I recently spent a week at Disney. My daughter actually won the vacation through a draw with Air Transat, but I can tell you the price was not even the best part of our trip.
As it says when you enter the park, Disney is truly the “happiest place on earth”. Disney does everything right. The staff have a culture of fun, positivity, aliveness, and humor. The grounds are spectacularly groomed and maintained. They attend to all the little details in everything they do. Right now, the castle is covered in icicles for the Christmas celebrations. They even make waiting in line fun. Disney is even up to date with technology and are piloting a wristband program to get you into your hotel rooms and the parks, charge items to your account, and let you get fast passes for rides. The My Disney Experience app lets you know the wait times for all the rides and attractions at each park, allows you to book fast passes, meal reservations, park maps, and even plan your entire vacation. Disney has an underground world where trucks deliver goods, staff come and go, animators and characters work away. You can spend days in Disney and never see a delivery person or anyone out of character that is not a visiting guest. They have even mastered the transportation system – from airport to hotel, to and from the parks, and even between attractions. We never waited more than 15 minutes to get anywhere. Disney employs 66,000 people – all there with a vested interested in creating a magical vacation experience.
Disney is amazingly accessible. There is no shortage of scooters and wheelchairs, all the buses have ramps or lifts and tie downs, and many of the rides accommodate people either on a mobility device, or through an easy transfer. All the rides and attractions are clearly marked to indicate how they can be enjoyed by people with different disabilities, and everything on video includes closed captioning. Even when I went to Disney as a young child with my grandfather who had polio, I remember marveling at how well he could get around the park in a scooter, and how accommodating the staff were in helping him on and off rides, letting us go to the front because the lines were not accessible, or stopping the ride altogether so he could experience it. And that was 30 years ago – long before it became culturally and socially unacceptable for people with disabilities to have to miss out because of their condition.
When you enter Disney there are free buttons you can put on to tell the world why you are there. You can get a “It’s My First Visit” button or the “I am Celebrating” button that you can then write “birthday” or “anniversary” or “wedding”. These are common and you see people all over the park advertising the reason for their vacation. However, hands down the best button I saw in my week was on a man at Magic Kingdom. His button said “I am Celebrating: LIFE”. Wow. What a message.
That button hit home with me. How often between going about our day, dealing with the kids, working, exercise, driving, eating, worrying, thinking, being angry, upset or stressed do we really “Celebrate Life”? It should not take a vacation for us to celebrate the one thing that we all have every day – regardless of everything else – our life. In whatever form, easy or hard, young or old, able bodied or not, if we awake in the morning then we too have the ability to appreciate all that it is to be alive. I am going to remember that button, the man that was wearing it, and of course an amazing vacation at a wonderful place. Then, as much as I can, when I can, I am going to make a more conscious effort to ensure I celebrate my life and will try to help those around me to also celebrate theirs.