Have you been keeping up with this series???
Today, I end this series with 10 tips from my experience that will make your trip more magical and successful!
^Pin that to your Disney Board for easy access! 🙂
.Wear a button…
At Disney World, you can receive buttons for celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries, first visits, etc…
Cast members are trained to look for them.
If you’re wearing a birthday button, you’ll hear “Happy Birthday” all day from cast members and other guests.
Knowing this, we made my son an “Autism” button.
He has a couple of them now, actually. They’ve been so useful!
I made them with this exact button maker.
I also sell them in my Etsy Shop. You can get yours here!
Since cast members are trained to look for buttons, they always notice and are able to better communicate with my son and our family.
Also, other Disney guests are more patient with us when they see the button.
Here are two great examples…
Once my son was waiting to meet Belle after Enchanted Tales with Belle and ran right in front of the camera when a dad was taking the perfect shot of his daughter with Belle.
The dad got upset and started loudly ranting.
I immediately went to him apologizing, trying to explain and make it right…
He was obviously unhappy and was not accepting my apology.
That’s when the mom came over, elbowed him, and told him to look at my son’s button. The dad’s attitude changed and he apologized for overreacting.
I still had my son apologize, of course, and thankfully, the cast members allowed the girl to have a special moment with Belle. But the button changed the whole situation.
Another time, my son had on a button that said, “I have Autism, but I still like high fives, hugs, and dancing!”
He got so many high fives that day! And every princess we met danced with him!
The photos are adorable! And he still talks about dancing with Cinderella!
#2. Rent a Stroller…
I already explained the stroller as a wheelchair pass in Part 1, but a stroller is useful beyond that.
Think about all the stuff your child needs to stay out of Meltdown Mode.
- a couple toy planes/cars (stimming toys)
- fidget toys
- a fleece blanket and stuffed animal (for hugging/security/sensory)
- dry clothes and shoes
- some kind of Woody doll or action figure and its hat
- an iPad (or 2!)
- and wipes
…Just for my one son!
People think packing for a baby is bad!
My point is, my son needs a lot of stuff to stay happy.
I don’t want him to remember family vacations with anxiety, so I pack what he needs, but I don’t want to have to carry all that either!
The stroller is worth the cost just for easy access to the stuff we need.
I always rent from Magic Strollers.
They have good rates, high quality, clean strollers, and they deliver/pick up from your resort.
You could also bring your own stroller with you.
Note: If you rent a stroller in the park, you will have to leave it at the park at the end of the day. If you bring your own or rent one off property, you can take it with you on the bus back to the resort.
#3. Take Breaks on Park Days…
Many people want to get the most from their vacation, so they aim to stay all day in the park.
That is what I did too before I had kids. But I’m here to tell you that it’s just not worth it with my son on the spectrum (or any young children for that matter!)
Midday is the busiest and hottest time in the park…
It’s also when we would normally have
To remedy this, we always arrive at the park before opening, head back to the hotel around lunchtime, and return to the park around 4:00 PM.
The rest break re-energizes everyone, so we’re all ready for a long night in the park.
Specifically for my son with Autism, this is helpful because…
- he stays somewhat in his routine
- he gets a rest from the sensory input of the park
- and he has downtime to do whatever his brain needs.
#4. Be flexible…
This probably goes without saying…
If you’re a special needs parent, you’re probably as flexible as ElastaGirl!
Seriously though, think about the sensory input at Disney World…
Your perfect plans will end in tears if you can’t be flexible.
I mentioned before that the first time we took our son to Disney World, he woke up while we were on Main Street and it was crowded!
It was during a Magic Kingdom 24 hour event and the place was full to capacity.
My poor boy had a full-on meltdown.
Thankfully, we were close to the baby care center and were able to find a place to calm down.
After that, we decided we should call it a night. I didn’t want to leave! It wasn’t even midnight yet!
But it was too much for my son. I had to be flexible and change our plans.
We went back to the resort and enjoyed Mickey Bars instead.
We had a fabulous trip because we were prepared to be flexible!
Another time, I had booked breakfast at ‘Ohana’s Best Friends Breakfast with Lilo & Stitch. Nate loves Stitch, so I just knew he would have the best time!
As it turned out, he was feeling sick and the atmosphere was a little too much for him, so he spent most of the breakfast under the table.
I could’ve been heartbroken and upset about the money I spent, or what he was missing, etc…
But since we had a flexible, “follow-his-lead” perspective, it was just fine.
We let him do what he needed (I mean, who cares if the people we’ll never see again at the next table think it’s strange, right?!) and he ended up eating and taking a picture with Stitch anyway.
#5. Use FP+ alongside DAS…
I talked about this in Part 2: How to Use DAS, but it’s important to mention again.
Make sure to use your allotted FastPasses along with the DAS.
I try to schedule my FP+ for the first three hours of the morning. I find that we are more productive in the morning and more laid-back in the evening.
Using FP+ and DAS lets you visit twice as many attractions with little to no wait time.
#6. Arrive early!
Speaking of being more productive in the morning, arrive
Make sure to be there before the park actually opens so you’re in front of the crowds.
Waiting is a big issue for many individuals with Autism. Arriving early ensures
#7. Tell cast members what you need…
Cast members are what Disney World calls its employees. They are there to help and are often excited to make magic for guests. If you are needing anything, just politely ask.
Possible examples that come to my mind are:
- to sit in a different part of the theater
- to enter an attraction first or last, depending on your need
- to check ingredient lists
- to inquire about an attraction
- for help with DAS
- for directions
- for help entering/exiting an attraction
- many other situations
#8. Bring your own camera…
Disney World has an awesome service called Photopass.
You can purchase a product called Memory Maker and have all the Photopass and ride pictures from your time in the parks.
I love it.
I recommend it.
But I still recommend bringing your own camera, and here’s why:
My kid is quick and you have to be ready to take his picture immediately in order to get a good one.
Photopass photographers are great, but I know my kid.
I know that I’ll need to be fast. I know that he won’t be distracted by silly cameraman gimmicks. I know he won’t smile at the funny faces. I know he’ll say “cheese” and look totally cheesy doing it. I know the sensory input all around him will keep his attention, not the camera…
So, I take my own camera and get great shots. Yes, I have to lug it around, but to me, it’s worth it!
These are all pictures I wouldn’t have gotten with Photopass!
#9. Note food allergies on your reservation…
When you note food allergies upfront, at table service meals, your server will know and can help you faster.
Depending on where you are, your server will do one of three things…
- bring the chef to your table so you can discuss what is on the menu you can
have bringthe chef to your table to take your custom order with ingredients you can have bringallergy friendly menus.
For me, it’s so much less hassle because I don’t have to flag anyone down or remember to bring it up.
This won’t help you at quick service meals, but you can always request to see ingredient lists or have an allergy-friendly menu. So far, Disney has been top-notch dealing with our allergies.
#10. Bring your own snacks!
Not only will this save you approximately a
As I mentioned before, often a snack will delay meltdowns and bringing them with you means you don’t have to wait in a line first!
Having familiar foods is good too!
All of these tips work together to make sure your child is comfortable…
Everyone wants adorable pictures of their kid meeting Mickey Mouse, but if your child is uncomfortable, you know it isn’t going to work…
My son doesn’t like tags and likes his clothes to be soft and a little tight, so that’s what I pack. Comfort is the highest priority.
So from photos to food…from buttons to breaks, just make sure they’re comfortable.
Because when they’re comfortable, they’re happier and vacation is “sweeter!”
That’s it! My 10 Tips to make your trip more magical!
Thanks for reading!
Do you know a tip I didn’t mention? Questions about your upcoming trip? Comment below to let us know!
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