Disney with Special Needs: Disaster Edition

Everybody knows how the saying goes…shirt happens. No? That’s no how you say it? Well, that’s how it goes in my family, and that’s because of the time that Tutu bought Bubba a shirt that she thought would be just perfect for him, and then when he went to put it on it stretched across his shoulders and turned into a crop top. Sassy. But that’s how life goes. Even the best-intentioned situation can go wrong very quickly.

For those of us who see the world differently, these situations can seem devastating and rapidly devolve into a disaster. Rather than meaning we shouldn’t do anything in the event that something goes wrong, it is critical that we are prepared to handle these difficulties in the best way possible so we can stay in control and not carry the frustration and upset of the situation along with us.

While we’d like to all think that Disney is just a place of magic, dreams, and wishes that do come true, the truth is that this isn’t always the case. Sometimes things go terribly, horribly, unpleasantly wrong and we have to figure out how to handle them and reclaim our fairy tale. So come along with me as we talk about what to do when the magic runs out, your dreams turn to nightmares, your wishes get ignored, and your whole Disney vacation feels like it’s turning into one big ol’ accidental crop top.

When Disaster Strikes…

You plan, you plan, you plan, you plan…and then your plans go to snot and things go wrong. It’s terrible, but it happens. In fact, countless things can go wrong when you are traveling, even when it’s to Disney. That doesn’t mean, though, that you need to be afraid to dive in and immerse yourself in vacation fabulousness. Instead, you just need to be ready in the event that things go sideways and prepare a few backup plans or coping mechanisms so that if this does happen, you can get back to the magic as quickly as possible.

You know me well enough by now to know that if I’m going to give you any sort of tips or advice, they are going to come from a place of personal experience. How I experience things is completely mine and I never presume to guess what other people might go through. That’s why I like to tell you about some of the things that I’ve actually gone through and how I dealt with them so that maybe you can get some ideas for if you stumble upon any of these issues during your adventures. You’ve been along with me when some things in my journeys have gotten weird — remember the one about the bus driver of doom or the dinner that tried to destroy my mommy? Yep. Things can get ugly. But we always got through, and we always got through these things, too, so let’s start digging through the messed-up files of our Disney disasters…

Timelines tossed out the window. I like precision. I like knowing what time I’m going to be doing something and how long it’s probably going to take. I do not like when I think that I know what time I’m going to be doing something and then I’m not doing that at that time. This would be why I recently sent my brother an email that read “At this moment in 8 months, we will be arriving in Orlando.” Yes. That would be me. This means that I have a very specific time when I want to be on the road. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes that really, really doesn’t happen. Take this last trip as an example. We left the house nearly 4 hours after we were supposed to. Four hours. FOUR HOURS. OK, I’m alright. Here’s the thing….I was frustrated. I was upset. I was nervous. But we got in the car. We drove. We made it to Orlando. All that really happened was that we had to move our breakfast reservation. In the end, it still worked out just fine

Sunlight is not always our friend. Our very first trip to Disney we discovered that they aren’t lying when they call Florida the Sunshine State. While that might be fantastic for those who want to get all golden, it isn’t fabulous when you have a little one who has a sun allergy. Within one day her face was bright red and covered in bumps. It looked horrible, it itched, and it brought some serious stares and mutters about sunscreen. The thing is….it’s not a sunburn. It’s an allergy. Sunscreen doesn’t prevent it. The sun in Florida is actually stronger than the sun back home, and she has a horrible reaction to it. The only thing that prevents it is getting small doses of sunlight regularly in the months leading up to our trip. We have to let her expose her skin unprotected to the sun for a little while at a time and then she doesn’t have the allergic reaction. So, yes, we have some pictures that look pretty terrible, and we’re always a little nervous when we head down there, but we get through. We learned a lesson and we do everything we can to prevent the allergy during each visit

Rooms aren’t always ready. We all have that vision of arriving at our Disney resort, primed and ready for magic, and immediately being swept into our perfect room. After all, you filled out your preferences on your My Disney Experience and told them what time you planned on arriving. You even said that having a room ready early was more important than the landscaping view or being close to the dining hall. Then you show up, dragging your luggage behind you, only to hear from the smiling Cast Member that your room isn’t ready yet, but they’ll let you know just as soon as it is. What? Excuse me? It’s not ready? That’s a thing? Yes. That is totally a thing. So is getting a room in the section that you didn’t want, not being anywhere near the features that you want, or even having the two rooms you requested for your reservation in different floors or different buildings. Awesome.

We’ve had all of these happen. Of course, it was stressful. I felt like a man without a country…or a woman without a bed. Each time, though, it worked out just fine. When the room wasn’t ready for us, we checked our luggage at the resort and headed for the parks. A couple of hours later we got a text message saying that we were good to go and a bit after we got to our room, they delivered our luggage right to us.

When we ended up not in the Ursula building, we ended up delighted to be in the Ariel building and able to see the Ursula statue from a new perspective from the walkways. When we were farther from the bus stop and dining hall, we discovered that the walk through the features was really nice and even that you can sneak down the sidewalks near the Ariel building and get to the bus stop faster than going all the way up to the main building. Score.

The only time we needed to make any changes was when our two rooms were separated. The way that they had us arranged was one room on the third floor of one building and the other on the first floor of another. We could see each other from our doors, but we weren’t beside each other. Looking back, I could have just let it go. We usually meet up in the dining hall or at the bus stop anyway, even if we are staying in the same room, but that trip I was particularly nervous and just needed to have us close together. I gave the front desk a call, talked to a very helpful Cast Member, and within an hour the room beside our first room was cleaned and restaged, and we were back together. Turns out, since we had asked for early check-in, they didn’t want to keep us waiting for the adjacent rooms if they could get us into those two earlier. So in reality, we had actually gotten exactly what we asked for

Sometimes you miss those FastPasses. Quick reminder: I love precision. I love knowing what I’m going to be doing when. This means that FastPasses are one of the greatest things to happen to my Disney vacation ever. I love being able to schedule what I want to do and know that even if the crowds go ballistic, we will get to ride those special things. It goes along with dining reservations. These help to give our days some structure and keeps me from feeling like I’m in a free-for-all. Unfortunately, even though those FastPasses are there, that doesn’t mean that you are going to make it to them. Sometimes you miss them by just a few minutes. Sometimes you miss them all together. This last trip the four of us had FastPasses on Tower of Terror.

Just as we were heading there, it started to rain. Usually I would be thrilled. There’s nothing like getting into the library scene and having the weather outside be like the weather in the story. It adds to the whole feeling. This time, though, I was not so thrilled. There was a distinct possibility that HubbyBear had left the car backpack unzipped, which would have put a major damper on future luggage carrying. Literally. So we sent Bubba and Lindsey on their way and we rushed into the parking lot with the intention of zipping up the luggage holder and meeting them in the queue. We promptly got lost and ended up spending half an hour roaming around and then trying to get back to the ride. And it had totally stopped raining. We got the gift shop a couple of minutes before they walked off the ride. Since this is one of our traditional rides to do together, it was a bummer, but Bubba immediately checked his phone and told us we still had three minutes in our window. We could make it. Hubs and I took off running and got through the crowd just in time. So we didn’t get a chance to ride with the other two, but we still rode it. If I had gone with the way that I was feeling, we would have missed out on the ride completely for the rest of our trip. It has happened a few times that some of our group had to skip a FastPass for one reason or another, but sending the others along ensures that at least some of us get the fun of the experience. It’s hard on me to split up, but every time this happens they make sure to fill me in on how it went and it helps to ease the discomfort.

Phew. That was hard. So, now we know that there are some things that can go a bit wonky even when you’ve headed into the magic. But we also know that even when this happens, it doesn’t have to mean the end of the joy. If you keep in mind that things can happen, you can prepare yourself to get through. Just remember the tools that we’ve picked up along the way. Whip out your toolbelt, rely on your comfort zones and happy places, use your sensory conditioning to calm down, and focus on the next step in your trip.

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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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