A few weeks ago we took Dean to Disney World. My parents will live pretty close to there so we just made it a short trip to spend some time with them. We left really early on Thursday morning and came home crazy late on Sunday night, giving us almost 3 days and 3 nights. I think it was the perfect amount of time at Disney. I think anymore and we would have been burnt out!
I went with a plan, not a timed plan like some people, just an idea of what rides Dean could do and the different shows throughout the day. Also, where we planned on eating because that is my favorite part of every vacation. I followed 2 groups on Facebook, Taking Tots to Disney and Disney Planning with Special Needs & Disabilities. This is where I learned everything about what to do and not to do. These people discuss things I didn’t even think about, it was quite the learning experience. Our first day there we went to Disney Springs. It is a really fun shopping center for kids. We ate lunch at The Boathouse, it was an upscale restaurant, right on the water, serving amazing seafood. We considered eating at T-Rex, it’s a Rainforest Café restaurant that is dinosaur themed. I wanted to eat there but was worried Dean would be scared of course after we ate we went and checked it out. He absolutely loved it! Screamed dinosaur right when we walked through the door, which is a word I didn’t even know he knew. They have tons of Disney stores as well as a Lego store. Plus, a Ghirardelli ice cream shop which we have been dreaming about since San Francisco last summer. We stayed off Disney property in a timeshare. It was a 20 minute drive in the morning but 2 bedrooms/2 bathrooms and a full kitchen made it worth it. We did breakfast in the room before our park days. On our off day we spent the day at the pool. Ryan and I even got a date night in at California Grill, they had amazing food and a great view of the castle and fireworks.
Dean was able to get a Disability Access Service Card (DAS). The disability card is not for people with only physical limitations. Every line is wheel chair accessible, a lot of rides even allow wheel chairs on. We also could have registered his stroller as a wheel chair if we felt it necessary. Dean qualified for it based on cognitive issues he has from the stroke. He has never done well in large crowds and we were worried about how he would do. The best way I can describe it is that he shares the symptoms of a child with Autism. Mainly sensory issues, difficulties with loud sounds, and becoming overwhelmed in crowded areas. The DAS card allowed us to check in for a ride and get a return time for however long the wait time was. During that time, we could walk around, maybe ride another ride with a short line, and keep Dean occupied outside of a crowded line. Once it is your return time you can go through the fast pass line. It worked out really well for our family, I think up to 8 people can be linked to Dean so we could all stick together. No one could use the pass without him there because it had his picture. I think it is a great system and am so thankful Disney has created it. They truly were accommodating to all of his needs.
Our first park day was Magic Kingdom. I think this is the best park for any age. We got there right around when they opened and didn’t have any wait times in the morning. I think Dean’s top 3 favorites were Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Under the Sea- Journey of Littlle Mermaid, and of course It’s a Small World. He could do almost everything at Magic Kingdom, I can only think of 4 rides he couldn’t do. They even have a little coaster that is 35”, I was so excited he was tall enough I made Ryan take him, I’m not a coaster fan. I didn’t look at it first and was worried it was too intense for an almost 2 year old but Ryan said he did fine. We didn’t make any dining reservations because I didn’t want to be on a schedule. We ate at Pecos Bill’s for lunch and The Plaza Restaurant for dinner. I thought he’d be great in the morning and he’d crash by the afternoon. Of course he had to prove me wrong. The morning started off rough and he fell asleep in the stroller. Once he woke up he was happy as can be, we stayed at the park until 10pm! The parade was my favorite part of the day, we all loved it. The fireworks were a close runner up, something about fireworks at Disney is just so magical. The icing on the cake for the trip was when Dean met Mickey. He is the only talking Mickey in all of Disney and I was afraid of how Dean would react. It took him a second but he actually liked him! Mickey started talking about his roadster racer and Dean said “vroom vroom.” I literally cried when he hugged him. Next time we will try to see more of the daytime shows. I could have easily done 2 days at Magic Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom was our second park day. I don’t think Dean loved this park as much because he had to spend more time in the stroller. He’s at that age where he wants to walk and do what he wants to do. There was so much to see in Animal Kingdom! First thing we did was let Ryan hop on the Everest roller coaster, there was literally no wait, he rode it twice in a row. We started with the animal walks and safari since they say the animals are more active in the morning. Then we took the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch for the petting zoo. Dean enjoyed the train ride and he even got to meet Doc McStuffins. He shocked us with his eagerness to meet her. We didn’t have a ton of time at Animal Kingdom since our plane left that night. We had to decide between the Finding Nemo and Lion King shows. We went with Lion King and it was awesome. I was worried Dean wouldn’t sit, it is 30 minutes long. He did great, got a little scared at one point when it got loud, but he was into it. After the show we headed over to Pandora- The World of Avatar. This place was so neat! We could only get on Rivers of Light since the other right had a crazy long wait. Dean liked the ride we did and we caught part of a drum show after. The last area we hit was DinoLand. It was very cool, they had a lot of rides for little kids and an awesome play area. We had lunch at Yak Yeti Local Food Café which was very good. We grabbed pizza on our way out at Pizzafari, I wish we would have tried Flame Tree Barbecue.
It was an amazing trip and we are so lucky to have been able to do it. I’ll leave you with my tips to have a successful Disney trip:
- Book your fast passes on line at 7am 30 days before your trip. We stayed off property and still couldn’t get a few we wanted. People staying on Disney property can book theirs 60 days out.
- Give yourself a rest day. We did 2 park days with a rest day in between. It was much needed.
- Do your research. Learn a bit about Disney before you go. Figure out when a good time of year is to go, it gets very hot there and the crowds get out of control. They have free crowd calendars online that can help.