As a mom living in the Daytona Beach, Florida area for over 30 years, it’s only natural that I would become well acquainted with the ins and out of traveling to Walt Disney World, which is just a little over an hour away from our home. With my oldest son, who is now 27, we got a Florida Resident Seasonal pass and would go over night on weekends, staying at the cheapest hotel we could find on I -Drive. When my daughter, now 17, was born, we bought a Disney Timeshare and stayed in the most Deluxe suites on Disney Property. When my youngest, who is almost 7, was born with autism and other special needs, we became a one income once again family and sold our Disney timeshare.
Going to Disney World with an autistic child presents a challenge, but Disney does it’s best to accommodate families and any specific needs they may have. The first step is obtaining a guest assistance card from Guest Relations. Each theme park has a Guest Relations station near the park entrance, and there is also a guest relations kiosk at the International Gateway entrance into Epcot near the Epcot resort area. Once you get a GAC, they will date it and it will serve for the duration of your trip. You do not need to bring any medical documentation, but your child does need to be with you at the time you are requesting the GAC. You simply state what your child’s needs are and they will put the information on your card. In our case we request an alternate waiting area for our son, and also to be able to use his “stroller as a wheelchair.” As you approach a ride, there is usually a Disney cast member at the line entrance, I usually tell them we have a guest assistance card, or else they notice the red tape on the stroller, and we usually are directed to the handicapped entrance. The wait is very limited, usually indoors, and my son can wait in his stroller. A GAC is not meant to be a fast pass on any ride, and that is stated clearly on the card. It has been our experience, though, that the waits are comfortable and minimal. There may be some rides and exhibits that cannot accommodate the GAC but we did not experience this.
Here is a secret to a luxury Walt Disney World vacation on a budget, our new favorite place to stay, the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort. Bonnet Creek is a little snippet right in the middle of Disney property that is not actually owned by Disney. This magnificent resort is actually a timeshare, but you can get amazing deals on ebay, landing a two or 3 bedroom suite for as little as $100.00 a night. There are two lazy rivers, pools and slides everywhere, and a two bedroom suite is over 1200 square feet and sleeps 8. There is shuttle service to all the Disney parks. Really, I cannot say enough good things about this resort, and I can’t wait to go back!
Special thanks Eileen for this guest post.