I'll preface this "parenting" column by saying I am an expert of no sort - probably making me one of the parental majority.Aside from those that resemble the famous "Jolie-Pitt" pair, most parents would probably tell you there is no such thing as an expert in the child-rearing vocation.
That being said, I am the parent of a strong-willed, seasonally-allergic, sometimes asthmatic, recently turned three-year-old boy named Riley.
Sometimes he seems like he's going on 30, but most other times, like on our recent Disney World vacation, he's your "normal" challenging toddler turned preschooler.
Those who know me know I have a handful of loves - my son, my dog (Striker, a papillon), Gwen Stefani and her band No Doubt, the Yankees (don't get me started) and Walt Disney World. The last is certainly not last on the list, it just makes transitioning to my next paragraph easier - alas, I am a writer.
Yes, those who know me know they don't need to ask where my vacation, if planned, is going to be celebrated - it is 98 percent of the time at Walt Disney World.
This time around - May 25 through 30, was in celebration of Riley's third birthday on May 28.
Now, many will tell you that at that age, a trip to Walt Disney World is not for the child, it's for the parents.
I have to disagree.
I will concede that when he went for the first time, at 19 months old, that was more for the parents. But I guarantee you that his previous trip in December, at 2.5 years old, was pure joy for him.
Many will also tell you that a trip with a child that young is a waste of money as they will not remember it.
How many of you vacation soley for the memories?
Not me. I vacation to enjoy time off from everyday tasks and to spend leisurely time with my family. To enjoy the experiences as they happen.
That being said, my son certainly does have memories of previous trips to Walt Disney World. Hence, the immediate request to ride It's A Small World and Winnie the Pooh. Both wishes were granted - the Small World one seven times.
In addition to visiting Riley's old favorites, we created new ones as well.
The monorail, part of the resort-to-park transportation system at Disney, was a big one. We were granted our request to ride in the front of the vehicle with the driver twice.
Trains, airplanes, buses, boats - my son is a boy through and through and loves them all.
Also big this year at Disney was the Barnstormer - the kiddie rollercoaster in the Toontown portion of the Magic Kingdom. Riley was so excited to get on it (probably, in part, because it looks like an airplane) that he was in tears because we couldn't get to the ride entry fast enough. Not because there were lines, mind you, but because we darned adults just weren't willing to run there.
Riley's other Disney favorites at three years old were quite tame. The playgrounds were big. Particularly the Animal Kingdom's Boneyard where there are not only slides and climbing systems, but also a sandbox where children can dig through the sand for fossils. He also found a lot of enjoyment in the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area where everything, like ants and a roll of camera film, is blown up to exaggerated proportions.
Another hit for him was all of the fountains at EPCOT. From the large one placed at the center of Future World, to those in Morocco and France in the World Showcase, it seemed like Riley could watch the water for hours.
Also on the topic of water, as for most children his age, Riley also loved the pool. Ours wasn't anything fancy, just a separate kiddie pool at our resort - Old Key West.
For those parents looking to vacation at Disney with little ones, yet still wanting to be able to spend some time relaxing alone, I highly recommend the resort. The one bedroom villas and larger, owned by and on Disney property, offer two separate sleeping areas, a jacuzzi tub, full kitchen and Disney bus and boat transportation, ruling out the need for a rental car.
They can be booked directly through Disney, but aren't cheap, unless they offer a deal of some sort. A more inexpensive option is to rent points from a Disney Vacation Club member-Disney's version of the timeshare system.
I could write a whole column on that itself and other Disney money-saving options, so if you're interested in those, e-mail me at the below address.
All in all, we did have a wonderful vacation, as always, but it wasn't without those trying toddler moments - like the sudden fear of Mickey Mouse, unexpected crying throughout the Buzz Lightyear ride (previously a favorite of his), not wanting to sit down through some of our table-service meals, and the like.
Rest assured though, we'll be back to Disney World in the near future. After all, we'd rather have a bad day there than anywhere else.