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When Bad Trips Happen to Good People: Surviving Bad Vacations

By Dawn Dobson, PassPorter Columnist

I saw a billboard that said "True happiness is being able to enjoy the view even on a detour." I got to thinking about applying that statement to a Walt Disney World or Disney Cruise Line vacation, especially during hurricane season. Can we have a good time even on a bad trip?

What makes "the perfect trip?" How many times do we read (on message boards) that someone's chosen itinerary, advance dining reservation plans, or stateroom upgrade will make for a "perfect trip?" How does it make those of us whose itinerary gets swept away on gale force winds feel? For many, much effort and emotion goes into planning our Walt Disney World vacations. We read our guidebooks and highlight pages, surf the web and post on message boards, gleaning every scrap of information we can about everything from the resorts to the rest rooms. We are well-versed even on the type of shampoo we should expect.

The problem is that sometimes we set our expectations too high. We forget that Mother Nature may have other plans. We forget that little Mike or Sue might not be able to walk around, exposed to the bright and luscious wonder of Disney for hours on end. We forget that there are germs and accidents everywhere we go, yes, even at the most magical place on earth! We watched the planning video and those people (and children!) are smiling and laughing and having a wonderful time, so we will, too, by golly. Or will we? Stuff happens. It is very important for travelers to remember that little adage. Yes, it may be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but if something does go wrong, how you choose to deal with it will make all the difference in your memories in years to come.

What Can You Do? -- It is best to prepare ahead of time for the little disasters that are likely to happen during your stay, so that when you are faced with a "change of plans," you can adjust readily and with a smile.

Mother Nature -- Hurricanes are a deadly force of nature. If you have scheduled your vacation during hurricane season, you may be in for a bumpy ride. It is a good idea to keep an eye on the sky (and on the weather forecasts) and make some choices about your vacation. Yes, you've planned and saved, but is it worth potentially risking your life or the lives of your loved ones? OK, too late, you are there during the hurricane. Sitting around the resort room stressing and griping about the storm is not productive. It just upsets anyone else who is in the room with you. Make the best of what you have. Go "camping" with the kids. Watch TV. Read a book together. Make up a new game. If you have children, they are especially sensitive to your emotions and if you are calm, they will remain calm themselves. Most of all, remember that the cast members who are assisting you may have just lost their home or worse, yet here they are, smiling and trying to help you and yours have a magical time. Be nice. It's a tough gig.

Kids -- As the mother of four girls, stressed-out children make me understand why some animals eat their young. (Just kidding. Really!) There is nothing worse than a melt-down or screaming temper tantrum as you are about to board Test Track. Chances are you feel like everyone is staring at you, and that is embarrassing. You may think they are judging your ability to parent little Mike or Sue. Keeping a vigilant eye out for signs of fatigue or fear or over-stimulation can help prevent these situations. (Children who haven't taken a nap in years often do take one at Walt Disney World -- adults too!) Every guidebook tells you to take the kids back to the resort for a rest and a swim, but many people do the math and see how much "park time" that they are "wasting" by doing this. Re-think your definition of "fun" from a child's point of view and then go have some fun! (Ask many children what their favorite part of the trip was and they will tell you about the pool at the resort!)

Healthy -- Accidents happen. So do blisters and stomach bugs. It is good to know that Disney is equipped with first aid in each park and a helpful front desk in each resort. On a recent trip, I stepped into the trolley track right in front of the Castle after Wishes. I was tired, cranky, and in pain. I went to the first aid station and they took excellent care of my sprained ankle and bruised ego. I was told to check at the front desk of my resort as soon as I returned for further medical information, in case I needed it. Thankfully, I didn't need it, but it was reassuring to know that it was available to me. It's no fun to be sick or injured on vacation, but, come to think of it, it's no fun to be sick or injured at home either. Just file it under "L" in the life experiences folder. 

Some friends of mine returned last year from their 40th anniversary cruise and I asked how it was, knowing they had had to do some hurricane-dodging. I was concerned about how they had dealt with the stress of canceled ports and excursions. She told me that it was the most wonderful and relaxing time. She laughed as she said the Captain was joking about the hurricane wanting to visit the same ports they were supposed to. What she said that had the most impact on me was, "We were there together, celebrating our marriage. It didn't matter where we went, just so we went together." They were able to enjoy the view, even on the detour. That sounds like the perfect trip to me.

This article originally appeared in our June 23, 2005 newsletter -- subscribe to our popular newsletter today for free!

Related Articles:

  • Surviving Long Flights
  • Surviving Bumpy Flights
  • Preparing Kids for a Disney Vacation
  • Staying Healthy

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    Updated 02/12/07 

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