Why I can’t wait to get back to Disney World — but not for the reasons you think

Mar 22, 2020

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Travel — and simple freedom of movement — is something I’ve taken for granted, and it only took a few days of sheltering in place to figure that out. While my coworkers at The Points Guy are dreaming about the exotic places they’ll visit when this is all over, there’s one place I’ve been yearning for: Walt Disney World.

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I actually haven’t been there in quite some time. My family began visiting WDW the year it opened. We started with stays at the Contemporary but as soon as the Polynesian Village opened, that became our resort of preference. Our family made annual visits for many years thereafter.

My brother, sister and I at Disney
My brother, sister and I at Disney’s Polynesian Village. (Photo courtesy of Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy)

Even after I grew up and moved out of my parents’ house, they still made trips to Disney on their own. By this time, their hotel of choice was the Yacht Club. I would often fly to Orlando to meet them for a three-day weekend. As a middle child, I never had alone time with my parents — except during those getaways.

Related: 16 reasons to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort property

My parents had a favorite bench on the boardwalk that looked out across Stormalong Bay. I remember so many evenings sitting on that bench, talking with my parents about the good old days and all that was still to come in my future.

After my boyfriend proposed and it was time to plan the wedding, I didn’t have to think twice. We’d marry at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. A close-knit group of immediate family and friends joined us for what people still talk about as one of the most epic weddings they’ve ever attended. It wasn’t splashy — I didn’t arrive at the ceremony in Cinderella’s Coach and no characters greeted us at the reception. But we tied the knot in a lovely gazebo in the resort’s rose garden, celebrated with a reception at Ariel’s restaurant and closed out the evening with fireworks at Epcot’s World Showcase. That was 25 years ago.

My dad walking me down the aisle to the Rose Garden Gazebo at Disney
My dad walking me down the aisle to the Rose Garden Gazebo at Disney’s Yacht Club. (Photo courtesy of Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy)

Life got more hectic and complicated after that, as life tends to do. My career got busier, my parents got older and myriad health crises stopped their visits to The Most Magical Place on Earth.

They’ve both been gone seven years now. Part of me is relieved they aren’t here to see this pandemic. I don’t know how I would keep them safe and my heart is with every caregiver struggling to safeguard an elderly relative or friend right now.

But part of me selfishly wishes they were still here. No matter how old we get, we are always our parents’ child. And, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, like the kind of comfort a parent — and only a parent — can give you.

This week, as the potential trajectory of the devastating effects of the novel coronavirus are being discussed in the news, I’ve wanted, more than anything else, to be back at Walt Disney World — sitting on that bench watching the moonlight dance across Stormalong Bay, talking with mom and dad about all of our hopes and dreams. A snapshot in time when life was much simpler and certainly less scary.

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When all of this is over and the threat of coronavirus has receded into the shadows, I plan to head to Walt Disney World. I’ll stay at the Yacht Club — asking for the room that my parents always requested. In the evenings, I’ll sit on that bench thinking about how lucky I am to be their daughter, how much I miss them and how thankful I am for all the memories.

On the day of our wedding, here
On the day of our wedding, my husband on my family’s favorite bench at the Yacht Club. (Photo courtesy of Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy)

I hope — no matter where you are holed up to live out the next few weeks of social distancing — that you have the support of the people around you. None of us are happy this is happening, but if we can keep our distance as we pull together to beat this virus, we’ll come out on the other side stronger.

Stay safe. And if you happen to be sequestered with your parents — no matter how annoying the close quarters might become — give them an extra hug or two. You’ll be glad you did later.

Featured image by Garth Vaughan/Walt Disney Parks.

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