Sharing the Magic

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It comes as no surprise that Walt Disney World holds a very special place in my heart. If you’ve listened to any of the episodes of our show you will certainly pick up on that; and if you haven’t, I’d say I’m doing something incorrectly.

Back in March I wrote about how exciting it was to travel back to Disney with my brother after 14 years. This past weekend was no different, as it was the first time I’ve had the privilege of returning to the parks with my parents since that 2005 trip as well. 

I shouldn’t discount the fact that this was also the fifth time calling my wonderful girlfriend, Tori, my Disney travel buddy. I’m honestly amazed that she keeps putting up with these trips simply because of my obsession; and for that I say thank you.

When I originally proposed the idea of a Disney trip to my parents, I distinctly remember my mom saying “Don’t expect me to wear a Disney shirt or something when we are there. I want to be comfortable.” 

Fine by me. Everyone does Disney differently! As long as you are comfortable that’s really all that matters. 

Though on our first day of the trip both her and my dad were pumped to sport their Lion King “Hakuna Matata” shirts. 

As Michael Scott once said, “Well, well, well… How the turntables…” And if you’re not a fan of The Office, that translates to how the tables have turned.

It was truly amazing to see how excited they both were leading up to the trip, and you can really hear it come through in my dad’s voice when we previewed the trip on Episode 26 of the show. Neither one is a huge Disney fan, but they know how much each and every Disney trip means to me, so it was definitely cool to see some trip hype from someone other than myself for a change.

And to be honest, this made me a little bit nervous. I never want to oversell the parks when traveling with anyone for the first time because I don’t want to set the bar too high. This was especially the case for our March trip, but the minute that we sat down on to the Magical Express this past weekend I knew it was an entirely different ballgame.

It was funny seeing my parents immediately pull out their phones and take pictures while we were on the bus because Mickey or Minnie was in the background. I probably even scoffed at more than one point and said “Why are you taking my picture?”

Then I remembered that this was all totally new for them. They thought a picture of Mickey on the bus window was cool… We were instantly on board for a great trip.

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Our first park stop would be Animal Kingdom, my favorite of the four Walt Disney World Parks.

We rode Dinosaur first at a pretty minimal wait, which was a great way to ease into the park.

Next came my favorite ride in all of Walt Disney World: Expedition Everest. We had a FastPass, so we experienced hardly any wait for this as well.

On our way up the lift I heard one of my parents say, “What goes up must come down” and then when the train stopped at the broken tracks I also heard, “Are we going to go [expletive] backwards!?” Which was then followed by a ton of laughter and screaming.

I never need reassurance after riding Everest, because as I’ve stated, it’s my absolutely favorite ride! But knowing that my parents and Tori all had a good time after I had said that was a relief.

Then came a realization period for me. To that point we would be rushing to fit in all of the plans at certain times, so I talked with Tori and we decided to drop our FastPass and try to go to the Animation Experience early. We did, and from there on we really had the “hakuna matata” attitude for the rest of the night and into the following day.

Typically I go 100 miles per minute when I’m in the parks, and that was certainly the case back in March. I won’t lie; it becomes exhausting.

So when we started taking everything a little slow it was extremely nice. We weren’t on a time crunch and could just go with the flow.

The only thing I failed to do was score a FastPass for Flight of Passage. I really wanted my parents to experience that, but Tori and I just couldn’t justify a 3-plus hour wait. So I digress.

My mom’s favorite saying for the trip was “it’s so pretty here!” - which she said in every single park - but that really exemplified the pace. I’m so glad that they were able to appreciate the scenery and ambiance of the parks, because that is often overlooked by so many guests.

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That night we jumped from Animal Kingdom to Epcot, and our goal was to drink around the world.

We were unsuccessful, as we only tried something from 7 of the 11 countries, but this was easily my favorite part of the trip.

And to that point everyone absolutely agreed. It was fantastic.

The following morning I subjected everyone to the craziness of Rope Drop. That was for Toy Story Land, and it was truly the only stressful part of the entire trip. It’s not easy to navigate the rope drop crowds when having to account for others. I’m just glad my dad didn’t get trampled when he was kneeling on the ground talking to a kid that he befriended while we were waiting.

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Slinky Dog Dash was just as fun as I had remembered, and Woody’s Lunchbox was a home run!

Then we headed over to Rock n’ Roller Coaster for a new experience for everyone in the group, aside from myself.

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WOW!

What a blast that was! It was our longest wait of the trip, but the photo alone was so worth it.

Everyone talked about it the rest of the trip.

Man, I’m so glad that we got out of line for Star Tours…

After Hollywood Studios, we would finish our trip to the parks at Magic Kingdom. This was the truly special part of the trip because it brought back so many feelings from when I was a kid.

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I always get chills when I walk into The Most Magical Place on Earth, no matter who I am with or the number of times I’ve visited on any given trip. But this time was different. I’ve never had these kind of chills, and it was amazing.

Getting to experience this park with Tori by my side, as well as my parents, was nothing like I’ve ever felt before.

I was beyond happy. Even though they all became the one thing that I despise in Disney Parks: Poncho People!

Gross.

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I have to say one of the coolest and most nostalgic things that I was able to do on this trip was to get a photo with my Dad and Winnie the Pooh (and Tigger, too!)

When I was a child, Winnie the Pooh was one of the main influences in my life. I had toys, clothes, stuffed animals. Pretty much if Winnie the Pooh was on it, I had it or wanted it.

So naturally when I visited the parks for the first time in 2005, meeting Winnie the Pooh was at the very top of my to-do list.

Today I’m not really in to meeting characters. I love having the photos, but I tend to struggle and see myself as overtly awkward when trying to interact, but for the sake of the picture I wanted to do this one for sure.

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This was the best character Meet & Greet that I have ever experienced. I don’t know what got into me, but it felt natural. Maybe it was because it was the character that I connected with the most as a kid, or maybe it was the excitement to recreate something from the past.

Regardless of what it was, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

If it hadn’t happened yet on the trip, that was the moment that I knew this was the best trip I have been on.

I love and appreciate every Disney trip, but when you go with the right people who can truly understand that appreciation, it makes a world of difference!

The morning after we returned home I received a text from my dad that said, “Thanks again for sharing the ‘magic’ with Mom and me this weekend!”

That’s what it’s all about.

That short text so simply sums up my entire reasoning for starting this podcast and blog. Disney makes me so happy. I love what the company stands for and the happiness that it brings to so many people, and I want to share that with anyone and everyone that is willing to listen.

I’m glad I was able to do that with both Tori and my parents this past weekend. It’s a memory I will cherish forever.

Matt Merlino2 Comments