Growing up, my family never was never big on travelling; we had the occasional trip to the beach but certainly no crazy adventerous vacations much beyond our state. Jay still doesn't believe that we spent a weekend in the Howard Johnson in Greensboro (20 minutes from our house) as "vacation" one year. Hey, they had a pool.
But one year, one glorious moment of out-of-the-box exploration, we made the trip to Disneyworld. Hence, even into adulthood my entire concept of the world has been based on my cultural exposure to Disney. I have been fortunate enough to travel somewhat extensively as a (quasi-) grownup, and have gotten more than a few odd looks at such historical icons as Big Ben, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, etc when I proclaim in awe, "It's JUST like Disneyworld!" The "countries" of Epcot are my reality. The originals are mere replications in my Mickey-stained view of the world.
Needless to say, DW has always held a special place in my heart. And for my offspring, who ranks Any Disney Princess just under God, Mommy, and Daddy (and the latter two are negotiable), who insisted on naming her baby brother Cinderella (thank goodness for a girl), and who will occasionally sing "M-I-C-K-E-Y... M-O-U-S-E" in place of the alphabet, there really couldn't be a more ideal vacation.
So although I had sworn for years that I wouldn't be so brave (read: insane) as to take a young child to the magical destination, I recanted and we decided to take Elle as her swan song of only child-i-tude. When we pointed this out to her, however, she immediately pointed out that her baby sister was coming along with us in Mommy's tummy. She will argue with a fence post, that one.
In retrospect, barely-3 is probably a bit too young for optimal Disney enjoyment. There were tantrums. There were meltdowns. There were times when I totally expected SuperNanny to swoop in and take over out of pity for this poor mom who clearly had no idea how to parent her child. The irrationality of a 3 year old was amplified to utterly incomprehensible levels. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT ask my daughter to sit on the inside of the Triceratops Spin ride, Disney Cast Members. There will be trouble. Loud, angry, flailing trouble.
The combination of extended bedtimes, disrupted routines, heat, and nothing short of absolute sensory overload created a monster. And not a "nice, funny" monster like the "nice, funny" ghosts on the Haunted Mansion ride that we took Elle on in a moment of complete and simultaneous brain death. Bring it on, SuperNanny.
But those were the exceptions. Rather memorable exceptions I must say, but definitely overshadowed by the sheer joy of watching Elle's eyes light up thousands of times each day. I still have great memories of my trips as a child, but I must say it is nothing like seeing it through your kid. Especially when that kid is an overdramatic, super-passionate-about-everything, mini-romantic/idealist.
I'm not sure at what age it becomes less "real", but 3 definitely makes it under the cut. Meeting Cinderella and the other princesses may have been life-changing for Elle. She talked about it nonstop, recounting over and over to me what each of them said to her. "Cinderella said we were twins!", "Ariel likes my dress! Blue is her favorite color... just like the sea!". Magical, indeed.
She wore her Cinderella dress for the breakfast in the Castle, and was absolutely convinced that she was royalty. In fact, when Cinderella welcomed her to the Castle, E quickly (but tactfully) informed her, "It's MY castle". Every character or cast member we encountered the rest of the day was immediately greeted with E pointing toward the castle and saying "Look, there's my castle!"
Our last vacation as a family of 3 (ex utero, that is), and I wouldn't change a thing. Except maybe bribe SuperNanny with a parkhopper pass...