The other day I was asked what I do to combat withdrawal I suffer when returning from a trip to Walt Disney World.
That question raised another question in my mind and that was when does Disney saturation come into play to prevent Disney withdrawal?
It gets dangerous when I start thinking this way but bear with me and hear me out.
While thinking about something like Disney withdrawal, I realized that unlike most people, my withdrawal symptoms are kind of, well, they are somewhat strange.
For a long time my trips to WDW were either once a year or even (shudder) once every two years.
There is a good reason for this particular frequency of trips…F A M I L Y.
The expense of bringing a family down several times a year just didn’t make fiscal sense to me so when we would go as a family we would go during the summer and usually spend about two weeks in Orlando. One trip”¦go crazy”¦then save and come back in two years.
Yup”¦sounds pretty cool erh? But remember that we would go either once a year or once every other year. There were just so many things going on in our lives as we were growing up as a family that we had to pay attention to priorities and as much as we loved Walt Disney World we needed to keep everything in perspective.
However, you can well imagine that going either once a year or every other year would generate withdrawal symptoms like you would never believe.
On top of that since we drove down we were on a rollercoaster of emotions”¦as we drove from New Hampshire and past specific areas like D.C. and of course South of the Border in Dillon, S.C. we would get excited.
Nothing got us more excited than crossing the Florida State line and stopping at the Welcome Center.
So the excitement would build and build as we neared Orlando.
Of course the drive back was no fun at all”¦.that’s when the withdrawal symptoms would REALLY begin.
So how did I combat the withdrawal symptoms?
Well, knowing what the frequency of our trips would be we decided we would do our best to capture our memories as best as possible.
Back in the pre Digital Camera days we would take tons of film down with us and Carol would do the picture taking while I carried around the huge VHS camera to capture video. On average I would tape 36 to 40 hours of video and this included parades, fireworks, and shows.
There was always an opportunity to have a family photo and we never hesitated. Here’s one from the Scopa family archives”¦.I’m guessing 1990.
For two weeks I lived with my camera on my shoulder.
I almost fell into the trap of never videotaping the family but I was careful and got everyone on tape as best as possible”¦especially when interacting with characters and Streetmosphere.
We would also buy videos and musical CDs”¦anything involving the sights and sounds of Walt Disney World”¦stuff that would tie us over for the next trip.
Once back from our trip we would sit down and watch all the videos with friends and family and
relive the trip.
I myself would take it another step and write a trip report that would account for everything we did.
The report would be written from some notes I took every day of our trip.
Writing a trip report is the best way to slowly ease off the withdrawal symptoms because as you write the account of your trip you get to relive each moment and you will find yourself leaning back, closing your eyes and recalling what you experienced.
I have approximately 1000 hours on video tape of all my trips and from time to time I will pull out an old tape and enjoy some memories”¦and chuckle at my sense of fashion.
What’s nice about watching these videos and that you can see old favs like Horizons, Tapestry of Dreams, Fantasy in the Sky, and also take note how things have changed”¦like Main Street USA, the castle forecourt, and other areas in all the parks.
For those of you who are not able to visit WDW as frequently as you would like you may want to think about doing as much as you can to capture your trip memories to help bridge the gap between previous and upcoming trips.
Okay, so you’re thinking, “So Mike, what does all this have to do with the word “Saturation” at the top of this blog?
Well, first I wanted to mention about how I dealt with withdrawal back in the day.
Now that I visit WDW more frequently I really don’t have withdrawal symptoms.
Actually, I’m lying. I DO find myself going through withdrawal but I’m sure not in a way that you would expect.
My withdrawal symptoms do not appear until I’m within about three or four days of returning to WDW.
How’s that for weird?
I guess all along I expect to return and thus don’t think about missing the place but when it gets close I start to get antsy and want to get there ASAP”¦mostly because I know that beyond talking mice and ducks waiting for me will also be my friends.
I know”¦I know”¦you keep saying, “Mike!!!! Saturation!!! What is Saturation?”
Okay, NOW I can talk about what I mean by Saturation.
Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Too much of a good thing”¦yadda yadda ya?”
Well this can be said of WDW.
I see you shaking your head and thinking, “I can never get enough of WDW!”
Uhhhh”¦yes! Yes you can.
I think that the lack of withdrawal symptoms is directly related to the number or the frequency of one’s trips.
But it goes deeper than that.
If you constantly visit a certain restaurant near your home many times because it’s your favorite restaurant after a while you may not appreciate the food, the service, the atmosphere, or whatever it is that draws to you to the establishment.
Same for Walt Disney World.
It’s called the saturation point”¦.or the level at which your appreciation for whatever we are talking about is no longer at the level of appreciation it should be for your individual taste.
Once you hit that saturation point your level of appreciation drops because, very simply you are not attaching the same value to the place that you normally would”¦basically in a subliminal manner you may also become desensitized to the wonder that is Walt Disney World. Yup, it’s true.
Obviously the more you go the less you will miss it when you are not there.
Also, and this may be a subtle thing that you may not realize”¦without knowing it you will find yourself appreciating less and less what is waiting for you in Orlando.
That’s my explanation.
Do you want some signs which may indicate you are approaching the saturation point?
“¢ You don’t go out of your way to do as many attractions as you did during your first several trips to WDW and possibly you are saying to yourself, “I’ll do them next time.” There is no sense of urgency to do Haunted Mansion, Soarin’, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, or Expedition Everest.
“¢ You don’t find yourself as disappointed in not being able to get an ADR for one of your favorite restaurants. In this case you may find yourself settling for someplace else”¦hoo”¦bad sign.
“¢ You find yourself avoiding character meals”¦big sign.
“¢ You find yourself cutting an evening short and not bothering to watch fireworks at whatever park you are in. Are you nuts? Does anyone do this? Yes. Even your humble author.
“¢ You find yourself not bothering to make it into a park by rope drop. In fact, you may find yourself sleeping in at times rather than waking up with the chickens and being at the park turnstiles some 30 minutes before park opening.
“¢ You do not take advantage of Extra Magic Hours at least half the time during your visit. Oh the humanity”¦but it’s true.
Now there is really nothing wrong with this as it may very well mean that you are comfortable with your frequency of visits and you are there for the purpose of relaxing and taking in the atmosphere.
I myself, on my solo trips, have no problems if I’m not in an attraction queue at least once every hour”¦in fact over my last three trips I averaged something like 1.3 attractions per day.
I would hate to think that I have fallen into the saturation trap and no longer appreciate what is waiting for me at Orlando.
I hope not.
I do realize that my trip frequency has a lot to do with it as well as my trip objectives, be it Mousefest, a race, or a special event.
Every person is different.
Every person has different thresholds of saturation and thus has different withdrawal points.
For eight year old Jimmy it’s a chance once more to help Buzz Lightyear fight Zurg; for nine year old Samantha it’s to see Tinkerbell fly from the castle as the beginning of Wishes, and for 17 year old Jake it’s to once more come face to face with the Yeti on Expedition Everest.
For others, like myself, the appreciation of the attractions may in fact have leveled off but in their place a new appreciation has emerged.
There is a pronounced appreciation for the atmosphere and environment that has been established these last 30 plus years.
I find myself sitting down on a park bench and watching children interacting with characters”¦to me that’s an attraction.
I find myself leaning up against a fence and watching a young family, wide-eyed, enjoying their first WDW family vacation”¦to me that’s an attraction.
I smile as I see cast members enjoying the fact that they are making a guest feel extra special and making a special gesture to perhaps create a memory in that guest’s mind as to how enjoyable their visit was to this particular park.
No”¦my withdrawal symptoms or lack thereof”¦or even what I thought was a possible saturation point for me is not that at all.
It’s a shift”¦.a shift of appreciation for what Walt Disney World now represents to me.
As the years and the trip go by you may find yourself that there is a shift occurring in you as to what you look forward to when you next visit Mickey and friends.
What matters most is that you realize that saturation will never settle in”¦.but instead a shift in appreciation for what brings you back to what you as an individual considers as the happiest Place on Earth.
For those of us who keep coming back we may also find that withdrawal symptoms may never surface because quite simply we take a little part of Walt Disney World home with us.