Destination Imagination: A Mother-Daughter Vacation

girl playing princess in front yard

Photo Credit: Candy Dempsey/Shutterstock

Girl Scout alum Stacey Jurss’s daughter, Harper, could barely contain her excitement about her Brownie troop’s trip to Disneyland, scheduled for early March. The girls in the troop had planned the spring break vacation together. It was the first time Harper would be traveling anywhere without her parents, and the first time at a Disney park for the Olympia, Washington, native.

Then the novel coronavirus hit, and both schools and Disneyland closed.

“That was a lot of bad news at once for a 9-year-old, especially since the troop had raised the money for the trip,” said Jurss, who has fond memories of her own childhood cookie sales. Harper cried with disappointment when she heard the news.

Jurss was disappointed, too. “She missed out on one of the highlights of being a kid — and of being a Brownie," she said. "She had never done anything independent like that before. She’s an only child, so she doesn’t have other kids to play with at home, either.”

Then, Jurss got laid off because of the virus and suddenly — for the first time in a while — had a lot of time on her hands. And she had a flash of inspiration: She would turn their home into Disneyland for a week, and they would spend spring break pretending that they had, in fact, traveled to the California theme park together.

"I didn’t want this to be a heavy moment for Harper.”


“I don’t usually play pretend," said Jurss. "It is not my thing — I love to create and watch movies instead. But I didn’t want this to be a heavy moment for Harper.”

Jurss is a photographer and designer by trade, and she used her professional skills to create photo backdrops throughout their home.

Harper contributed a lot, too.

“She packed our suitcases the night before," recalled Jurss. "Harper is a really good traveler, so she packed everything we would need for four days.”

Harper also suggested they make a plane.

“I never got around to recycling our Christmas boxes, so Harper made an airplane out of the cardboard," she said. "Our 'airport' was the garage, and we 'landed' outside the front door. We had to check into the 'hotel' in the living room, which was set up as a gift shop full of Disney products." The “shop” included lots of dress-up costumes for the Disney princess fan.

Harper set up Jurss' bedroom as their "hotel suite" and made "key cards" for them, as well. They used their staircase as a make-believe "tram" to take them to the "hotel room."

Of course, they also “visited” the "amusement park" on their trip. Jurss created backdrops of Space Mountain and Matterhorn Mountain, and her husband, a packaging engineer, made Sleeping Beauty’s castle out of cardboard. They also visited the park’s famous "Bibbidi Bobbidy Boutique," where kids prep for balls and battles. Jurss did Harper’s royal makeup.

All week, they woke up in the hotel and went downstairs for their “character breakfast” experience. Jurss dressed up as Minnie Mouse.

“I even used the Minnie Mouse voice, which is out of character for me,” she said with a laugh.

When the virtual vacation ended, Jurss shared the tale of their week in a charming Instagram story: they missed their flight (oh no!) but both got window seats when they were rebooked (yay!). Going through “security” caused a few frustrations for the duo, and their request for a wake-up call produced some anxiety because their "hotel" had received mixed reviews online. Turns out, even a pretend vacation is perfectly imperfect!

Inspired by the porch portraits that other photographers are doing, Jurss has now offered to stage playful photos with props on the other Brownies’ lawns, so they, too, can recreate the trip they missed.

In the end, Jurss is just relieved that she was able — with imagination, effort, and creativity — to make spring break special for Harper.

“It was fun, and awesome to see a genuine smile on her face,” said Jurss of the experience. “It might not have been like that if we had just sat in the house.”


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