Strong Women, Strong Friends — And a Trip to Disney World

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her backStrong women have surrounded me most of my life. My mom was the first, followed by aunts, teachers, neighbors, and finally my high school classmates; independent girls who grew into the strong women who are my forever friends.

These women are my cheerleaders, my Girls Gone Wild (GGW); the ones who rally around to listen, celebrate, rebalance, and support me and each other. They speak the truth in love.

Each of us is a strong and resilient woman, and the strength of our friendship spans 49 years.

Staying Connected

We do not live near each other. Old fashioned phone calls, email, Skype and Facebook help keep us connected and we meet in Myrtle Beach every other year to share the love.

We know the day will come when one of us is no longer here or able to travel, so now we try to meet once a year. It doesn’t always work out because life happens—but this year it came together perfectly.

We decide on Orlando, rent a house and book our flights. Jan comes from England, Suzie from California, Missy from Iowa, and the two Lindas from Arkansas and Virginia. We time our flights to share transportation. We know each other so well that one person can shop for all of us and buy everything we like.

Once we are together, we make a spur of the moment decision–We’re Going to Disney World!

Girls Gone Wild in Disney World

A trip to Disney World is not for the faint of heart. Families plan trips years in advance—we sat on a couch at 9:00 pm and said, “Hey, let’s go tomorrow.” Probably not the best approach.

The next morning, we decide to Uber to the park to avoid driving two cars and parking.  Genius.

Our collective brilliance ends with the Uber decision. Disney is expensive. A day pass in one park is $102 without an advance booking. The lines aren’t too bad for tickets, but when we attempt fast-pass reservations for two things we really want to see there are none available.

Stand-by lines are 90 minutes to 3 hours, with signs indicating no restrooms are available once you enter the queue—not the sign you want to see when you are our age or have young children. Staying hydrated and long lines do not go together.

Everything is expensive. I forgot to pack a hat and consider buying one until I realize the $39 price tag would be $5.00 at Target. I suck it up and put on extra sunscreen.

Minnie Mouse Ears, Disney World, outrageous pricing, We decide to buy girlie mouse ears and find a souvenir kiosk. Realizing they are $25, everyone puts on a pair and we hide the tags in the back. We grab a Millennial walking by and ask him to take our picture, which he does. We post it on Facebook and hang the ears back on the rack.

It is not a school vacation week but families with little kids are everywhere. Taking kids out of school to visit Disney World is a thing. None of us have young children so we spend time admiring little girls dressed as Minnie and Elsa knowing their outfits cost as much or more than our high school prom dresses.

Disney World Over Sixty

This is not the Disney World we took our kids to. Although reports indicate attendance is down, it is up by over 11 million since my last visit with young children. Big Data is also here—once the entrance fee is paid, your fingerprint is scanned and you receive a credit-card-style ticket to enter all rides within the park.

We found the management of lines and waiting outdated and poorly executed. Our collective feeling (and we admit we did not book in advance) is a $102 (plus tax) ticket entitles everyone to every ride. To enter the park and find all rides are booked and your only option is a 3-hour wait means it is overbooked. That feels like a rip-off. Put a sign at the ticket gates (like parking garages do) telling you it’s full before you buy a ticket.

We went to Animal Kingdom to visit Pandora and take the new Avatar virtual-reality ride. The wait was 2.5 hours, but we came there to do it, so we got in the queue. We spent the entire time talking and it went by quickly.  It was awesome and totally worth it!! Best. Ride. Ever.

The Happiest Place on Earth

Disney World is the family vacation Mecca and a tourist magnet. A family of four on a four-day trip will pay around $8,000 for a basic/budget plan, including outrageously priced souvenirs. My husband and I spent 10 days in Italy for half that amount.

Visitors range from the very young to the very old. Even on off-peak weekdays, double and triple strollers, electric scooters and wheelchairs made navigating walkways challenging. Lines are long, food is expensive, crowds are everywhere.

Fun comes with a steep price tag at Disney World. The cost of items like bottled water and ice cream shocked me; and I was appalled at the monetization of everything Disney created. Walt’s dream, I think, is not reflected in how expensive it is to make a small child happy, even in the Happiest Place on Earth.

Keeping It Real

We live in a world where people are increasingly disconnected. Advances in technology make it possible to remain remote from the real world and end a friendship by simply deleting a name.

Girls together, Keeping it realLasting friendships like ours have a sense of belonging and connection that we work hard to nurture. They were forged without ever clicking a link on a screen or texting on a smartphone. We share real conversation and have been present for one another for 49 years. We were already strong women, and we have been made stronger by one another. #keepingitreal