Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Disney Vacation 2

As written in my last post, I think Disney World does a terrific job with special needs families. Tyler has been there quite a few times and each time he was treated with kindness and respect by the entire staff.  Just as importantly, so were the rest of the family.  Assuming you read the last post on tips to planning your travel and your stay, I want to also talk about ways to make your park experience better as well!

Tyler, like most special needs children, can't wait very long for anything.  So a LOT of my planning is centered around reducing wait times to do anything.  This can be quite a chore when you consider its Disney after all.  But it is possible to do.  The biggest tip I could give:  PLAN AHEAD! Before you do anything else, decide what parks or attractions you will do for each day and mark them on the calendar.  We avoided parks that had extended hours on a particular day because that feature attracts crowds.

You also need to manage expectations.  Most typical families fall short of being able to do everything at every park, so prioritize what you definitely want to get to versus what is expendable.  Its better to hit all 8 things you REALLY want to do versus trying to do 15 things and missing half of them.  This is where Fast Passes are also invaluable.  Some things on the priority list are less popular and don't require a Fast Pass because wait times might be low most of the day.  Get your passes the first day you are eligible to get them and cover the 3 most popular and new items.  Also use them for character greeting places with Mickey Mouse if this is something that interests you.  

Disney also has a program for special needs families which helps manage wait times.  If you want to do a ride and there is, say a 45 minute wait, you can go to the attendant and they will give you a special needs pass to come back in 45 minutes (or sooner usually) so that you don't have to wait in line and can go do something else, get a refreshment, etc.  Once you come back at your assigned time and use the pass you can now go elsewhere and get another one!  Its like having a 4th Fast Pass.  So between having 3 Fast Passes and 1 special needs pass, you can limit your wait time on 4 major rides which is a tremendous help.

Very important:  make sure you go straight to guest services at the entrance of each park.  They will give you a pass which will allow you to get your special needs passes in the parks that day.  

Also important:  invest in the Disney bracelets so that all of your ticket info is around your wrist.  They will download a notation on your special person's bracelet that will help identify them to the staff at each ride.  You will also want to download the free Disney app for your phone.  This will house the ticket information on your bracelet and any Fast Pass information you have reserved for each day.  It also serves as an itinerary to keep track of all passes and reservations for each park. Another great feature is that you can instantly see the wait times for all rides which can help you decide what you can do in short periods of time.  

At the risk of sounding like a Disney tour agent, you can see that all of the tools they make available to you can be used to serious advantage for special needs families if they use them properly.  With Tyler, the more we could keep moving and stay out of lines the better.  With him, once he is aggravated and impatient it is hard or impossible to reverse it.

In summary, schedule out each day well ahead of time, make a plan, reserve all of the popular attractions and restaurants that are at the top of your list, visit guest services for your "4th pass" and then go execute the plan.  

Be well and good luck.   Tom 

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