Thanks to Madison Weaver for this guest post!
Are you considering taking your child with special needs to Disney World, but you’re completely overwhelmed at the thought? I’m here to share my special needs vacation tips with you so you can have the best Disney vacation ever!
I’m Madison Weaver, a travel advisor for all Disney destinations with Ears of Experience, LLC, an award-winning authorized Disney vacation planner agency. My husband Steven and I are a team known as “The Magic Makers!” We specialize in taking care of all of the planning details in order to make our clients’ Disney vacations as magical as can be! We are parents who have “done Disney” with our daughter in tow, so we know how stressful it can be to ensure everything is just right for your vacation. Let us help you take that stress away!
Taking your kids to Disney World can sometimes seem very daunting, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Taking a special needs child to Disney World can be even MORE daunting! To a special needs parent, I am sure there are so many things that race through your mind as you consider this kind of vacation. Are there sounds/smells that will trigger my child into a meltdown? Will there be systems in place to assist my child? Will we have a safe place to go when my child is feeling overwhelmed?
As a travel specialist for Disney destinations, I have helped many families who have those same questions and worries. They fear that the resorts, attractions, and restaurants at Disney will not accommodate their child because of their disabilities, but that is the farthest thing from the truth! Disney is one of the BEST places to bring your special needs child because they will do everything that they possibly can to ensure your family’s needs are met. The cast members and managers are so friendly and accommodating and go above and beyond to lend a hand at any time.
Today, I’m going to share with you my best tips for taking your child with special needs to Disney World. Whether your child has sensory issues, autism, or is physically handicapped, these tips will help you get the most fun out of your vacation as possible!
If you’d like personalized assistance with planning your Disney vacation, I’d be more than happy to help! My services are completely FREE! We offer personalized itineraries to fit your family’s needs, exclusive park tips and tricks, we book your dining reservations and FastPasses, watch for the best prices, and are here for you before, during, and after your vacation to answer any questions you may have. Contact us at email@example.com or click here for a free, no obligation quote!
Accommodations in Resorts for Special Needs
If your child is in a wheelchair or has limited mobility, I highly recommend getting a wheelchair accessible room on Disney property. They are bigger and will allow you to move easily throughout the room instead of bumping into chairs, tables, etc. These rooms usually also have walk-in showers and make it much easier for parents to assist their kids at bath time. These rooms also have hearing accessibility for those who need it. All of Disney’s resorts have wheelchair accessible rooms, you just need to make sure you ask for one at the time of booking. If you book with us, we do this for you, so you don’t have to worry if you forgot something!
Transportation to and from the Parks
All of Disney’s transportation is handicap accessible, so wheelchairs, scooters, and strollers are permitted on the buses and monorail. However, if your child has sensory issues or does not do well with crowded and tight spaces, I highly recommend either driving to the parks or staying at a resort within walking distance to the parks. The buses and monorail can be very noisy and packed at times, so driving or walking to the park gives your child some space and flexibility to go at their own pace. If you’d like to stay within walking distance to the parks, there are some great hotel options I highly recommend:
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort – walking distance to Magic Kingdom
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort – walking distance to Epcot’s World Showcase
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort – walking distance to Epcot’s World Showcase
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn – walking distance to Epcot’s World Showcase
If you’d like help figuring out which hotel option would benefit your family most, feel free to reach out to me!
Inside the Parks
Get a DAS (Disability Access Service) Card
If your child is unable to stand in lines because of their disability, be sure to get a DAS card upon arriving at the parks. You’ll need to make your way to guest services where you’ll meet a cast member who will discuss with you your specific needs. Once you are approved for the card, you’ll make your way to the attractions you would like to ride on and get in the stand-by line. You’ll be given a time to return based on the current wait time of the ride. When your time comes, you’ll be able to hop on with no wait time. You can use the FastPass service in conjunction with this as well, which helps you make the most of your time! A party of up to 6 people can be accommodated with this service, and as long as the person with special needs is with your group at the return time, you can all ride at the same time.
One great thing about the DAS card is that it is a very discreet service. The card is applied to your Magic Bands, so there is no special ticket or band that shows the public you are using this service.
Wheelchair Accessibility in the Attractions
There are lots of attractions in each of the parks that are wheelchair accessible! On most of them, you don’t even have to get out of the wheelchair, but there are a few where you will need to transfer. On a ride that requires a transfer, the person in the wheelchair must be able to get on the ride with assistance only from their family/party, as a cast member is not allowed to assist.
When you book with us, we will advise you on which rides require a transfer and which do not!
Make Time for Rest
This is important advice for anyone visiting Disney World, but especially for special needs families. Disney has the potential to be extremely overwhelming for a person with physical or cognitive disabilities and it is important to take time out to visit a quiet place and recharge.
Contrary to popular beliefs, there are several spaces throughout the parks where you can find a little peace and quiet. For example, each park has a baby care center that is usually not very busy, has air conditioning, and provides a quiet place to sit and relax. When you book your vacation with us, we show you in detail all of the quiet places of the parks to get away to when you or your child are feeling overwhelmed.
Another great idea is to plan at least one “day off” at your resort to rest and recharge. On our personal family trips, we always plan to spend at least 2 days at the resort in between park visits so we can sleep in, explore the gift shops, go swimming, do a little shopping at Disney Springs, or even resort hop (it’s so nice to go and explore all of the fabulous hotels on property!). Once you have a day or two to relax, it’s much easier on you (and your feet!) and you’ll be more motivated to go enjoy all that the parks have to offer.
Food and Beverage
As I’m sure you know, Disney has food/drinks to fit every kind of diet. But did you know that you are also allowed to bring food and drinks into the parks with you? If your child is on a special diet because of allergies or a disorder, you are more than welcome to bring your favorite foods and drinks into the park with you.
If you would rather eat at the restaurants, then you are definitely in the right place. Disney is the best when it comes to accommodating those will allergies and special dietary needs. You will need to speak with a dining cast member about your dietary needs before your trip, as they can best help you decide which restaurants will work for your family.
Related Post: How to Improve Mealtime Behavior (Plus, Extra Tips for Picky Eaters)
A Couple of our Best Miscellaneous Tips
Wear an autism awareness t-shirt.
If your child has autism or sensory issues, have them wear an autism awareness t-shirt. This helps people to be more understanding without announcing that your child has autism, and this can even help in case your child gets lost so they will be easily recognizable.
Walk through the shops instead of down Main Street USA.
If the smells, sounds, and sights of Main Street USA are too much for your child, walk in the shops. They all lead toward the end of Main Street and are usually much quieter.
I hope you enjoyed my best tips for taking special needs kids on the trip of a lifetime to Disney World!
Did I miss anything? What are your best tips for taking a special needs child to Disney World?
If you’re thinking of taking a vacation to a Disney destination soon but you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, I’d be happy to help! Click here to get a free, no obligation quote on your vacation! If you’d like to see some of our Disney adventures, check out our blog!
Testimonial from one of our Special Needs Parent Clients
“If it was not for the DAS pass and all of Madison and Steven’s wonderful tips for special needs kids, my son Gabe would not have been able to handle the wait times and he would have missed out on the tons of priceless moments that Madison and Steven planned so well for us. We are so very grateful to them for helping assist him with this whole process.”Lana S.
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