Disney with Special Needs: The Road Trip Edition

I’m getting to that point post-trip when I start suffering from serious Disney withdrawals and it feels like I’m never going to make it back (even though my next trip is already well into the planning phase). Thinking about the next trip home is always what gets me through these difficult in-between times, so I thought that this time I would talk about one of the biggest parts of any Disney trip for my family (and many others)…the road trip.

By now, you know a few things about me and one of them is probably that I don’t travel without Fil. He might be retired, but I’m not about to be away from him, so when it comes to traveling to Disney, that means driving. To be honest, it will probably mean driving even when he is no longer with us because I need the sense of control. You might be thinking to yourself…but, Taryn, we also know that you don’t drive. That’s true. I don’t drive. Not like, I have a license that I keep tucked away in the event of extenuating circumstances but for the most part I don’t make it a habit of driving. I don’t have a license. I can’t even drive the Tomorrowland Speedway without bouncing back and forth on the rail throughout the entire ride. The person who tries to ride the bumper cars but ends up stuck in a corner, spinning around in circles? That’s me. I don’t drive. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m out of control on a road trip. Quite the contrary, being on the road makes me feel far more secure and in control than any other type of transportation. I would venture to say that quite a few of my fellow super heroes feel the same way.

So that’s what we’re going to talk about today…

Pulling off your Disney road trip with your special needs in mind.

  • Map it out. Alright, so here’s another one. I can’t read maps. I know, I sound like I’m having the lowest self-esteem day ever with all my I-can’ts and I-don’ts. That’s not the case. I’m just super realistic about my limitations, which helps me make sure that I address them and keep myself at my best. When I say map out your road trip, I don’t necessarily mean whip out your huge highway map and trace the route with a bright red pen. If that works for you and would make you feel better, totally go for it. If you’re like me, though, that would mean just about nothing. When I map out my road trip, I use the wonders of the internet (is anyone else singing “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” right now?”) to get a visual of what cities are between me and my destination. That keeps me feeling secure and helps me with the next step
  • Choose your milestones. We’ve talked about milestones a lot, and here we are again. That’s because choosing identifiable markers between destinations can make all the difference in the world for someone like me who needs more than miles or the squiggly lines on a map to tell them where they are. Milestones also helps you to keep yourself in the moment throughout the trip. It is all too easy to fall into the sense that driving along the highway is your reality now and feel like you are never going to get to your magical destination. Selecting milestones helps the trip to remain concrete and gives you the little moments of achievement as you go so that you can see the “light at the end of the tunnel”. That is, of course, Cinderella Castle glowing at the end of Main Street. I break my trip up into fairly even chunks. I know that South of the Border is around 4 hours from my house, and that’s our first milestone. If you are ever driving down the road and hear four or five voices screaming “South of the Border!!” every time you go by a billboard, look around. My family is somewhere near you
  • Pick out mini-milestones. Once you have your big milestones, whether it is certain rest areas and welcome centers, actual mile markers, or some other type of milestones, you can break them up even further. These are the most fun milestones for my family because they really let us know that we are on our way. South of the Border acts as both, because, really, who doesn’t love that garish tourist trap of a destination? Our first moment of excitement, though, comes when we leave Virginia. That doesn’t take too long, but once we’ve left our home state, it really feels like we’re on our way (not just because we’ve had to turn around before and go back home because we’ve forgotten something or Tutu was positive that she left the iron plugged in). After we say hi to Pedro, our next mini-milestone is the first palm tree that we see in South Carolina. Then it’s when we see what the baby has always called “Tree Beautiful”, Spanish moss for everyone else. That happens in Georgia. After that it’s getting into Florida. This might be the most frustrating stretch for me. I feel like once I hit Florida, I should be there. Crossing the state line, however, means that we still have about 3 hours to go. So we have to break it up even further and start looking for signs for Daytona, Kissimmee, and Orlando. Then, finally, the glorious moment occurs when we see that very first sign that says “Walt Disney World Resort” and we know that we are almost home. With each of these mini-milestones, I know that we are actually moving forward, actually getting closer. They also let me time stops so if we need a snack, a rest, or just to get out and not be sitting next to each other for a few minutes, I don’t start to feel the sense of panic that comes with not being able to do it.

Knowing when we are going to be able to stop, when we might eat, or even just when we are closer to Disney than we are to home helps me to feel in control and calm, and lets the rest of the family know that they will stay comfortable throughout the trip as well. I might get cranky during these trips sometimes, but I truly love our road trips. There’s nothing quite like piling into the car and heading out, knowing that the next time we go to bed, it will be in Disney World.

Next time we’ll talk about what you should bring along with you on your road trip to keep you comfortable and make good on that old adage “getting there is half the fun”.

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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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