MONIQUE BATSON — Disney magic extends to arrival home

Published 12:03 am Friday, July 16, 2021

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Well, we have returned from the most magical place on Earth.

And — please don’t kill me Disney fans — I think the most magical thing was returning home.

Now, to be clear, we had a fantastic time. But a week after returning, I still have sore muscles, a sunburn, brain fog and a very angry Apple watch that tells me five times a day how I am falling behind last week’s steps.

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Yes, my watch is shaming me for not walking 20,000 steps by noon anymore, and I’m pretty close to throwing it in the trash.

But I digress.

First, we were fully expecting to be hit by Hurricane Elsa. While this didn’t happen, we did drive through some fairly heavy patches of rain and occasionally got rained on for a bit while at a theme park. But in what seemed like 125-degree weather, we didn’t mind that part.

The drive to Orlando is approximately 13 hours if you don’t stop. I was traveling with three kids, so there were lots of stops. For one, teenagers eat often. Two, they never have to use the restroom at the same time. And three, my car is small and had us so contorted that sometimes we just had to walk off muscle cramps.

Then there was the Tallahassee loop. If I even mention the name of this town in my house, I’m either met with seething anger or hilarious laughter. This would be one of those moments when a child needed to use the restroom so I pulled off the highway. Due to one-way roads, getting back to it wasn’t as easy as it seemed, despite having a navigator. I somehow managed to circle the same loop about six times before my daughter took over to get us out of that hell. We spent another 30 minutes circling the same loop. I think she and I swapped out driving four times just to see if one of us could find the path out of that maze. Finally, we made it to the highway.

Naturally when I booked this trip, I forgot to consider holidays. So we drove halfway across the country on July 4th weekend. And by the time we pulled up at the resort, we had been on the road for 21 hours. It was 3:30 a.m.

The following day was our first trip to Magic Kingdom; and I’m not going to lie, walking in it immediately felt magical. There was this weird inner twinkle and teary eyes just taking in all of the joy. I’m sure a little of that gratitude was for not still being in Tallahassee. But regardless, all four of us were staring with mouths open like we had just landed in a jar of pixie dust.

Having spent the last 1.5 years mostly in quarantine, the amount of movement and walking we did took a bit of a toll. Not to mention we were working on very little sleep. So at 3 p.m. we decided to shuttle back to the resort, take a short nap and return for the July 4th fireworks.

We accidentally slept for five hours and missed the rest of the day.

The second day at Magic Kingdom was a little less magical. I have two kids that only eat chicken strips and one that only eats hamburgers, and you can only spend $70 on so many Happy Meals. Again we left at 3 p.m. to rest, but this time I opted to stay behind and hang at the pool while the kids returned for fireworks. (The shuttle goes straight from the resort to the park and back, and the oldest is 19, so there were no worries letting them go alone.)

Next came Hollywood Studios. This was probably my favorite park because it actually had grown-up rides. But because our Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance group number was late, we couldn’t leave until about 8 p.m.

The fourth and final day was Animal Kingdom. By this time we have lost all energy. We walked in, dropped another $70 on some Happy Meals, took a selfie in front of the Tree of Life, ride Avatar: Flight of Passage (this is a must-do), and left.

We had run out of magic, and were left with just sore muscles and sunburns. But I will say the moment we pulled out of the resort, realizing our trip was over, the sadness set in.

The trip back only took 14 hours (we avoided all things Tallahassee) and we made it home about 1:30 a.m. We brought in our suitcases and slept until about 5 p.m. the following day.

I have friends who go to Disney every year, seemingly living for each trip. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those moms. I likely won’t return until I have grandkids. But for something I’ve been wanting to do for my kids for a decade, it was worth every $70 Happy Meal and Tallahassee turn.


Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at