Lessons Learned From Our Disney Vacation: Not Perfect, but Pretty Wonderful
My blog a couple of months ago was about preparing for our trip to Disney World. Otherwise known as “The happiest place on earth.”
So was it?
I would have to say it was a wonderful trip.
But here is the official update.
Our great week together started off with the plane ride to Florida. Now keep in mind that we, as a family, have NEVER traveled by plane. We have ALWAYS driven.
Yes, that is correct. All trips were driven. Some lasting over 19 hours of travel and nearly making us lose our grip on reality. But, all were driven. This was our first trip together on a plane.
So this flight was a big thing for us and Elizabeth did wonderfully. Some YouTube videos of how to get through an airport and how it looks on an airplane helped to decrease Elizabeth’s anxiety of the unknown.
She did really well on the flight because she was able to board as one of the first passengers due to her special needs. I learned to ask about this option, and I recommend to all to ask and take advantage of any and all disability offerings. This service helped us because we could get on before the rush, pick the perfect seat for her and allow her to get settled in well.
So now we arrived at our destination. We again were able to show her where we were staying and which bedroom would be hers. The time spent on the computer beforehand really paid off.
So she immediately went into her room, we unpacked, she relaxed with a bit of TV and the vacation had officially begun.
We had nine days together, with one being at Magic Kingdom and one at EPCOT.
Life with a child with special needs has taught me that more is not always better, and so instead of reserving four days for Magic Kingdom, we decided that one full and complete day at each park would be best for us.
Disney was a day that I literally studied for. I researched the rides, the length of waiting times, the locations of the rides and I scheduled Fast Passes and signed up for the DAS (Disability Access Service) Card. Both of which help to cut wait times down dramatically. I offer again, that taking advantage of all disability offerings for your special needs child will help very much.
If you are headed to Disney World as your vacation destination, please look up any and all options. Elizabeth and I watched videos about Disney World and each ride that we thought she would go on. This way, there were no surprises for her and she was armed with knowledge about where she was going and what to expect. I will say that doing that made all the difference in her day for her. I imagine that it would be like you or I getting in a car and having no idea where we are headed, versus knowing just how long you will travel and where you will arrive. This kind of pre-vacation work is so very worth it.
So we are now in the park. One shuttle ride, one monorail ride, one check through security and one visit to get her picture taken were all that we had to do to get in the park. But I will say, Elizabeth was having fun!
She went on so many rides. She walked a ton. She danced during the mid-day parade.
It was great to see her having this much fun at a place that is very sensory intensive. But she did really well. Her momentary break down occurred right around lunch time, after the parade. It was then that she was overly hungry, hot and she really needed to sit down.
So we regrouped with lunch and began the second part of our day. She drove the car in one ride and had two trips on the Merry-Go-Round. So in sum total, she rode 11 rides that day and walked over 4 miles.
EPCOT was the next park and we did it two days after Magic Kingdom. Again, we watched the videos and talked about what she could expect.
It was a record breaking temperature that day. 101 degrees. But we had a blast. She had a great day walking around. We rode 7 rides that day, visited all 11 countries and logged a cool 8.5 miles!
We are so proud of her and all she did.
On the days off from the parks, we swam, relaxed and had some nice dinners together.
All of which she enjoyed. My husband called her “the star of the vacation,” a reference she loved and says quite a lot!
Being honest here, there were moments when she was a bit tentative to go on a ride or go into a new attraction. Or simply was anxious. And that was something we were able to talk her through. This made us so happy because we know how much hard work it is for her to do these kinds of things. And many years ago, she could not have been talked into anything because her system would simply not allow it.
We loved looking at all she could and did do and found ourselves being simply thankful.
Watching her smile and enjoy the time with her family was, like the commercial says, priceless!
Since perfect simply does not exist, I will not say our trip was perfect. But for us, it was pretty wonderful!
I hope hearing our story offers hope to someone who might need it today!
I wish everyone a peaceful month.
Michele Gianetti is a mom of three, registered nurse, and published author (“I Believe in You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey,” “Emily’s Sister“). She writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.