Disney with Special Needs … 2016 Trip Report Part One

animal-kingdom-with-avalon-4What could be better than those few days after coming home from a Disney trip? …Anything. Just about anything is better than those few days after coming home from a Disney trip. Alas, every trip to Disney World has to come to an end some time, and that means the long, sad journey home and those days and weeks (and possibly months) of withdrawal afterwards. I’ve found that like most types of sadness, the best way to cope with those post-Disney blues is to talk about it, and since I’m going through my own loneliness for Mickey right now, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

My family recently returned from a truly epic trip to the World during which we celebrated not just our anniversary but the most wonderful day of the year – Halloween— and since we’re friends I’m going to drag out the scrapbook, throw a little shade, and tell you all about it. Pull up a recliner, pour your favorite hot beverage, and join me for a stroll down memory lane. You might even gather a few extra tools for your superhero tool belt along the way.

Day One…Mommy and BooBoo Day or “Don’t make that early morning reservation for Day One”

Since we travel with Filburt and I really, really dislike the feeling of being out of control, there is no flying to Disney in my family. We pile into the car, play Tetris with far more luggage than anyone ever needs, and head out on a journey that is meant to take about 11 hours and usually ends up taking around 15. It’s how we roll.

This year my little one and I decided that we were going to do something special and have a day together just the two of us. It’s something we’ve never done and I was so excited. Even though she’s homeschooled and both the hubs and I work at home, I feel like I don’t get to spend anywhere near enough time with her, so this was going to be some amazing memory-making.

Here’s the thing…I thought it would be a good idea to make a breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest for 8:30 in the morning the day of arrival. It wouldn’t have been an issue at all if we hit the road in the mid-afternoon like I had planned. The fact that Hubster Supreme was still standing on top of our car trying to get the cargo holder to stay in place at 6:30 the day we left made it not such a good prospect. Then we hit South Carolina and a quagmire of traffic. It was looking really not good. But if you know anything about making your ADRs for Disney, you know that if you see a Be Our Guest breakfast reservation you grab it, hold it to your chest, roll over, and protect it with your life. So I did.

By 5 the morning of arrival it was clear we weren’t going to make it to breakfast so at 7 when the dining line opened, hubby called and explained the situation. They told us that there was a 15-minute grace period after the time of reservation (so not going to happen) but that they would be happy to make a new reservation for us. I don’t know how they did it, but that wonderful pixie-dust sprinkled man elbowed us in for a reservation at 10:40. Lesson One: don’t panic if you find yourself stuck behind a million people a state away and 2 hours from your reservation. Give Disney a call and try to work it out. Usually they will be able to find a way.

We made it to the Transportation and Ticket center just in time for me to start really questioning my ability to handle this day with the little one on my own as a few hundred of our new best friends crushed in on us like that would help them get on the monorail faster. This would be the first time that I would be in a Disney park (or kind of anywhere public really) without my husband, brother, or mother in 10 years. But Avalon wrapped her little arm around me and told me I could do it, so I whipped out my tool belt and used some of my coping mechanisms to get me through. Soon we were sitting on the monorail zooming toward the castle and everything felt alright with the world.

Until we got to the park and I realized that because of the new construction that has emerged since our last trip, I no longer knew how to get to Be Our Guest.
The time was slipping away and I was terrified that we weren’t going to make it in time for our special breakfast and the light-up goblets that were waiting for us. That’s when I employed another special tactic. I found the first cast member I saw standing outside of the Emporium and explained my situation. I told her that I cannot read maps and I am not good with directions, but I needed to get to Be Our Guest. She seemed ready to break it down for me, but before she could even start, two amazing girls came up to me, asked if I was trying to get to Be Our Guest, and told me they were going there, too. They offered to bring us with them and off we went. Lesson Two: don’t be afraid to ask for help. The Cast Members are phenomenal, won’t judge you, and will figure out a way to help you. Besides, you are surrounded by Disney people. Chances are someone else is going to be more than happy to help you as well.

To do a little bit of fast forwarding for you…we made it to our reservation, I ate delicious vegan waffles and fruit, we felt super special with our glowing goblets, and soon we were off to grab a ride on the Little Mermaid ride and get a couple pictures in our matching outfits in front of the castle before looking for the bus to the Animal Kingdom. Now, in the less than a year since we’ve been to Disney there have been some serious changes. One of which is the construction of new bus terminals in front of the Magic Kingdom. Somehow we got swept up into the current of the people leaving the park, missed the signs, and ended up on the walkway to the Contemporary Resort. Definitely not the right way to the Animal Kingdom.

We ended up asking a security guard what the heck we had done and they directed us to completely re-trace our steps and take a right where we took a left. Soon we found the wall that had the little arrow telling us which direction to go, found our bus, and were on our way. Lesson Three: things change. Try not to let it completely throw you off. Be aware of what is going on around you, read signs, and never hesitate to ask for help. Even the security guards usually have a bit of pixie dust thrown on them and they will help you get back on track.

The rest of the afternoon at Animal Kingdom was AMAZING. We became Wilderness Explorers, Avalon fulfilled her lifelong dream of being the volunteer at an animal show and got to touch a snake, and I had a parrot stick its tongue out at me. Soon it was time to head to the resort, gather up Papa and Tutu (who we hoped had managed to check in without us), and get ready to head down to Disney Springs for dinner at T-Rex Café. I’m going to have to give you a little bit of a disclaimer and a “don’t follow my example” here. I don’t own a cell phone.

Yes, I know. The horror and travesty. The thing is, I used to have one, but I lost it all the time and everyone I know can call either my mother or my husband so there was no real point in me having one. Take it from me – don’t go to Disney World without at least a little prepaid burner phone. That way you won’t be standing in the lobby of Art of Animation realizing that you don’t know your room number and have no way of contacting your family who is nowhere in sight. But I used my previous lessons, walked up to the desk, and asked for help.

The Cast Member promptly handed me a map with my room number on it. Womp Womp.
That’s fine, I thought, I’ll figure it out. I did not figure it out. Instead, I stood on the sidewalk after pacing back and forth several times and apparently looking terrified. Another Cast Member came up, asked if I needed help, and guided me to the building. He then comforted me, told me to take a few deep breaths, and offered to bring me up to the room so that I would know how to get there. He ended up not needing to because Chris came running up to me right then after he happened to see us while on a stroll through the grounds. It was one of the most wonderful moments of the day, even though I was on the brink of tears. There was no judgment, no pity, only the true desire to help me. Lesson Four: don’t be embarrassed or feel bad about yourself, even when you are having a hard moment. I was nervous. I was confused. But I was also in Disney World, which meant that I was surrounded by magic, and in that moment magic came in the form of a wonderful man who recognized I was struggling and did everything he could to let me know that I was OK.

And you know what? I was OK. I had accomplished something that I had never done before. I rode the monorail and two busses alone with the little one, navigated two parks, and made it back to the resort while making some pretty fabulous memories along the way.

So that was Day One. Well, part of it. Oh, yes. There’s more. Next time we’ll head to Disney Springs and I’ll let you know all about our dinner at T-Rex and what happens when good dinners go bad.

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Taryn was born and raised, and still lives in Richmond, Virginia. Neither she nor her husband ever had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World when they were children, but when their daughter Avalon came along, they decided she was not going to follow in their footsteps. They brought Avalon for the first time when she was 3 and have been hooked ever since. Now along with Taryn’s mother and equally Disney-loving older brother, they go “home” at least once a year, and by the time she is staring longingly at Cinderella Castle from the ferry on their last night, Taryn is well on her way to planning the next trip. As a group consisting of two adults with Asperger’s, including one who is also vegan, a very accommodating husband, an only child, a senior, and a service dog, they are a pretty special family, but Taryn is excited to show that the World really is The Most Magical Place on Earth and that there is a place there for everyone. When she isn’t thinking about her next Disney adventure and trying to come up with a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party costume that will beat her Oozma Kappa nerd look, she is a professional blogger and novelist, but Taryn also likes to indulge her Disney passion on her Etsy shop It’s Better in Vinyl.

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One Response to Disney with Special Needs … 2016 Trip Report Part One

  1. Shepard C Willner says:

    Hey, Taryn–hello from a fellow Virginian! I’m also a guy who has lots of special needs, and will spare you with the details of many of them. Like your Mom who got the Texas Two-Step at T-Rex Cafe, I got mine from Octoberfest my first night at Epcot and World Showcase. I knew I had it because I was visiting a whole lot of bathrooms at Animal Kingdom the next day! Lesson learned: Buffets and I do not mix, especially with foods that are steam-tabled for long time. Fortunately, I was better after drinking lots of water. Regarding your anniversary celebration w/the hubster (yes, I read the other posts, and I remembered you’re calling your hubby the “hubster”), I recalled from the other posts that you got matching T-shirts and anniversary buttons from your hotel.

    Well, the same thing happened to me when I came to Disney World during Memorial Day ’14 to celebrate my 57th b-day early (I turned 57 in June). When I checked-in at Caribbean Beach, the great cast member gave me my Happy Birthday button. When I visited Epcot–my favorite park–everybody–Cast Members and fellow guests alike greeted me with Happy Birthday when they saw me wearing that button.

    That year was the first time I wore a Magic Band, and it wasn’t until my next time I stayed at a Disney hotel that really wasn’t Disney-owned property (it was the Swan, owned and operated by Starwood) that I realized that Magic Bands come in many colors rather than that the horrid gray one I wore in ’14. I opted for a red Band instead. No matter–all of my Park Hopper tix, et al had been downloaded onto that Band. Ditto for my stay at Pop Century last December-between Turkey Day and Xmas–and I chose a Purple band that I ordered from the Disney web site. Who knows, maybe I’ll wear a blue or a green Band the next time I visit Disney. That won’t happen for another year though: Nancy knows that I’m going to Universal Studios this year as a change of pace. Lesson for you: Sometimes, change is good and keeps you on your toes. I do know I’ll try to avoid buffets for my meals. No fun getting sick on vacations!

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