Tuesday 28 May 2013

Five Signs You've Entered Disney Withdrawal

15 months. That's how long it's been since I last set foot inside Disneyland. For some people that might not seem like a very long time, and for others it might seem like nowhere near long enough, but for our family it's been a ridiculously long stretch. In fact, despite our efforts to keep a lid on it, I'm pretty sure that our family has now entered full fledged Disney withdrawal. 

How do you know if you're in Disney withdrawal? There are some signs...

#1 - Any trip down the stairs is cause to practice your Splash Mountain poses (and you kind of hope somebody throws water on you at the bottom).

Disney Disneyland family
Oh great...the "thinker" pose has been passed down...

#2 - When having a conversation with your wife, your kids are only allowed to interrupt if they have a Fastpass.

space mountain big thunder tower of terror fast pass
Umm...I think you're supposed to use these, not bring them home.

#3 - You start wearing rather unusual sleepwear...

sleeping beauty Aurora disney
Sure...but if I try and kiss her, I get slapped.

#4 - During power failures, instead of finding a flashlight you put the Space Mountain music on your iPod.

disneyland tomorrowland space mtn boarding zone
50/50 whether they're loading or it's broken down again...

#5 - At 9:30 every night you sit out on your front lawn and wait for the fireworks to go off over you neighbors house.

family on lawn blanket waiting
Nice Jasmine doll Tal...

This post is a part of Wordless Wednesday over at Focused on the Magic. If you didn't get here from there, you should really head on over and check out some of the fantastic people that hang out there on Wednesdays. Most of them probably have neighbors with larger pyrotechnic budgets than ours do. Lucky them.

Written by Steve Pratt

Monday 27 May 2013

Why Travel Can't Wait

You know what's not a fun way to spend the weekend? Going through your parents paperwork. For an accountant, Mom sure lacked a system or any organization in her filing. Searching through mountains of random sheets of paper is confusing but even worse than that, it's time consuming. Everything is kind of on hold while the business of taking care of the estate is handled. For instance, this was the weekend that we were supposed to be at Disney's Monstrous All Nighter, but that had to be scrubbed. The boy understands, but what's really frustrating me is that every time my kids come to me and ask "What are we doing this summer?" the only answer I can give them at the moment is that "travel is going to have to wait". 

Yesterday, while cleaning out a file marked "Misc.", I came across this:

six week cruise Australia expenses price

It seems that just after his retirement, Dad was starting to make plans to do one of those trips he'd been looking forward to when he "had a little more time". This one looks like a doozy. A six week Australian cruise. Now let's just take a second and take a look at that. Six weeks is a long time to spend on a boat. I took a seven day Disney cruise a couple of years ago and I think I probably gained nine or ten pounds. Doing the math on that...well let's just say that the ship will need a much higher buoyancy rating for the last couple weeks of that six week journey.

Disney Magic restaurant food
The "We can eat anything you bring out!" pose.

Ignoring the weight issue though, let's look at the cost. On a per day basis, it's probably not all that bad, but $25,000 is a lot of money. It looks like Dad had enough points for one airfare, but a second flight to Sydney at $2500? I usually price out round trip flights down under at about $1000 from the Pacific Northwest. Either Dad was going first class or he was a lousy flight shopper. Might want to reconsider your tipping budget too Dad. That's a little low, although it's good to see that you did allocate the funds for a rather high bar bill. That's planning ahead. 

too full overeat nap on table
The "Why did I eat so much?" pose.

Realistically though, if you can afford the trip it sounds like a great experience. So what happened? Well this trip was in the planning stages during May 2006. Just after that, my mom got sick. Real sick. The kind of sick that the doctors tell you you're not going to recover from. So instead of planning his dream trip, Dad shifted out of travel mode and into taking care of Mom mode. He did a really good job of it too. Despite the grim prognosis, Mom actually recovered and came home. Then, just after Mom got settled back in, Dad suddenly passed away. 

So now I'm left looking at a sheet of paper that represents one of my Dad's unfulfilled dreams. Don't get me wrong...Dad would have gladly given up his dream trip in exchange for Mom getting better and coming home again, but what I really wish is that he could have had both. If anybody worked hard enough to deserve getting to enjoy his golden years it was my Dad, but unfortunately life didn't work out for him that way. It's sad, but what it tells me is that I need a better answer for my children. The next time they come to me and ask "Where are we going this summer?" I have to have a better answer for them. I can't tell them that travel will have to wait because really, it can't.

Saturday 18 May 2013

Things My Parents Taught Me About Traveling

I lost my Dad about five years ago. It was sudden, out of the blue, and really threw me for a loop. Until that day, anything I was ever unsure of or needed help with, I took to Dad. He didn't always have the right answers or advice for me, but he had a way of helping me think through problems and decide what needed to be done. Then, when I made the wrong decision, he was always there to help me correct my mistake. After he passed away I spent a long time thinking about all the things he taught me in life, and if I'd been authoring a blog back then I assure you I would have written at least a handful of posts sharing his great wisdom with all of you.

This week, I lost my Mom. 

This time it wasn't sudden or out of the blue but the process still seems to be the same, and I find myself once again sitting here reflecting on the things my parents taught me that shaped who I am today. In particular, whether or not they intended to, my parents taught me quite a bit about travel. Not in a "Sit down son I have something to tell you" kind of way, but more like general observations that I made while we were away from home. Some of the things I noticed have helped me to this very day. Some were helpful when I was younger, and others....well there always has to be some examples of what not to do doesn't there?

Here then, in honor of my Mom, are five things that my parents taught me about traveling:

#1 -  Camping with friends is great, just make sure you have a hotel room booked somewhere nearby.

When I was young, we used to spend every Labor Day long weekend in a place called Sicamous for my Dad's work baseball tournament. The first year we tried camping along with everybody else, but after that we always had a room booked at the local hotel. Once everybody started crawling into their tents for the night, we would drive back to the hotel and get a good night's sleep, making us the only rested players in the entire tournament on Saturday morning. Unsurprisingly we still came in last every year as apparently baseball success is based on more than just good sleep patterns, but I learned at a very young age that camping success is based on making early reservations at the Hilton down the road. 

Can we go back to the hotel now?

 #2 - You don't have to pay to travel

OK, they waited quite a while to teach me this one. I always thought that we must be pretty rich to travel, but when Lori and I got married my parents gave us 200,000 airmiles and told us to "go somewhere nice". Suddenly it became clear to me how Dad, who was always away somewhere on a work trip, was managing to fund our family vacations. It was a lesson well learned though as by the age of 10 all three of my kids had MVP status on Alaska Airlines and one of our kids would have had status at a hotel chain if we hadn't gotten in trouble for giving a minor an account in the first place. Did you know there's an age limit on those kind of things? 

#3 - You can't drive an RV down Lombard Street

What you can do however is turn onto Lombard Street, stop about ten feet down when you realize that this probably isn't a very good idea, then back your RV up to the top of the road and make a U-turn. You need a certain amount of skill, finesse, and an amazing ability to block out honking horns and yelling drivers, but you can in fact do it. 

Photo via Jon Sullivan

#4 - They really can't "Turn this thing around"!

You know that game siblings play where any drive over 15 minutes in length becomes an opportunity to see just how crazy you can drive your back seat co-passenger? My sister and I were masters of that game, but when we were young my parents could bring our teasing to a halt with the threat of "I'll turn this car around right now". I'm not really sure why this threat worked on us as most of the time we weren't going anywhere more exciting than the grocery store, but for some reason (perhaps it was the tone?) we always stopped fighting right away when the prospect of turning around was placed on the table. Of course, like any good parenting technique that actually works, my parents went to the well a little too often. One time during a flight to California my sister and I got into it and my Dad threatened to "turn this plane around!" The laughs from nearby passengers finally made it obvious to us that perhaps Dad had been bluffing all these years and that he really didn't have the power to follow through on his threat. Still, it was pre-9/11 so we settled down...just in case.

#5 - Just go. Worry about the details later.

This was simultaneously the best and the worst lesson that my parents ever taught me, but it's also probably the lesson that I grasped most fully. My parents were great at setting frameworks for our vacations, but the details were occasionally glossed over in the excitement. When I was younger, I was fine with driving around for hours at the end of the day with Dad claiming that he was looking for "the hotel". When I was older I realized that we were actually looking for "any hotel" that had a room available, but when I look back I don't remember the disorganization. I remember that we were traveling..as a family. Short of a few marital lessons that have served me well over the years ("Just assume you're wrong son") this may be the best thing my parents ever impressed upon me. It's certainly the one that I hope my children learn from Lori and I, and their children from them. With any luck one day there will be multiple generations driving around the world realizing that they forgot to make a reservation or that they never looked up the address of where they were going. I know when that happens Mom and Dad will look down and smile and think "at least they're going". Or they'll think "I can't believe they still don't know how to make a reservation!". Either way, they'll get to smile.

R.I.P. Mom and Dad.

Written by Steve Pratt