I DID NOT want to go to Disney World. I visited the Magic Kingdom once for a day when I was 13 and it baffled me that this was the preferred honeymoon destination of most of my family and friends. Why would I want to spend my honeymoon surrounded by a bunch of screaming kids? I didn’t like kids. I was in my early 20’s and had visions of a romantic tropical getaway complete with fruity drinks out of coconut shells with cute little umbrellas. Kids were not part of my vision.
I had a collection of brightly colored brochures from all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and Jamaica that I acquired at various bridal shows. Tropical? Check. Fruity drinks? Check. Romantic? Check. But, having never been to a vacation resort before, I started worrying that I might grow tired of these things if there wasn’t some action thrown in. A little sightseeing and hiking mixed in with my sunbathing. So I enthusiastically set my sights on Hawaii. It would be perfect.
*Cue Estelle Getty from The Golden Girls*
Picture it. The Midwest. 2001. Still the early days of the internet and I was highly inexperienced with this newfangled technology. My internet research consisted only of getting air and hotel quotes directly from provider sites. The result? A reality check that Hawaii was not going to happen on my budget. So I grudgingly gave in to peer pressure and agreed with my soon-to-be husband to go to Disney World.
Some close friends, who knew I was reluctant about this decision, gave me Birnbaum’s 2001 edition of Walt Disney World Without Kids. I immersed myself in this book for months. I still remember all the 90’s pictures of happy people parading around Disney with their perms blowing in the breeze. I was hooked. We would be there during the Food and Wine Festival, plus Pleasure Island (may it rest in peace) and the Boardwalk areas sounded perfect for us. And there were pools! With bars! I began realizing that perhaps Disney could be more fun than I thought.
The next step in the planning process was to choose a hotel. Our friends had honeymooned at the Polynesian and my brother had honeymooned at Dixie Landings (now Port Orleans Riverside). Both convinced us that we had to stay on-site. Okay, back to the guide book. The Deluxe resorts struck us as an elusive luxury that we could only obtain once our hair was white. The Value resorts looked like kid magnets so I tore those pages out. The clear winners were the Moderates. I was immediately drawn to the tropical wonderfulness of the Caribbean Beach Resort. The palm trees. The description of the soft hues of the rooms. They had me at hammock.
The day of my first ever resort vacation arrived and I was pumped. I didn’t care about the long wait for the Magical Express bus or pay any attention to the long line for check-in at the hotel. I was on cloud nine and it was time to bring on the fun!
The days that followed were full of excitement. Everything was so new. We marveled at the Animal Kingdom, we loved the old Hollywood vibe at MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios), we felt like kids at the Magic Kingdom, and we ate ourselves silly at Epcot. We didn’t have a plan and thought FastPasses were as amazing as the internet!
Pixie dust seemed to follow us around. We saw the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the ferry on the way to the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue. After some user-error transportation flops, we ended up eating an unexpected late dinner at Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs), which turned out to be one of our favorite meals ever. We thought we had found a secret hideaway when we ventured to Tom Sawyer Island and relaxed over a game of checkers.
And about those kids. They grew on us. One of our favorite memories was waking up to the early morning sun shining in our room as we heard excited little feet quickly pitter-pattering down the walkway each morning. Behind them came tired heavy steps. We smiled as we went back to sleep.