The Happiest Place for Us

"Mom. This is the happiest I've ever been", Mackenzie age 5.

I thought I understood the Magic of Disney. I've been to Disneyland over a dozen time, the first time when I was just five years old. I love Disney movies, I think Mickey Mouse ears are a rite of passage, I sing Let It Go at the top of my lungs, I cry when I watch Up, Toy Story, and that one time during Wall-E. Last year about this time we took the girls to Downtown Disney just for fun. We were doing a test to see how they would do with a real trip to the Magic Kingdom. Mostly because we really couldn't explain how large and expansive and overwhelming Disneyland can be. As soon as we stepped off the bus I was five all over again. When we walked into the big Disney store in Downtown Disney I wanted to buy everything, go on every ride, and take my picture with the Mouse himself. Watching the train depart from the Main Street Depot, listening to the music being pumped at the gates, the smell of churros all around, I knew, this was it. This is where our family vacation dreams were going to come true.

The girls agreed. Crying and begging to go into the park as we left. So last June we started planning to return the following year.

We picked our vacation dates without the knowledge that it would be the kick off weekend for the 60th celebration. I worried as we counted down the days that the parks would be too crowded, too overwhelming, and that we wouldn't get the most out of our trip. I couldn't have been more wrong!

Since we live in central California we made the drive south. Loading the iPad with movies, packing snacks and Capri Suns, making sure we took our American Girl doll and our Anna and Elsa Dolls, wearing our Mickey ears the entire ride. It was a long trip, and we were smart to take a full day to travel, because by the time we got to the hotel we were hangry and tired, and no where in the mood to walk the park.

I had been told that there is something special about taking someone to Disneyland for the first time. That to see the magic in their eyes is like experiencing the park for the first time yourself. I thought I understood what that would be like, but really I had no idea. My girls were beside themselves that Thursday morning. Their outfits had been planned for weeks. We had to wake up so early to make our character breakfast, but they didn't care, it didn't phase them. They loved riding the bus to the park, they loved the walk (read hike) to the character breakfast, and they loved the character breakfast. They were too excited to eat, they were so concerned with getting autographs and pictures for "your Instagram, Mommy". They even pulled out their gift cards from Santa to buy their first souvenirs, Mickey Hands.

As we walked back to the park, Caitlin held my hand tight. I'm nervous, Mommy, she whispered as we approached the gates. I reassured her, that Disneyland was a happy place, that we wouldn't do anything she didn't want, I told her that I would be right there, holding her hand. So we walked in and immediately saw Ariel, Donald, and the Main Street Train. She couldn't wait to talk her picture next to the Mickey flowers. She wanted to ride It's A Small World immediately.

Mac, who had already taken a ride in the stroller by this time, asked to walk, and took my hand. As we walked through Sleeping Beauty's castle to Fantasy Land, she said, "Mom. This is the happiest I've ever been". It was only then that I realized, me too kiddo. It was absolute magic, the kind people write about, when everything is just so. When the planets and the starts align. When both kids can find their shoes and get to school on time. When you hair curls the right way.

It's A Small World was our first ride. A memory I hope both my girls will cherish when they take their children back one day. We rode Dumbo, Pirates, The Jungle Cruise, and a few others. We got Dole Whips and Churros. Since we were with our in laws, John and I got to sneak away and ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad alone. We giggled and people watched in line, we screamed annoyingly on the ride, John yelled inappropriate things as we went around corners. It was bliss.

We tried to pack in so much that first day. We shopped a little, had hot dogs for lunch on Main Street, took pictures with Goofy and Ariel. We laughed so much, we held hands, we looked and wondered and planned on what to ride next. There were minimal tears, not much to argue about, and when we were tired it was a good, satisfied, I gave it everything I had, tired.

We closed the day in Downtown Disney, in a busy store looking at too many things and not making any decisions. We did buy some pins to keep, not to trade, and started our new obsession of all the pins. When I looked in the stroller, Mackenzie was fast asleep. A wonderful day had by all.

They say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. I truly believe that, but I've also discovered that Disneyland is the happiest place for us. It was the perfect place to take a vacation from our life of chaos. To slow down just a bit and talk about important things, like Dole Whips and the pin traders, as we waited in long lines for rides. Somehow the Hubbs and I didn't fight. I found myself not losing my temper over minor tantrums as I would usually. But how can you, with the music piping all around you, fourteen dollar Mickey balloons at every turn, and the sheer joy that shines on your children's faces? It's no surprise that I didn't want to leave.

Today marks two weeks since we have been home, and we still pine for Disneyland. Mackenzie has asked to go back to Disneyland almost every night since we've been home. Caitlin is already looking forward to all the other rides she wants to go on when we return. As for me, I'm secretly plotting to convince "Santa" to bring annual passes for our stockings this year. Because this is the vacation we needed, this is the one that we will always remember. This is the one that showed The Hubbs and I that all that hard really does pay off, even if it will take years to forget the price tag. Honestly, I would have gladly paid double, for what priceless memories we got back in return. Disney may have celebrated their 60th Anniversary, but we celebrated our first successful Family Vacation.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I took a million pictures.
Knowing me they would forever stay on my phone, except for the first time I tried Chatbooks.
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Otherwise if you want to see all of our Disney Vacation Pictures, search #absolute_vacay15 on Instagram.


  1. I still remember my very first Disney experience and it was every bit magical. Once we have another child, and they are both about 7 or 8 we will go. It's a crazy expensive trip, but that feeling you get is worth every penny. That same feeling I felt as an adult going there. Love looking through your vacation photos! Thank you for sharing this amazing experience. (:

  2. I've been begging Bennett to let me start planning a vacation to Disney. We'd be hitting up the one in Florida and I think Louis would be the perfect age for this. So glad you had an amazing experience!!