We have recently returned from our first ever trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Yes, we actually survived Disney, and we were even surprised (hubby and I) with how much fun we had. Our 10-year-old daughter, suffice it to say, had an absolute blast.
A trip to WDW, as those in the “know” call it, is overwhelming on its best days. We made the decision to go somewhat at the last minute (with a mere 5 weeks to plan), so I of course immediately downloaded the 2012 version of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World to my Kindle and got to reading. We planned a 4-day trip – one day for each park – and we also went with hubby’s cousin and his family, as they live in Florida and are Disney veterans (plus their daughter, who is also 10, is my daughter’s best buddy).
We went in mid-September, which according to all accounts, is one of the least crowded times of year to go to WDW. What surprised me is how crowded it still was – I cannot even IMAGINE what it’s like over the summer, spring or winter/holiday breaks! The other big surprise was how blazing hot it still was, too. The temps hovered around the high-80s, low-90s, with what felt like 100% humidity. It’s a kind of heat that you cannot escape. At least here in the Midwest, when it’s hot out you can find shade, or even sometimes a cool breeze, and get relief from the heat. In Florida, it’s all hot, all the time. The final thing that surprised me, although I should have been thoroughly prepared for it, was just how skilled the Mouse and his friends are in separating you from your money. I have two words for you – pin trading.
By the end of the second day, we had stopped at the gift shop at the Grand Floridian Resort to pick up some gifts we wanted to bring home for friends and family. The very helpful cast member checking us out offered their special deal on one of their “starter pin” lanyards for $18.95 (with a $40 purchase that we were already making). These normally retail for about $40. We really didn’t know what the deal was with the pins, so she cheerfully explained the “rules” to us, how you can trade pins with cast members and other guests (with cast members no more than 2 pins per day per cast member). It was interesting, and a good deal, so we picked it up for our daughter. The cast member even gave her her first pin from her lanyard (said our daughter didn’t need to trade one). Our girl promptly (and proudly) put the lanyard on, and on the monorail leaving the Grand Floridian actually made her first, and very cool, trade with another guest. And so it began.
Several 100s of dollars later, our daughter had a second “trading” lanyard, and a separate lanyard for her special pins that she wants to keep. We ended up getting her a pin case (like a portfolio with pages you can “pin” the pins on to keep safe and secure), and a number of really cool pins that have meaning either because of rides we went on or experiences we had. It’s been fun in the weeks since we’ve been back to look at her pins and reminisce about where she traded it, or the ride or park it signifies. Lots of money, sure, but lots of memories too. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.