It’s definitely taken me longer than I anticipated to get this blog posted but hopefully it will be worth the wait! There were definitely somethings that I learned about traveling to Disney World with chronic illness that will hopefully some people out!
1- If you have an early flight out, it is totally worth it to stay in a hotel close to the airport. We are only an hour away from the airport that we were flying out of but with an 8am arrival time, it would have meant leaving the house before 7am which meant getting up by 6am and well, we’re just not morning people so we found a nearby hotel to stay the night. We got to start our vacation a day early (we dropped off the dogs early and spent the day shopping and swimming!). The other bonus was that the hotel offered free shuttle service to and from the airport so we were able to leave our car at the hotel for the week so we didn’t have to pay for parking at the airport so the room basically paid for itself!
2- Snacks and stickers are essential for flying with a toddler. This vacation was Abby’s first experience on a plan and honestly we were not sure what to expect. I definitely, definitely wanted to prepare in advance for our trip, especially with a toddler on board! Since she’s over 2, she was not able to ride in our lap so she had her own seat in between us. We flew Allegient which has open seating (unless you pay the upcharge for an assigned seat) but thankfully they have family boarding so if you have a child under 7 you get to board pretty early. Abby happily sat in between us playing with her seatbelt while we waited for takeoff. The downfall of boarding early is having to sit so long as it didn’t take Abby long to get bored which is where snacks came in. I think between the waiting and the take off she ate three packs of fruit snacks but hey, it got us through takeoff without tears. The flight down she did wonderful. For us to drive to Orlando, it would take about 12 hours. Our flight was only 1 hour but because our flight was only an hour, we weren’t leveled off for more than 15 minutes so it didn’t give much time to move around or time to pull out the DVD player since as soon as you got a movie started it was time to pack it back up for the descent. Stickers were a great distraction, especially the game of putting stickers on Mommy. This is what I looked like by the time we touched down:
Unfortunately, the plane ride back was not as successful as a 5:30am airport arrival time does not work well with toddlers and the hour flight consisted of about 40 minutes of crying.
3- If you are concerned with your energy and/or pain management, it is totally worth it to rent wheels. We traveled at just over 4 weeks post-op which obviously isn’t ideal but since this was an entire family vacation it was kind of difficult to reschedule since we had been planning for a year. Having my friend Mamie write her guest post on A Spoonie’s Guide to Disney really helped me plan ahead. I went back and forth over the idea but in the end we figured if I could save energy by not walking, then I would have more energy to actually enjoy the parks. Since we were traveling outside of the peak season, I just rented directly from Disney since I wasn’t worried that they would run out (if you are traveling during peak season, it may be worth it to rent from an outside company). I paid one price for a flat 6 day rental and just had to show my receipt at the gate so I didn’t have to wait in line every day. Disney is super accommodating and make the process a pleasant experience. Many of the parks had wheelchairs available at the parking lots that you could use to get into the park where you traded for a park chair as some of the shuttle lots were a distance from the front gates. As far as getting on rides, we just parked my chair and walked through line. I didn’t feel the need to be wheeled right up to the ride. It also came in handy when transporting a sleeping kid out of the park! She was zonked by leaving time everyday!
4. Disney is the place to go if you or your child has food allergies. No joke. It was dietary heaven! They work hard to provide a pleasant dining experience for ALL of their guests. One meal that I have missed terribly since my Celiac diagnosis was barbeque so when I discovered that they had a gluten-free meal which included a barbeque sandwich I was thrilled! When you have a food allergy and place your order, a manager comes out to handle your request and they are the only one who handles your food. They see the order from start to finish to avoid chances of cross contamination. You may wait a little longer for your food to be prepared but it is so worth it! I was able to enjoy a barbeque sandwich, fries, and a brownie without fear of gluten contamination and it was HEAVEN! We ate at Flame Tree BBQ both times we were at Animal Kingdom (we skipped meals at the other parks because of shuttle times). If you want more gluten-free dining options at all of the parks, you can check out this gluten-free dining guide.
5. Decide which characters you want to meet the most and try to meet them early in your trip. We totally lucked out and got to meet Mickey & the gang and the Princesses in the first two days of our trip so the rest of the trip anyone else we happened to meet was a perk! We really lucked out being in the off-season and had less than a 5 minute wait to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy & Pluto and waited maybe 10 to meet Aurora, Belle, and Cinderella as we went to both character spots first thing when we arrived at the parks. Tiana was also on our “must see” list and were able to see her in less than 5 too! We were able to meet tons of characters but it was nice knowing that we had to “big ones” out of the way so if we forgot the autograph book later in the week, it was ok. Abby’s top 3 were Minnie, Tiana, and Buzz Lightyear. The expression on her face when she got to meet Buzz was priceless!
Be sure to check out Part 2: More Things I Learned At Disney as I share more things I learned while visiting The Mouse!