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With health issues, special needs, disabilities & handicaps

Disney World can be a dream come true even with health issues. It just takes a dash of pre-planning thrown in the pot to make it great. Taking a trip with health issues may seem overwhelming, but there's a lot of support available in Disney World.

In reality, it took us years of vacationing at Disney to learn what we needed to know.  We would like to help you bypass all that trial and error by sharing what we've learned with you. First on the list―I can't stress how important it is to make all of your reservations as early as possible if you want your first choice of activities, locations and times. Here are six steps that will help you begin the process:

ONE: Lock in your vacation dates.  There may be more issues involved with this decision than you imagined.  When you're traveling with health conditions to Florida and to Walt Disney World, there are many elements that could impact the quality of your stay.

How about the weather for starters.  If your schedule allows you a choice, you may wish to consider the seasonal issues.  The summer's are hot and humid with afternoon thunderstorms that happen almost every day. This may be too intense for some folks. Then in the winter, it's usually dry and cooler, but with large temperature fluctuations. In fact it can even go down to the freezing mark on occasion. On one winter trip we actually had to wear down coats and gloves.  Granted, it's not usually that cold, but it happens. Still, it can be 80 degrees one day, and 60 degrees the next day.  Fluctuations can even take place during the day. Take a look at weather.com if you wish to see weather averages for Orlando, Florida. This can give you an idea of what to expect, but keep in mind that the changes can be pretty extreme and sudden.   

People with allergies may wish to look into the types of allergens that are typical during different times of the year.  

Crowd conditions should be factored into the equation. During times when there's peak attendance in the parks and resorts you'll experience much longer lines for rides, shows, food, etc. anything else.  Not only will the lines for transportation be longer, but the buses, boats and monorail cars will be more crowded. Getting to where you want to go in a wheelchair or stroller may feel challenging and even frustrating or stressful. 

To get an idea of what the crowd conditions will be like during specific dates, we always use Touringplans.com.  They have made a science of determining Walt Disney World crowd conditions. You can view about 1 month of dates from the current date for free.  If you have the book The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, you can view their extended charts for free (this book makes a great companion to Walt Disney World with Disabilities, by the way). If you don't have that book, you can pay a small fee to join the site and view the predictions.

There are more details in our book Walt Disney World with Disabilities that will help you can make an educated decision when you pick your vacation dates.

TWO: Pick & secure your hotel, resort or vacation home.  This should be the the first step after you've decided on your dates of travel. Again, if you want your first pick of where to stay, do this as early as you possibly can.

Regardless of whether you have special needs or not, where you stay will usually play a large role in the quality of your vacation!  For those with special needs this may even be more true. First you'll need to determine your general location.  Will you be happier in a Disney resort or an off-property hotel/resort. The Disney resorts offer many perks and the themes and amenities can be a big part of the fun of going to Disney. To begin your research you can start in the resort section of the official Disney World site here: Disneyworld.com.  Regardless of the benefits, some people may have their needs met more fully in a vacation home. 

One benefit of a private vacation home is that you'll be out of the crowds.  If driving to a private home in a Florida neighborhood sounds peaceful to you, this might be a great alternative. If you need to cook your own meals, you'll enjoy the kitchen stocked with all of the appliances, pots and utensils you need. If you long for more room than the average hotel affords you, a vacation home will give you that, along with some additional privacy that comes with multiple bedrooms.  One other thing to consider is that these homes can cost less than many hotel stays. You can also opt to stay in a suite hotel such as the Westin Imagine Orlando.

The Disney resorts are so dramatically different, each offering it's own special theme and level of amenities.  If you wish to stay at a Disney resort, we suggest you research the resorts as far in advance as possible, and then book it as soon as you can.  This becomes even more important if you need to request a handicapped room because of the limited number.  Our new guide book, Walt Disney World with Disabilities is full of information to help you decide on where to stay and how to get your needs met in the resorts. You can also view the resorts section on the official Disney site at DisneyWorld.com. The main number for Disney resort reservations 407-939-7630.

THREE:  Choose entertainment, then schedule days and times.  By creating a daily schedule you'll be able to complete steps four through six.  You'll also be able to make the most out of your vacation.  When you're dealing with health issues, showing up at Disney without a plan sets you up for disappointment. You're bound to miss things you would have loved, and you might end up doing things that you wish you had not done.

You'll need to research the parks.  First it's important to choose the rides and attractions that are most appealing you.  Then you'll narrow it down to those which are the most physically and emotionally appropriate.   Walt Disney World with Disabilities is a great support tool for this process. We believe that this book contains attraction descriptions that go into greater depth than anything else available concerning the emotional and physical experience of the Disney attractions. 

Now that you've decided which attractions you'll want to try, it's time to create your schedule.  Pick the parks you'll be going to, and estimate the time you'll be spending in each park. Then we suggest you make your own calendar.  Showing each of your vacation days sectioned off into 3 parts - A.M., afternoon and P.M.   Now fill in the calendar with your park visits.  Then add in any other Disney activities such as hanging by the resort pool or visiting Downtown Disney.  

FOUR:  Buy your tickets in advance.  Once you've determined how many days you'll be in the Disney parks, it's a good time to purchase your tickets.  There's a wide variety of options when buying tickets. For example, you can buy the Park Hopper ticket option, which allows you to go to all four parks within the same day.  Most people who use this option will go to two parks in one day. There are many benefits to this such as the following:

  • You can leave a park that's particularly mobbed and go to another. 

  • If you don't finish everything you wanted to do in one park, you can always go back there for part of another day. It reduces the pressure many people feel to finish everything in one day.

  • If one park closes early you can go to another park that's open later.

Personally we've always chosen this option.

We also suggest that you purchase your tickets in advance. There are some ways to save money such as buying through AAA.  There are also some good discount pre-purchasing services on the web such as OrlandoFunTickets.com.  Buying in advance will also spare you from waiting in another Disney line!

FIVE:  Make reservations for all table service dining.  Disney actually allows guests to do this as much as 180 days in advance for the majority of its restaurants.  We find that the themes and food of many Disney restaurants are attractions in themselves, and so worth the time and money.  If you want to be sure that you'll get to try your first choices, call your reservations in as early as you can.  Of course there are times when we've just walked in without a reservation and gotten seated, but there are seasons, times and restaurants where it's just not going to happen that way. There are many times we've been turned away and we had to eat at a counter service restaurant. 

If you've got special dietary requirements, take a look at this section of our website: Disney World Restaurants. You'll find the policy regarding the extent that each restaurant will go to, in order to meet your needs. You'll also find each restaurants' breakfast, lunch and dinner menus along with children's' menus.  There are many great suggestions for getting your diet needs met while at Disney in our book.

SIX:  Make other off-site entertainment reservations.  Okay - we know this site is all about Disney, but we recognize that there is life outside of Disney too. We've got to admit that some of it is a blast. If you plan to step outside the World of Disney to somewhere that requires tickets or reservations, you'll want to take care of that in advance also.  OrlandoFunTickets.com has discount tickets for almost every attraction in Orlando. Don't forget to fill in your calendar with these plans.

Travelocity: Top Hotel Deals in Orlando - One of the most powerful one-stop travel sites. Make reservations for air, car, hotel and packages.


Family Vacations- General (120x60)
Orbitz: Disney World Hotels and Packages - Another major discount site offering flights, hotels and cars, as well as packages.
lastminute.com logo
 www.lastminute.com  This site brings you the best deals available at the last minute so you can go this weekend and save up to 70%. 
Priceline.com: Hotels - save up to 50% Name your own price on hotels, or book at posted discount rates. You can get flights, hotels and cars, as well as packages.

Hotels.com offers some of the best prices. You'll find rooms for sold-out dates, rebates and many options for leisure and business travel for every budget.


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