1. Set your child up for success!
This is the motto of our life, actually! What can I do to set this little girl up for success? For us, this means charging up every iPhone, iPad, and portable music player we own. It means packing plenty of Nutrigrain bars and Goldfish crackers. It means remembering her favorite cup.
I suggest you make a list of your child's needed items for comfort and happiness. Lovies. Pacis. Music. Electronics. Snacks. Headphones. Think of all the items you might use to buy a few minutes of calm, to provide comfort, to stave off a meltdown, to recover from a meltdown. Make your list and then continue adding to it over the course of a week or so, as situations prompt your memory.
I recommend bringing your own stroller or wheelchair, if possible, as this will be more comfortable than the park rental. Heat, fatigue, and crowds will have you wishing you had brought it, even if your child is mobile.
2. Set yourself up for success!
I've seen too many unhappy parents at the Happiest Place on Earth. Plan now so it won't be you!
Same as with your child, think about what it takes to keep you calm under pressure. There are the obvious things like Starbucks and a secret stash of chocolate. But don't forget to stay hydrated with good H2O and eat protein like nuts (if you can) every few hours. Skip the stylish shoes and wear supportive, well-broken-in walking shoes or running shoes. Wear comfortable clothes that are both easy to wear and flattering enough you won't mind posing for photos. If you sweat a lot or have a child who tends to spill or drool on you, bring a spare shirt. Get a big carabiner to attach your bag to the stroller. I do not suggest wearing a backpack all day.
3. Plan, but loosely
By all means, plan. By no means, let the plan rule you. I understand if this is your first trip or your once-in-a-lifetime trip, you have grand aspirations to ride every ride, see every show, meet every character. That is unrealistic. Get FastPasses for your top picks. Use your disability park benefits to the fullest. But truly, my sincere advice is to slow down and enjoy being there instead of dashing around. You know your child's stamina and your family's vibe. Make firm decisions before you go so you won't let your emotions and excitement prompt you to take on more than you should. We've sometimes gone to the park with three FastPasses and done nothing but sit on benches and eat fast food. If we are together, relaxed and having fun, that's enough.
Rest frequently. If you know you'll try to stay out late, take a hotel break in the middle of the day for a nap or for swimming. Stick to your child's meal and sleep routine, even if you don't want to. You may want to stay up for those 10pm fireworks, and it'd be glorious. But at what cost the next day?
4. Pack your Park Bag
This is highly personal depending on what stage you are in and your child's specific needs. You want to be thorough while packing lightly, which is NOT easy.
So, you've read my tips for a very magical Disney trip with your special needs child. Please comment below to share your ideas as well!
Our Disney Sides
We are fortunate enough to live a short drive away from the Happiest Place on Earth! And we take full advantage of it!