Disney with Special Needs: Trip Report Part 7

BalloonsCan you believe that it’s the end of our trip already? It never feels like a trip to Disney is long enough. When you first arrive you have the whole trip spread out ahead of you and it feels so long and luxurious, and then it feels like you blink and you are in your last few hours. This is always a sad day for me, but it was still a day of Disney, which means fun…and learning some lessons for my super heroes. So let’s dive in one last time.

Day Seven…or Is it really over?

The last day of any Disney trip is always pretty sad, but this one felt particularly so because Bubba and Lindsey had decided to stay on for a couple more days after we left. I was happy for them that they would get some extra magic, but it was sad to think about missing out on any time together. We had been gradually packing up for the last couple of days, but that morning was when we went into full packing mode. Since we stayed in a Nemo suite the brother and Lindsey were going to switch hotels for the next couple nights, which meant checking out. Fortunately checking out of a Disney hotel does not require the Walk of Doom to the front desk like it does in other hotels. If you’ve settled up with your bill and don’t have any questions, you just clear out your room and walk away by 11 AM. This always helps me feel a little bit less like it’s a “goodbye”.

Once we were all packed up and ready to leave for the last time, we checked our phone messages. There was a perky little message thanking us for our visit and saying that they looked forward to sketching out our next trip. Sigh. This is one of our traditions and it brings us to Lesson #1: Always check your voice mail. If you go into your room when you first check in and notice the little red light blinking, check it. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes you’ll get a special message from Mickey welcoming you. Same goes for the end of your trip. If you see the blinking light, check it. The Cast Members at the hotel might have left you a little ditty to thank you. It’s only a few seconds, but it can really make your trip feel a little more magical.

The last day of the trip was set aside for Hollywood Studios. I know this park has been shrouded in controversy for a while now, but it’s still a must-do for my family every trip. Some of our warm-and-fuzzy attractions are there, and we don’t feel like the sections that are closed are worth totally skipping it. Remember when I told you that you should always, always, always get the Park Hopper? We’re going to talk about that again. Lesson #2: Always get the Park Hopper. My family is currently on the cusp of getting annual passes. It’s going to happen at some point this year or early next year. Until then, though, we will remain devotees of the Park Hopper. We have never traveled without it and would never consider it. The Park Hopper means freedom. It means doing whatever you want to do, when you want to do it. It means being able to respond to crowd levels, food cravings, attraction wait times, and how you are feeling and thinking that day. It also means being able to visit those “half-day” parks (which I don’t believe any of them are, but that’s me) without feeling like you’ve wasted a ticket.

Hollywood Studios is where my family takes the most advantage of FastPass+. We always specially time them so that Tutu and the baby can go see the For the First Time in Forever Frozen musical while us “grownups” ride Tower of Terror. I have never seen the musical and apparently never will since Avalon announced that that is their special “secret” attraction that they do together. Fine.

After our ride we had a little bit of extra time, so hubs and I went on a mission. The baby has a tradition of getting one of those big pink Mickey head balloons every trip. We learned early on that you do not buy one of those things in the morning because you will spend the day wrestling with it. Instead, we agreed that we would buy it at the end of the trip so that she could bring it home. Well, we hadn’t found one yet and time was ticking away. We rushed around the front of the park seeking out an elusive balloon dealer needing to land that balloon. We never did. Lesson #3: Don’t wait for that special souvenir. You might think that you will be able to find it again – after all, what is more ubiquitous than those big, beautiful balloons? – but there’s a chance that you won’t and you’ll end up with a deeply disappointed child. Or self.

Fortunately our story has a happy ending and Bubba came home a few days later carrying two of the best Mickey balloons I have ever seen, but you might not have an awesome big brother staying for a couple of days after you and willing to travel carrying your souvenir for the long drive home.

The balloon debacle at an end, it was time for lunch. As you’ve figured out by now, this was the trip of fulfilling restaurant dreams. This time it was Sci-Fi Theater Café. We have looked longingly at this place every trip through Hollywood Studios, and finally this time we got to be the ones that turned in to eat there. Yay! It had started to rain at this point, so being able to sneak inside and sit on the bench in the lobby was nice. We were promptly greeted by a Cast Member bearing little boxes of popcorn. Lesson #4: Go for the snacks. For those of you who don’t know, Sci-Fi is themed after a 50s drive-in. This makes the little popcorn treats they hand you when you walk in the perfect addition to the theme. And because they are the same popcorn you can get elsewhere in the park they are VEGAN! Yay! Also tucked into the corner of the lobby is a water dispenser. It wasn’t hot during our trip, but I’ll never turn down a cup of cold water, so that was a delightful surprise. Snacking on these while you wait for your table can help tame the hunger pangs and get you in the mood for your trip through time to the drive-in.

Once it was our turn, they led us down the small corridor toward the main dining area. Pay attention during this time. Your carhop will tell you where the bathroom is, which is a bit of a journey through a couple of doors and down another hallway. This helps maintain the theme, but it can be confusing. Lesson #5: Pay close attention to the location of your car. The light level is low in this restaurant and the cars containing the tables can all look the same when you walk through. Pay attention from the time you walk in so that if you do need to take a pit stop partway through your meal you’ll be able to find the bathroom and then get back to your table.

This was one of my favorite dining experiences of the trip. The reel of old movie clips and drive-in advertisements up on the big screen is absolutely adorable. We saw the entire thing four or five times during the trip, and I would have been happy to see it more. Especially with the running commentary from Mommy who had actually seen movies like that when she was younger. Now when it comes to any restaurant experience, you want to know about the food. Of everything I ate during this trip, this is the meal that I would probably say I didn’t want to eat again. Which says a lot, considering it was delicious. The waitress talked to me about my options and said that the chef made an awesome pasta dish, but honestly, I was at a drive-in. I didn’t want pasta. I wanted a burger. So I asked…and was delivered. They brought me a huge vegan veggie burger with tomato jam, lettuce, onions, ketchup, and mustard, and a side of incredible sweet potato fries. Dessert is included on the Dining Plan, so I asked for something that I’ve been dreaming of for months…vegan Oreo milkshake. Can I just say that one more time? Vegan Oreo Milkshake. Heaven.

Lesson #6: Ask for what you want. I’m probably the most easy going vegan you are ever going to meet. When the chefs come to ask me what I’d like to eat, I’m the one that’s going to be like… just anything. As long as it isn’t spicy and doesn’t have fennel seeds in it, I’m good. This was the one moment when I was a little bit picky, and they were happy to oblige. Of course, I wasn’t pushy and let them know that if they couldn’t do it, that was fine, but that I would really love it. Always be nice when you ask for what you want and you have a better chance of getting that treat you’ve been wanting.

After lunch we did a couple of rounds on the Great Movie Ride, stalked the new construction areas, and accidentally walked into a march of Star Wars characters. Then the moment had come. It was time to say goodbye and head to the doggie camp to pick up Filburt and MooMoo. There were hugs and tears, I warned them to use up the rest of the dining plan by midnight, and we walked away. Next stop…Virginia. My only reassurance—we’ll be back. We’ll always be back. Lesson #7: Carry your next trip in your heart. You might not know the exact day that you’ll return, but remind yourself as you go through that magical arch one last time that you’ll see it again. Roll down your window and tell Mickey “See Ya Real Soon!”

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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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