Disney with Special Needs: The Welcome Bag

You’ve convinced yourself that your trip to Disney will actually happen and that the future will be here soon. (There’s a great big, beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day! There’s a great big, beautiful tomorrow and tomorrow’s just a dream away!….I’m sorry. Moving on.) You’re now just a few weeks away, or maybe you’ve even reached that deliriously wonderful time when you can dance around the living room declaring to your family, your cats, and your side table that you are going to Disney World THIS MONTH. So what can you do now to keep being excited and to bring that “this is so super real” feeling right on up to check-in?

Enter….The Welcome Bag.

Have you ever checked in to one of those fancy-pants hotels and found a big basket of fruit and treats waiting for you? Yeah…me neither. I have, however, gotten in the car for a road trip with a little bag of special treats for the road or gotten to the beach or amusement park and had a new bathing suit, pair of sunglasses, or towel waiting for me. That little gift always made the trip more special and was useful for the time that we were there. When we had to go home, those were my first souvenirs and had all the wonderful memories of the trip attached to them. Little did I know that those were the earliest iterations of my Disney Welcome Bags that would become LEGEND…or that my family would at least thing were pretty snazzy.

Making my Welcome Bags (yes, I capitalize that because they are just that important to my trip) is one of my favorite parts of the home stretch for any trip. I often start putting items together for them at the beginning of planning, but it isn’t until right before that I really get down to work building these special gifts. This tradition started with our very first trip when I packed goodies and a special teddy bear we named Traveler Bear for the road trip and ordered a gift basket from a company in Orlando. The basket contained a Disney World tote bag, Mickey and Minnie super soft plushes, and wine goblets etched with gold Mickey head silhouettes. The baby hugged those plushes like they gave her life, Mommy loved her tote and still uses it, and the wine goblets were well used as Pepsi goblets and now sit on our Disney shelf. Right then, I was hooked on the welcome gift idea, but I knew that I could do so much better so I started putting them together myself, and the rest is history.

These Welcome Bags help me get excited for the trip, but also get my family in the magic that much more. Avalon is still the wonderfully glorious age when she just knows in her heart that Mickey leaves her presents in the hotel and there’s a bit of sparkle in my bubba’s eyes when he sees his Welcome Bag that says that he might think so, too.

What you include in your Welcome Bags and how you present them is totally up to you. Get creative according to the season when you are traveling or your favorite attractions. You might not even use bags at all. You’ll find that picking up these little items throughout your planning will help to keep the excitement alive, even if it is just a pack of tissues or some lip balm.

Some of the Welcome Bags that I’ve put together for the family include:

  • Trick-or-Treat. Personalized tote bags stuffed with glow sticks, glow necklaces, glow bracelets, glow hair clips, glow things of all kind. They also contained the usual suspects of Band-Aids, hand sanitizing gel, lip balm, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and the like
  • Christmas party. The first year Lindsey came with us was the first year that we did Christmas at Disney, so we went all out. I brought along a tiny Christmas tree that I set up in my hotel room and everybody got a wrapped ornament and mug under the tree, then a stocking filled with goodies including socks, planners for the next year, and candy canes
  • The essentials. These bags were extra Disney-specific to help soothe our souls on a trip that we stayed off-site. Everybody got special shirts, MagicBands (this is the year I got my Haunted Mansion band), and gift cards
  • Pirate life. Both the Hubs and the Bubs are great devotees of Pirates of the Caribbean, so I knew that one of these times I was going to have to go for a treasure theme. A few weeks before the trip last year I happened to stumble on small wooden treasure chests at a craft store and the plan was in action. Tutu added vinyl initials to the tops and I filled them with glow sticks, slime putty, pirate hooks, skull goblets, shirts, towels, chocolate coins, and pirate-themed gummies.

These don’t include the first year that my brother came with us when I covered his bed with clementines to welcome him to Florida. I was particularly fond of that one.

So there you have it. The Welcome Bag. Let that get you thinking about the surprises you can get for your loved ones to bring some extra pixie dust to your next trip. Next time we’re going to talk about what happens when everything goes wrong.

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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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