JeniLynn Knopp (234 Posts)

JeniLynn was born and raised in South Florida. Being so close to Walt Disney World, she grew up regularly visiting the Mouse and developed a fascination with the creativity of Disney Parks. Noticing that her happiest moments seemed to always take place in Walt Disney World, JeniLynn began trying to recreate the magic of Disney in her everyday life beginning in her pre-teen years. Adulthood, sixteen years of marriage, and three children later, JeniLynn continues to lead a Disney Driven Life and diligently works to pass her love for Disney on to her husband and children. She has blogged for Touring Plans and been a contributing writer for The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and she currently co-hosts Orlando Attractions Magazine: The Show; however, her primary focus has always been with the community that has grown around her own site, The Disney Driven Life. Through these venues JeniLynn strives to help other Disney fans stay connected to the brand that has served as a keystone in her family’s life.



For a week and a half I have succeeded in keeping our check-in day a secret from my little Disney investigators.  It was not easy, but I cleverly avoided pointed questions from them by appearing momentarily preoccupied and unable to answer.  Surprisingly, Grammy did not become an obstacle either.  She did not make any attempts to foil my plans by revealing our arrival date to my mouseketeers, and—as far as I know—she did not discuss the trip at all with them.  This made it quite easy to pack and prepare for our vacation under the guise of “visiting Pop-Pop and B-Mom”. 

Since we did actually arrive at my dad and step-mother’s home late last night, the deception was readily accepted.  My children were enthralled to jump all over Pop-Pop and wrap B-Mom in hugs.  And even though we got there around 11 pm, energy was abundant.  It took me another couple hours to get the kids in bed, wrap up conversations with Pop-Pop and B-Mom, and settle myself down for a couple hours of rest.

It is now 2 am.  I stretch, yawn and shut off the alarm clock.  Check-in day is here, and there is not a moment to lose because we are still many states away from paradise.  I dress myself and begin repacking the few items that we schlepped into my parents’ home.  The responsibility of all this falls primarily to me because otherwise DH would be unwilling to leave at this hour.

After I have done all that I can possibly do on my own, I sigh and acknowledge it is time to awaken the family.  DH is irritable and difficult to arouse, but a wife knows a few tricks that will—without fail–bring her husband out of a dead sleep.  I am not beyond enlisting such manipulative trickery in times of Disney urgency, and DH pleasantly greets the day as a result.  Once I get DH up and resist further advances from him, I head downstairs to the sleeping quarters of my unsuspecting dreamers.  I am tickled as I anticipate driving into Walt Disney World’s gate, totally catching my kiddos off guard.  They are in for the best surprise that childhood can offer.

“Wake up.  It’s time to go,” I softly speak as I rub the arms of these precious ones.  “Where are we going,” DS5 questions.  “We are going on an adventure,” I answer.  “But, Mom, it is still the night,” DD7 assesses.  DD2 asks, “Where is the sun, Mommy.” I gently explain, “Yes, it is the night.  The sun is still sleeping, but we are going to get up and go exploring.” 

DD7 is not impressed.  “I don’t want to go exploring now,” she says, “I’m tired.  Besides, why aren’t we going to spend time with Pop-Pop and B-Mom?”  I honestly explain, “Pop-Pop and B-Mom have plans for the day.  So while they are out, we are going to have a family adventure.”  “But where are we going on our adventure,” DS5 persists. “Daddy and I thought we should just get in the van and drive until we find someplace that we would like to stop,” I propose.  DD7 is still not impressed.  “That is a terrible idea,” she declares.  “Yeah,” DS5 agrees.  I sit back and realize that this is going to be harder than I had anticipated.

I look at the clock.  There is no more time to be wasted.  I must get this wagon on the trail.  These “Grumpies” are going to get the best surprise of their childhood whether they like it or not.  “OK,” I firmly address, “I’m done being nice.  Get up out of bed.  Get dressed, and get in the van.”  “We haven’t eaten breakfast yet,” DS5 notes in a whiny voice. I sternly retort, “We will eat breakfast after we have driven for a little while.  Now move it.”

Reluctantly, my cranky sleepwalkers comply.  They are moving slower than a sloth submerged in a tank full of peanut butter and are full of complaints.  However, they are moving.  I am hopeful that they will fall asleep in the van and lose this unpleasant and argumentative demeanor.

My hopes are in vain.  As I securely buckle three scowling children into the backseat of our van, I suggest, “I think that everyone should just go back to sleep.  Daddy and I will wake you up when we have decided what we are going to do on our adventure.” “I am not going to sleep,” DD7 protests.  She is in a particularly difficult mind-set.  Being yanked away from loving grandparents at 3 am to pursue an undisclosed adventure after only a couple hours of sleep has rubbed her the wrong way.  It seems that at this point, she would oppose me no matter what I said; therefore, I am certain to not mention Disney.  “Suit yourself,” I resign, “The only one you will make miserable is yourself.”

I couldn’t be more wrong.  Hours pass, and DD7 has been sure to frustrate DH and me by regularly expelling her disapproving thoughts to us from the back of the van.  It has caused DD2 to suddenly awaken from her awkward position in the carseat a few times and realize she is incredibly uncomfortable.  Needless to say, we have endured a number of loud crying spells in addition to DD7’s scolding.  The magic that I hoped to build as we got closer to FL has dissolved instead.  Where did I go wrong?

As the sun rises, it is apparent that the weather has sided with DD7.  We are overcome by dark and heavy thunderstorms that make driving extremely difficult.  The rain pelts our van at a volume that makes sleep unattainable, so now there are three very irritable, uncomfortable and sleep-deprived kiddos at the opposite end of our vehicle.  The whining and crying escalate with every mile.  DH is tense.  I am certain that his nerves are raw from our children, but driving with such poor visibility makes him take on a crazed look.  I become concerned.

“Mom,” DD7 shouts above the deafening rain, “I think that we should turn around and go back.  This is getting ridiculous.  We cannot have an adventure in this rain.  Plus, we are very hungry.”  That’s right!  I realize that it is time to eat.  DH and I had planned to stop at a welcome center, set out the food we prepared the night before and enjoy a breakfast picnic.  This is not an option now. 

Due to the digestive condition that plagues my family, we cannot eat food from a restaurant.  We must eat the food we prepared, but how do I serve items like baked butternut squash, green beans and lamb while perched on top of the stacked coolers and luggage that cover every square inch of our mobile unit?  It is a question I don’t care to answer; nevertheless, I unbuckle myself and ungracefully climb over these piles to reach the back area of the van.

I provide some amusement for the three black rain clouds who watch me intently as I tip over a time or two, losing all manner of dignity.  I feel like I am performing a balancing act in Cirque du Soleil (albeit an unsuccessful one). I try to rearrange items from my unsafe position atop a shifting stack of boxes.  The task is laborious, but I finally access the needed cooler. 

I somehow manage to dish out the various items of our picnic menu.  Our family is a sight.  The children try to eat their “table service” meal in a “counter service fashion.  I monitor the situation while continuing to perfect my balancing skills, and DH drives through the nearly hail-like storm as we slowly progress down the highway.

This was not what I had envisioned when I planned to present my kids with a semi-surprise trip to Disney.  The dream has taken a nasty turn and devolved into a nightmare.  As I teeter on my unstable tower of boxes, I can’t help but wonder if we will make it.  Will we arrive in Orlando as the united and enthusiastic family that I have worked so hard to attain?  I consider the question and hope for the best, but—in the back of my mind—I cannot shake the thought that this is a foreshadowing of things to come.

*for Disney road-trip tips, contact NDM#1 at

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