Well played, birthday girl!

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“You know my birthday is coming up, right?” the teen asked, her eyes bright with excitement.

Seventeen. Freedom so close all three of us could almost taste it.

“Yes, we do actually know – we were there when you were born. Y’know, after 10 months and 1 day of the most heinous and continuous bout of morning sickness known to woman.”

“Anyway,” she continued, annoyed that I was interrupting the speech she had obviously prepared. “I was thinking about the perfect gift.”

“You’re not getting a new phone.”

“I don’t want a new phone.”

Lies. This kid had been on a full-court press of “you don’t have to buy me anything for a whole year if you get me a new iPhone” campaign for months.

“Huh.” Kevin, the ultimate techie, was suspicious.

“You won’t have many more opportunities to travel with me.” (She and her older sister have been pretty salty since learning we plan to travel regularly without them.)

She paused for effect before she went in for the kill. “…And I want to make memories.”

So begins the story of how Kevin and I ended up at Disney World with our 17-year-old daughter and 3 of her best friends. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re absolutely right. We’re suckers. Big ones.

But our daughter’s quest for memories gave us the opportunity to explore what we’ll do when she leaves for college. We were able to test our plans for this blog at the Happiest Place on Earth!

Before you go, do your research:

• Tickets – Ms. “Let’s Make Memories” researched ticket prices on Disney’s website and found that ticket prices are lower on weekdays and during non-holiday periods. We opted to do a 2-park blitz, starting the day at the newest park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and ending the day at Magic Kingdom on a Monday while the girls were on Fall break from school. ($164 per ticket, one-day park hopper.)

• Lodging – Check off-site lodging, like HomeAway or Airbnb. After deciding how far we wanted to be from the parks and how much we were willing to pay, we choose HomeAway instead of a hotel or a Disney resort property. With six people, HomeAway was the least expensive option with the most space, and we could cook if Kevin wanted to do that. The condo we chose had three bedrooms and a private splash pool, as well as a resort pool and a game room. Everyone was happy – two adults and four teenaged girls! ($559.55, three-night stay.)

Things to know:

• There are a lot of little kids at Disney. A lot. Many of those kids are in strollers. Learn to dodge – especially when you’re not pushing one. (By the way, it’s rude to smirk, high five each other, and say, “Not ours,” when you come across a kid in a full-blown tantrum. Don’t be that couple. Not saying we were, but…not ours.)

• Speaking of ours… if you have older kids, you will get ditched. Be ready for it. We walked around, people watching and taking pictures. (We didn’t ride any of the rides because I’m not a fan of amusement park rides.) Do you know how many couples wore matching shirts? Thousands. To date, I have not been able to convince Kevin that this would be a good look on us. I’m still working on him…
• Pack comfortable shoes! You will spend all of your time walking and standing. Don’t make your feet hate you by the end of the day.
What we learned:
• Enjoying Disney means spending your whole day on a Disney property. You won’t spend much time in your rented condo/hotel room. Also, the amenities at the condo we choose were not accessible 24/7, so don’t be disappointed if you can’t ride down the monster slide at the resort pool at 11 o’clock at night.
• You’re never too old for Disney pins. We found out during this trip that one of our daughter’s friends wants to study journalism in college. Since I was a journalism major, I was excited… and proceeded to search every pin kiosk and shop in 2 parks, plus Disney Springs, for the same limited-edition Mickey newsman pin I received when I interviewed at Disney for a media job 18 years ago. I couldn’t find it in the parks, but good old eBay came through just in time for my daughter to give the pin to her friend as a birthday gift.

• The most important thing we learned is that we still enjoy each other’s company. This is an important realization as we try to imagine life without the constant distraction from couplehood that parenthood requires. We had fun together, even at a place neither of us would have chosen for a quick getaway.

We spent as much money during this trip as we would have paid for a new iPhone X, but the memories we made are, indeed, priceless! However, our newly-minted 17 year old did confess to still wanting a new phone…

What’s something your kids convinced you to do that you enjoyed?

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