Disney with Special Needs: The World at the Holidays Prep – Part One

You may recall that last year my family traveled to Disney World for the single greatest day on the calendar…Halloween. While that was the most amazing trip ever, this year we decided to change things up a little bit and travel “home” for Thanksgiving.

We’ve done a few trips in early December and know that we love the Christmas celebrations, so we thought that this year it might be fun to be super thankful for being able to be together in the World right then on Thanksgiving. I’m really excited about this idea – but now that it’s less than 6 months away I’m starting to feel the nerves. After all, this isn’t just any other visit. This is Disney during THE HOLIDAYS. It gets the big letters because it’s scary like that. The truth is, Disney with all its Christmas lights and decorations all in place and its special entertainment is absolutely beautiful and it will get even the scroogiest of scroogy Scrooges to feel all sparkly and seasonal, but it is also incredibly busy, hectic, and potentially stressful.

So why would we put ourselves through it? Because we love Disney and want to spend Thanksgiving with it. That means, though, that we are going to need to do some serious planning and preparation, and I want to bring you along with me. Whether you are planning on being in the World during THE HOLIDAYS some year, or you just want to point and laugh while I try to get myself together, you are welcome to sidle up, bring along your favorite beverage (I’d offer you a cup of black French Toast coffee like I’m sipping if I could figure out how to pass it through the computer), and give me your moral support while I get all this in place.

So let’s get started…

But it’s Thanksgiving! This is something that we’ve heard quite a bit since we started planning this trip. After all, for many people, Thanksgiving brings to mind images of everyone wearing little sweaters while they gather at Grandma’s house for a Norman Rockwell-esque celebration with the perfect meal followed by…I don’t know…playing football and regaling each other with stories of the year. That’s wonderful and all, but it’s usually too warm in Virginia on Thanksgiving to wear sweaters in the house, my mother lives with me so Grandma’s house is my house, the five of us see each other all the time so there aren’t really all that many stories to regale, and no one in their right mind would hand me a football. We love Thanksgiving. It’s one of our favorite days. But we really believe that we can love it even if we aren’t at home. That might not be the same for you. If you are thinking about visiting Disney over an actual holiday, take some time to think through your family’s traditions and whether you think that you would be OK not having them for a year. Would you be alright not seeing your extended family if you have one or not waking up in the same home that you always do on the holiday? Would you miss the little road trip that you take to dinner? Would it not feel like Thanksgiving if you didn’t end the night in your pajamas watching Christmas movies while dragging out the tree and ornaments? If so, you may want to wiggle your plans a little.

I’ve got to have my nanner pudding. If you’re from the South or know someone who is, it’s likely that you have a nice big bowl (or trifle dish, if you’re like me) of nanner pudding on the Thanksgiving table. For all of you who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, that’s banana pudding, a glorious layering of bananas, vanilla pudding, Nilla wafers, and fresh whipped cream. Yum. Now, as a vegan, I haven’t had nanner pudding in a good long time, but I still make up a huge trifle of it every year. It’s one of the baby’s favorite Thanksgiving treats and Bubba is known to go back for thirds. So what about those favorite seasonal treats that you might not be able to find when you are in the World? We are still contemplating this one. If you are super lucky and are staying in Fort Wilderness, you’ll have a full kitchen in your cabin and will be able to whip up whatever you’d like. If not, you might need to get creative. I plan on making up my pudding before we leave and either letting Avalon enjoy it as a pre-trip treat or putting it in a cooler and having it on the road. As for our other Thanksgiving favorites, most of them we’ll be able to find right in the World, and those we can’t we’ll be extra excited about next year.

But I couldn’t get that reservation I wanted!! I feel you. Of course the first thing that we thought about when thinking of a Disney trip over Thanksgiving was eating the holiday meal. Since we are super creative and unique, we thought that we would go to Liberty Tree Tavern for the Pilgrim’s Platter. Unfortunately, it seems that everyone else traveling that week is super creative and unique, too, so even though I hopped onto the reservation site as soon as I could, there were no more Thanksgiving Day spots left. After a few tears and a bit of flailing, I moved on. I snagged a Liberty Tree reservation for the night before Thanksgiving so we’ll still get a chance to enjoy our beloved meal hopefully in the Virginia room again. As for the day itself, I got us a spot at the Garden Grill. The meal is extremely similar, the greens are grown right in the greenhouses, and we are very thankful for the vegetable boat (Living with the Land for all those not in the know). I know that I could have just said forget about it and gone for quick service that day to avoid all this, but that isn’t something that we’re willing to do. I don’t even want to fathom the crowds that are going to be shoving themselves into every restaurant and trying to figure out how they can make Pecos Bill or Casey’s Thanksgiving-appropriate. Besides that, my selfish little vegan soul wants to know that I’m going to get something special and tasty for the holiday. I am pretty good with salads and veggie burgers at other times, but I want to feast with the family, so I went with my second choice in table service reservations. It might not be exactly what I wanted and I will admit that I am really sad about not having the Thanksgiving meal that I envisioned, but guess what? It will still be Thanksgiving and I will still be in Disney World. We’ll get our turkey dinner (well, not so much me on the turkey front, but I will get something wonderful and delicious that the fabulous chef makes up for me) and we’ll get memories that we will hold in our hearts forever.

So there we are. The first steps of Disney Thanksgiving 2017 have been taken. There’s plenty more to come, so get your vacation booked and I’ll see you all next week!

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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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