Achildhood dream finally came true for Millicent’s Sam Caithness despite an unexpected turn of events which delayed her from embarking on the magical experience.
The dream began when she was 10 years old.
Her parents had been holidaying in Europe when they decided to add Disneyland to their itinerary.
However, Sam and her younger brother were left at home in Australia.
“My mum and my stepdad went to Europe and they tacked on Disneyland at the end, a last-minute decision,” she said.
“They brought back a souvenir book that showed all the rides at Disneyland.”
Ever since that day Sam yearned to one day set foot in the magical world of Disneyland.
Fast forward to 2019, while travelling in her car Sam switched over from one radio station to another when by chance she heard details for a competition.
“It was on Triple M with Mick Molloy and Jane Kennedy. They were launching Disney Plus with a chance to win a trip to Disneyland California,” she said.
That was the only time during the promotion Sam heard the details asking entrants to explain in 25 words or less why they wanted to win.
“It was a fluke that I switched over and heard it. It was the only time I heard it,” she said.
Reflecting back on her childhood when she missed the opportunity with her parents became the inspiration for Sam’s entry.
“It went something along the lines of ‘When I was 10 and my brother was eight, my parents went to Disneyland and left us at home and I have been scarred for life ever since’,” she said.
Sam deems herself a competition buff, having won a trip to see Oprah when she came to Australia.
“That was a big win and ever since I won that I started ramping up entering competitions,” she said.
“From the knowledge of winning the Oprah competition I was like ‘Oh my god I have won (Disneyland), they are prepping me up for it’.
“I rang Shane straight away saying I think I have won a trip to Disneyland. He was like ‘What do you mean? You have not won it yet. Just calm down’.
“It was about one in the afternoon when they first called saying I was one of the finalists in the competition.
“They asked me to be available around a certain time. Right near the end of the show, about quarter-to-six in the evening they got me live on air.
“When they announced me as the winner I just screamed and cried at the same time.”
In an unexpected turn of events, Sam had to wait a further three years to fulfil her childhood dream.
“We were planning on going in 2020. But then COVID hit and ruined those plans,” she said.
“Disneyland reassured me they would follow through and we would definitely get to go on the trip.”
The world-famous theme park was closed for 13 months during the COVID-19 pandemic and reopened in April 2021.
Despite the pause on travel, Sam said the delay worked in her favour.
“We were able to save to include San Fransisco and also the kids were a little bit older to enjoy the experience,” she said.
Late last year the family embarked on their adventure of a lifetime, which included return flights from Australia, four nights at Disneyland Resort and a five-day pass to Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park.
“Before the competition it was absolutely a dream to go to Disneyland,” Sam said.
“It’s a lot of money, so you do not ever think you’re going to get there.
“We had been overseas before we had kids. But once you have kids and a mortgage, it’s nearly a $20,000 holiday. It’s a lot of money to come up with, so it was really just a dream.”
A childhood dream she was able to share with her own children, 10-year-old Jax and six-year-old Zoe.
“It was their first overseas holiday and first time on a plane,” she said.
Sam also shared the experience with her sister Amanda and 11-year-old nephew Jagger.
The family could hardly contain their excitement, up at 6.30am on the first morning at their hotel, to take advantage of the VIP opportunity.
“When you stay on Disney property, there are three hotels within Disneyland, you get priority entry an hour early,” Sam said.
One of the highlights for Sam was the first moment she stepped foot through the gates of the magical world she had dreamed about.
“When we got to the gates I cried,” she said.
“We spent a good 10 hours there the first day and the next day was the same.
“It’s one big park, but they have different sections called lands. Buildings were same as what you see in the movie and the restaurant is themed around the movie.
“The toilet blocks are even themed. Once you step in these lands you feel like you are really part of it and forget about the world around you. You can easily forget where you are.
“I pre-warned Shane before we left that I’m going to be crazy, I’m going to be up early in the morning, I’m going to be back late … and I was.
“On the third day though I could hardly walk. We walked around three days solid.
“The kids loved Fantasy Land. It’s got all the classic Disney. We went from ride to ride to ride. There was so much to do for the kids. They could relate to the movies they have seen.
“On the last day I got up at 6.30am on my own and did a couple of rides that I really wanted to do (that) the kids were not going to do.”
Sam ended her childhood dream on a high with an adrenaline rush on an exhilarating ride through the Halloween themed Haunted Mansion.
“I think there was only three rides out of the entire two parks that we did not get to do,” she said.
“It was the best experience. I recommend anyone to go to Disneyland at least once in their lifetime. It does not have to be California.
“There are other Disneylands around the world that would give a great experience. It would be great if Australia had one.
“They say Disneyland is magical, you just get that feeling when you walk through the gate. You look around and you think ‘Oh my gosh, I am actually here’. I started tearing up.
“You cannot believe standing there in Disneyland with your family and your dream is coming true.
“Through life you have dreams and you do not think they are ever going to come true or that you can make them come true.
“Sometimes they do, but a majority of the time they do not because they can be out of reach. So standing there it was just amazing.
“It was everything we expected and more. I was on high for a long time after coming home.”
“I said to my mum, ‘We are even now’. It’s been a long running family joke that they went to Disneyland without us.”