Posted in Uncategorized

Andrew Shows His DisneySide

The mere mention of the word Disney sends my son Andrew into orbit. A fleeting commercial catches his attention instantly and begins the repetition of “go to Disney”. Seeing me on Facebook posting Disney photos to my various groups attracts his attention immediately and I catch him glancing at my photos periodically. Nothing to do with Disney escapes him, nothing.

On each and every trip we’ve seen drastic developmental improvements, increased social interaction and an appropriateness in behaviour that gives us great hope. Something happens to him when there. Don’t think I’m silly or childish when I say it’s magic, but it is. In fact, Disney taps into every Guests inner child and brings it out, so maybe what I wrote sounds childish but that’s alright! Life is too short to be serious all of the time, so why not don those Mickey Mouse Ears and smile?

Cast Members enhance our personal experiences too. On every trip a Cast Member has made our visit that much better with their friendly and helpful advice, tips and the odd perk. A special button, Mickey balloon, treat or FastPass has gone a long way with our family and those moments made us feel valued and important. Those moments made us feel as if we were honoured and a part of a great big, happy family.

That meant and means the world to us.

Andrew navigates the parks well, in fact, we follow his lead listening to his requests of where to go next and when to snack and where. The Disney Parks are his home away from home.

So it’s no surprise that Disney memorabilia fills our home serving as reminders of great memories and experiences. Daily little happy reminders during times of stress and complications that give us great hope.

His bedroom has all of his favourite Disney stuffed friends and he checks them regularly.

Until today.

Today he came down and wanted to goof around and this is what he did. Andrew wore what he could and wanted to play. He misses Walt Disney World. He misses sailing with Disney Cruise Line. If I could, I would live in Celebration and visit Walt Disney World as much as possible. If I could, I would sail with Disney as much as possible. I honestly feel he can be completely cured if I could spend everyday there.

This is why it’s so difficult leaving, we never know what spontaneous, positive behaviour we’ll experience next.

I cannot wait until we sail on my favourite ship, the Disney Fantasy, for the Star Wars Day at Sea next January. We are visiting Walt Disney World before the cruise and we’ll give Andrew the time of his life.

I also cannot wait to see what he will do next while there.

Andrew DisneySide Goofy Theme

Posted in Autism, Disney Parks, Special Needs

“Mummy, Give Me a Kiss”

 

My son is primarily non-verbal. It is difficult engaging him in any conversation. He does not like to be touched or hugged.

Andrew is fifteen with a developmental age of three. He loves the movie Toy Story and the Disney characters Buzz Lightyear and Woody. It is for that reason we love Disney’s Hollywood Studios’  attraction ‘Toy Story Midway Mania!’.

Every time we vacation at any of the Disney Parks we see great social and developmental improvements. Andrew comes into his own and into our world many times during those vacations. That is what keeps us coming back time and time again, coupled with Cast Members anticipating our needs, makes for a positive and memorable experience.

One visit to Toy Story Mania stands out in my mind, Andrew was thirteen at the time and up until then I had never heard any terms of endearment or had any hugs from him.

While in the attraction vehicle, Andrew’s aim at the targets was incredible, he was pointing and shooting at all the targets on the screens, breaking them one after the other and becoming increasingly engaged by the minute.

Andrew that day scored 89,000 points, a personal best!

What a huge stride Andrew took that day, it was massive and I was so excited.

Upon exiting the attraction, Andrew turned to me and said, “Mummy, I love you, give me a kiss!”

I was floored! Not only did I give him a kiss, but I got a great big hug out of him for the first time in his thirteen years. For the very first time!

Imagine my delight. It’s a moment I will never ever forget and will hold close to my heart always.

Andrew came back to us if even for a few minutes. I have not heard those words from Andrew since, nor can I predict what he will say or do in the future. I am going to hold on to that special moment for the rest of my life and it’s all because of incredible, unforgettable moments while vacationing at Walt Disney World Resort!

I am so grateful for that special, special moment.

Andrew Toy Story Mania

Posted in Disney Cruise Line, Europe, Special Needs

Sailing the Mediterranean with Disney Cruise Line

For years and years I dreamed about exploring the historic sites of Europe. As an art history minor in university, I had written countless essays on architectural and artistic genres, I had identified slide upon slide of famous sculptures and paintings, and I knew I could navigate my way through these incredible places from all the readings I had done.

Europe had to wait, however, our son was unable to make the lengthy overseas trip, let alone be expected to stand around the countless museums and fully appreciate what he was looking at. What he could do, to his immense pleasure, was to visit Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort and sail with Disney Cruise Line.

We’ve sailed ten cruises on all four ships in the fleet, with the great majority of those sailings including itineraries of seven days or longer. These cruises laid the groundwork for my son and helped him acclimate to vacationing because there were many rewards all around him. It was on these cruises that we saw huge developmental improvements, there was motivation everywhere. I could use my ‘first and then’ routine and get him to do just about anything. After all, who wouldn’t want to finish their dinner to go and greet Mickey Mouse, or play in the full scale version of Andy’s Room from the hit movie ‘Toy Story’, after many attempts at minor social behaviour training sessions while sailing. Reinforcement was instant and anything we attempted to teach our son was a hit.

Without fully realizing it, vacationing with Disney Cruise Line and the Disney Parks had laid the foundations for expanding our horizons beyond and had prepared us to embark on new adventures.

We decided to sail with Disney, on our first ever, family trip to the Mediterranean, with stops at our ancestral homeland of Greece. We were beyond excited! We selected the nine day Disney Cruise Line itinerary aboard the re-imagined Disney Magic, in our regular mid-ship verandah stateroom. Sailing the Mediterranean with Disney Cruise Line meant peace of mind and stellar standards. We would know exactly what to expect each and every day. We would be sleeping in the same bed every night which would afford my son consistency and no transitioning issues, which can make or break a vacation. So, I began to plan the port adventures in the Mediterranean with ease right through Disney Cruise Line’s online Planning Center. I selected a port adventure at every single port and all were almost day long excursions with outstanding and well planned itineraries.

Our adventure began in Venice, Italy where we decided to spend a few days before the cruise in order to visit various historical places. I booked a private tour company for these days and although the tours were extensive and detailed, they were exhausting, demanding and proper breaks were not included, you kept going all day long. I tried my best to keep up with the groups all the while attempting to keep my son comfortable, well-behaved and happy. That was difficult for me.

Andrew Venice

I secretly couldn’t wait to board the Disney Magic and was excited when our Saturday came along and we boarded our motor coach for the ride to the port. The port, owned of course by the port of Venice didn’t look anything like the one in Port Canaveral, but Disney Cruise Line made many successful attempts to make it look and feel like the one in Port Canaveral, with colourful Captain Mickey banners, booths and cast members wearing the familiar outfits and big, white Mickey Mouse hands waving away. Boarding process and screening was similar, but we had to walk outside, alongside the ship towards a make-shift building with huge elevators and a stairwell in order to reach deck three and board the ship.

DCL Venice Port    DCL Venice Gangway

Once inside, it was as if a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders because we were home and all would be well. My son even lead the way to our stateroom and helped me decorate our stateroom door. Things were back to normal now, we were on the Disney Magic.

Jackie Selfie with Helmsman Mickey      DCL Venice Stateroom Door

Right away normalcy dominated because we knew the ship well, and knew what to expect at every turn. It truly was just like being at home, with a whole lot of fun everywhere you looked.

The first port of Katakolon, Greece, took us to ancient Olympia and here, my son had the unique opportunity to stand on the actual marble starting point in preparation for his sprint through the length of the stadium. In Pireus, we were taken to the Panathenaic Stadium, Athens Acropolis, Plaka and the Athens Museum. We visited Kusadasi, Turkey and went through an extensive tour of the last known House of the Virgin Mary, saw the magnificent ruins of Ephesus, followed by an outstanding lunch at a replicated version of ancient Ephesus. The Lindos Acropolis fascinated my son and we tried to get him on a donkey but he felt too shy. Old Town Rhodes was breathtaking and we always caught a brief glance of the beautiful Disney Magic, which dominated the sea and land. The windmills in Mykonos captivated my son because they were enormous and he’d never seen anything like that before. Upon our return for two glorious days in Venice, in the luxury of the Disney Magic, there was nothing better than looking out of your verandah and seeing St. Mark’s Square a stone’s throw away. Andrew at that point said, “Epcot.” Imagine that! He made the connection and I was so grateful.

Photos below at Olympia’s Stadium marble starting line and the Disney Magic docked at Katakolon, the port nearest Olympia.

My children enjoying the views atop the Athens Acropolis.

Pete Andrew Olympia starting point   Disney Magic Katakolon

Pamela Andrew Parthenon

Below, a most captivating day at Ephesus.

Psarianos Ephesus

Siblings getting along in Rhodes.

Pamela Kissing Andrew

Approaching the fortress of Old Town Rhodes.

Andrew going in Fortress Rhodes

Strolling through Old Town Rhodes.

Andrew Pamela Rhodes Old Town

Andrew winding his way through Mykonos.

Andrew Mykonos

Andrew and my mom.

Andrew and Grandma Mykonos

Andrew made many connections to the Italy Pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase at St. Mark’s Square in Venice.

Psarianos St marks

Here is what I was most grateful for. On every port adventure, every guide made Andrew feel valued and important because he was given the opportunity to have a purpose. Andrew was presented with the task of leading each of our tour groups and I cannot express how that made him or us feel. What I do know is that I saw his confidence soar, right before my very eyes. I saw a joy in my son’s eyes and a happiness I had never seen before, all because the tour guides afforded him a completely inclusive experience. All this because of Disney Cruise Line port adventures.

Andrew Holding DCL Sign   Andrew DCL Sign Acropolis

Watching my son leading the tour group by holding the Mickey Mouse tour group sign was one of the most gratifying moments of my life. Andrew has come such a long way and the majority of his developmental improvements have happened during our Disney parks vacations and sailing with Disney Cruise Line.

Psarianos DCL Europe Dining Room

Posted in Disney Parks, Uncategorized

24-Hour Coast to Coast Disney Events this Spring

The Disney Parks coast to coast will be celebrating this spring!

Over at Disneyland Resort in California they’re hosting a 24-hour event launching the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration May 22-23. The event begins 6 a.m. Friday, May 22 and will run continuously through Saturday, May 23 until 6 a.m.

The 24-hour event will include character greets and dancing in designated locations at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. More festivities await with shows and the thrilling attractions at both theme parks. The event will mark the beginning of exciting new entertainment when the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration begins on May 22, such as:

  • “Disneyland Forever” Fireworks
  • “World of Color-Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney”
  • “Paint the Night” Parade

Credit and Photo: Disney Parks Blog

Disneyland 60

 

Over on the East Coast at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort the fun continues with Giant Sand Castle in the Snow Announces 24-Hour Party, ‘Coolest Summer Ever’!

Inspired by Olaf’s “In Summer” dream, the event was announced just this morning on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America”. Our friend Olaf will also be the official host of the “Coolest Summer Ever”.

The “Coolest Summer Ever” will be a grand 24-hour event at Magic Kingdom Park during Memorial Day weekend, to kick off the summer.

The fun will run for twenty-four hours beginning 6 a.m. and guests will be encouraged to show their DisneySide while enjoying the fun festivities, special decorations, entertainment, food and merchandise. It will also mark the beginning of the coolest summer at Walt Disney World Resort.

“Coolest Summer Ever” experiences will include:

  • Epcot Entertainment
  • New Restaurants and Shopping
  • A Splash at Water Parks
  • Star Wars Weekends
  • Frozen Fun
  • Cool Thrill Rides

Credit and photo: Disney Parks Blog

Olaf DLR 60

 

Posted in Disney Parks, Uncategorized

The Walt Disney Company Reaches into the Future

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Walt Disney

When it comes to innovations, The Walt Disney Company is at the forefront. Just one visit to their many theme parks around the world will demonstrate this. Striving to move forward and to constantly evolve is their focus.

Recently, the Disney Parks in California and Florida unveiled their latest piece of technology affording even more convenience for their guests. The MagicBand, a waterproof wristband, will free you from carrying money, tickets, identification and room cards. It works on Radio Frequency technology and easily touches touch points, sensors throughout the resort. This little wristband, when linked through “My Disney Experience” allows full access to plans and all reservations at the Disney Parks. To get the full benefit of the MagicBand, staying on Disney Parks property is ultimate experience in logistical planning and convenience.

The way to begin this magical experience is to register with “My Disney Experience” the Disney planning website including everything from booking a trip right down to dining reservations. The website allows you to compare from the wide array of Disney resorts, select your package if you desire, buy your theme park tickets and personalize your entire vacation. It even links reservations and tickets and allows you to create a family and friends list.

As well, the whole website can be at your fingertips while on vacation through the free “My Disney Experience Mobile App” where you can update any plans while at the theme parks, see up to date attraction wait times, interactive maps of the theme parks and much more. Best of all your MagicBand, customized through “My Disney Experience” carries all information stored on the website if linked.

Basically, all you need as a Disney resort guest is the MagicBand and here’s why:

  • it’s your Disney resort room access tool (no room cards/keys required)
  • charge food and merchandise purchases on your MagicBand
  • it’s your device to allow you entry into the theme parks
  • it stores all FastPass+ reservations
  • it stores all Disney Dining reservations
  • it connects to Disney PhotoPass, so all images taken from Disney photographers will be linked to your account

The MagicBand is secure as it is a part of MyMagic+ which was built with strict privacy controls through the method of Radio Frequency Technology, which has been in use at the Disney Parks for many years to control rides, parade floats, costuming and laundry. The Walt Disney Company complies with the Federal Communications Commission regulations and standards.

MagicBand Jackie

Posted in Disney Parks, Special Needs, Uncategorized

Autism and Disney Parks Disability Access Service Card

“I’m doing this because I want to do it better.”

-Walt Disney

They did do it better.

People were initially freaking out when changes to Disney’s Guest Assistance Card were announced. People don’t like change, it’s inherent. Criticism and blame were at the forefront and negativity spiralled to new depths.

It’s like looking at a new food that doesn’t look appealing, yet when tried tastes delicious.

My point?

Try it first and then let’s talk.

The new system that accommodates people with invisible and/or physical disabilities that is in place at the Disney Parks is called the Disability Access Service Card. The function of this system affords guests a return time based on current attraction wait times.

I, having a moderate-severely autistic teenaged son had initial pangs of panic. Questions surfaced, such as, “what will I do when we approach an attraction for a time stamp and then we have to leave and return later, how will Andrew cope not going through?”

That’s easy. When approaching the attraction queue for a time stamp, Andrew, the Cardholder, doesn’t have to be there, one of us does, that way we don’t have to tease him by taking him up to the queue and then leaving. One of us can wait with him close-by while resting or enjoying a treat.

And if you plan your day properly with the assistance of Disney’s incredible planning tool known as “My Disney Experience” you can further book attractions using the FastPass+ for your day and then also use the Disability Access Service Card in between the designated FastPass+ attractions that you booked ahead of time.

What does this do?

You can create a visual schedule board using My Disney Experience right on your tablet or your regular, small, portable one. Our kiddos love schedules right? Well here you go. Your entire day is planned and your child will know exactly what to expect.

Let’s face it, while at the Disney Parks, you have to have some sort of plan. I’ve experienced this first-hand and can vouch that the system in place works.

Our experience for our return time, was that we were directed (based on Guest Services’ assessment of our needs) to the FastPass queue. Other people may have different accommodations based on their specific needs.That needs to be determined when at Guest Relations.

Bottom line? The Disney Parks Disability Access Service Card worked for us. It can for you too.

Here are some guidelines to help you out:

  • head over to Guest Relations main entrance at any Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort to discuss needs, register and have a photo taken
  • once you have the card, you get your time stamp two ways depending on which Disney Parks resort you are at AND the Cardholder does NOT have to be present for the timestamp
  • return times at Disneyland Resort are to be arranged at specific kiosks (with all of your travel party tickets in tow) located throughout the park and you are told when to return; all tickets in your party are electronically updated with the return time
  • time stamps at Walt Disney World Resort are to be done at the specific attraction
  • you don’t have to ride at the exact return time, rather times are valid until redeemed by the DAS Cardholder, how awesome is that!
  • register over at “My Disney Experience” and book all dining reservations and FastPass+ attractions for each day of your visit
  • download the “My Disney Experience App” on your device to link all resort, dining, theme park tickets, FastPass+ reservations together, as well, you’ll be able to adjust your FastPass+ times and dining reservations on the spot
  • consider staying on property, it’s just SO much easier and in the long-run saves you a bundle of money

Vacationing at the Disney Parks and with Disney Cruise Line has changed our lives in a positive manner forever!

Andrews DAS

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Disney Cruise Line Now Offers Mickey Check Meals

Mickey Check meals are now available on the children’s menu aboard all four ships in the Disney Cruise Line fleet. This tool allows parents and children the ability to make wise food choices which are nutritionally sound.

The Mickey Check meal in addition to the creative theming and activities offered in the three main dining rooms aboard all four ships is sure to please even the most discriminating little cruiser.

Any special dietary requests should be made upon booking by downloading the Special Services Information Form, available in the Planning Center through the Disney Cruise Line website. Guests should also speak to the Head Server once onboard to make sure special dietary  requests are honoured.

The Mickey Check meals offer selections from more than three food groups and meet the Disney Nutrition Guidelines. Meal presentation looks fun and is highly palatable for children.

For actual recipes and more information: http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2015/02/mickey-check-makes-its-way-to-disney-ships/

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks Blog.

Meal Check DCL

Posted in Disney Parks

Disney Parks are Autism Friendly

Upon hearing of our son’s diagnosis of moderate-severe autism back in 2003, we thought our world would be isolated to staying home. Our son Andrew, had full-blown tantrums and melt-downs and it just wasn’t worth the effort, aggravation to us and others, or to Andrew. As far as we were concerned, that was it.

Until we decided to take the plunge and go to Walt Disney World Resort.

Our life changed forever.

Disney Parks Resources

The resources available in preparation are helpful, such as:

  • Register for free at “My Disney Experience” which is a user-friendly, highly interactive planning website
  • Order a free “Planning CD” from the “My Disney Experience” website detailing everything you need to know about Walt Disney World Resort hotels, experiences, dining and theme parks
  • Follow the Disney Parks Blog Posts and Disney Parks Blog on YouTube featuring the latest, most up to date information that awaits at: http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/Some of the best guide books for travel to the Disney Parks are available at all major bookstores
  • Many active podcasts, forums and blog detail every aspect of travel to the Disney Parks are available through many social media outlets
  • The Disney Parks Moms Panel is a great resource comprised of a group of avid, Disney enthusiasts with first hand experience at the Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, runDisney, ESPN Wide World of Sports who are ready to answer any Guest questions. They can be found at: http://disneyparksmomspanel.disney.go.com

The My Disney Experience Website:

The “My Disney+” available through the “My Disney Experience” allows Guests to:

  • reserve and link FastPass+ experiences
  • personalize and link all Walt Disney World Resort hotel, theme park tickets, dining reservations and special experiences on each Guests MagicBand (for Guests staying on Walt Disney World Resort property)

My Disney Experience Mobile App Features:

  • the GPS-enabled map allows Guests to interactively explore Walt Disney World Resort
  • modify and/or chose FastPass+ experiences
  • displays attraction wait times and location and times of special events, parades and fireworks
  • allows Guests to purchase theme park tickets
  • displays times and locations for character meet and greets
  • displays all dining reservations, FastPass+ experiences, hotel reservations
  • manages all hotel reservations, theme park ticket reservations and MagicBand personalization
  • allows Guests the convenience of sharing plans with others through the “Family and Friends” link
  • displays all Walt Disney World Resort restaurant locations, reservation availability and menus
  • keeps everything accurate, up to date and organized in the “My Plans” link
  • Guests receive email notification for upcoming dining reservations

Personal Schedules/Boards:

Guests on the Autism Spectrum can create personal schedules using the “My Disney Experience”, especially using the mobile App. My son loves the interactive theme park maps which keep him interested, engaged and prepared for what is to come next.

I created a “first and then” activity schedule board on my tablet, showing which FastPass+ experiences were on the list and in which order. In between those experiences I would allow my son to select what he wanted to do next (from a list of non-attraction selections), this way my son would feel included because I consulted him. Doing so, allowed us to take a break, have a snack, browse in the cool comfort of a gift shop or just sit and people watch.

Twice, throughout the day, in between those non FastPass+ experiences, I would utilize Disney’s Disability Access Service Card, to enjoy those popular, long-wait attractions.

Disney’s Disability Access Service Card

Disney makes every effort to provide an inclusive, positive experience for all Guests and has devised a system to do just that.

Guests can request a DAS Card from any Guest Services at any theme park. The person with the disability must be present when attempting to obtain the card because a photograph will be taken of that Guest, who will be presented with a time card displaying their photo.

The DAS Card will be time stamped  one attraction at a time, by a Cast Member at the attraction queue. You cannot pre-stamp multiple attractions ahead of time, the system allows only for one attraction at a time. Upon the completion of a particular attraction, Guests may proceed to another attraction and seek a new time stamp. This convenience affords Guests who are unable to wait in a conventional queue the opportunity to return at a pre-selected time frame later on with a shorter wait-time. The DAS Card may be used in conjunction with the FastPass+ experience and FASTPASS Service.

More detailed information on Disney’s Disability Access System Card provided here: http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/disney-parks-disability-access-service-card-fact-sheet/ 

The Benefits of Staying on Walt Disney World Resort Property

  • Guests are offered “Complimentary Airport Service”-luggage tags with hotel information is sent, tag all luggage and when you arrive at Orlando International Airport skip Baggage Claim and head directly to Disney’s Magical Express motor coach check-in area to be taken directly to your Disney resort. Luggage will follow and it’s best to pack a day bag with first afternoon essentials until you have access to your luggage
  • Disney magic is all around 24/7
  • Guests have the convenience of complimentary bus transportation to all Walt Disney World theme parks and Downtown Disney
  • Guests have complimentary parking throughout Walt Disney World Resort
  • Guests have the benefit of the convenience of the use of MagicBands which when linked through the My Disney Experience -My Magic+ will have all theme park ticket, FastPass+ experiences, dining reservations, special experiences, charging privileges, purchases and will serve as the device to unlock your hotel room door
  • Walt Disney World Resort purchases can be sent to your Disney resort hotel
  • Guests will have the flexibility to reserve all FastPass+ experiences 60 days prior to check-in for the entire length of stay (non-Disney resort guests can only reserve FastPass+experiences 30 days in advance)
  • Disney resort Guests have the benefit of Extended Theme Park Hours before the general public early morning and/or late evening depending on the theme park
  • The Disney Dining Plan is available to Disney resort Guests
  • All Disney hotels offer Guests complimentary Wi-Fi, which is also complimentary at all theme parks and Downtown Disney
  • Walt Disney World offers Guest rooms which are themed
  • Some Guest rooms can accommodate five or more, Family Suites are also available
  • All Disney resort hotels offer Accessible Rooms for Guests with physical disabilities and include services for the hearing impaired and visually impaired

Cast Member Interaction

Perhaps the single-most important experience, unique to all Guests is the interactions with Disney’s Cast Members. On each of our twenty-six trips there has been a memorable interaction adding to our positive memories. Best of all, Cast Members are present everywhere, they are approachable, friendly and very accommodating.

But it’s not only that. On our most recent trip over the Christmas break, we were lined up for the Monorail at the Ticket and Transportation Center on our way to Magic Kingdom Park. It was crowded and I was concerned about my son.

While waiting, a Cast Member approached us, politely introduced herself and discreetly told us how her nephew has an invisible disability and how she identified with our situation. She then proceeded to hand out paper FastPasses for our day. That very moment, that very interaction set the tone for our day, making it one of the most positive and memorable yet!

Cast Members are so accommodating and anticipate all needs everywhere on property.

You see this kind of unique interaction all around with all Guests. You just never know what will happen next.

Vacationing with Disney sets the tone, prepares Guests by providing the foundation, for vacations anywhere in the world.

Andrews DAS

Posted in Uncategorized

New Walt Disney World Resort #DisneyKids Height Requirement Infographics Perfect for Special Needs Families

I remember the early days travelling to Walt Disney World with my then younger, special needs son having to carefully read what the height requirements were for each attraction. It was fine for me, but for him the visuals were not as powerful or convincing because he could not read or interpret a chart.

Recently, Jamie Langdon, Social Media Manager for The Walt Disney Company wrote a blog post for the Disney Parks Blog announcing a new infographic for all theme parks which is not only informative, but visually appealing and user friendly.

Now, I can simply point to the attraction and then point to the height requirement for my son, who is still for the most part non-verbal, and show him the rule. I already showed him the infographics and he is already making the visual connections by their use of comparative colour code systems. Not only is he drawing comparisons, but this system promotes the learning his colours. He has always had trouble identifying his colours to this day.

I plan on sharing this chart with other special needs families because now, they too, can pre-plan their attraction visits based on their child’s height. This colour code system is so logical and easy to use.

For families in my situation, we get to assign a colour to our children which they themselves can use to identify which attractions are suited for them based on their height. It’s easy and it makes sense. The visuals are great because most folks are visual learners and observers and this system takes a lot of guesswork out of planning.

Families of special needs children can even replicate the height graphic character for their child and bring it along as a part of the visual schedule board and incorporate its use with the FastPass+ and Disability Access Service Card. I would even tape it to the top of the DAS Card for my son to draw the comparison on the spot, as well, having it right on the DAS Card would support the ‘follow the rules’ as stipulated by Guest Services. This way I can pin the blame so to speak on the Cast Members at Guest Services…..my son won’t question authority. If you know what I mean.

Here are the infographics for each Walt Disney World Resort theme park that I copied from the Disney Parks Blog Post, dated, February 20, 2015, written by Jamie Langdon.

MK RIDE

DHS RIDE

EPCOT RIDE

AK RIDE

 

 

 

 

 

All infographic photos are courtesy of the Disney Parks Blog, The Walt Disney Company.

I hope this new infographic colour coded  system will make your next visit to the Walt Disney World Resort easy and memorable.

Posted in Autism, Disney, Disney Parks, Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, Special Needs, Travel, Vacation Planning, Walt Disney World Resort

Basking in the Quieter Areas of the Walt Disney World Resort- Special Needs or Anyone

The excitement and thrills are everywhere at Walt Disney World Resort and sometimes, especially with a special needs family member it’s just nice to sit back and relax at the ‘Most Magical Place on Earth’.

With a comforting snack in tow of course, here are some of my favourite spots to just bask in. You never know who you’ll meet and have a chat with, some of my good friends now are folks who I met just relaxing at these very spots.

The best way to discuss this would be by resorts and theme parks and I will focus on quieter, non-stimulatory areas and attractions. Ones that are calm.

Walt Disney World Resort Hotel Quiet Spots

With twenty-six Disney owned and nine privately owned hotels there are a multitude of spots which are off the beaten path and quiet. Of importance is staying relatively close to the theme park you visit the most, making travel time as short as possible, allowing you to head back to your room and relax if that is all you wish to do. While I can’t go into great detail on every Walt Disney World Resort hotel, I can personally attest to the one’s we’ve indulged in.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is a beautifully themed resort on the Monorail line within easy reach to Magic Kingdom Park. The vast lobby is relaxing with calming selections from the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra. As well, near the marina you can find a nice spot to sit and watch the Electrical Water Pageant and the Fireworks from Cinderella Castle while enjoying a nice treat from Gasparilla Grill and Games nearby. You can also enjoy the pageant and fireworks from the beach nearby.

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is also a Monorail resort and offers beautiful grounds for strolling and relaxing in the shade or at night through the torch lit pathways. The beautiful beach has clear views of Magic Kingdom Park and quite often guests can be found enjoying the Fireworks from Cinderella Castle and the Electrical Water Pageant right on the beach. The lobby here is comfortable, offering many seats and charging stations at almost every side table that has a lamp. Just outside the Polynesian’s Great Ceremonial House is a new amazing snack spot with delicious pineapple dole whips called the Pineapple Lanai with ample seating in a cool, comfortable spot.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a relaxing water taxi ride away from Magic Kingdom Park through Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake where you’ll be transported right into a re-creation of America’s Great Northwest! The nature trails take you through mature pine forests and guest areas that are quiet and relaxing. The grand lobby of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge will captivate you with its massive themed Totem Poles and interesting fireplace, definitely a great place to relax and unwind.

Disney’s BoardWalk Inn is a resort you could easily spend an entire vacation at. This waterfront hotel places you right in the middle of Atlantic City at the turn of the century. It’s connected to Disney’s BoardWalk Villas and across the way on Crescent Lake sits Disney’s Beach Club and Disney’s Yacht Club Resorts. The BoardWalk Inn and Villas are flanked by two theme parks, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, easily reached on foot or by Friendship Boat.

Stroll on the massive Coney Island themed promenade, enjoy the dining and carnival games and entertainment or just sit back on one of the benches and watch IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth fireworks celebrating the spirit of humanity from Epcot nearby.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, close to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park will stun you with its’ authentic representation of the African kraal, the true ‘village’ enclosure in a horseshoe curved layout. This allows the most spectacular views of the real savannas on the property boasting over 200 animals. The lobby alone has real African artwork, the largest collection outside Africa, and ample seating in a most relaxing environment.

Walt Disney World Resort Theme Parks

Magic Kingdom Park boasts six differently themed lands, each with little pockets of quietude.

At the Walt Disney World Railroad, at the top level platform, near the train entrance, is a covered viewing area with seating. It’s quiet, yet provides spectacular views of Main Street U.S.A. and Cinderella Castle.

East Center Street, just off Main Street U.S.A. is a small, quaint street tucked away with some seating and faint sounds of music and dance lessons from above.

The covered pathway dotted with benches and a water fountain leading to the Baby Care Centre and First Aid Station is a nice quiet little spot to have a quiet moment in the shade.

The Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant, opens on a seasonal basis yet has a breezy, covered seating area with clear views of Cinderella Castle. It is also beside the restrooms and a water fountain.

Catch a ride over to Tom Sawyer Island and enjoy some shady peace while rocking your cares away.

Directly behind Memento Mori is a shady spot with seating, near the restrooms, offering a quieter spot to relax and people watch.

Calming and relaxing attractions at Magic Kingdom are: Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise,  The Hall of Presidents,it’s a small world, Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

Disney’s Hollywood Studios buzzes with the excitement and glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age and Star Wars thrills and chills, yet offers many pockets of quietude and comfort.

Right in front of The Hollywood Brown Derby there is ample shade and bench seating.

The Studio Catering Company is a quick service eatery with ample covered areas with seats and overhead fans.

The Backlot Express is a breezy, shaded seating area at the threshold of the parades, yet it’s mostly quiet before and after the parades. Enjoying an ice-cream here is refreshing.

We get the best slushies and head over to the serene Echo Lake, an expansive, bi-level, paved area with shade and benches. It’s quiet yet not away from favourite attractions or dining spots.

Calmer attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are: Beauty and Beast-Live on Stage, The Magic of Disney Animation, Voyage of The Little Mermaid and Walt Disney One Man’s Dream.

Epcot is massive, two incredible sections called Future World and World Showcase. Future World features innovations and thrilling attractions whereas the World Showcase houses eleven authentically famous country pavilions.

Great rest spots in Future World are at Electric Umbrella which is a quick service eatery but has ample indoor and covered outdoor seating, neat restrooms. It’s a comfortable spot but can get busy, also a great place to work on boarding and getting off escalators and where my son mastered this behaviour appropriately.

Not far from the Electric Umbrella, is FountainView where you can grab a ice cold drink from Starbucks or Club Cool and then sit out by the wall ledge, which is sheltered and relax while watching the dancing fountain show, every fifteen minutes, at the Fountain of Nations.

We like to hang out near Showcase Plaza quite often while enjoying a coffee and at night if you time it right about a half hour before IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth you can have a perfect view while sitting down.

Head over to Canada Pavilion and enjoy and rest at the recreation of Vancouver’s Butchart Gardens, shady comfortable areas provide a welcome reprieve.

My favourite spot, the United Kingdom Pavilion has in my opinion many quiet, shady and quaint areas before or after any concerts, especially at the back near the performance gazebo where the British Revolution performs. As well, you can stroll through the shady, quiet footpaths nearby.

Over at the The American Adventure Pavilion behind Fife and Drum and Liberty Inn there is shaded outdoor seating which is quiet and relaxing. The funnel cakes here are delicious.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park  is the largest theme park at Walt Disney World Resort and one of the largest animal theme parks in the world. Carrying forth Walt Disney’s commitment and love for animals, their research and care, guests have the opportunity to explore 6 lands holding more than 1,700 animals.

Over in Dinoland you can find many footpaths lined with benches in shady areas to sit and relax and especially in front of the Dinosaur attraction there are little spots with seats affording folks a chance to relax.

 

The Wildlife Express Train is an opportunity to view some animals and enjoy the breezes on the open air train.

The Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is a relaxing, yet interesting and informative foot path with many animal encounters along the way.

Kilimanjaro Safaris is a way to relax on an open air vehicle, a bit jerky at times, but a great way to see the larger animals in their habitats, try the soothing Nocturnal Adventure for a completely different experience.

Flights of Wonder is a great short show displaying exotic birds in an educational way and is in a relaxing environment.

Posted in Special Needs

Visiting Walt Disney World Resort for Special Needs Guests

Upon receiving the diagnosis for my son we thought our world completely shut down. He was, at the time unable to go anywhere in public without a full blown tantrum. It took only one visit to a restaurant to determine it being our last because all he wanted to do was sit under the table and poke around.

Our doors were closed, our world in a box.

Andrew loved his Disney movie videos, he was captivated watching Buzz Lightyear and Woody in Toy Story. He was amused by the Little Mermaid who had no feet and got a chuckle out of Ursula. Winnie the Pooh as a stuffed toy on Andrew’s bed was a source of comfort during those times spent in his room whenever we tried fruitlessly to have company over.

Andrew and Winnie 2011

Andrew, happy to be with Winnie the Pooh at the Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom.

All that kept me going were my thoughts and feelings about Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts, my happy places. Ordering the planning guides, waiting for their arrival and thinking that our most recent visit at the time back in 2000 would be our last time. For me, it was heart wrenching to think that all of that had to stop.

Until Andrew saw a Walt Disney World Resort commercial on the T.V. He went right up to the screen and was touching Mickey’s face, he began to jump up and down and run around the room, not from self-stimulatory behaviour, but from glee and excitement. It was then that I decided to take the plunge, so I called Disney’s Central Reservations and went ahead and booked our trip. We were to stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and I couldn’t believe it or contain my excitement.

Andrew Rex Andy's Room DCL

Andrew in the Toy Story playroom aboard the Disney Dream. The story came alive for him.

From that day forward our world changed forever and our son began to blossom. He was immersed in his stories as they came alive while walking around the theme parks, he was awestruck and couldn’t believe Winnie the Pooh was real and cuddly and all. Tigger bounced around the Crystal Palace making Andrew squeal with delight while he tried to pull off Eeyore’s tale to everyone’s surprise.

Andrew was in our world!

Andrew and Buzz CA

Andrew above, with Buzz Lightyear at Disney California Adventure Park.

There was no stopping us now, this was the tool we would use to bring Andrew into our world and bring us into his world. We had to vacation at a place where families could have fun together, that place was at the Disney Parks.

The Disney Parks, our tool and our means to achieve our goal. Best of all Disney helps special needs people, Disney provides inclusive experiences for special needs people because no one gets left behind there.

To help you understand and possibly relate and hopefully decide to begin your vacations there with your special needs family member,  I’ll elaborate and help make the connections for you.

What to Expect at Walt Disney World Resort

Before I say anything else, I highly recommend that you register with ‘My Disney Experience’  and participate in My Magic + a Disney booking and planning site which will greatly assist with all aspects of your vacation.

As well, download the free My Disney Experience App for your mobile device which will be at your fingertips when at Walt Disney World Resort. The mobile App is of great assistance when at the parks because it stores all your travel information including dining reservations, FastPass+ reservations which can be changed on the spot, you’ll have charging privileges if you’re staying on property, as well, all theme park information will be available to you.

Selecting a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel

Walt Disney World has a vast array of resorts available to guests, each with a different theme and budgetary consideration. Ranging from value, moderate and deluxe resorts to condo style villas, campgrounds for tents and motor homes to cabins, there is something for everyone. You’re looking at twenty-six  Disney owned resorts and nine not owned by Disney, offering 26,000 rooms as well as 3,000 two-bedroom Disney Vacation Club villas.

Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel affords guests the convenience of complimentary Disney’s Magical Express from Orlando International Airport to their hotel and back, with the added benefit of luggage transport from the airplane to  resort (no baggage claim for guests). Guests are sent luggage tags with hotel information to attach to suitcases prior to leaving home.

Guests experience the Disney magic 24 hours a day, they have special early entrance times and extended park hour times called ‘Extra Magic Hours’. Guests have the ability to charge using their MagicBand and all purchases can be sent directly to their Disney resort.

Staying on property affords guests the opportunity to head back and relax in the afternoon charging up for the evening ahead.

Guests can arrange fun wake up calls to their resort room from Disney characters.

Special needs guests may even consider to stay at a Disney resort hotel nearest their favourite theme park adding the convenience of being extra close to their hotel in times of needed respite and relaxation.

All transportation allowing accommodations for wheelchairs and ECV’s, from Disney resort hotels to theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney is provided. If guests decide to rent a car while staying on property, parking is complimentary at all theme parks, otherwise as of December 2014 parking fees were $18 per day for non-resort hotel guests.

Resort hotels are sprinkled through the forty square miles tucked near the theme parks. All have incredible, and unique themes and are under the magic of Disney.

Considerations for selecting an appropriate resort hotel for special needs guests should begin with budget and then factor in which theme park would be visited the most and stay at a Disney resort hotel nearby. When selecting hotels through My Disney Experience, every hotel lists which theme park area it is located in and the type of transportation to the theme parks available.

Register at My Disney Experience  MyMagic+ Website

-every guest is assigned a MagicBand which they can personalize on My Disney Experience at home when planning (U.S. citizens have their MagicBands sent to them at home prior to leaving; all other countries pick up their MagicBands when checking into their Disney resort)

-book your resort and arrange for complimentary Disney’s Magical Express to and from Orlando International Airport (luggage tags will be sent to you to place on your suitcase prior leaving home; Disney’s Magical Express will transport your luggage to your Disney resort for you)

-purchase your theme park tickets

-book dining reservations

-see available dining according to your location or a location of your choice (if using the mobile app.

-select FastPass+ attractions

-find Character meet and greet times and locations

-check attraction wait times

-navigation assistance for every theme park, water park and Downtown Disney

-share plans with friends and family travelling with you

The Convenience of Disney’s MagicBand System

All guests whether or not they are staying at the Walt Disney World Resort can utilize Disney’s MagicBand system, but non-Disney resort guests have fewer amenities. MagicBands for non-Disney resort guests only allow accommodations for theme park tickets and dining reservations.

Walt Disney World Resort MagicBand  guests’ amenities include:

-theme park ticket storage information and entry access

-entry access into a Disney resort room

-allow charging privileges at all Disney resorts, theme parks, water parks and dining

-stores FastPass+ reservations previously made for theme park attractions

-stores all Disney PhotoPass pictures to your account

MagicBands can be customized online at home through My Disney Experience for each person in the travel party. Everyone can select the name displayed and colour. Fun MagicBand adornments are available at all theme parks and Downtown Disney.

Non-Walt Disney World Resort Hotel Guests also have access to MagicBands and can purchase them through the online Disney Store or right at the theme parks in the gift shops and then they can link their specific dining and theme park ticket information on them.

Deciding When to Visit the Walt Disney World Resort

Visiting Walt Disney World is exciting at any time of the year. Keeping crowd considerations in mind, quite typically the busiest are when children are on break from school, making May through September, Christmas break in December and Spring Break peak times.

The weather is humid and hottest from May through mid-September, comfortably warm from October through January (although there have been visits in December and January requiring light parkas) and on the cool side January through beginning of March.

Special events and experiences occur consistently throughout the year such as:

-Christmas events-Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (Magic Kingdom), Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights (Disney’s Hollywood Studios), Candlelight Processional (Epcot)

-Halloween- Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (Magic Kingdom)

-Fall Season-Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival

-Spring Season-Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival

runDisney marathon events throughout the year

Disney Dining Reservations

All theme parks and resorts offer themed sit down dining which is coined ‘table service’ as well as the walk up and order your meal, coined ‘quick service’ eateries. Disney caters to every palate and dietary need and requests may be made ahead of time by contacting Disney Dining or by stating your requests when seated at your table.

Walt Disney Resort guests have the option of selecting the Disney Dining Plan in conjunction with their hotel stay and ticket purchases, non-Disney resort guests do not, but are able to dine anywhere on Disney property. The popularity of the Disney Dining Plan makes it virtually impossible to find an open reservation during peak vacation periods, therefore it is highly recommended for ALL guests to make their dining reservations through My Disney Experience to avoid any disappointment.

Reserving through My Disney Experience or by calling Disney Dining is the method of reservation. I recommend booking through My Disney Experience because there guests can look at the menu and prices for each restaurant.

Booking begins 180 days prior to arrival and Disney resort guests have ten extra days beyond that for making Disney Dining reservations. A credit card is required to secure the reservation and in the event of cancellation without proper notification a fee of ten dollars per guest on the reservation will be charged. If cancelling, it is best to cancel at least two to three days in advance to avoid credit card charges.

Select FastPass+

Disney’s new FastPass+ program is a great convenience, allowing guests little wait time for their favourite attractions by pre-selecting a time frame to ride, ahead of time. Guests can select up to three FastPass+, each with a one hour window and once those are used up a fourth may be selected.

Non-Disney resort guests may book 30 days in advance of their visit while Disney resort guests can reserve 60 days in advance.

Tip: check the typical ride wait times for the attractions, the ones with the longest typical wait times are the most popular and those are the ones the FastPass+ should be secured for.

Disney’s Disability Access System

Commonly referred to as the DAS, Disney’s Disability Access Card program makes allowances for guests who have a visible and/or non-visible disability. It gives those guests the opportunity to be offered a return time for attractions based on the current wait time. This system can be used in conjunction with Disney’s FastPass System and in my opinion worked very well for our visit during the busiest time of the year, Christmas break. In fact, we were at Magic Kingdom on Christmas Eve and experienced over seven attractions, with some replicated.

The DAS is available at all Guest Services in all the theme parks and at Downtown Disney. The guest in need of the DAS needs to be present initially when requesting the DAS, because a photo will be taken and placed on the card that is to be carried around and which will be time stamped by Cast Members at the attraction queues.

Some Basics About Walt Disney World Resort Theme Parks

Magic Kingdom, the first theme park at Walt Disney World boasting the iconic, 189 foot, fibre-glass structure known as Cinderella Castle reached by passing through the turn of the century, nostalgic Main Street U.S.A. and encompassed by six exciting, differently themed lands named Adventureland, New Fantasyland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Frontierland. Disney characters to be found throughout during well-organized and timed character greets. Guests will see daily themed parades and nightly fireworks shows and will greatly enjoy the unique attractions designed to please everyone.

Special needs guests at Magic Kingdom have access to the First Aid Station next to the Baby Care Center, both beside the Crystal Palace, just behind Casey’s Corner. When my son was a toddler, the Baby Care Center was a welcome respite for him to relax and/or have a quick meal in a peaceful, comforting environment. As an older teen, we often take my son to relax and unwind in the First Aid Station, which has some comfortable seating in an air-conditioned room. Cast Members at the First Aid Station are accommodating, helpful and perceptive of one’s needs.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Disney’s Hollywood Studios transports guests back into the Golden Age of Hollywood with Grauman’s Chinese Theatre as the new focal point. It offers The Great Movie Ride which is a magnificent attraction transporting guests in a massive tram immersing them right into some of the most popular movie moments in history.

Action and adventure await all guests as they progress through eight themed sections: Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Echo Lake, Streets of America, Commissary Lane, Pixar Place, Animation Courtyard and Mickey Avenue.

Special needs guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can take comfort at either Guest Services, the First Aid Station and Baby Care Centre located just inside the theme park, on the left as soon as they enter through the turnstiles.

Epcot

Epcot, Walt Disney World’s second largest theme park, offers guests two separate experiences: Future World featuring technologies latest in the most captivating and thrilling ride experiences and interactions, and World Showcase which immerses guests in the most authentically replicated pavilions from around the world totalling eleven. Countries in pavilions in the Showcase Plaze are: the United States of America, Canada, Mexico, Norway, China, Italy, Germany, Japan, Morocco, France and the United Kingdom.

Special needs guests have easy access to the First Aid Station and Baby Care Center at Epcot, mid-way through the theme park in the Odyssey Center directly between Test Track and Showcase Plaza.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is one of the world’s largest animal theme parks, while at Walt Disney World Resort it is the largest theme park of the four, boasting over 500 acres. More than 1,700 animals through over 250 species reside at Disney’s Animal Kingdom all nestled in six perfectly re-created habitats: Oasis, Africa, Discovery Island, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia and DinoLand, U.S.A.

It is wise to visit this theme park early in the day as it usually has an early closing time (late afternoon), to accommodate the needs of the animals.

Special needs guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park have access to the Baby Care Center and First Aid Station located to the left of the Tree of Life in the building just before you cross the bridge into Africa.

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park have a Guest Services area with Cast Members who can assist with information on services for Guests with Disabilities. They do not have a designated Baby Care Center yet do offer baby change areas in the restrooms.

Blizzard Beach First Aid Station and Companion Restroom is located between the Beach Haus shop and Lottawatta Lodge. As well, most restrooms throughout the park accommodate guests requiring wheelchairs.

Typhoon Lagoon First Aid and Companion Restroom are together and are located at Guest Services near the park entrance. As well, most restrooms throughout the park accommodate guests requiring wheelchairs.

Guests with Disabilities

Disney strives to accommodate all guests and here is an example of just some of the amenities offered to guests with mobility, visual and hearing disabilities.

-accommodations for service animals (allowed in all theme parks but not on the attraction, another guest must wait with the animal while the first guest rides)

-rental wheelchairs

-rental of electric conveyance vehicles (ECV’s)

-reflective captioning

-assistive listening systems

-sign language interpretation

-TTY (text typewriter telephones)

-handheld captioning

-video captioning

-digital audio tours

-Braille guidebooks

-Disney transportation accommodates guests in wheelchairs and ECV’s

-Disney resort hotels have accessible guest rooms and offer guest rooms for guests accompanied by service animals and even rooms for the hearing impaired guest

Step By Step What to Do

-register at My Disney Experience

-look for ‘Special Offers’ Disney offers seasonal package discounts, resort room discounts, Military discounts  and Florida Resident discounts

-once your Disney resort is booked, make sure you select complimentary motor coach transportation to and from Orlando International Airport called Disney’s Magical Express (later on they’ll want to know your airline number and arrival time, but you can always plug that in once your plans are concrete)

-if you select a package which includes resort hotel, theme park ticket and dining then you will be able to see when your dining booking window opens up. If it’s already open then go ahead and make your dining reservations based on where you’ll be, it’s more convenient that way.

-selecting FastPass+ attractions begins 60 days from arrival for Disney Resort guests and 30 days from arrival for non-resort guests

-customize your travel party’s MagicBands, if you are a U.S. citizen then your MagicBands will be sent to your home; all other non U.S. guests will receive their MagicBands upon check-in at their Disney resort hotel

-select any special tours, events or experiences through My Disney Experience

-pre-order Disney’s PhotoPass service which can be linked to your account and information stored on your MagicBand

-tag luggage before you go to the airport

-upon arrival at Orlando International Airport follow your information guidebook (sent with luggage tags ahead of time) to the Disney Magical Express Check-In Area to board your resort hotel motor coach, your luggage will follow a few hours later (best to carry a day bag with essentials, this way you’re free to do what you like-head to the theme parks or swim)

-have fun!

Posted in Disney Cruise Line

Saving Money Booking with Disney Cruise Line

We’ve been visitors to the Disney Parks since 1998 and will never stop going. Raising an autistic teen who loves Disney is a powerful force in our lives that gets us to the Disney Parks without question. Our very first cruise with Disney was back in August of 2005, a land and sea which we figured was a smart way to visit Walt Disney World and sail on the Disney Wonder. We were right! I of course tacked on more land days at our Disney resort before and after the cruise making it a nice land/sea/land….it was fabulous. Since then, we’ve completed nine  cruises and are proud Gold Castaway Club members with the tenth cruise in the near future. Most importantly, we’ve sailed all four ships in the fleet and love every one of them.

I would like to share my tips for saving some money, because the cruises, believe it or not cost as much as a typical Disney Parks vacation and in some cases much less.

Book Early

Booking as far out as possible, will give you lower rates, a much better choice of dates and itineraries and a greater chance at scoring the stateroom you like. Disney Cruise Line offers rates as far out as a year and a half out, posted on their user friendly and incredibly fun website. There are many different categories of staterooms all offering Disney’s superior service and all at different price points.

Book Late

Typically seventy-five days before sailing, and sometimes as late as twenty-one days before sailing, Disney will post ‘Restricted Guarantee Rates‘, which are very similar to the earliest booking rates. What happens with these rates is this:
-you select the category, not the location
-IGT are the inside staterooms
-OGT are the oceanview staterooms
-VGT are the verandah staterooms
-full cost of cruise must be paid upon booking
-all people in the party must be booked at the same time, with no changes

Roughly thirty days before sailing and even up to two weeks before, Disney will assign you your stateroom.

Rebooking While Sailing

Another way to save is rebooking while sailing on your current cruise. You can do this at the Future Cruise Bookings Desk, mid-ship, deck four near the Vista Café, Excursions Desk and the Disney Vacation Club Kiosk. The benefits of doing this is that you receive a 10% discount for up to two sailings, a shipboard credit ($100 for cruises 3-6 days in length and $200 for cruises 7 days or longer). You also have the luxury of booking a ‘dummy’ cruise to which you can figure out the exact dates once at home and then book it by calling Disney Cruise Line.

Re-shop While Onboard

If you have previously booked a cruise with Disney, you can re-shop this cruise when sailing again. Visit the Future Cruise Bookings Desk and speak to the Cast Member who will rebook that cruise for a better rate. This is not guaranteed, but very well worth looking into.

Special Offers on the Disney Cruise Line Website

Disney Cruise Line offers many special offers throughout the year. The many special offers that I have seen are when children sail for free, discounted percentage offers, special offers for select ports. Disney also offers Special Military Rates and Florida Resident rates. Those are always very favorable and worth looking into.

Book a Back to Back Cruise

Some of the ships offer shorter cruises at great rates. What I’ve done in the past is put two cruises, on the same ship, back to back. I’ve booked a three night cruise followed by a four night cruise giving me a longer sailing at a very good price. If you book far enough ahead, you’ll even be able to book the same stateroom and when one cruise is finished you won’t have to pack. At the end of the first cruise, simply disembark (be sure to bring your travel documents and identification) and the Cast Members will direct you accordingly. What often happens is that you pass through U.S. Customs and then are directed back into the cruise terminal. There you’ll wait for a bit and then you’ll be allowed to re-board. Sometimes your stateroom host will let you back into your stateroom to rest and I usually take this time to do laundry, when there are virtually no passengers onboard. I also take this time to take photographs and it really feels as if the ship is all yours. It’s neat.

Discussion Board and Podcast Cruises

Many social media discussion boards and podcasts will host special cruises, where they have blocked out a certain number of rooms at a discounted offer. Not only will you get to meet your friends but you’ll sail at a great rate!

Expedia and Travelocity

Sometimes, at about six months before sailing I have seen discounted rates through these sites. Very well looking into.

Disney Visa

Banking your Disney Visa points can go towards future cruises. Disney Visa will also offer a $50 onboard booking credit as well as some special offers.

Lower Category Staterooms

All staterooms with Disney Cruise Line are luxurious and all have the same stellar service. They do come in various categories such as inside staterooms, ocean view staterooms, verandah staterooms and concierge level staterooms and are priced accordingly. The lower category staterooms are the inside and ocean view. Many inside stateroom aboard the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy offer the ‘Magical Porthole’ windows, offering real time feed from the exterior of the ship, making you feel as if you’re in an ocean view stateroom.

Lower Rate Times of the Year

Cruise prices are historically lower during:
-last week of August into September
-October
-first half of December
-January
-April

Do not be intimidated by booking on your own through the Disney Cruise Line website. It’s very easy to navigate and a lot of fun. Through the Planning Center you are prompted to book excursions, special dining, spa treatments and the like. You’ll get notification when to do what. You can even pay down your cruise a little at a time. They guide you through the process step by step and it’s very easy.