy" of standing in line."
For one thing, Disney requires (or at least strongly encourages) advance dining reservations for each night of your stay. You can (and are, in some cases, strongly encouraged t0) book these six months in advance. When this was first explained to me, I thought I had to know, six months ahead, what I planned to eat every night. Not quite. There is a good reason for their insistence on reservations so far in advance, though: an average of seventeen million people--more than half the population of Canada--visit Disney World each year. There is a phenomenal demand for some of the dining establishments, to the point where you're told you better get your reservation in within the first five minutes on the first day you're eligible, or you'll be out of luck.
It rapidly dawns on us that if we're going to make dinner reservations for a specific eatery each night, it only makes sense to plan to be in the same park that day. Before long, we've got a full itinerary. We won't go so far as to script our every step ("first we'll hit this ride, then that show" and so on)...but then again, we'll have at least a fair idea of what to do first and what to leave until later if we want to minimize time in line. What with Eva's sun aversion--she can and does get sunburns on rainy days--that seems only prudent.
We've decided to stay at the Old Key West Resort:
- first and foremost, we wanted that "Old Key West" experience. I would love to have seen Key West thirty or forty years ago, before Duvall Street deteriorated into block upon block of kitschy tourist bric-a-brac.
- We wanted a place somewhat removed from the parks, while still on the property. Several people complained (mildly) about the distance between OKW and some of the parks. I can appreciate that after twelve hours of walking, you want to be in your hotel room now. But Eva and I have a very similar capacity for sensory overload and a shared appreciation for rest and relaxation in our own space, away from the crowds. Indeed, on one day out of the week we're down there, we don't plan to leave our hotel's grounds much if at all.
- Many people have praised the Old Key West for the size of its suites. We like that "home away from home" feel, which in our case includes
- a Jacuzzi (to cure sore muscles) and
- a full kitchen (because our dining plan doesn't cover everything, and in any event, endless meals out can get tiring.
We've settled on our restaurants of choice, including the one where we're having our actual anniversary dinner. That was probably the hardest thing to figure out--most of the high end Disney places are too 'frou-frou' for our palates. For all I know, I might love roasted squirrel testicles in a white froth, with a side of goat's anus tartare. I don't want to know. In the end, we picked Le Cellier in the Canadian Pavilion at EPCOT--and that was after some convincing. "What the hell do we want to travel all the way to see our own country for?" said my darling wife. I've promised to get her in and out of Canada in just enough time for one steak dinner.
I just can't wait for this trip. As with any big thing like this, I'm a wee bit obsessed about it. I've Google mapped everything, using the nifty satellite view to get a look at our route from overhead, all the way down. There are videos on YouTube for everything we plan on doing and seeing. It's just a hoot.
We now return to...damnitall, not even February yet...