No matter the state of your health, taking a trip may seem like a challenge; and it may seem even more daunting if you’re in poor health. But with a little extra planning, a trip to a Disney Resort is certainly feasible, and always fun. The key to safe traveling is to think ahead and prepare for any special travel needs. When you have something like cancer, careful planning is a must, so…
My first step is consulting my doctor.
Tell your health care provider about your daily plans and ask if you are allowed to participate in vigorous recreational activities
Some medical issues can increase a patient’s risk for developing blood clots, called deep venous thrombosis, or DVT, especially during long airplane rides or even car trips. You may need to wear compression socks. It may look like a Bollywood performance getting them on but they will help with circulation. A good tip for getting them on is to wear gloves to help pull them on without ripping them.
Ask your doctor to write a summary of your medical/drug instructions, any allergies, and diagnosis and treatment plan. Keep this summary, and other emergency information (for example, emergency contact phone numbers), on hand during the trip, and consider translating this information into other languages if you are traveling to a Disney Park in Hong Kong, Paris or Tokyo.
If you have syringes and needles for injections, ask your doctor to write a note explaining why it is medically necessary to carry these supplies. It will help expedite the security screening.
Take special care of medications when traveling by plane. All prescription medications should be kept in carry-on baggage, instead of a checked suitcase that may be lost, stolen, or inaccessible. If possible, bring extra supplies of medications in case your return trip is delayed by a few days. Keep medications in their original containers to avoid drug mix-ups and to show airport officials.
Early boarding is a must for me so I can get settled into the airplane. You will be able to have one person accompany you on the flight early. Most airlines have a system in place so ask when you check in at the gate for your flight. Southwest, for instance, gives you a light blue medical pre-board envelope alerting the gate agent that you have request to pre-board.
Be aware of germs while traveling. Wash your hands often and have everyone traveling with you do the same. It sounds like common knowledge but it really will help. If you are traveling with kids, teach them the Mickey Mouse March song and have them sing it each time they go to wash their hands. I wrote about traveling and the flu last week so feel free to read that information on Disneygals.
You made it to Disney …now what? If you fly into MCO let Disney handle your baggage in advance and hop on the Magical Express! If you use your own wheelchair, remember to indicate that you’ll be traveling with it when you book your Disney's Magical Express reservation. They will make sure that the ME is accessible, and if not they will send another one for you.
When you first get to a park, a quick trip to Guest Relations will prove to be most valuable. They will be able to answer questions you may have and provide you with a Guest Assistance Card (GAC) if needed and supply you with a guide map for disabled guests. Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort theme parks provide numerous accommodations for Guests with mobility disabilities, guests with visual disabilities and guests with hearing disabilities.
You may use your own wheelchair at all theme parks. Wheelchairs are also available for rental at each entrance and a wheelchair may be found in the parking lot. You will not be able to take your ECV on a tram and on some of the inter-resort boats so keep that in mind when scheduling your transportation plans.
You may need to access Handicap facilities. Please be advised that there are companion restroom locations throughout the parks and you will be able to locate them on the guide map. You should make note of the First Aid station in the Park you are visiting each day.
All about the GAC: First know that WDW is a red card and DLR is a blue card; and if you are lucky enough to go to both, you will need one for each coast. There are other posts on the GAC in Disneygals so please read information on them.
It is against the law for them to ask what the issue is, but they need to understand how they can help. For instance, if someone in your travel party is unable to transfer, that is helpful for them to be familiar with. If the issue is the inability to use stairs they will make a note of that.
The GAC at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World allows up to six people including the person with special needs. They will mark the person's full name on the card and the dates of travel as well as the number of people in the group. It is good for the length of your stay and if you have an annual pass it is good for 2 months at a time. I keep mine in a zip loc bag so they do not get ripped when they are wet or from taking them in and out of my pocket.
Present the card to the Cast Member at each attraction, and they will happily show you where you need to wait. We have been directed to regular lines, Handicapped entrances as well as Fastpass entrances. It all depends on the attraction.
Please know that many of the wheelchair lines are as long as the regular lines, or even longer. A lot of people assume that the GAC is the ultimate 'front of the line' FastPass, but GAC line can be much, much longer than the regular line. Some of the lines do have seating like Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. Others have no shade and no seating- like Big Thunder and Dumbo. So again, plan for that.
In Disney California Adventure, almost all of the lines are accessible leaving you plenty of room to maneuver walkers and wheelchairs. Toy Story Midway Mania, however does have stairs so you will be directed around the corner and they will flag your ride vehicle to return to the same position.
Take it easy. Remember that traveling can be physically exhausting. Schedule regular rest periods to help reduce fatigue. Having an on- property room with a view was very helpful for me on my last trip. I sat in the comfort of my room and watched World of Color from the bed while the music was streamed lived on the TV.
Most of all try to relax and enjoy your trip! Schedule a post-travel check-up to discuss any unusual symptoms or discomfort experienced during the trip.
Disney is well prepared for any situation they have great first-aid stations. They are free and run by licensed nurses. If they cannot help you, they will point you toward the nearest hospital. The resort can also help you and arrange transportation if need be.
I truly believe that Disney holds Magic that you just can’t get from a doctor. Remember that every day that you wake up is worth celebrating with a parade and fireworks. So pack up those mouse ears and have a magical journey!
First aid can be found at the following locations:
Disneyland Park: at the end of Main Street, U.S.A., across from the Central Plaza, and next to the Baby Center.
Disney California Adventure has a new location just inside the main gate on Buena Vista Street tucked in by City Hall and just past Oswald's Service Station
Walt Disney World
Magic Kingdom: at the end of Main Street, between Casey’s Corner and Crystal Palace;
Epcot, at Odyssey Center, between Future World and World Showcase;
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: at Guest Relations building on Hollywood Boulevard;
Disney's Animal Kingdom: at Discovery Island, behind Creature Comforts (headed towards Africa);
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon :behind Leaning Palms; and
Disney’s Blizzard Beach :between Lottawatta Lodge and Beach Haus.
Florida Hospital Centra Care Walk-In Urgent Care Centers are open 8:00 AM to midnight, Monday through Friday, and 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday.
Complimentary transportation is available and many insurance plans are accepted. Call (407) 934-2273 for more info.