Planning a trip to Disney World can seem like a tremendously daunting task even for those mythical “average” families of 2 parents, 2.1 children, and exactly no special needs. Take a quick look around the parks, however, and you will find that there are very few of those types of families that actually exist. Every single family that heads to the Mouse House has their own “things” that they have to contend with, and that always starts with planning, which is why the first few tips I’m going to share with you are about how to tackle the planning stage in a way that will get every member of your family excited, prepared, and as confident as possible for your magical vacation.
#1. Get familiar with it.
Surprises are awesome, unless you are in a place that is totally unfamiliar and the whole world feels like one big surprise to you anyway. Getting familiar with Disney before you go is a great way to make you feel more comfortable and in control so you can tame the anxiety and focus more on the fun. In the weeks and months leading up to your trip, do all of the research that you possibly can. Read brochures, look at pictures, and go through trip reports from others who have followed a similar itinerary to yours so you know what to expect. They are not going to have the exact same vacation as you, but it can be extremely helpful to walk along in someone’s footsteps through reading their story so that when you are in that same situation it does not seem as unknown and disorienting.
Another fantastic, and super fun, way to get yourself familiar with what you might encounter on your trip is to head over to YouTube and watch on-ride videos. I’m known to climb into my favorite chair (which just happens to have once lived in the Grand Floridian and was purchased after the renovation. Best birthday present ever) with my daughter, pretend we are locking our lap bars into place, and “ride” new rides or watch new parades and shows that we haven’t experienced before to take the edge off of the unknown. We might even hop on a few of our favorites just to get a little bit of a Disney fix when it has been a few months since we’ve been “home”. Doing this ahead of time can help you to identify triggers on the different attractions you might want to be prepared for, such as flashing lights or periods of darkness. Don’t worry about ruining the fun of experiencing something for the first time. Not even a night vision front row POV video with full sound can compare to actually locking yourself into Space Mountain, no matter how many times you have done it.
Along the same vein, if you know that your trip will include activities that you might not usually do and that might be stressful, such as riding a bus, go ahead and practice and tell yourself social stories along the way. I rode the city bus around the college campus in my hometown a few times, reminding myself that a resort bus could not possibly be as bad as a bus full of college-age kids on their way to and from class.
If you need some help planning, don’t hesitate to contact a Disney travel specialist. Not only can this planner help you hammer out all of the details of your trip, from what resort you should stay in to where you can find the best quick service meals to fit your tastes, but talking to her about your trip is a great way to practice social skills related to the trip like asking questions, getting familiar with Disney slang, and making decisions with people outside of your family.
Next time we’ll talk a bit more about how you can get yourself pumped up before the trip by expecting the unexpected.
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 Baby and Toto, Too.
- Disney With Special Needs: The Aspie’s Guide to the Galaxy …. Or At Least Disney World
- Disney World with Special Needs: Following Your Own Shells
- Disney with Special Needs: Finding Your Comfort Zone
- Disney With Special Needs: Have a Plan…and Don’t Stick to It
- Disney with Special Needs: Preparing Your Service Dog for Travel