Courtesy of Dan Zevin
When the kids were babies, I was still gung-ho about showing them the world. "Once Leo learns to walk, we'll take him to Egypt to climb the Great Pyramid," I'd fantasize. "Okay, Josie's eating solids. Let's fly to Mumbai so she can try chicken vindaloo." The goal of family travel, I formerly believed, was to expand our children's cultural horizons. The goal of family travel, I currently believe, is to avoid stowing the kids in the overhead compartments until we have begun our final descent.
I mention this stuff to let you know why my wife and I selected the exotic land of Disney for our first family vacation. At the time, Leo was 5 and Josie was 2. Disneyland's claim to be "the happiest place on Earth" was very compelling. We never imagined depleting our frequent-flier miles so our kids could experience the birthplace of consumer branding, but I'll tell you what: We also never imagined letting them eat a bag of cheese puffs for breakfast. Can you guess what they had this morning?
Maybe you too are inching closer to your own expedition to the Magic Kingdom. And maybe you are saying, "Dan, you are a man who has strapped on a pair of mouse ears. Please, share with me your many secrets so that I may follow in your footsteps without becoming a danger to myself and others."
Or maybe not. In any case, you are merely one sentence away from: Dan's Disneyland Dossier (in convenient FAQ format).
Q: What should I take to Disneyland?
The most important thing to take is my younger brother Richie, who is a licensed social worker specializing in early-childhood development. Growing up, Richie was always the most patient Zevin. To this day, I have never seen him lose his temper. Sometimes I think he doesn't even have a temper. Then I remind myself that he just doesn't have kids. When he does, he will presumably find his temper. Until then, I cannot recommend him highly enough.
With Uncle Richie around, you won't waste your precious Disney days listening to everything your kids want and telling them everything they can't have. Relinquish your parental duties to him, and you will watch in wonder as they walk straight past five (5) souvenir stores in a single afternoon. Unlike his elder brother, Uncle Richie never uses time-outs as a threat. He doesn't even say "time-out." He says, "take some space of your own," and he says it like they're about to get a prize instead of a punishment. "Leo," Uncle Richie says, "How about if you take some space of your own to think up something fun for us to do instead of flinging that chocolate volcano at your sister?"
Q: What is a chocolate volcano?
A chocolate volcano is what they serve you for dessert at the Rainforest Caf?, one of numerous theme restaurants we sampled during our stay. The theme of this particular venue was to scare our daughter.
There we all were, happily enjoying our nightly intake of chicken fingers, tenders, strips, and/or nuggets, surrounded by smiling stuffed elephants, toy gorillas, and chirping tropical birds. Suddenly, the place goes pitch black, a roar of thunder rips through the room, and a simulated lightning storm sends the taxidermy into a shrieking frenzy.
Once the lights came back, we were grateful to be dining with a pediatric social worker who could provide early intervention for Josie's future post-traumatic stress disorder. Uncle Richie classified her as "totally freaked out." He prescribed the chocolate volcano as a short-term remedy. Little did he know this remedy would be dispensed by a team of actor/waiters who stampede around your table screaming, "Vol-can-o! Vol-can-o! Vol-can-o!"
After that, Josie was so inconsolable that Megan had to rush her back to the hotel room with Uncle Richie. Leo and I stayed behind to pay the bill and eat the volcano. Which, speaking as your travel advisor, I would describe as the single most outstanding food I have ever tasted.