Hello and welcome to my blog! I hope to share my Disney knowledge and help make your next trip as easy and seamless as possible!
First, I would like to introduce myself and my family. My name is Kaitlin and I am one of the Registered Dental Hygienists here at DAW. I am married to my wonderful husband Zach and we have a beautiful son, Jackson. My love for all things Disney started at a young age, although I did not travel to the parks every year like my husband did. Zach and his family had an annual trip to WDW. So, it made perfect sense when our first vacation together was for a week at Pop Century in January 2011. Little did we (or at least, I) know, this trip was going to shape the rest of our lives.
On January 16, 2011, Zach proposed to me! In the Rose Garden. With Cinderella Castle in the background. It was amazing and magical. And so we begin our Disney life.
I’ll spare all the boring details of wedding planning and house buying, and fast forward to our honeymoon, which was, of course, in Walt Disney World. 10 days at Port Orleans Resort – Riverside. (To this day, Zach always reminds me of the time I put together a $10,000 package at the Grand Floridian when I was planning our honeymoon…here’s to wishing I guess!) During our honeymoon in October 2012, I had a massage at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, and my husband sparked up a conversation with the Disney Vacation Club representative at the resort, and well, the rest is history…
We became DVC members in October of 2012 and loved it so much we purchased more points the following May of 2013. We were hooked.
Life got in the way of Disney trips for a little while. Going back to school to become a Registered Dental Hygienist...and then planning a family…we were lucky to get in one trip to the happiest place on earth once a year. That was, until Jackson was born.
October 20, 2016 our lives changed forever, more than we even knew at the time.
We know that having kids changes things, especially Disney trips… (going as a couple is SO MUCH more relaxing haha!) Jackson’s doctor threw us a curve ball 2 days into our life with him. Our state, like most – if not all – states, does a Newborn Screening to detect certain genetic conditions that, if caught early, can save lives. This was the case for us.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)... ever heard of it? Neither had I. CAH is an adrenal insufficiency categorized by very little or lack of production of cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol is our stress hormone and aldosterone regulates our electrolytes. Insufficient levels of these hormones can cause an adrenal crisis and lead to death. Jackson was admitted into the NICU at Massachusetts General Hospital by day 8 of life because he was in crisis.
We took this moment right here, the moment when our son could have been taken away from us in the blink of an eye, and we made a promise to ourselves and each other that we would live for the moment, always.
I would be lying if I said that I went home and booked Jackson’s first trip to Walt Disney World (because I had that booked MONTHS before he was born!) But we did begin to cherish every minute spent with this little superhero, and we vowed to give him the best life we possibly could.
I have to admit that I was petrified to bring Jackson to Disney for the first time. Not only the amount of luggage we would need to bring, but also what happens if he gets sick? What if he goes into crisis and we are away from home, away from his doctors? I put those fears aside, typed up my notorious “packing list” for Jackson (insert Zach’s eye roll here) and took it one day at a time. His first trip was when he was 6 months old and it was AMAZING.
Jackson is now 3 years old and has been to Walt Disney World 9 times, with his next 4 trips planned! Most think I’m crazy for wanting to bring him this much and this young, and maybe I am a little bit. But every single trip has been a different experience, with him loving different sights, sounds, characters, rides, foods, etc. Every trip we have done something new with him, loved something new, or loved it differently because of our experience with Jackson!
So now for the reason you’re really here reading this! – My tips and tricks on how to “do” Disney World!
- DON’T try to do it all in one day – or even in one trip! The biggest mistake people make it saying that this is their once in a lifetime trip and try to cram it all in, and they leave exhausted and cranky and say it was the worst trip ever. Understand that you will probably love it if you do it right, and you’ll want to come back! So, if you don’t get to do it, then that is OKAY! It will feel more like vacation if you carve out some time to actually relax!
- There are 2 ways I like to “tackle” the parks:
- If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel you will have access to Extra Magic Hours, allowing you into the parks early in the morning before park open or later at night after park close (the parks with this perk will change daily).
- If you can budget it, I like to get a park hopper ticket where you can start the morning in one park, take a break at your resort midday to relax by the pool or get the little ones a nap, and then go to a different park at night for dinner, etc.
- The way we have been doing the parks more recently is to spend the whole morning and early afternoon at the pool, head to a park mid to late afternoon and stay there through the night until park closing. This is best if you are staying closer to one park and transportation back to your hotel is easy to access!
- DO take advantage of staying on Walt Disney World property and utilizing a travel agent who specializes in Disney Destinations, especially if it is your first trip to the Walt Disney World Resort.
- A travel agent will be informed of discounts that come out for your travel dates and will constantly check availability to get you the best pricing
- Staying on Disney property will get you access to special perks, like Extra Magic Hours and an advanced FastPass+ booking window before other non-resort guests.
- Disney offers complimentary transportation round trip from Orlando International Airport, as well as complimentary transportation all around property via bus, boat, monorail, or skyway eliminating the need to rent a car, which for us is a huge perk!
- Planning the day to day can get a little confusing, particularly when trying to understand all of the “Disney lingo” and how specific things operate when it comes to Disney – like what is a MagicBand?? A travel agent can answer all of the complex Disney questions and help make your trip seamless from the moment you book it to the moment you arrive on property.
- Plan as much as you can in advance but be flexible when you’re there! Things may not always go 100% as originally as planned. Rides may be down, weather may cancel a dinner show you had planned, there may be a cranky or sick child who can’t or doesn’t want to do a particular ride or attraction you were so excited for them to experience. Disney workers, aka Cast Members, are there to do everything in their power to make sure your vacation is magical, and to spread a little extra pixie dust along the way when they can. So try not to let the ups and downs of the day “ruin your vacation” and always ask a Cast Member if there is anything they can do to assist you if it’s something that went wrong on Disney’s end. They will usually go beyond what is necessary to make it right.
- Speaking of possibly a sick child – always pack a thermometer! It sounds silly, but it really comes in handy to ease your mind if you DO need it. Also, Disney is partnered with a 24/7 Urgent Care Center who does free pick ups and drop offs so if illness does strike and you or your child needs non emergency medical attention, pamphlets with the phone number and info can be found at the front desk of your resort and transportation can be arranged and car seats are available in the vans that transport you.
- Each Disney Park has a Baby Care Center and a First Aid Center. The Baby Care Centers have changing tables, quiet places with rocking chairs for nursing, and diapers and baby food for sale if needed. Registered Nurses run the First Aid Centers, and you can go in there if you need a few doses of Over the Counter medicines and minor injuries/illnesses. I have gone in there for Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Benadryl before and they typically give you a dose for now and later free of charge.
- If you are traveling, like me, with a child who has a medical disability, or with a child with a physical disability, or you are the one with the physical or medical disability, Disney will go above ADA guidelines to accommodate. Visit Guest Relations at any of the parks and ask for the Disability Access Service (DAS). DAS is not for everyone, and Disney has taken strides to prevent abuse of the system. But essentially it works like this – you explain to Disney why you or your child is unable to wait in a traditional line for a ride. The Guest Relations Cast Member will then make a determination based on what you told them – with us they didn’t ask to see any proof of diagnosis but we had it with us just in case – and then they took Jackson’s picture and added DAS to his MagicBand aka park ticket. Then you simply go to the attraction you want to ride, ask for a disability return time, and they scan the band of the person with DAS, and they give you a return time based on the current wait time for the ride, usually no more than an hour. This allows you to enjoy another attraction, eat a meal, see a show, or wait somewhere cooler while you wait for your return time. DAS can be used for the disabled person and up to 6 members of their travel party and it is valid for 14 days (60 days if you hold an annual pass ticket).
- If you are traveling with a little one, or someone with mobility issues, Disney is partnered with ScooterBug Rentals for easy and convenient delivery and pickup direct to your hotel for ECV Scooters, Strollers (including double strollers), and Wheelchairs. There are a lot of companies in the area who will deliver, but ScooterBug is Disney’s preferred provider, meaning they are the only company who is allowed to drop off and pick up their equipment directly to and from Bell Services and you do NOT need to be present for delivery of the equipment. Any other company servicing the area would require you to be at the hotel for delivery and pick up, which can be inconvenient if you don’t plan on being around for the day at a certain time.
- ENJOY! Take the time and enjoy your time. Disney can be very fast paced, and it can feel like you are running from one place to the next. Slow it down and take the time to enjoy the now with your family and friends.
By Kaitlin Porter, R.D.H.