Hello, everyone!! I’m sorry for the unexpected hiatus; I’ve been away in Florida for the holidays! It was a beautiful trip, and full of lots of magic. We went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney World, and then trekked down to Sarasota, to Siesta Key, for a few days of fun and sun. But I want to talk about my experiences at the DIsney Parks.
I have a brother who is disabled. He was born three months prematurely, and is now 23 years old. He was, of course, a part of the family vacation, and our experience at the parks was understandably unique. I want to discuss this topic for all you moms out there with children who have special needs. My brother’s primary disability is that he is extremely visually impaired. In semi-dark scenarios, he is essentially blind. This poses a challenge for my family and I on vacations like this. Most of the rides are hard for him to appreciate, and getting around the parks is also a considerable task.
So I devised a plan for our trip. I don’t think this plan works for everyone with a disabled member of their party, but it certainly worked for us! We knew the parks were going to be teeming with people who would be in a rush and lost and irritable, etc, and that’s quite risky for someone who has issues with his vision. So the night before we visited each park, I came up with a detailed gameplan. I asked each member of the family what their main points of interest were, and set about finding the easiest way to see them all with the least amount of walking and the least amount of waiting. I grouped each attraction by the part of the park it was in (i.e. Fantasyland, Tomorrowland), and set it up so we would basically make a big circle in the park while still maximizing our time.
In order to maximize our time, I tasked myself with the job of runner. They have this new thing at DIsney now called Fastpass. If you haven’t heard of it, it means you get to go to a ride and scan your park ticket and not wait in line. You can only get one every few hours, as laid out on your ticket. As runner, it was my job at that designated time to run off and get our next fastpass for the whole group while everyone else stayed and rode a ride with no line or got a snack, or something. While this put a LOT of extra miles on my legs, it saved us from making my brother’s life more difficult, and saved a lot of time and energy in the group as a whole.
All in all, we did as much as possible in each park, and really enjoyed ourselves, too. In Animal Kingdom we rode every ride, saw each of the exhibits, and even squeezed in the Lion King show at the end of our day. In Disney World, we rode 8 of the main rides (Jungle Cruise, Pirates, Space Mountain (2x), Thunder Canyon Railroad (2x), Snow White, Peter Pan, the Disney Railroad, and the People Mover). We also went to Tom Sawyer Island and did a couple more small rides. IN ONE DAY! It was insane, but we still had hours of downtime AND got to see the Electric Light Parade and the Wishes fireworks show! If anyone is planning a trip to Disney, I highly suggest trying this way.
We also had to make special accommodations on the rides for my brother, since he couldn’t see. The line attendants were extremely understanding, and when we mentioned my brother’s vision to them, they made sure he had the very best seat. We were initially nervous about going to the parks, but it turned out to be one of the most magical vacations we’ve had in a long time.
So, in review, here are the steps to making your theme park trip magical, memorable, and hassle free.
1. Find a map of the park and all its attractions online. Find out which attractions are the important ones for your group, and list them according to which ones are in the same area of the park.
2. Name one quick, willing member of the group to be your “runner”. This person should be good at fighting crowds and navigating through a busy place.
3. Determine which ride is most important to the group- it was Space Mountain for us. As soon as you arrive at the park, send your runner to grab the fastpasses. In Disney World, make sure this person has ALL the park tickets and a good place to store the fastpasses! We used a business card holder. If they don’t have all the tickets, someone will be left out! Once the fastpasses for the first ride are obtained, check for the time you can get another fastpass. It’s usually 1-2 hours, and is a specific time. Also check the time to come back and ride- you don’t want to miss it!
4. Set an alarm for the time listed to receive a fastpass for another ride.
5. When it goes off, send the runner for the next set of fastpasses at the next ride everyone wants to go on!
6. Don’t forget to go back and ride the attraction at the specified time on the fastpass! Go with the flow here- we got our Space Mountain passes 3 hours before we could go back and ride! Once you have a few fastpasses, you can see where you’ll be at certain times of the day, and you can do all the attractions in that area that have shorter lines, and no fastpass option, when you need to be there for your fastpass ride. You can also determine the best places to eat based on where you’ll be near during lunch and dinner.
Has anyone else done something special on their Disney (or any theme park) vacation to make your day easier or accommodate someone with a disability?