On October 11, my son, Michael, and his wife, Heather, celebrated their wedding anniversary. Due to both work and personal schedules it took until this past Saturday for us to get together and take them to dinner and a movie to celebrate.
We hadn't seen them in a while and there was a lot to talk about.
We went to Cheddar's, one of my family's favorite restaurants and a lot of other people too. We got there at 4:30 in the afternoon and still waited more than 30 minutes to get a table.
Because the restaurant was full the kitchen was a little slow in getting our food out to us. That's not usually the best of situations but in our case it gave us a chance to catch up with the kids.
Inevitably, just like anytime Michael and I are together, I brought up the topic of Walt Disney World. I started off by mentioning that the Sorcerer's Hat in Disney's Hollywood Studios park is being removed sometime in early 2015.
As the discussion progressed both Michael and I mentioned our plans for our next visit to go see "the mouse."
He has convinced Heather to go to Orlando for 2 weeks sometime in 2016. I mentioned that Paula and I are planning on going to the "Night Of Joy" celebration at the Magic Kingdom next September.
Then Michael said it. He threw it out there as part of the causal conversation but it got me thinking about something I hadn't thought about in a while. He suggested that he and I go to Walt Disney World for a couple of days by ourselves.
You see, both Michael and I "suffer" from a Walt Disney World obsession. We enjoy going there and having a great time. Our in-between trip conversations are usually spent speculating about going back.
I may be a bit more afflicted than he is. After all, I listen to half a dozen WDW themed podcasts each week. But no matter to what degree, we are both very much over the top when it comes to the Orlando Disney theme parks.
Once Michael threw out the idea both of our wives seemed to be all for it. They encouraged us because it would temporarily appease our obsession and they wouldn't have to go with us.
Now they don't hate the place but they are not as sold on Disney World as Michael & I are. Given the choice, there are other places they'd rather go on vacation.
Anyone who knows me knows that getting back to "Walt's World" has been a top priority ever since my last visit back in 2010. But over the last year or so I've become a little distant from my desire to get back.
There are several reasons for this. Some of them are personal and others have to do with the way things are changing at Walt Disney World.
One of the personal reasons include a cut in income. Not having a job greatly depletes the amount of expendable income that could potentially be used for a Florida vacation.
Another personal reason is that I am not in the physical condition required to enjoy a visit to a Disney theme park. I have gotten out of the habit of walking on a regular basis.
I'd have to lose some weight and get moving again, if I am going to enjoy the average 5 mile walk per day required when visiting Disney World.
The Disney World related reasons are rather numerous but here are the ones at the top of my list. The increase in park admission prices (a single day in Magic Kingdom is now $99) has almost reached the "that's too much" price point for me.
In addition, there's the degree of trip planning that has to be done due to the introduction of My Disney Experience technology, Magic Bands and Fastpass Plus systems.
While it can be said without objection that I am way above average when it comes to planning a Disney vacation. But what you have to do now to simply enjoy yourself is even pushing the envelope for me.
Also I've heard consistent reports of larger crowds, less "off season" days at the parks, and longer stand-by lines for attractions and shows. Those are just a few of the reasons I'm a bit apprehensive about going back to "The World".
With the opening of the Diagon Alley, the new Cabana Bay hotel, and City Walk restaurants, a visit to Universal Studios has risen in popularity and has to be put into the equation when visiting Orlando.
Add to that an interest in visiting Sea World, Bush Gardens, Legoland, Kennedy Space Center, and other tourist attractions in South Florida and you can see why the "pieces" in my "vacation pie" that are devoted to Disney are getting smaller.
Once it was proposed by Michael and Paula gave her approval, the path for a return to Disney World suddenly reopened wide open in front of me. Out of nowhere the gates had parted, "When You Wish Upon A Star" started playing in the back ground, and I could see Cinderella's Castle in the distance.
A solo trip is one of the things on my Disney World "bucket list." I haven't yet worked out just if and when that would ever happen. However, a trip with Michael could very well be a glimpse into just what that might be like.
I can see a situation where during our trip we would split up and go on our own for a while. Especially because some of our interests in the parks are different. I like the thrill rides but Michael doesn't.
So the times I'm off riding Big Thunder, Space, or Splash mountains Michael may be checking out some of his favorite places in the Magic Kingdom, like the Haunted Mansion. If that happens it will be at least a taste of what a "solo" trip would be like.
But let me get back to our evening out with our kids. After we ate our dinner we went to see the new Disney movie, Big Hero 6.
I liked the movie and it was a great superhero adventure for families with kids too young to handle the intensity of the Marvel movies. I'd say it's kind of like "Avengers lite." It was really entertaining. The character of Baymax will probably be the breakout Disney star of the year. He's what I'd call the "Mater" of Big Hero 6.
The movie took my mind off of the excitement I was feeling about the possibility of a Florida trip for a couple of hours. But once I got back home I went into full trip planning mode.
I researched the best possible dates for our trip. I looked at the anticipated crowd levels, and park ticket prices on one of the best Disney World planning websites: Touring Plans.com.
To take advantage of all the resources of this website you should really subscribe to it. It's only $13 a year. If you look around the "free" area of the site you may find a discount code that will reduce the cost to about $10.
I've chosen some tentative dates but this is just the initial stages of planning. So I won't go into any further details for now.
So that's the story about how something mentioned, somewhat casually, during a dinner over the weekend has changed my personal "Walt Disney World Vacation Meter" from wishful to active.
The subject of Walt Disney World is one of the environments that my obsessive compulsive personality accelerates and thrives. So the process has begun. Stay tuned I'll let you know if and when we are going.