Because the prospect of writing a detailed blow-by-blow of our time with the Great Mouse makes me want to cry, I've decided to boil down the trip into Random Bullet Points of Wisdom(tm):
* If you object to the Princess-Industrial Complex, don't even bother visiting Disney. It is all-pervasive and impossible to resist, from princess-themed character breakfasts to every last Cast Member addressing your daughter as "Princess."
* Comfortable shoes. Comfortable shoes. Did I mention comfortable shoes?
* In spite of our fears, the park food wasn't bad at all -- fair to middling American Contemporary cuisine, with an occasional ethnic flourish here and there. Kind of like eating at Applebee's every night. And there were churros!
* Disneyworld for Christmas? Even if you've visited before, you really owe it to yourself to see it just once. It's crowded as hell but just over the top with all of the extra lights and flowers.
* EPCOT now has a retro-futuristic vibe to it, which makes it even more interesting than before in my humble opinion.
* From its live safari to its killer new rollercoaster Expedition Everest, Disney's Animal Kindgom is full of win. Bonus points to the Imagineers for creating realistic African and Himalayan exteriors for the park, which serve as a nice complement to EPCOT's World Showcase.
* Speaking of the World Showcase, ignore the cool guide books and make sure you watch the 5-minute movie that accompanies the Maelstrom ride in Norway. It's so bad, it's good! Even my daughter didn't know to think when it was over.
* Comfortable shoes. No, really!
* One "character" meal is enough for the average child. By the time we hit our third even my dad had the good sense to cancel #4, as Andriana had learned to duck and cover whenever she saw a costumed Cast Member.
* Disney is the Matrix. It can and should scare you at times at how totally they wants to control what you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. And like the Matrix, it is exactly whenever they succeed in creating the perfect illusion that you become aware of how fake it all is.
* Cast Members are genuinely nice, and having their hometowns listed on their nametags makes it easy to strike up a conversation.
* Must every major ride exit through its own gift shop? If you can possibly remain strong, save your shopping for the ginormous Disney Store in Downtown Disney -- you'll make fewer impulse buys and have less crap for you to lug around the parks.
* If you have to short a park, I'd say make it Hollywood Studios. Even though they have the wicked awesome Tower of Terror, most people who've been to both parks say that Universal Studios Orlando does way better movie action and stunt shows.
* One parade viewing per park is more than adequate. Even if you're a crazed Disney fanatic, please don't inflict your mania on the rest of your family by insisting on watching every blasted show every single day you're in the park (and yes, we overheard a couple arguing about just that!).
* Resist the temptation to push your kid around in a stroller if he/she can walk, especially in the Magic Kingdom, where it's just too damned crowded for all that wheeled traffic. We only relented on the stroller issue on our last day and were happy that we hadn't succumbed earlier on in the trip.
* The EPCOT World Showcase is too often avoided by parents with small children "because it's boring". Go anyway. The Disney folks had set up nice kids' stations throughout the countries with craft tables and special stamps that you could collect from each nation's pavillion, such that our daughter was totally psyched to walk around the world and get them all.
* You're not going to see it all. And that's okay. Are you listening to me? Don't be a psycho-- your friends and family will thank you for it.
* Learn how FASTPASS works and use it! It's not rocket science, and you can spend all of that extra time you would have been standing in line for the Big Ticket Ride enjoying all of the little things in the vicinity. When I went to Disney as a kid we just hauled ass from one long line to another, missing out entirely on all of the smaller rides.
* One last time: comfortable shoes. Visiting Disney World is like spending a week hiking through a National Park, only with less mud and more plushy dolls. Be prepared to feel a couple weeks' worth of aches and pains afterwards!
That's what I've got, folks! All in all it was a great trip, and I'm grateful to my old man for financing this getaway. Next time I travel, however, I want to be able to exchange my currency for something other than Disney Dollars...