Planning a Disney family vacation can be stressful and overwhelming. But it does not have to be. Over the course of the next few weeks, we are going to dive into the best tips, tricks and information that you need to know about going to Disney with your Special Needs Child- from a mama who has done it! Claire Evans is going to be sharing her secrets to making it work, showing you that Disney is possible for all! Hopefully this series will give you the confidence and information that you need to take a magical vacation! So let’s begin…
Should you stay in the park or outside of the park?
I say stay INSIDE the park and here is why:
Did you know that Disney World Resorts have Accessible Rooms for no extra charge? Reserving an Accessible Room at one of the park’s many resorts offers you and your child a ton of upgraded features to make your stay even more manageable. The rooms are a tad bit larger to accommodate wheel chairs as well as special equipment.
Some of the features of an Accessible room at Disney World include:
- Grab Bars at Toilet and tub
- Open Bed Frame
- Lower Toilet Height
- Portable Raised Toilet Seat Available
- Wheelchair-Accessible Route in Room
- Roll in Showers
- Telephone with Volume Control
- Communication features for Guests with Hearing Disabilities
Staying in the parks also allows you the usage of park transportation. The monorail is, by far, the most wheel chair/stroller accessible mode of transport, but the buses also offer lifts for transport. The least wheelchair friendly mode of transportation is the boats. It may be best to avoid staying in a Disney World resort that only offers transport to the parks via boat if you have a wheel chair or stroller.
Making your Reservations:
Call, don’t book online. I highly suggest that you call Disney Travel to make your reservations. Before you call, make sure you have the following information and items:
- Names, ages and birthdates of everyone going on vacation
- Your child/children’s disabilities and what accommodations you will need
- Travel Dates, how many days Park Tickets you will need
- Credit card information for reserving your package
- Notebook and pen to write down information that you are given.
The reason why you should call and not book online? You need to be able to tell them all about the special accommodations that you need. This cannot be done online. You can book an Accessible room online but it does not guarantee that you will get all of the features that you need. Calling ensures that they know exactly what you need to make your trip as magical as possible.
Also, if you are traveling with someone that has allergies, you can request an allergy clean of the room before you get there! You can find more information about that HERE.
What to bring and how to pack:
This is going to vary from person to person based on each person’s needs. But you want to plan for accidents, extra days and emergencies. I highly suggest starting a Disney Box well ahead of time. Each month, add items to the box that you want/need to bring with you that need to be pre-purchased. I am a big supporter of spreading the cost over a few months to lessen the blow! Some of the items that I have in my Disney Box right now are:
- First Aid kit (Bandaids, Neosporen, Sun screen, Moleskin, etc)
- Medications (Tylenol, Benedryl, etc)
- Bubbles and glow sticks (To keep kids occupied in line)
- Safety Tats for making sure if your child gets lost, your information is on them
- Extra supplies for my Special Needs child (Bolus syringes and gravity bags for G Tube feeding, etc)
- Baby Banz Ear Banz for over stimulation and loud noises.
I like to plan and being able to make a list and add to the box slowly, not only helps me spread out the cost of purchasing extra supplies but also helps me to not forget anything that we may need. Also, when packing for each person put an entire outfit in a gallon size zip lock bag and write their name on the bag. I am taking tops, bottoms, under garments, and socks. This way there is no searching for anything, it is all together in one neat bag. And when you are leaving the room to head into the parks, you can grab a bag to throw in your backpack for emergency clothing changes in the parks.
Packing a Park Bag:
When choosing a bag to bring into the parks with you, you want to consider how you will be transporting your special needs child through the parks. If it is by wheelchair then you want a bag that can easily be attached to the back of the wheelchair. If by stroller, then you want a bag that can easily fit either hanging off of the stroller or in the under basket of the stroller. (I will be explaining all of your options with strollers and wheelchairs in an upcoming post). In this bag, you will need everything that you will need for the day to not only make your special needs child comfortable, but to make you comfortable. Section items off using zip lock bags because before you can enter the parks, you will have your bags checked by a cast member. Zip lock bags make it easier for the Cast Member to check the contents of your bag while keeping it organized. I like to use color coded bags (I have 3 children and each child gets their own color).
That’s right! Practice Walking! The average person walks 12 to 14 miles PER DAY visiting the Disney World Parks. I don’t know about you, but I would not be able to handle one day walking that much! The best thing to do for you and your children is to start walking and increasing your distance every time you do. Almost like you are training for a marathon. Bring the kids along and get them use to walking before you get to Disney. Not only will you all be getting great exercise but you will be in much better shape to handle a day in the parks!
If your child is wheelchair bound or will be in a stroller the majority of the day at the parks then practice pushing them while you walk. My daughters and I have been walking and talking about everything we want to do and see while we are at Disney. An amazing bonding moment as well as special time spent as a family!
Prepare them for the sights and sounds Disney.
Disney is loud and bright and overwhelming to a child with sensory issues. To prepare my girls for our trip to Disney, we have been watching videos of the rides on YouTube. This has given them all a sense of what to expect and also helped prepare my easily overloaded sensory child for what to expect. We usually carry around a pair of Baby Banz Ear Muffs to drown out noises that bother her or for times that she needs to have more quiet and less noise. But there is one Disney Magical experience that we are going to have to skip in person due to sensory overload. That is the nightly Fireworks show. Between the crowds, the loud bang of the fireworks and the bright lights of the shows, this is one thing that will overload her quickly. So, we watch it on You Tube with the sound turned way down and if she feels up to trying it one night, then we will. But with a plan for a quick escape if need be!
If you are flying into Orlando Know what you can and cannot bring on the plane:
I highly suggest you contact the TSA prior to your departure to find out what you can and cannot bring and to speak to them about what you child needs during his or her flight.
You can visit the TSA’s website by clicking HERE. They have a wide variety of information, numbers and links to help your travels go as smoothly as possible!
Stay Tuned! Next week we will discuss Food Allergies, G Tube Feeding and Breast Feeding in the Disney Parks!
This is the first in a series of posts about bringing your special needs child to Disney by Claire Evans. Stay tuned for next Monday’s post: Food Allergies, G-Tube Feedings and Breastfeeding.