One of my earliest memories is from when I was five years old and the thrill I got from getting into a plane for the first time to go visit my relatives in North Carolina and Virginia. I still remember walking past the White House and thinking “THAT’s where the PRESIDENT lives!” That president was Richard Nixon and a year after our visit, he had moved out of the White House, but not of his own accord.
But that’s where my love of traveling began. Plane flights, road trips, bus rides, the train. You name it, and I have traveled via it all over the place.
I lived in Japan for three years and mastered the Osaka subway system. I flew to Australia with my wife and, after 17 hours of travel time, climbed into a right-handed steering car and hit the Melbourne highways without ever having driven on the left-hand side of the road in my life. I drank my way through Europe by myself for two weeks and never once got lost on the subway and train systems of Budapest, Vienna and Prague. A four-hour drive across the Costa Rican rain forest? No problem. I’ve stared into the eyes of North Korean soldiers at the Korean Demilitarized Zone and I’ve caroused through the streets of Bangkok on New Year’s Eve. I may not have been everywhere, but I have my fair share of customs entry and exit stamps in my passport.
However, all of that was before my wife and I had kids. Since then, our travels have changed somewhat. We haven’t been outside the U.S. for more than six years. Every major trip we’ve taken, from flights to Hawaii and North Carolina, to long drives to visit my mom near Seattle and to Las Vegas [Yes, we did Vegas with two kids under the age of three] has been family related since our older daughter was born. Still, I get into it all. The planning, the actual traveling to the location and doing whatever activities. Even with kids in tow, and not being able to just go paragliding in Cancun or exploring an old Australian gold mine without a second thought about it, I’ve still enjoyed nearly every aspect of traveling with our kids.
But something might be about to change all of that. We are going somewhere we have never been before. We are set to embark on one of those trips that, as a parent, you know is coming, and have a near-legal responsibility to take. We have to drive 400 miles to get there, but since we live in California, we can’t avoid it.
We are going to Disneyland.
Now, as I have stated, I have done my fair share of world traveling. I am not afraid in the slightest of going to some place where I don’t speak the language and I have to try to find my way around the place. That’s half the fun of going somewhere new. [The other half is drinking once you get there.]
I have been looking at a guidebook about Disneyland that I am trying to use for planning purposes and it is downright frightening. There are 376 pages of pure terror inside. Touring plans. Line-waiting strategies. When to get there [Before the crack of dawn, if you hope to get on the Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land]. Where to eat. What to do when your kids melt down. What supplies to bring in. How to avoid getting your wallet vacuumed out when buying souvenirs [This is impossible to prevent]. And, why are you doing this in the first place?
Honestly, this book has to be more detail-oriented than the Allies D-Day invasion plans. I guess that’s a good thing; when you’re about to go to the most-famous amusement park in the world with anywhere between 40,000 and eleventy bazillion other harried parents and insane kids, you might as well have as much information about what to do, what to avoid, and where to go for a drink as you can get.
Already, though, my wife and I are bracing ourselves for mayhem. We got a hit of it just last night. We took our daughters, who are five and four, to Ikea to buy a mattress for their bunk bed. It was a goddamn circus. Bouncing on beds. Running around and on top of furniture. Touching everything, and especially all the glass items. Of course, after more than an hour of this, and us barely getting any mattress information at all, both kids started moaning about being hungry. Luckily for us, the Ikea cafeteria was handy, and the girls picked out a couple of things they wanted. [Chicken strips and fries for the five-year-old, macaroni and cheese with vegetables and fruit for the four-year-old.] Naturally, as most kids do after they choose some food they want, they didn’t want it. In the end, their dinner consisted of chocolate milk and, maybe, three bites of some of the stuff they ordered.
I can’t wait to see how meals turn out in the Magic Kingdom. We might just wish we had stayed home and let them run around Ikea for a few days. After all, it is a shorter drive, and we can get Swedish Meatballs for about two bucks. And at that price, we won’t feel too bad if the kids won’t eat them.