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Practical tips for Walt Disney World travel
A fatherson bonding experience makes Mike the happiest dad
Friday, April 15, 2005
Although my wife and I started going to Walt Disney World in 1975, we did not start family vacations until 1990.
I recall one night in July 1992, in which my daughter and wife were very tired from another magical day in Orlando.
We were at the Caribbean Beach Resort, and my son and I weren't tired. We strolled down to Old Port Royale and grabbed an oatmeal raisin cookie and soft-serve ice cream.
We sat at the grand pool and watched what little we could see of Illuminations. My son was enjoying his second WDW vacation and learning what Disney magic was all about. He admitted Walt Disney World was not what he expected. It was better.
I thought that was a pretty good father-son bonding time and I found this to be a special moment a Disney moment. That night convinced me to become an Annual Passholder.
We visited WDW many times over the years. In 1997 we were at the Wilderness Lodge. One day, my son and I went out for an early run. We ran to and around Fort Wilderness and back to the Wilderness Lodge and had the spa pools all to ourselves. Again the conversation turned to what we had done on our vacation and what was left for us to do. More lessons in Disney Magic.
A few years later, my son entered college. And on one particular phone call in mid-winter, we talked about the challenge of freshman year and how each day is a struggle.
Out of the blue, my son said, Y'know Dad, I want to go back to the Caribbean Beach Resort and just sit outside and talk with you and eat oatmeal cookies and ice cream.
At that moment, I knew my son had not only been touched by Disney Magic, but understood the priceless value of a WDW vacation.
Over the years our vacations have been filled with wonder, smiles, and most importantly, family bonding that is not realized anywhere else.
On the last day of every trip, I stop at the Partners statue in the Magic Kingdom and whisper, Thanks Walt.
If we hadn't purchased annual passes in 1992 and gone so often, I wouldn't have these great memories that pull me through my toughest days.
It's these memories that have convinced me that I'm the Happiest Annual Passholder on Earth.
You may have felt a light bulb going on just above your head while reading this last sentence.
If so, then you have an idea as to whom this story was written. Well OK, but let's not say anything yet. Let's keep it between ourselves for now.
About a week ago, I went out to get something from my shed. As I exited out the side door I almost tripped over a FedEx box. It was about the size of a huge telephone book.
I put it aside and took care of my errand in the shed. On the way back into the house, I grabbed the box and brought it into the living room where Carol was sitting and reading.
What's that? she asked.
Well it's from Orlando, I replied. Maybe it's my marathon stuff.
I opened the box and felt a book-like object inside. It was a case that held a book containing holograms of all the new attractions in Walt Disney World, such as Soarin', the new stunt show in Disney/MGM Studios, Lucky the Dinosaur, and Cinderellabration. Also included was an acrylic hologram that contained a composite image of all the Disney theme park castles from around the world.
There was also a piece of paper, a letter.
I started to read it, and Carol then asked, Are you OK?
I guess I had turned a few colors.
I started thinking out loud. Huh? No way!
What? she said, What?
In large bold letters, all I saw was
I won! I actually won.
Won what? Carol asked.
I had never told her that about a month ago, I had entered WDW's Happiest Passholder on Earth contest.
I guess the cat was out of the bag.
My entry was chosen as one of the best 50 entries submitted, and I was now invited to the festivities that would kick off the Happiest Celebration on Earth at Disney-MGM Studios on Wednesday, May 4.
I could not read more than the first few lines of the letter; I had fallen into an enchanted trance. Carol kept asking, What else does it say?
In a semi-comatose state, I had no idea what the heck she was asking me. I handed her the letter and continued to stare out the window.
I just never expected to win. I didn't prepare for this. I was thinking, Obviously, only 50 people entered this thing.
Carol said, You can bring a guest! I'm sure Carol was less than thrilled that she worked for the town school district and was in no way able to sneak away for a few days.
So who are you going to bring? she asked.
I grabbed my phone and dialed a number.
Unfortunately, no one answered and I had to leave a voicemail. I didn't want to spoil anything, so the message was cryptic, short, and urgent: Please call me at home.
About 15 minutes later, the phone rang. I knew who it would be.
Hello! I answered, knowing who would be on the other end of the line.
Hi Dad! What's up? You scare the heck out of me when you call me and just say, 'Please call me at home' and hang up.
It was Mike. Now 25 years old, he's a general manager for the local Gold's Gym, and was working late.
Hey, remember a few weeks ago I was waving an envelope one morning and told you I was entering a contest and that if I won you and I were going to Walt Disney World?
There was a moment of silence on the other end.
You're kidding? Oh my God!
That's right, I replied. I told him we would get together later and talk about the details.
So now you know the rest of the story, of why you are reading about a boy and his dad instead of Aronda Parks.
Your humble servant will be your eyes and ears as I take in all the festivities on May 3. You can be sure that I'll do my best to report back about this special time.
On that night, all the winners will attend the grand opening ceremony for Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show. This is supposed to be the very first time the entire show will be shown.
Everyone in attendance will also see live entertainment (which I'm sure will not include a wardrobe malfunctionafter all, we're talkin' Disney here). The next item is not that appealing to someone who is training for the WDW Marathon Weekend next January and trying to lose enough weight to equal someone the size of Stitch: An unlimited dinner feast. I talked with Michelle Holt of WDW Special Events and she gleefully said, It will be a catered affair and will be in buffet style.
Did I mention I was bringing my running shoes to Orlando?
The letter notes that the winners will have access to selected attractions. Since this all starts around 6 p.m., my guess is that by the time we are done with our feast, the park is closed to the general public. Michelle did point out that not all the attractions would be open. I can pretty much guess which ones will be open for business.
I am sharing the words from my winning entry with you because I had written them in the same manner that I write my articles; I wanted to reach out and touch the judges in the way I do with my articles I write for you.
So thank you. Without the inspiration of you, the audience, I cannot constantly strive to improve upon the craft of writing.
I am not a stranger to trip reports and their importance. This one will be special, and I'll do my best so that you and I will always
Remember the Magic!
Aronda Parks I promise.
Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.
Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.
Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.
Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.
You can contact Mike here.
Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:
Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, The Trip Planner for more travel planning information.
Get the latest info about the resort at Park Update: Walt Disney World.
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