Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Sutherlands go to Disney World

The last time we went to Disneyland, I told Traci it would be probably be the last time we went to Disneyland.

Not only is it incredibly expensive, but you only get so many family vacations. Why would you want to spend all of them in the same place?

But then I got invited to speak at a social media conference at Disney World.


Here are some thoughts on our first (and probably last) trip to Disney World.

On getting through TSA with three kids

You know what’s kinda stressful? Buying plane tickets for your wife and kids with credit card points. You save money on the flight but your seats aren’t assigned until you check in the day before.

And then you find out that your wife and kids are scattered all across the plane for a four-hour flight. So you get to the airport early so you can get to the gate early and pray that they’ll be able to move you around so you can at least sit by your six-year-old.

But then the check-in lines are mega long and the TSA lines are even longer. And when you get to the front of the TSA line, with millions of people behind you, and your wife’s Delta app with her boarding pass and all of the kids’ boarding passes crashes and won’t reopen, and you have to leave the line to go print out physical boarding passes, and then you sneak back through the handicapped aisle so you don’t have to wait in line again, and then you get back to the TSA person, and you realize you left one of the boarding passes on the printer, and you have to go back AGAIN, and come back AGAIN — all before you actually go through the horror that is the TSA screening — that’s kinda stressful.

But we made it through.

On miracles

The flight was full, but the angel gate attendant was able to get me moved by Tate. Traci was a row in front of Curtis and Paige was an aisle and a few seats away from Traci. But Curtis, our anxious Curtis, was not very happy about sitting on his own row — even if Mom was within reaching distance. He was very nervous.

And then the miracle. Right as we were about to step off the jetway and into the plane, that same gate attendant scooted past everyone in line and told us they were able to move some things around and get Traci right next to Curtis.

Crisis averted.

On epic meltdowns

We survived the airport, we survived the flight, we made it to the hotel. Everyone was in good spirits. One more sleep and then it was time for Epcot.

And that’s when the wheels came off.

The plan was to get up and get going early — me to my presentation, Traci to Epcot with the kids. But plans were no match for Tate. He got up, got dressed and then flatly refused to go to Epcot. He would not budge.

There was kicking and hitting and screaming. And lots of crying (by just about everyone in the family). But there was no moving.


And no amount of bribery, threats, pleading or shouting was going to change that. So there we were, 2,300 miles from home — and a four-minute walk from Epcot — and we were stuck in the hotel, held hostage by a six year old.

“Well, I’ve gotta go give my presentation,” I said to Traci. “Good luck.”

(Worst father/husband ever.)

On negotiations

I went to my conference early to make sure all of the A/V was set up and running right. After I got that all locked down, I texted Traci.

“Did you make it to the park?”

“No. Still in the hotel.”

No bueno.

I texted her again a half hour later.

“Any luck?”

“We’re walking there now.”

“How’d you get him to change his mind?”

“I told him that if he didn’t leave the room, I would call hotel security and they would take him away.”

Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

“And he said he’d only go if he didn’t have to wear socks.”

Tate. The master negotiator.

On speaking at a social media conference 

Knowing the family was happily in the park made it easier to concentrate on my presentation.

Despite my usual pre-show nerves, things went smoothly. The videos worked. People laughed at my jokes and tweeted nice things about me.

They liked the prizes I gave away. The anime Backstreet Boys toys from the Burger King kids’ meal were a hit. The Ariana Grande perfume was well received and, despite some troubles with the batteries, the stuffed alligator danced and sang to Flo Rida’s Low, just like it was supposed to.

On Disneyland vs. Disney World

In California, you’ve got two parks — Disneyland and California Adventure. You can get through all of Disneyland in a day — maybe a day-and-a-half if you want to hit everything and ride some of your favorites a second time. California Adventure, though cooler in my opinion, can easily be done in a day or less. If you hustle, you can knock out your California trip in two days. Three is perfect. Four seems like overkill.

There are four parks in Disney World — Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios , Epcot, and Animal Kingdom. Our plan was to spend one day in each.

Magic Kingdom is a slightly smaller version of Disneyland. You’ve got Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Railroad, Small World, etc., but no Indiana Jones ride or Star Tours (which is at Hollywood Studios). It also has the Hall of Presidents — which, for some reason, Curtis was really excited about. Rating: Pretty Good.

Hollywood Studios is like a smaller California Adventure. It’s got Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania, and the Aerosmith Rock’n’ Rollercoaster (which is like California Screamin, except it’s all inside and filled with Aerosmith stuff.) No Cars Land, which is a real bummer. We did everything we wanted to do by noon. Rating: Okay.

I only spent a few hours at Epcot after my conference. They have Test Track, which is a different spin on Radiator Springs and a Frozen Ride that means nothing to six and nine-year-old boys. They have lots of beers, which means nothing to Mormon parents. Rating: Could easily be skipped all together.

So, if you’re comparing California to these three parks in Florida, California wins hands down.

But when you throw in Animal Kingdom...

On Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is rad. It’s not just a rehash of the other parks. It’s a completely different park altogether.

We loved seeing all the animals on the Kilimanjaro Safari and the zoo was great, too. The kids loved Primeval Whirl (it was too spinny for my taste) and the Dinosaur ride was pretty good.

Our favorite was Expedition Everest. We rode it FIVE TIMES. On our first ride, Tate and I were in the front seat and I probably screamed louder than anyone. It was scary awesome.

If we were to come back to Florida, we’d start with Animal Kingdom (and skip Epcot entirely).

Raing: Best of the bunch.

On standing in line

All of our Disneyland trips have been in October or November when the park’s a little less crowded. Disney World in March is not ideal, especially when half the country is on spring break.

If we got to the park right when it opened — which isn’t easy when your body is still on pre-daylight savings Mountain time — we could do few rides without much waiting. But by about noon, just about every ride had a 60-90 wait. Thanks to fastpasses, we were able avoid a lot of the lines but sometimes the waiting was inevitable.

Like when we wanted to go on Avatar Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom.

We couldn’t get a fastpass, and no matter the time of day it was a two-and-a-half hour wait.

It couldn’t really take that long, could it? It could. And it did.

Two hours, walking and standing in room after room after room. But we had to keep going because 1) Everyone told us it was the best ride in all of Disney World 2) It probably would have taken us a half hour just to get back out.

So we played the charades game on the iPhone. We ate treats. I imagined what it would happen if there was a natural disaster and we were stuck inside that infernal place.

But somehow we eventually made it to the front of the three-minute ride. Was it worth the wait?

It was a virtual reality ride, where you move back and forth as you stare at the enormous screen. It was supposed to make you feel like you were flying. Mostly it made me feel like I was going to throw up. The kids all said it was their favorite ride, so I guess it was worth it.

But all that waiting gets to you. Tate generally thought the best place to rest was on top of his sister. She was not amused.

On eating at Disney World

Because the conference was at the Disney Yacht Club, we stayed at a Disney hotel for our first time.
The Disney shuttle took us to the hotel and the Disney bus (or boat) took us to the parks, so there was no need for a car.

Ditching a car takes away so much stress. No waiting in line for a rental car. No forgetting to fill it up before bringing it back. No fretting that when you drop it off they’re going to discover some imaginary defect that they’re going to charge you for.

The only problem was when it came to eating. Whether you’re in the park or at the resort, the food has one thing in common: the cost. The exorbitant, excruciating cost. And since the resort is basically it’s own world, you would have to walk miles to find a non-Disney restaurant.

Enter UberEats. For a $5 surcharge plus a tip, we were able to bring in lukewarm dinner from the outside world. It felt like smuggling. But it was a lifesaver after eating hamburgers and chicken nuggets for four nights in row.

On Cicis Pizza

I’m always intrigued by fast food joints that don’t exist in Utah. I’ve seen ads for Cicis Pizza for years (I always wonder who’s managing their ad spend. Clearly they shouldn’t be advertising in the Beehive State, when they don’t have stores here) and now was chance to finally try it! Thanks to UberEats, I now know that Cicis costs about as much as Li’l Caesars but is more flimsy and soggy.

On Ponchos

Curtis is very particular. He’ll wear flip flops but doesn’t ever want them to get wet. He doesn’t like the beach because he doesn’t like sand touching his feet. And he’s scared of pretty much everything. This combination has resulted in a number of challenges, include his refusal to go on any water-based amusement park rides.

But we really wanted to go on Splash Mountain.

The solution to this quandary? Incredibly (or rather, gouging-ly) expensive ponchos. How much does it cost to buy Disney World ponchos for a family of five? $20? Higher. $25? Higher. $50? Ding, ding, ding. But they’re not price gouging. An adult poncho is $10. But, thanks to the kind hearts at the Disney corporation, you can get a kid-sized poncho for just $9. The only problem is that kid-sized really means infant-sized — they’re recommended for ages 5 and under.

But it did the trick. Curtis put on the poncho and we got in line. In solidarity (and to get my money’s worth), I put mine on, too.

The irony was that we didn’t really need them. Traci’s face took the brunt of the splash — leaving Curtis and me bone dry. (She didn’t think she’d need a poncho.)

But these were not one-time use ponchos. We took them to the Animal Kingdom Kali River Rapids ride as well — where we were planning to get really wet.  We got in the raft, fully encased in our plastic curtains, ready to laugh in the face of the oncoming water.

Oh, but nature had the last laugh.

The first splash went right past Traci’s poncho, straight down her socks and into shoes. The same splash hit me like a guided missile, dodging my poncho and finding its way down the back of my shorts. Paige was equally drenched. (The boys, somehow, remained dry.)

I felt just like Radioactive Man, when he was trapped in the river of acid. “The goggles poncho, it does nothing!”

On flying back home

Despite the rough beginning, we had a really good trip. And getting home was much easier than getting there — the flight had more empty seats and we all got to sit together. Paige got to watch Wonder Woman. I got to watch the Simpsons. Curtis ate an enormous bag of Skittles. Traci read a book and Tate fell asleep.

Tate fell asleep? Uh-oh. When Tate falls asleep on a bumpy flight or windy trip in the car, he tends to barf when he wakes up.

And this time was no different. Right as we touched down, he threw up. Luckily, Curtis happened to be   playing with the barf bag, so Traci was able to catch most of it with the bag. The rest she caught with herself. Ah, motherhood.

It feels good to be back home.


Unknown said...

I love reading your family stories. It makes me wish I was an extra family member and could come along for the ride.
You guys are rad.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is I am proud to know you guys. So glad you had a fairly minor meltdown trip with minimal vomit!!