Disney World provides magical family fun for all



We recently returned from a Disney World vacation with our three sons and their girlfriends (and one fiancée). Afamily vacation is lots of fun, but it is also a process that involves lots of planning. The anticipation of the departure day is half the fun, unless you’re the one doing all the preparatory laundry, shopping and packing. The fun starts for me once all that’s done.

My comfort while walking around the park was important to me so, at the recommendation of my podiatrist, I put a lot of effort into finding the perfect sneaker.

We drove down in two cars. My husband was bent on avoiding theWashington, D.C., area rush-hour traffic, so we got on the road at 6 a.m. As we pulled away from the house, with the theme song from National Lampoon’s “Vacation” blaring from the speakers (a joke from our kids who fondly call my husband Clark Griswold), I felt confident that I didn’t forget a thing.

Ten minutes into the trip, I realized that I didn’t remember putting the bag with my special sneakers into the car and no one else remembered doing so either. I gave my husband, who hates to turn around once he gets going, the option of heading back home at that point or finding a store between New Jersey and Florida that sold the same shoes.

When we got home, the shoes weren’t there. We opened the trunk and there they were, in a laundry basket I had placed them in, along with some snacks and a rain jacket that I couldn’t seem to find before we left.

The scary thing is that I had packed that laundry basket before we left and totally forgot about it. I apologized to everyone and berated myself, convinced that I am losing my mind. Happily, we smoothly made it through the D.C. area anyway.

Despite the early delay, the ride was quite pleasant, especially since the van had satellite radio, so I got to sing along to all my old favorites from the 1960s and 1970s.

For some reason the kids kept their headphones on the whole time, so we didn’t get to talk much. In between dozing, my BlackBerry proved to be a good distraction via emails, texting and Internet searches.

We stopped to stretch our legs, visited Pedro at South of the Border, and made it to Georgia in just over 12 hours.

We stopped for my favorite salad at a Wendy’s in North Carolina, but they would not serve it to me without the cheese like they do here at home. Things are different in other states. They didn’t understand my accent either.

Wherever we went, people asked what part of NewYork we were from — even my son, who was born and raised in New Jersey, but pronounces “water” like his parents (“wauda”). I guess you can take a person out of New York, but can’t take the New York out of a person.

We slept in Georgia and ate at a nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant. We were seated quickly and two waitresses took our order, each doing one half of the table. I was impressed by their efficiency, until I realized it was stupidity when half the table received their dinners.

After waiting 20 minutes, we complained to the manager, who explained that they had to put the orders in separately to keep the kitchen from getting backed up. WHAT? He nervously (could it be our accents?) apologized and personally retrieved our food, which came out cold.

To make amends, he took care of the bill, but we just wanted to get out of there and get on with our “relaxing” Disney World vacation (an almost impossible concept for the Griswolds of Jersey to achieve in the parks).

When we got to the DoubleTree Hotel and Suites, we forgot about our road trip hazards when the staff welcomed us with warm chocolate chip cookies and said, “Welcome home” whenever we returned. Despite rain that first day, we bought ponchos and had fun.

We arose early and were at Magic Kingdom in time to be welcomed with the utmost of Disney fanfare by the mayor of Walt Disney World, who introduced the characters that arrived on the Disney train as the park opened.

The perks of getting there early was no lines, so we visited all the rides and attractions quickly, with time to take a break back at the hotel before going back for the parade and fireworks show at Cinderella’s castle.

That early-morning scenario played out well for us every day, as we managed to get through Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Universal Studios without long lines and relaxed often at the hotel’s tropical pool. This was necessary to relieve the exhaustion from rising early and running through the parks to beat the hordes of travelers from Brazil who marched together to each attraction chanting “Bra – zil, Bra – zil,” creating long wait times for those behind them.

One day at the pool bathroom I saw a black thread on the floor when it suddenly jerked, looked at me and stuck its tongue out. Asnake! Astaffer said garter snakes are common in Florida and relocated it.

The ride home seemed much longer. Out of desperation, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Wilson, N.C., and had breakfast for dinner, after I confirmed they would serve our meals all at once. Our wonderful waiter, Roysey, redeemed Cracker Barrel’s reputation in our eyes. We got home with time to rest up from our vacation before returning to work. We all agreed that Disney World with grown-up kids is even better than with youngsters. No matter how old you are, visiting the Disney area with family offers a new perspective and a magical experience unlike any other place at any stage of life.

Amy Rosen is a Greater Media Newspapers staff writer.