The Cost of Magic

Our trip to Disney World was cold, rainy, and wonderful. When I told friends about the weather we endured in Orlando they offered sympathetic responses. But they don’t know. Because when you’re a Disney Pro, cold and rainy is what you want; inclement weather keeps the Floridians with season passes at home and brings the wait times down! Throw disposable ponchos in the backpack and you are king of the park. Add extra magic hours and at 1 am on a rainy day you can walk right on to Space Mountain over and over again.

Disney World is a place of magic for my family. It all started when we had three with the forth on the way. We saved our pennies and took the plunge for our first trip. It was a lot for a young family, but was worth it the minute we walked onto Main Street and our oldest (5 at the time) broke into spontaneous dance when she took in the lights and sounds around her.

We went back a few years later when we had our full complement of children. Even at two, Kylie was so happy on the ferry ride that she had to pull her shirt up and rub her belly – which is the ultimate expression of joy!

I won’t bore you with our memories – they are special to us, but most are the, “you had to be there,” kind of funny. This trip might have been our last as a family living together. It was a graduation present for Meredith (college) and Jenna (high school). Pretty soon, real life will set in for them. We may get back there again, you never know. But there are no guarantees once they start leaving the nest. In fact, there are no guarantees at all.

This trip, we walked just over fifty miles in five days. In the past, with my head visible above the crowd, I was the exclusive leader of the pack. But now, at 50, I followed some. Only Jenna and I have the fortitude it takes to successfully navigate Disney – to crush the elderly and push small children aside. The others are too soft-hearted to get anywhere because you have to be decisive in a crowd and move with purpose. That’s a joke, of course, no one (that we know of) was actually hurt during our Disney Trip.

While we were on a bus one day, our 20-year-old, Kendall made the statement that this was her ninth trip to Disney. I was floored. One of those was with her high school chorus, but eight were family trips. Thinking of the money I had just shelled out, I found it hard to believe we got there eight times! But she remembers everything so I stopped doubting her long ago.

With the girls sleeping on the trip back, the old, worn-out folks began to reminisce about the week. We talked about how much we missed Kylie there – she would have loved every second of it. Of course, we also felt her there often. Our life is now a conflicted state of hard/easy, joy/pain, contentment/discontent.

As a father who has had to hammer at the budget for over 22 years, I pondered the amount of money we spent on those eight trips. There have been some lean years mixed in there; years of belt-tightening and tough decisions. Yet we went eight times! That total cost must be mid-five digits before the decimal – likely enough to buy a nice car. That’s a lot of money.

And I don’t want a dollar back. My circumstance has taught me that experience trumps anything I own or could own. Kylie was taken away from me too early, but no one can ever take away the memory of her first meeting with Mickey Mouse or her smile when she was finally big enough to ride Splash Mountain.

Kylie’s knee would start hurting soon after we returned from this trip

If you are a young dad, please listen to me: Take the trip! Use your vacation! Spend the money! I am not advocating financial irresponsibility – if you are struggling to make ends meet, take a camping trip (I grew up with vacations in tents.) But most of us could endure a smaller house, a less expensive car, or fewer nights out. Skimp somewhere else but do not shortchange your time and experience with you children. The big car will always be at the dealership, but the reality of life is that none of us are promised another day with our loved ones. We should live our lives with that in mind and leave no room for regret.


Our last trip with Kylie

9 thoughts on “The Cost of Magic

  1. My apologies if this is a duplicate comment but just wanted to say how much I enjoyed and related to this post. We’ve been to Disney a bunch of times and will head back next summer as a HS graduation gift for my oldest daughter. Most people don’t understand the attraction or why we choose to spend all that money to go to the same place time and again, but your family knows and ours does too. It is magic.

  2. WDW of Disneyland are our must dos when we visit the US (usually every 3-4 years) For us, the airfares for 4 from Australia plus the parks, food, accommodation, spending is the cost of a small car each trip. It’s all about building memories. If we lived in the US I know we would visit there more often.

  3. we went to Disney in October – the girls were 4 and 5. I had planned on waiting until they were a little older (like when they were old enough and tall enough to go on all the crazy rides!), but Nana wanted to take us all on a trip and who can say no to a free trip? My mom isn’t “old” but it is getting harder for her to travel so off we went. It wasn’t all that I had thought it would be (there were 5 adults, 2 kids and a lot of crazy!) But after I recovered and looked at all the photos, I am glad we went. My son Alexander was only 21 months when STUPID cancer stole him for us. He never went to Disney – heck, other than a trip to New Hampshire when he was about 4 months old he never went any where! (he was dx at 8 months) I am trying to live a life of no regrets – I have always loved Disney, and I am glad my children had a chance to experience it. We plan to go again in a couple of years, and I know that experience will be a whole new level of magical!

  4. Went with the kids to Disney in Florida, back when they were early grade-schoolers. I still remember my daughter’s wide eyes as we watched the Big Lighted Parade at night, end of day. She looked up at me and said “Mom, when I grow up, I’m going to live in the Magic Kingdom!”

  5. Love this and we so agree!!! We’ve done Disney a few times and we are super excited for our first Disney Cruise next week. Thankful for all the ordinary, every day memories, but there sure is something magical about getting away together (no matter where you go).

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