I DID NOT want to go to Disney World. 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 sight-seeing and hiking mixed in with my sunbathing. So I enthusiastically set my sights on Hawaii. It would be perfect.
(Cue The Golden Girls’ Estelle Getty) 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 90s 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 and the Boardwalk area sounded perfect for us. And there were pools! With bars! I began thinking 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. Like owning a Corvette. The Value resorts looked like kid magnets so I tore those pages out. The clear winner was the Moderates. I immediately honed in on 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, even though it left me feeling like I just rode Star Tours. Nor did I pay any attention to the long line for check-in once we finally arrived. The cheery woman at the counter was so friendly and helpful and even had a gentleman escort us to our room in a golf cart! Wow. I was on cloud nine and couldn’t wait to see our room.
We opened the door anticipating the “soft hues” that were promised to us in our trusty guide book. One look at that room and our faces sank to the palm tree patterned carpet. The bedspreads. There was nothing soft about those hues. Not even the clothes on the Disney Channel kids are that bright. There had to be a mistake. I don’t think we stayed in that room for more than 5 minutes before we decided that we needed to take a walk.
Without a map, we began to meander hand in hand. We thought the grounds were beautifully kept. We noticed the Calypso music being piped in as we crossed a bridge over the lake to the pool area. We swung in a hammock, enjoying the warm breeze. After checking out the food court, we started our stroll back to the room. By the time we returned, that bedspread didn’t seem so gaudy. We were in disbelief that we were staying at such a peaceful place. Now 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 10:00pm dinner at Portobello, 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’s 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.
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"What fun thing should we do next?" When Liz discovered that this was the hardest question she'd have to answer on a Disney vacation, she was hooked. And it prompted her to keep adding fun to her life. Having two boys and a fun-loving husband made it easy to dive into LEGO building, Star Wars culture, and all things Disney! You can find her creating content on these subjects, as well as helping others get the most out of their Disney vacations.