Let The Magic Begin!

“I’ve never taken you for much of a Disney person.”

This is what my husband said to me tonight as I was explaining how sad I was that today’s visit to the Magic Kingdom was probably the last one I will be able to take before my annual pass expires on November 29.

It’s not that I’ve always been “much of a Disney person” and it’s not that I’ll ever be someone who visits monthly, nor will I ever have the expertise or sufficient passion to be a Disney-centered blogger like A Disney Mom’s Thoughts.

But my relationship with Disney has deepened over this year, and here are a few thoughts on why:

Candlelight Processional, November 2015

Last November, Tenley was planning to visit Disney with friends. On a quick whim, she said, “why don’t you come down for the Candlelight Processional for your birthday?” It was the need to purchase admission to EPCOT for the processional that led to my first ever Annual Pass purchase. (I knew Tenley would be living in Orlando during her College Program January – May of 2016, so it was a pretty safe bet I would be back down.)

There were many great firsts (to me) that trip. First stay at the Beach Club. First Candlelight Processional (with a phenomenal Gary Sinise). First time wearing a “Happy Birthday” button through the parks and being treated like royalty just because I had survived another year on Earth.

Remembering Disney World

Becoming a Disney College Program Parent

What really drove my newfound interest in and love of Disney was the fact that I dug deeper into all things Disney as Tenley prepared to begin her tenure as a participant in the Disney College Program. I’ve never pretended Disney is my happy place the same way it is for her (for the record, New York City is my happy place), but it’s just my nature to try to understand a place that means that much to my child (well, okay, maybe it’s stalkerish but moms just want to know right?!).

When I went to Disney in January to help Tenley move in, I had more firsts. First stay at a Value Resort (Pop Century). First visit to Animal Kingdom. First of the “bigger” kid good-byes (I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her until April).

Remembering Disney World

Customer Service Matters

One thing that has really grown on me over this year is the Disney attention to guest services. It’s certainly not always perfect, but having seen Tenley go through Disney training, having read a lot more about Disney’s 4 C’s of great guest experiences, and having had the opportunity to be treated to magical moments myself, my customer-service heart is just pleased that a company still cares and places a value on excellent service.

I always try to single out at least one cast member who provided fantastic guest service and let Disney know so that the cast member can be recognized. This doesn’t happen every trip (it didn’t happen on the trip I just completed, for example). But it’s a reminder that you should have to work hard and be exceptional to earn recognition.

Having had a loved one work as a cast member, I am exponentially more sensitive to the need to be kind to cast members. I don’t know what percentage of them are College Program participants, but in the back of my mind is always the idea that this cast member, especially if they are a college program participant, may be far from home, may be doing their first real “big” job, probably dreamed of working at Disney all their life. I know the magical awesome guest moments outweigh the bad, but I’ve heard enough stories of guests who are unreasonable and downright abusive that I want to do my small part to outweigh some of that.

Family Time

By the time our April family visit rolled around, we were all excited to be together. This was my first stay at Riverside, a lovely moderate Disney resort.

We ate, we enjoyed the Flower and Garden Festival (despite the rain!). Together we experienced the final “Dream Along With Mickey” show (if you want to see a Disney character look “sad,” watch them try to work through their nostalgia as they perform the last rendition of a beloved show).

Remembering Disney World

Joy, Sadness, and May’s Visit

Right before Tenley’s College Program ended, she suggested I visit one more time (twist. my. arm!). This was a quick visit, but it gave us an opportunity to experience a little more park time and catch up with some friends who were visiting from various areas of Florida. This was a shoestring visit, but Tenley and I agreed it was more important to be frugal with lodgings, so I stayed at the Clarion Lake Buena Vista which was definitely suitable and offered a generous cast member discount.

Although this visit was almost an afterthought planning-wise, it ended up having a special place in my heart because of the loss of Will, a College Program participant, and the way the College Program parents came together in shared sadness, reminded of what matters most.

Remembering Disney World

Being Able to Come and Go Without Having to Pack All the Magic Into One Day

The best perk of having an Annual Pass was, to me, being able to just “drop in” on a park. When I see guests trying to squeeze an entire day’s worth of attractions, food, photos, and memories into one single trip, I feel sorry for them. I have been able to take in the parks in bite-sized pieces. That first visit, when I went to the Candlelight Processional, my pass paid for itself by the time I stopped by Hollywood Studios later that evening (and saw the Osborne Family Lights for their last year), and Magic Kingdom the next morning.

Bite-sized magic tastes just as sweet on memory’s taste buds as do super-sized helpings. Sometimes even better.

Beginnings Count

Among the Disney-isms I have discovered, including the Hubgrass (my favorite!), the Hidden Mickeys, and all kinds of little traditions, I realized that I had never been to the Park Opening Ceremony at the Magic Kingdom (also known as Rope Drop).

When I participated in the Type A Parent conference at Disney World this past week, I arranged my arrival so that I would be at the park in time for Rope Drop on the first day. It helped that the conference was at the Contemporary so I could easily walk to the Magic Kingdom.

I am not sure what it is about Rope Drop, a happy start-of-day ceremony, that brings tears to my eyes, but I was fighting back sentimental tears as the train pulled into the station with Mickey and the family of the day. I loved the final line of the ceremony:


I realize that when I walked away from the Magic Kingdom today, it probably wasn’t the last time ever. I know I should just be grateful for all of the memories I have made this year and the time with family, friends, and pixie-dusted adventures.

I guess the memories which began last November will never really leave me.

Like this sweet little girl I saw Wednesday, when I need a break from reality, I’ll just get up on my tiptoes, think about a distant castle, and allow my heart to smile while expecting something happy to be on its way.

Remembering Disney World

Thanks, Disney. It’s been a great year.

Remembering Disney World


17 thoughts on “Let The Magic Begin!

  1. What a wonderful year of memories. I like what you said about enjoying the parks in bite sized pieces. That can probably be said about most places that offer an annual pass. I usually dismiss the idea of getting one but this will make me think twice.

    • Thanks, Moe! And YOU and your family started the whole bite-sized magic ball rolling when you gave me that Happy Birthday pin right before my first visit! // On the Annual Pass thing, with Disney for a Florida resident who plans to visit more than one park, the kind I got literally paid for itself by the time I visited EPCOT and Hollywood Studios in one day during that first visit. It was cheaper to get an entire year’s pass than to pay to enter two parks. There are other fun perks (plus a cute slider to put on your magic band) that probably make sense if you visit OFTEN (like dining discounts, special passholder goodies during festivals like Flower and Garden, etc.). I think it depends on what you and your family do for entertainment. But it’s definitely a good idea to do the math if there’s a particular place you’ll be visiting multiple times. 🙂

    • 🙂 the scale of it all really baffles me. I think, too, crowds of amusement park attendees have gotten more challenging (maybe not but it seems that way to me) ….. managing all that and keeping high standards is no small feat.

  2. It sounds like Disney had cast its magic spell on you. How wonderful that you were able to see a different side of Disney from your daughter’s college program experience.

  3. My family has gone to Disney at least once a year since my kids were born, and I definitely consider it our “happy place.” Some trips (like last week) were just a couple of days for something in particular. Others were 10 days of just hanging out with passes and relaxing. Every trip was different and special in its own way.

    Last summer I realized that our long summer trip might be the last time that we would be able to go for an extended time as a whole family before my oldest graduates from college. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I found myself crying off and on a lot during the trip. I like those days were we can just pop in and out of the parks when we want without feeling rushed or like we have so much that we need to do. When the “kids” can stay late themselves while my husband and I head back to the resort to relax. I don’t want them to end!!!

    Reading your post made me happy for one big reason…the college program. Both of my kids are interested in it. Maybe if at least one of them gets into it, I’ll know that we still have some great family trips to come before they start their own lives!

    • You won’t be surprised that one of the TOP topics in the College Program Parents’ Facebook group is all around visiting our kids. When we’re going to visit, how it felt (great!) to be able to visit, sharing pix back of other people’s kids when we are visiting. Of COURSE we’re doing all of this for the kids LOL. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your memories. Good luck to your kids.

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