Not too long ago, I was scrolling through the posts on the DisBoards on Facebook (yes, again) when I came across a post that got me thinking. We've talked about those arrival rituals that get everything in motion; you know, the ones that your family insists on every single visit. That snack, the smells, the sounds, whatever it is that gets you in the Disney groove. But this time, a poster named Shannon posed the question, How do you end your Disney vacation?
We never like to think about the end. The end means going home, leaving the bubble, and returning to all of the things that we were so eager to leave behind. But really, how we end our vacation is just as important as how we begin. It's what decides whether we leave satisfied with a hand full of next-times or unfulfilled, as though the last page has been removed from our fairy tale.
It's no secret that for me, my Disney days begin with the sweet sounds of background music; scores from my favorite movies, the ambient music from attractions, ahhh, that's the stuff. How our Disney days end on the other hand, well, that has been a safely guarded secret, until now.
You can take different approaches to your last day, many of which depend on what time of the day you are actually leaving. Some like to go hard early and make those last moments count. Others might prefer to take it easy and spend the morning by the pool before saying goodbye. Then there is another group of people, dedicated to a specific farewell ritual that must be followed at the end of every single visit. That is the group I fall into.
Everyone knows I am Australian, which means that, coming in from Sydney, I usually like to fly into San Francisco when arriving and out of Los Angeles when we head home. This leaves us free to conveniently enjoy a few days at Disneyland prior to exiting the country, no matter the purpose of the trip.
For us, our last day consists of a very strict schedule that begins with California Adventure at rope drop. First up, we grab ourselves FastPasses for Radiator Springs Racers - this has been made much easier in recent years thanks to the invaluable MaxPass. A quick spin on Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and we are heading over for a few inversions on the Incredicoaster before the crowds catch up to us in Pixar Pier.
We make our way around the park, filling in the gaps with the rides we had skipped earlier in the visit, like The Little Mermaid ride and Monster's, Inc. You know, the rides you only need to do once per visit. Everything except the Golden Zephyrs, basically; we all know how I feel about that one.
Our half-day in the park ends with as many rides on Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout as we can fit in before time runs out or someone chucks. From there, it's time to say farewell. We head back to the hotel, pack our bags, take a shower, grab some ribs for dinner at Houston's in Manhattan Beach (not as good as Irvine, but it will do). Then it is time to take the cars back and prepare for the 10:30 pm flight back to Sydney, hoping the 14,000 steps that we clocked that morning will help us sleep through at least one of those dreaded 15 hours flying home.
I took a moment and thought about how this became our tradition, and in particular, why we always end our time in Disneyland at the less iconic of the two parks. Strangely enough, the reason dawned on me relatively quickly: It is easier to say goodbye to.
I'm a sucker for Disneyland; it is the park I have known and loved more than any other since I was a child. My emotional connection to this place is so strong that I can't picture myself walking up Main Street U.S.A., my back turned to that beautiful castle and saying farewell; knowing that we are not just going back to the hotel, but that our Disney days are over for another trip. It's too much for me. It is easier to leave the humble embrace of Disney from the newer park that I enjoy greatly, but hold less of a fantastical affinity for.
This week, I am asking you, what does your last day of Disney look like? Do you wing it or is there a set order of things that need to be ticked off? If there is, how did you cultivate such a routine? Are you avoiding the hard goodbye like myself, or perhaps getting in those last minutes of your favorite things before you leave?
I'd also like to throw a quick shout out to Shannon Jade Miller, who intrigued me with the image above and the idea for this exploratory piece of self-discovery as I considered how our traditional last day of Disney came to be.
**Feature Image Credit: Michelle Crawford