Monday, January 28, 2013

Don't Cry, Princess!

BOOM!!!  The deafening clap of thunder rattled the bus stop at the Beach Club where we waited to board a bus that would take us to the Magic Kingdom.  Almost instantaneously, I felt my daughter attempting to climb up my body like a baby kangaroo.  Before I knew it, she was cowering in my arms.  Then, after a brief moment of terrified silence, the sobbing ensued.

My daughter Sadie is not scared of much.  Monsters, water slides, the vault at her gymnastics class, large growling dogs...none of it phases her.  She does, however, have two mortal fears: bugs and thunderstorms.  And unfortunately for us, this storm was a biggie.  Mercifully, however, summertime storms in Orlando tend to be short-lived.  Almost every afternoon, storm clouds roll in and it rains like crazy.  Then, the rain stops...usually. 

Tip Time: On most days, we retreat to our resort hotel in the afternoons for a midday break, so we are rarely caught in the rain.  When we do find ourselves in the middle of an Orlando downpour, however, we just don our heavy-duty ponchos and continue touring.  Many of the attractions at Disney World are indoors and keep operating in the rain.  

By the time we boarded the bus, the rain was bearing down hard.  And it just got worse.  Our bus pulled into the Magic Kingdom in the middle of a veritable deluge.  The wind howled, whipping the rain sideways.  We pulled our ponchos on in a futile attempt to stay dry, but within thirty seconds of disembarking from the bus, we realized that our rain gear was useless against the powerful wind.  Meanwhile, Sadie was virtually frozen in fear; she literally refused to move.  Unlike her legs, her lungs were apparently unaffected by terror, as she unleashed a high-pitched scream that stopped passerby in their tracks.  I scooped Sadie up and hurried toward the gates, feeling her legs pulling up my poncho in the back, exposing my entire body to the driving rain.  To make matters worse, Sadie was howling directly into my ear, making it impossible to concentrate.  Just when I thought that I was going to lose my mind, a Cast Member stepped forward and came to my rescue.

"Don't cry, Princess," she said to my daughter, as she gestured for my permission to take Sadie from my arms.  The Cast Member held my daughter's hand, led her to a sheltered overhang, and crouched down to her level.  For the next ten minutes, the Cast Member engaged my daughter by telling her jokes, handing out stickers, and commiserating with her about the storm.  Before I knew it, Sadie was actually laughing; it was as if she'd completely forgotten about her mortal fear! 

Tip Time: Experiences like this are not uncommon at Disney World.  Cast Members routinely go out of their way to make your vacation memorable.  It's part of what makes Disney World so magical!

After a few minutes under the overhang with the Cast Member, Sadie had calmed down completely, and my son (who is unaffected by thunderstorms) was becoming impatient.  He began gesturing toward the gates in an attempt to convince me that it was time to get this evening started.  We thanked the Cast Member for her kindness, took a deep breath, and charged back out into the rain.  Sadie's mood had greatly improved; she was even able to walk on her own.  Nevertheless, the wind and rain was persistent, finding its way into every exposed crevice of our ponchos.  Just keep going, I kept telling myself, as we sloshed through the puddles.  The storm will be over soon.

Tip Time: Check the forecast before you leave your hotel room after your midday break.  If there is even a chance of rain, wear Crocs (or some other type of waterproof shoe).  At the very least, bring them with you and store them in a locker.  There is nothing worse than wet shoes and socks when you have to walk a long distance. 

Sixty minutes later, as we sat in a crowded restaurant with hordes of drenched people who were also trying to escape the rain, we began to realize that this storm broke the typical pattern of afternoon showers in Orlando.  The rain was definitely not stopping any time soon.  Although we were all soaked from the waist down, our wet hair dripping onto our cheeseburgers, that Cast Member had effectively warded off the potential for any darkening moods.  We huddled together in a corner of that packed restaurant, laughing and joking about the crazy storm, Jack and Sadie inspecting the stickers they'd received.  

A silly moment of spontaneity
After we enjoyed a leisurely meal together, we decided to throw ourselves back into the fray and make the best of our evening.  Much to our delight, when we emerged from the restaurant, we were greeted by...SUN!!  Best of all, the storm had left behind impressively-sized puddles, perfect for splashing.  As Jack and Sadie jumped from puddle to puddle, laughing hysterically, I paused to appreciate this moment of spontaneity.  Our evening had definitely been altered due to the storm, and we didn't get to experience as many attractions as we'd planned, but I will never forget the memories that we made that night.

Tip Time: While a good touring plan is essential to a successful Disney vacation, it is also important to recognize that there are times when these plans should be thrown out the window.  Of course, you want to experience as many attractions as you can while you are at Disney World, but the memories that you will cherish most are likely to be made in moments of true spontaneity.  

Later that evening, my mom and I staked out a spot for the Main Street Electrical Parade while my husband took the kids on a few rides.  It was the first time that she and I had spent any time alone together for the entire trip.  As we chatted about the day's adventures, I noticed the gleam in her eyes, and I realized how much this vacation meant to her.  Soon, my husband and kids joined us, bringing Mickey Mouse sundaes from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlour (one of our favorite ways to pass the time while we're waiting for the parade to begin).  Within minutes, the lights dimmed, the familiar music of the Main Street Electrical Parade filled the air, and the luminescent floats suddenly became visible in the distance.

Tip Time: The Main Street Electrical Parade is not-to-be-missed.  Our favorite place to watch the parade is on the curb of Main Street.  This provides the closest proximity to the floats and the characters.  To score a spot on Main Street, however, you need to send an adult (or two) to camp out on the curb 60-90 minutes before the parade begins.  Send the kids with another adult to enjoy a few more attractions (and maybe get some ice cream), then meet up about 20-30 minutes prior to start time.  

Mesmerized by the Main Street Electrical Parade
About an hour later, we collapsed into our beds at the Beach Club resort.  Despite the prolonged thunderstorm, we'd enjoyed one of the most memorable nights of our entire trip.  And the best news...our vacation was only half over!!

Meredith McCutcheon
Personalized Disney Itineraries and Touring Plans
Disney Specialist at Ginger's Getaways
Find me on Facebook or on The Patch

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