The dread begins sometime around Day 3. “Halfway” is approaching. The train is cresting the mountain. Sharp rocks lie at the bottom. And then you are barreling towards it, unable to apply the brakes.
Soon it will all be over except the screaming and the credit card bills. Not necessarily in that order.
The very last day of a Walt Disney World Vacation is always the worst. Your fate is inescapable. Depression sets in. By this time tomorrow, you will be back at work.
Just chew on that for a moment. Those gray cubicle walls. Those droning bosses. Those unhappy, inarticulate morons you work with who have no appreciation for your ability to pick the shortest bag check line. The clock resets on your life and you are back to square zero.
This is your life. It didn’t go anywhere while you were on vacation. It just hid under the bed until you wandered back into the house, tan and overstuffed from the free dining promotion.
Then it popped out at you like an 80s slasher movie to remind you that the lawn is overgrown, the cat threw up all over the carpet, and somebody left the milk out all week.
I hate that day.
For my wife, it is different. The woman begins every vacation with a total meltdown of logic that will not subside until we are safely inside the hotel room, with the 21-point room inspection completed and all bags unpacked.
In the hours leading up to leaving the house, she is not only afraid that we will miss our flight, she is actually convinced that they are already boarding the plane. This in spite of the fact that we have never missed a flight in nearly 20 years of marriage. Since we have not left the house the requisite 15 hours in advance, that flight is gone, baby.
And whose fault is it? Mine, because I did not think to charge the kindle before going to bed.
And we still need to write a note to the pet sitter and the car is out of gas and oh no we did not check-in for the Southwest seat assignments at precisely 10:22 pm and the whole world will come to an end!
As I write this from my new permanent home that is called the couch, let me also admit that once we get there, she’s fine. She settles into vacation mode no problem. I’m the one who feels stress on the last day of vacation.
So as the victim of too many of these horrible End Times, let me offer you some ways in which to cope.
Ride the Train a lot
I go hard at the parks when I am on vacation. Open to close, every day. Early entry, extra magic—I am bringing the heat. I will see every freaking ride and show on property.
And I will do it efficiently, mind you.
By the last day of vacation, I can barely walk. I totter around like Mr. Glass in Unbreakable. The thought of standing in line for Splash Mountain is enough to shatter my bones.
This is the perfect time to plunk yourself down on the Walt Disney World Railroad and ride that mother three or four times full-circle.
I’m a self-respecting park maniac. I am not going to waste my last day at the hotel pool or shopping at Downtown Disney. No, I’m going to sit my butt down and not move while increasing my ride count.
They let you stay on, guys. You don’t have to get off.
Watch the Clock
During the week, I can’t help but keep count.
“Only 5 days left.”
“Wednesday, still not halfway.”
“Three more full-service meal vouchers with dessert and I never want to see a cheesecake again.”
But on the very last day, you can trick yourself again by switching to hours.
“It’s only 10am. I still have another 14 hours before I have to go home.”
“Lunchtime. I still have a whole ‘nuther cheescake left.“
“Parks are closed, but I can still watch the Tip of the Day on the resort channel one more time.”
Everywhere I look, there are crazy bearded homeless Cast Members standing with signboards that say “The End is Near” but I don’t have to believe them. Denial is a viable coping mechanism. Embrace it.
Pack the Bags
This may not seem therapeutic, but it is a critical step in survival. It is the reality gut-punch to get you up and moving when you’d just rather lie down on the spongy water play area and bleed to death.
It is also an exercise in space-bending physics, because somehow—impossibly so—the laws of the universe have multiplied your belongings such that the same clothes you brought down on vacation no longer fit in the exact same geometric volume.
Wrinkled, wadded up socks and underwear should theoretically fit better into the suitcase’s negative space, but instead, the stupid thing won’t zip up and the front flap has an unnatural lump the size of George Lucas’s neck.
You are also forced to examine your own character flaws, because there was no way you should have bought both the ceramic Figment mug and the spinny light-up Mike Wazowski. Also does the R2-D2 popcorn bucket count as a carry-on?
And do you really need to take home every little Downtown Disney brochure and Hollywood Studios Times Guide that you’ve somehow managed to keep in pristine condition as a memento of this blessed family trip? The amount of useless crap that is accumulated during the average Walt Disney World vacation could complete another landfill for Tokyo’s third gate:
- Splotchy paper tickets to blizzard beach.
- Assorted plastic Disney shopping bags because won’t the niece back home love them?
- That map of the resort that you looked at once and remarked “Hey, here’s the jogging trail I plan to use this week” and then promptly shoved aside to make room for the pizza box.
Yet somehow you will make it all work. You will borrow a bulldozer from Avatarland, just so that you can pull the suitcase zipper closed while little Johnny stands on top. And you will utter several prayers that the TSA people at the airport will not attempt to visually inspect the contents of your bag.
In the end you will feel satisfied that at least this little task is out of the way and now you can go enjoy the resort pool one last time.
But wait, where did I put the swimsuits?… oh crap.
Buy a New Outfit
If you are like me, finding a clean outfit for that last day of vacation is like finding a same-day FastPass for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. There is a mathematical law, which states that the Sum of All T-Shirts Needed for a Walt Disney World Vacation is Equal to the Total of All Shirts Packed Minus One.
My wife constantly mocks me for this. She knows that by the end of the week, I have fewer shirts than Hulk Hogan at a Steroid Convention. Every time we go on vacation, she reminds me to pack more shirts.
But what she does not understand is that if I pack 7 shirts, I will need 8. If I pack 8, the vacation will simply require 9. I could pack 43 shirts for a week at Walt Disney World, and come Friday, there I’d be, wondering how the heck I managed to melt 43 Mickey bars on myself.
This means that I am good for a last-minute impulse t-shirt purchase. I always have grand visions of finding that cool, park-specific t-shirt that I will wear proudly to work, church, and other places of high fashion.
It is not until I get home that I remember that Disney t-shirts are the rare clothing exception that will balloon to the size of Dreamfinder’s blimp in the dryer, and that when I’m back in the normal world, I will be too embarrassed to wear a bright red shirt of a Carnotaurus chasing a cartoon mouse.
Look forward to Pets
If you are fortunate enough to have pets, you can feel good about yourself on the last day of vacation by imagining how benevolent you will appear when you walk through the door of your home and restore peace and order to your poor animal subjects.
Like a king bestowing gifts upon his fawning peasants, you will parade through your house, kindly scratching an ear here, topping off a water dish there. And oh! Imagine the look of delight on their toothy drooling faces when you deign to kneel beside them and rub their belly.
These sniveling, groveling mendicants will swoon at your very presence and make you feel very amazing indeed.
Re-evaluate your Life
More than any other time save New Years Eve, the last day of vacation is perfect for reflecting on what has gone off the rails in your life, and how you can set everything right…
…If you will just commit to a few resolutions.
Not looking forward to going back to work? Time to work on that resumé! You know exactly what skills you will highlight. Flashes of inspiration will come to you. Maybe you should even jot it down… But no, you’ll remember when you get home, plus you don’t have your laptop, so it’s just easier that way.
Maybe it’s time to really start exercising. Being in a bathing suit reminds you that everything is just not as perfect as it could be. You still have that treadmill-slash-clothesline you bought a couple years ago. You can power that up first thing tomorrow, be looking good in time for the next vacation.
For me, as a writer, I get my best story ideas on vacation. Taut thrillers, hilarious comedies, amazing action adventure. These ideas pop fully formed into my head from the awakened corners of my imagination. They practically write themselves.
And I’ll work on them just as soon as I finish this Dole Whip.