Logie Pogie Blog

Disney…How to Plan Around Special Needs

Earlier in the year we committed to doing something very brave for our crew (or any family!)…we told the kids we were headed to Disney World!  Jack had been begging us to go back – we took him and Logan while I was pregnant with Wes, and we finally caved.  He is such an awesome kid, had a great year at school, and just deserves to go crazy.  Logan and wild man deserved it too, of course.

If you know me, you know that I’m not much of a planner.  Having an itinerary stresses me out.  I like to wing it, and plan as little as possible.  Well, you can’t really do this at Disney, but somehow I managed to plan it all in a month.  And it was great!

I started to research places to stay that would be large enough for our family plus our other child on trips, Logan’s Bed.  Growing up we went to Disney a lot and stayed at the Polynesian.  It was magical, but it would be too small for us, even with two rooms.  I would love for my kids to have the same experience as I did, but it just wasn’t going to work for our needs.  Plus, it would have been a small fortune for something that was cramped.  I looked at every resort on and off Disney properties, every airbnb and VRBO and couldn’t find anything that looked perfect.  I somehow found this group on Facebook that was basically a gold mind for families with special needs!  I joined, asked about places to stay and other tips, and within an hour I found our perfect resort.  The Wyndham Bonnet Creek.

This place was awesome.  It’s actually a condo timeshare type of place, which is probably why it didn’t come up in my searches.  It’s a gated resort, big but not overwhelming.  It had several pools, water slides, a lazy river, bars, a huge lake in the center to stroll around, activities at night for families, and a pirate ship.  There are 3 room options…1, 2 or 3 bedroom.  We obviously went for the 3 bed, 2 bath, kitchen and washer/dryer.  This place was bigger than the condo David and I started off in when we first had Jack.  Way more room than we needed!  It was a 5  min drive to all Disney parks, and just 15 to Universal Studios.  Plus, you could see fireworks from Epcot and Hollywood Studios from our balcony. We will probably always stay here when we go.  Believe it or not, the kids were missing the hotel the most!  And, it cost less than $1000 for 5 nights.  That would’ve been 2 nights at an on site resort.

Another thing I learned from that Facebook group was that we would be treated like VIPs because of Logan.  They have a DAS (Disability Access Service) Pass that is like a super Fast Pass.  It is very easy to get.  Logan and I just went to the Town Hall at the Magic Kingdom, was asked a few questions, they took her picture and scanned her ticket, and that was it. It allows not only the pass holder to benefit, but the ENTIRE group!  We went with my parents and my little sister and her husband and two boys.  It worked for all of us, even if Logan chickened out.  Not only does it basically give you immediate access to the ride, but most of the rides will let you be escorted to the point of actually getting on…taking you through secret entrances.  This was great for Logan, especially for some of the dark and loud waiting areas that some have.  And…we could wheel her right up if we wanted, and her chair would be waiting for her when we hopped off.  This was great for so many reasons, but mainly because she is getting so heavy.  It’s like carrying a human medicine ball these days.

I will say, Disney does a fantastic job in making the experience for special needs families wonderful.  I read that if a character sees a special needs kid, they will stop what they are doing and come over to them.  This was hit or miss for us.  Logan looks like a typical kid, and her “chair” looks like a stroller when the canopy is on.  Plus, she is a tiny little thing, so she can pass as a toddler.  A few characters passed us by, but some did go out of their way to say hi to her.  The boys were waiting on line to meet Buzz Lightyear, and Logan and I were standing close by watching as kids had their turn.  It was hot, and Buzz needed a break, so he started to leave for a quick break.  As the boys still stood in line, Buzz headed to the character area, but noticed us.  He turned around and came over to Logan, bent over and touched her hand.  She giggled, and of course I wasn’t quick enough with my phone.  There were more encounters, but I will leave those to my other DISNEY POST.

1. Stay in a place that is large enough for YOUR family…don’t worry about all of the extra stuff that fancy resorts come with.  Would you rather be on top of each other and on your last nerve, or would you rather have your space like me?

2. Buy your tickets in advance to save money.  We used undercovertourist.com, then linked them to mydisneyexperience.com.  Download the app and start planning your Fast Passes.

3. If you are going to make dining reservations, call and mention that you will have a special needs family member.  You will get more perks by speaking to an actual person.

4. Don’t forget your handicap placard for parking.  Even these spots were a trek!  If you don’t have one already, they are super easy to get.  We use ours for school, and that’s about it.

5. Be prepared to get creative if you need to change diapers.  The one complaint I have is that there is no proper area to change diapers of kids age 5 and up.  I was surprised by this.  Epcot was by far the best for this.

6. You CAN bring in outside food!  Bring lots of water and snacks.  Passes the time on long lines.  But you cannot bring in a selfie stick.  Go figure.

7. Gather your travel needs in advance, and test them out.  Check out my top picks for travel gear HERE.

8. Plan as much as you can handle.  Don’t worry if you don’t see everything.  Your kids will most likely not know the difference!

9. Swallow your pride, and accept the help and perks!  For us, it is hard to ask for help and special attention.  We want to be as normal as possible, and we make do without using all resources that may be available to us.  But in this case, it was well worth it, especially for Logan!

10.  Make sure YOU have fun!  Kids pick up on energy.  Logan turns into another person when she senses my stress.  Either fake it until you make it, or make yourself look for the good.  It’s hard, but will be worth it around tons of crazy kids!  Embrace the chaos!

I’d LOVE to hear your inside secrets…we plan on going again and welcome any tips!