Disney with Special Needs: Trip Report Part 6

BubblesHave you recovered from Thanksgiving dinner, yet? I have, and that must mean that it is November 2 and we are on Day Six of my trip report! This is the day that Hubby and Bubba have been waiting for for months…EPCOT Food and Wine Festival Day! So get ready, friends. The day has come to venture forth into a world of deliciousness with a group that can only be described as…eclectic.

Day Six Morning…or Well, That Didn’t Start Very Magically

By now you should know that I am a devotee of Disney transportation. Even though we always drive to Disney (with the exception of one trip when the five of us split up, but that’s another story for another time) and I love the control of having our vehicle with us all the time, I love being able to park, walk away, and let the Mouse be my chauffeur for the trip. Usually it is a truly delightful experience. Note I said “usually”. There is always an exception and our streak came to a pretty brutal end this trip.

On Wednesday we woke up all ready and raring to go, excited about our Soarin’ FastPasses for the morning and then a day that we had carefully planned to include rides sprinkled throughout a truly ridiculous amount of eating. We waited in line full of hope and vigor. Then the bus arrived. Anyone who has ever stayed at a Disney resort and used the transportation knows that there are times when everybody in line doesn’t fit in the bus. It’s just a matter of physics. You can’t take 500 square feet of people and fit them in 225 square feet of bus. You just can’t do it. It’s not really a big deal. The next bus will be along within 15 or 20 minutes and you’ll be on your way. Well, apparently this morning the person who had an issue with the wait wasn’t a sunburned tourist desperate for their turn at the Cool Zone. Instead, it was the driver.

The bus was already almost full by the time that she ushered us into it. Lindsey and Bubba made it to the back and took their places gripping the loops for dear life. The four of us were shoved into the well section just beneath the steps. Already occupying that area was three strollers, a wheelchair, and a motorized scooter. We squeezed in as best we could and expected that the driver would head out. Oh, no. Not so much. Instead, she yelled back that we needed to move around more so that she fit others in. Everyone on the bus told her that there was no room, but she insisted that we move. By this point I’m already starting to feel nervous, but I’m determined that I’m going to get through the ride. It’s can’t be that bad, right? Wrong.

The driver continued to yell at us to move so that she could fit more people in. I ended up scooping the little one into my arms and stepping back behind the scooter so that my back was against the wall. I figured that would keep her as safe as possible. The driver brought another family in from the line, but as soon as the father saw the bus, he refused, stepped off, and got back in line. She responded by announcing that she wasn’t going anywhere until the bus was full to her satisfaction and somebody better get inside. PASSENGERS UNITE! We all told her that the bus was absolutely full and that any space she was seeing through the mirror was actually inhabited by someone, such as the small child sitting on the steps who she then screamed at and made cry. She came in to the back door of the bus, tried to direct us around more, and then finally got shouted at enough that she realized there was literally no more space.

The ride to EPCOT was pretty awful. I held my 50 pound child as tightly as I could, meaning I wasn’t able to hold onto anything else. I kept my eyes closed and tried to breathe, but by the time we arrived I was in full panic. Hubs kept me under control by rubbing my ear and the baby kissed me and cuddled me, but it was reaching a very bad level once we pulled in to the bus loop. Of course, considering I was wedged behind a scooter, I was also the last person able to get off the bus. I stood there, eyes still closed, listening to other passengers getting off the bus yelling “Have a magical day!” at the driver. Finally I was able to open my eyes, releasing the tears they had been holding back, and walked shakily off the bus…and directly to Guest Relations. Lesson #1: Do not tolerate less-than-magical treatment. This is not to say that everything is always going to be perfect and that you should complain or be difficult, but it does mean that if there is truly an issue like that driver, it needs to be made known.

We told our story to the amazing people, who brought us back behind the building so that I could be away from people and noise. They immediately called the transportation manager and then presented us with FastPasses to whatever we wanted for the day, as well as a special reservation for the Frozen Ever After ride. They were incredibly kind and understanding, and seemed truly upset that I had gone through what I did. The rest of the day was probably more difficult than it would have been without that experience, but I felt better knowing that she would be dealt with and would think twice before doing that to another busload of people.

(On a side note, when we headed back that night, we were greeted not by a Disney bus, but a large, luxurious charter bus. The driver told us that Disney was short a driver and had called to ask that they come fill in. Hmmm….)

Now that that awfulness is over, let’s move on to the fun…

Day Six…or What is a Greek Nacho?

Our first stop after Guest Relations was the Coca-Cola Cool Zone. This is always our first stop in EPCOT and it seemed appropriate to take a little break that day. We sipped our drinks, savored our favorite green bubbliness, and let it put us back into the Disney spirit. Lesson #2: Don’t skip the Cool Zone. It might just be tiny cups of international soda, but it is a fun, and free, way to cool off, get a little hydrated, and keep up the spirit. And don’t listen to the hype. Try the Beverly. Avalon loves it.

After our tiny sodas, we headed right to The Land. Here I indulged in my first vegan treat of the day…pumpkin soup. Oh. My. Pumpkin. It might just be a seasonal option, but it came right off the menu at Sunshine Seasons. They even sprinkled the top with roasted pumpkin seeds. Glorious. The thing is, they didn’t advertise it as vegan. I happen to have heard mutterings about it and asked for myself. They promptly reassured me that it was totally vegan as-is right from the menu. Cue the heavenly chorus. Lesson #3: Ask about soup. Many of them are made with chicken or beef broth, but not all of them. In fact, there are some truly surprising options around the World that are vegan right out of the pot and some can be made vegan with a little tweak, so they are perfect for when you want something warm, comforting, and filling. For example, the French onion soup at Be Our Guest can be made vegan just by asking for it without the cheese and crouton. Delicious.

After a round of Soarin’ and a drift on the vegetable boat (Living with the Land), we headed for the World Showcase and the glory of tastiness it promised. It was, as we expected, immediately overwhelming. There are booths everywhere and tons of options. Here’s the thing…we were prepared. Several weeks before the festival starts, menus are released. This means you can go over everything that is being offered and find the things that you want to try so you can plan your attack. Lesson #4: Map out your eating. There are hundreds of special items offered throughout the World Showcase during the festival and you are going to run out of room before you get through them all. If you just dive into the first pavilion and start munching your way around, you will probably find that you only get a few pavilions in before you fill up and aren’t able to try something awesome later. Sit down and go through the menus so that you can pick out the things that you really want to try and then choose which pavilion to start in for your tour. This is also how we discovered that there were TWO vegan options that were not whole fruit or little bags of vegetables available. Like, purposely vegan. Yay!

You will find that there are booths that correspond to the regular countries throughout the World Showcase, but there are many others as well. Some fit in nicely, like the Scotland booth that they slip in near the UK pavilion, and others are more like bonus options. Case in point: the chocolate booth. Oh, yes. A booth dedicated to chocolate. While I couldn’t eat anything there, I did appreciate the smell and the fun of others indulging. In the words of my brother: “Chocolate is not a country, but I will salute its flag.”

While you are planning out your culinary assault, consult with the others who will be traveling with you and find out if there are options that more than one person is interested in trying. This can give you a way to try more without blowing your budget. Lesson #5: Share. The dishes at the festival are not meal-sized. They are designed to be tasting portions and some of them are quite small. Most, however, are plenty for two or even more people to have a few bites. This means that the people in your group can try a wider range of items without filling up too quickly or using up your budget. And speaking of budget…Lesson #6: Make the most of the dining plan. Something else you might know about me is that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Disney Dining Plan. Did I mention that I love the dining plan? I love the dining plan. This is never shown quite as powerfully as during the Food and Wine Festival. The food items at the booths are all one snack credit. ONE. Considering some of them are more than $7, this is an awesome use of a credit. If you have the plan with Quick Service credits, you can also use one meal credit for three items in a single transaction.

My extra super special family might be able to use this to a further advantage than others because as a vegan I tend to not use my meal credits as much so there are tons left for the festival, but if you plan ahead, you can totally make it happen.

So the rest of the day was spent indulging in a massively amazing variety of food. This included the aforementioned vegan options. One was Greek Vegan Nachos at the Greece booth. These featured pita chips, meatless sausage crumbles, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, tofu feta, and cashew tzatziki. They were so, so, so good. Even meat-loving hubby said so. The second was Vegan Korean Barbecue at the South Korea booth. These were a vegan version of the barbecue, with vegan beef tips, rice, and kimchi. While the nachos definitely won out, these were also super tasty. A little spicy for me, but that’s one of my sensory things, so it might be absolutely perfect for others. Some of the other favorites for the group included the filet mignon from Canada, the cheese bread from Brazil, the sausage from Germany, the meat version of the Korean barbecue, and the hummingbird cake from the Southern booth. 

As everyone was eating, Hubbybear McGee and Lindsey furthered their enjoyment of the day by sampling beer at the different booths. While they could find some awesome options in the different countries, they were especially delighted by the Craft Beer building. Lesson #7: Visit the buildings. This one had some pretty large signage, but was off the beaten path. This meant that it wasn’t too crowded and we were able to slip into their lounge for some extra space, cool air, and even a high-boy table where they could stand, read about their beer, and taste the different options. The little one got a chance to play with her new bubble wand without hitting anyone, I got to sit down without being touched by anyone, and they got to try eight new beers. Successful.

So there we are. Stuffed full. A couple of us maybe a little wobbly. Recovered from the bad transportation. We returned to the resort and Hubs and Lindsey promptly went downstairs to the bar to watch Game 7 of the World Series. Things were getting real, ya’ll. As dedicated fans of the Cubbies, this was some serious stuff. It had been more than 70 years since they had even been to the Series, and 108 since winning. They were also tied with the Indians, so whoever won this game, won the Series. Stressful. I didn’t feel the need for that stress in my life so I stayed upstairs, but then after a while I went down to join them. I watched approximately 5 minutes, the score went from the Cubs being up by 3 to being tied, and I decided I was the proverbial goat and went back upstairs to bed. Later that night I was awakened by Hubster whispering in my ear “We just won the World Series.” Sigh of joy. Day six has come to an end.

We’re wrapping up next time, travel companions. I appreciate you coming along with me and I hope that you have gotten some good lessons out of my epic adventure. One more day to come! We’ll end with a day at the controversial Hollywood Studios and answer the question, “how many times can you see the same 50s drive-in film reel before it becomes annoying?” (Spoiler: I don’t know because it never got annoying!!) The Disney withdrawals are setting in. See you soon for one last day!

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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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