I am what you might call a vacationer in training…I just got home from my first “Training Vacation” with my kids, to Disneyland. I have to say, for a newbie, I did pretty well. As I sit here, writing this, I have on a long, black, stretchy dress that I also wore several times over the past few days. It is not clean. I probably have reached the threshold of my deodorants efficacy. I don’t know what is going on with my hair, but it isn’t good. And I am thoroughly exhausted. But dammit, I had a good time!
The reason I consider myself a trainee is because, (duh!), I am really new at all of this stuff. I have never, ever, ever in my life before, planned a full on vacation in advance and actually followed through. I do a lot of dreaming, a lot of looking online, and then something inevitably happens which makes it impossible to do. A lot of the time, I just tell myself I can’t afford it “right now” and put it on my “someday” calendar, which, of course, is a time that does not exist and is therefore a safe but useless place to store daydreams.
Well, no more. My oldest daughter is on the verge of turning sixteen and already dancing away from me. In all of these years, you would think I could have scraped up enough time, money, and courage (because it really does take a little courage to plan a vacation, at least, this time. Maybe it gets easier. I’ll let you know.) to do something memorable, fun, and…overnight, I guess. Because we have done some stuff- we’ve gone to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, and Great America. We’ve gone camping and stuff. But nothing BIG, and more importantly, nothing of my own devising.
I don’t know what changed, but something did. A couple of months ago, I just made up my mind that when I went on vacation in June, we were going to Disneyland. I turned to Facebook and the advice of friends for tips on where to stay and how to go about the whole thing, I searched the internet to check out rooms, and did the best I could. I knew that it would be a learning experience- that I would figure out stuff while I was there that would not benefit me until the NEXT time I was there, and I was okay with that. I kept my eyes and ears open, and I asked a LOT of questions, ranging from the cashier at the hotel gift shop (I LOVED her, she was sweet as could be.) to the cashier at the frozen apple juice kiosk in Storybook Land. Here is a tip- never, ever, ask the kiosk person if working at the park has ruined the magic for them. They may tell the truth.
I learned a lot. I learned that I chose the right hotel, because it had a water park for the little kids and a pool for the big kids, which made it easy to fill up the time we weren’t at Disneyland. Also, it was literally a five minute walk from the park entrance, which means that once my car was parked, I never had to move it again. So THAT was awesome. I learned that everything within a stones throw from Disneyland is about 30% more expensive than normal- even McDonalds! So you may as well plan on that, OR, you can do what we did, and venture away for dinner once or twice. We went to this big chain pizza buffet place that doesn’t exist where I live, so that was fun, and a bargain at ten bucks a head. I also learned FOR SURE that the next time I go, I will be getting a two or three day park hopper pass, and I will be going during the week. There’s a reason they have those things! I was bummed to not go to Disney’s California Adventure, and I can’t wait to go back to see it.
Aside from the things I learned about this vacation, I learned MY personal vacation style is to totally let go. Even though my tendency is to sit down for a meal in a restaurant and then feel myself getting tense as I think about what we are spending, what feels much better is to say “Yes. We are on vacation, get whatever you want.” So that is what I did. Every time, every meal. I took the long way home, yesterday, also, which is something I have always wanted to do…I had to keep reminding myself of this when we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in Santa Monica and my car started overheating, and we had to pull over in the parking lot of a restaurant full of rich people and celebrities, while we were looking like trailer trash that took a wrong turn. Oh, well. And, last night, when I saw the sign for Pea Soup Andersen’s, a place I have always wanted to eat, I thought, “Why the heck not?”, so, off we went. After dinner, I was too exhausted to drive another several hours, so I rented a room at the Pea Soup Andersen Inn. Yes, I did. Okay, so the power went out (there, and in 145,000 other places around there.) and the phone went dead, and it felt a little like a night in the Bates Motel…but SO WHAT? I woke up, didn’t I? I was on the road, feeling rested, before six in the morning, and at seven something, I was standing on the pier at Pismo Beach, thinking how great it would be to spend a few days there.
So, if I had to grade myself on the overall success of my trip, I think I would give myself a B+, maybe an A- if I were being really generous. I did most of it right, but there were a few snags. Like, I overestimated my toddler’s ability to maintain sanity in the face of overwhelming stimulation, and wound up spending an entire hour listening to her scream that she wanted “to go home, mommy.” as we waited for the Disneyland Express train, sat on the train, sat through every endless STOP on the train…yeah, that sucked. But, overall, we made it home alive, happy, and still speaking to each other. Most importantly, I made it home already planning my next trip…which means it must have been okay!