[Editor’s Note: Romantic Disney is a new column, with a focus on couplehood at the family-friendliest place on Earth. From knowing how, where and when to seize your romantic moments, to conquering unexpected adversity, this series will explore how a mutual love of Disney can be key to building a long, strong and ultimately happy relationship.]
It’s always easy to spot the couples at Disney who are clearly in the early stages of dating. They tend to be awkward, shy, unsure, and insecure, with each looking to the other for approval and direction. They—or at least one of them—likely thought Disney would be a slam dunk of a date. After all, how could anyone not have fun at Disney? There’s so much to do and see and experience and eat! But that’s also the problem: too many options and not enough time. When you haven’t yet established your lines of comfortable communication, navigating a Disney day—particularly when it’s a date—can be daunting. Here are some tips for making that first Disney date a great date:
The Three Types of Disney Dates
To be clear, we’re talking twosomes here: you, and your date. Doubles and groups don’t count! That said… there tend to be three Disney date scenarios:
The Disney date you plan together
The Disney date you plan all on your own
The Disney date you’ve accepted
Each carries with it different expectations and levels of responsibility. But at the core of the date is the hope that the adventure will bring you closer together.
The Disney date you plan together
If you’re planning the date together, you’ve already got a good thing going: you’re both into it and enthusiastic about having a fun time together. More than likely, you’re going to plan on spending the day and staying until the park closes, or thereabouts. It’s hard to go wrong when you’re both going in with a shared love of Disney, and yet…
If your plan is to just get there and wing it, you may want to leave just a little less to chance and augment your spontaneous approach with a few agreed upon must-do’s and if-it-can-work’s. What are your top-drawer attractions that you’d make every effort to experience? The more in accord the two of you are going in, the fewer unpleasant surprises you could be in store for when deciding which direction to go in next.
Example: Your partner is dead-set on seeing a parade. You, however, had strategically planned to use the parade time to get in an extra Space Mountain. This could easily turn into one of those stop-everything moments as the two of you confront a sudden crisis in the middle of The Happiest Place on Earth.
The lesson: Don’t just assume you and your partner see eye to eye on all things Disney!
Establish some of your preferences for a perfect day.
Have a few fallback positions just in case a ride is closed or it’s a more crowded day than anticipated.
If compromise is required to accommodate the other, be willing—and negotiate fairly!
The Disney date you plan on your own
If you’re going to surprise your partner with a Disney date, at least warn them about the nature of the day. Tell them up front that there will be enough walking to necessitate comfortable shoes and appropriate attire for a full day outdoors. (Unless this is expressly a dinner date—but that’s a discussion for another post!) Assuming your plan is to bring your mate—or potential-mate-to-be—to a place synonymous with happiness and childhood memories, take a moment or two to consider your guest. They may have their own memories (positive or negative!), and that should be taken into account. Just because you’re the one doing the planning, doesn’t mean the Disney experience is all about you.
It is a date, after all, and even though you’re acting as travel planner and tour guide (or some combination thereof), the hope is for you and your date to get to know each other better—and likely a lot better—by revealing your vulnerabilities under the safe auspices of Disney: What makes you happy, what makes you cry, what were you afraid of as a children? These are all precious pieces of our psyches that we don’t necessarily share easily, but which Disney will likely evoke. While you may be ready to give your date a window into your heart, be mindful of your companion and provide them with the same safe harbor Disney gives you.
Also, keep in mind that there’s an awful lot to take in here—especially when you’re trying to impress someone or win their favor. By staying attentive to your date and their needs, you’ll be able to detect the first signs of overload and provide relief. Specifically, be sure to watch for signs of exhaustion and heat sickness—dehydration is not a great start to a relationship!
The lesson: A Disney day is an active day. Make sure you’re not over-exerting your partner, who may not be physically—or emotionally—primed for a full day of strolling, standing, screaming, smiling, singing, and sharing.
The Disney date you accepted
When you’re the guest, your experience will be more or less dictated by what your host sees as the most meaningful aspects of the park. Remember this as you find yourself in line for a ride you’d rather skip, or denied the ride you were most excited about going on. Before you begin questioning the future of the relationship, question your companion in the form of conversation: Why is such-and-such ride a favorite—or, how come it isn’t? Your date wants to be seen for who they are, and it might be up to you to see through a different set of eyes in order to better understand this person you’re with. Likely, your date wants to see the real you as well, so don’t be timid about asserting your own suggestions for activities.
The biggest challenge of being the guest is in trying not to compete with Disney for your date’s attention or affection. You may find your companion’s eyes filled with so much pixie dust as to make them seem blind to your presence—particularly if your relationship is in its formative stages. Try to remind yourself that you were invited to share the Disney experience, not bear witness to it, and your date is likely assuming you’re thinking and feeling all the same things he or she is thinking and feeling. Trust that your presence is not only felt, but is, in fact, elevating every minute of your date’s Disney joy to even higher heights. You just have to believe. And if you believe, you’ll be smiling all the more for seeing the happiness in your companion’s face—and vice-versa.
The lesson: Seeing a Disney park through someone else’s eyes may not come easily, but it can open your eyes to what you didn’t realize you were missing.
General Tips—Regardless of Who Invited Whom
Take a break (or several): Unless you’re both in complete accord that you’re going to run free and amok like kids without parents and not stop ’til you drop, you should consider taking a break in a romantic spot where you can enjoy a beverage or snack and talk a bit. Sitting down and people watching for a bit serves as a great contrast to the day’s aggressive pace.
Never force: While you may be comfortable with roller-coaster-type rides, your companion might not share your enthusiasm. It’s fair to give an encouraging nudge, enticement or reassurance that the experience will be more fun than scary, but if your companion isn’t ready to take the leap, accept that it’s not the right time and move on. You made the effort and that was enough. Resist challenging with ultimatums or dares, even if you think it’s in fun. Keep in mind that by respecting what makes your partner uncomfortable, you can establish a stronger bond than any rollercoaster ever could.
When in doubt, stop and listen: Should you find yourself “in between gigs” as it were, with a potentially awkward chunk of time on your hands, follow your ears. Somewhere there’s a band playing or a parade parading. Or maybe it’s just about realizing there’s a dialog playing out from the second story of the cul-de-sac off Main Street between Minnie Mouse and her piano teacher. Passive moments can be as entertaining as active ones, and you will have enjoyed some quality time you weren’t expecting.
At the End of the Day
If you’re both smiling, laughing, singing, or dancing—or all of the above—you’ve obviously had a good date and probably a pretty good thing going. Don’t let it go—build on it! Your next Disney adventure promises to be even better! And if things didn’t go so well—talk about why. Communication is an important part of any relationship, and there’s no way to make your next date better if you don’t know why this one wasn’t perfect. Ideally, your next date will be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Have a First Disney Date Tip of your own? Please share it, and help the next new couple have a happy and memorable first date at Disney!