After a certain age, birthdays take on different meanings. I’ve reached the point where I pretty much have everything I want, or recognize that what I don’t have is not something that I need. In addition, we are starting the transition from our home of thirty years in San Francisco to full-time living in Sonoma (with a few transition years in San Jose.) So our challenge is getting rid of stuff, not taking more on. Which is why, in the past several years, my directive has been, no birthday presents unless they are food or wine. I just don’t have any more places to put things. What I do like is travel — and not always to places where Andy wants to go. So he’s very supportive when I want to pick another traveling companion for some of my more eccentric themed roadtrips. (Sometimes that companion is a terrier, as when Lucy accompanied me on The Roads Less Traveled Tour.) For this year’s birthday, I booked another trip that would not be Andy’s cup of tea.
I’m going to Disneyland. And I’m taking The World’s Most Beautiful Pre-Schooler with me. (And my friend, Susi, The World’s Best Mom.)
I’ve been researching this trip for awhile. And every blog, book and tipster says a trip to the Magic Kingdom must be planned with military precision. I remember my first trip to Disneyland. It was orchestrated by my father, a West Point graduate and career Army officer, who really did organize our trip like the invasion of a small country. First he found a map of Disneyland and divided it into quadrants. My brother and I were told that each day, we could each pick one non-negotiable ride in each quadrant. Then we had to reach consensus on three other rides in those quadrants. The assault would work in a clockwise formation and we would storm the beachheads in continuous movement — with one lunch break — until the rides closed. Then the next day would pick up at the last unfinished quadrant and the troops would again cover the battlefield in a clockwise advance. This sweeping motion was to pick up the rides in the previous quadrant that we had missed. As my Dad was following General Patton’s philosophy of continuous advance, all rides with lines of over an hour were skipped and put on the agenda for the next day’s assault. I doubt the Normandy invasion was executed with such precision. But my Dad was a man on a mission. We were going to maximize our Disneyland dollar by covering as much ground as possible in the most efficient manner with the fewest casualties. To this day, as I compare notes with other people my age, I’m the only person I know of who covered all of Disneyland in one trip — without a single meltdown.
Since my father accomplished this fine example of military strategy in the days long before the Internet, I was sure I could duplicate it easily with Google in my aresenal. After a week, I realized you probably do need a West Point education and a few years teaching at various U.S. War Colleges to pull it off. To this day, my brother and I refer to that trip as Assault on Disney. It was a scorched earth campaign and we achieved total victory.
I do not possess a military mind of my father’s caliber. But just before I sunk into despair, I figured out my winning strategy. We don’t have to do ALL of Disneyland. Because Amelia May is all about the Princesses and the Fairies. If you just concentrate on Princesses and Fairies, you can eliminate whole quadrants of Disneyland from your campaign. Goodbye Davy Crockett and Frontier Land. See ya later, Tomorrow Land and Space Mountain. Just get us on the Monorail Express to Fantasy Land.
I even got the cocky notion that we could do Disney on a shoe string. We wouldn’t need that expensive All Parks Access Pass. We could get the cheap one park a day pass since I couldn’t imagine we’d do anything outside the shadow of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Wrong.
Uncle Walt was a marketing genius and he’s still reaching out from the grave to part you with your money. Apparently, one of THE key Princess attractions is Ariel’s Grotto, where you dine with Ariel and FIVE OTHER PRINCESSES WHO ARE GUARANTEED TO TALK TO EACH CHILD. Uncle Walt has craftily planted this and Ariel’s Amazing Underwater Adventure Ride in Disneyland Adventure Park. Ba-Bam. A different park than classic Disneyland. Two park passes needed. Especially since, besides these two key attractions, there isn’t much else over here to hold the true Princess/Fairy aficionado. We’ll be ping-ponging between this quadrant and Fantasy Land. Well, what the Hell. You only do Disneyland for the first time once. And there are so many Princesses and so little time.
Another area we’ll be haunting is the Fantasy Faire which features shows, re-enactment of fairy tales and loads of Princesses. This is going to be the one point where I channel my father. We are staying in a Disneyland Resort hotel, so we get admitted an hour early. I’ll be sounding Reveille at 0:600 hours and we will be at the Faire with autograph books out ready to get facetime with Princesses before the crowds can assemble. Apparently, Disneyland also publishes a schedule of Princess appearances around the park, so you can stalk your favorites. We’ll be on the hunt. Unless we are at Pixie Hollow where Tinkerbell and her Fairy friends hang out and you enter a magic land of tree sized flowers where you are shrunk to the size of a Fairy yourself. I haven’t planned very far beyond this because I suspect Amelia will just want to repeat this day again and again.
Now before you dismiss me as not my father’s daughter, don’t make the mistake of thinking my strategy as less technically challenging than that long ago Assault on Disney. My father was a Cold Warrior, tried and tested on the battlefields of Korea and Southeast Asia, then further proven in standoffs on the border of what was then the Eastern Bloc. But modern times bring new challenges.
Here’s what my father never had to face: costume considerations. On our trip to Disneyland, it was “Sun hat? Comfortable shoes? Okay, go.”
When I broke the news to Amelia May about our upcoming Disney trip, her reaction was that of famously well-dressed women everywhere: “I don’t have ANYTHING TO WEAR!” This from a child who has every Princess dress that Disney manufactures. Plus an Elsa from Frozen dress that Disney hasn’t even been able to get out of China and into retail outlets.
It looks as if a trip to the Disney store is in the cards to prep for this trip. Although if there is a Disney outfit that Amelia doesn’t have it must be for a Disney Princess not yet invented. As a fall-back, she has a Minnie Mouse dress and a number of Fairy costumes. We are covered. In fact, I told Susi that she and I are going to be restricted to carrying only the clothes that we can fit in our handbags. All available luggage will be reserved for a full array of Princess dresses, tiaras and wands, as well as Fairy costumes and wings. This must be what it’s like to travel as a Lady in Waiting to Princess Kate.
Although this isn’t proceeding like the finely tuned military operation my father would have recognized, I expect there will be many more strategy sessions before we head south to the Magic Kingdom.
I’ll keep you posted.
Note: One of the reasons I’m convinced Assault on Disney was so successful was that we didn’t have to wait in the two hour lines for the “It’s a Small World” ride which, in my day, was THE attraction. We’d already seen it many times where it actually debuted, at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Here it is, in all its creaky animatronic glory and narrated by Uncle Walt himself.
And just so that song gets stuck in your head: