January 18, 2017

Disabilities & Disney- A GREAT Relationship

Hello everyone, and Happy Wednesday! Since I was recently in Walt Disney World, I thought I would share a bit about our experiences travelling with my sister (who is in a wheelchair). I’ve shared some of the accessible ride vehicles if you’ve watched my Disney Vlogs, and I tried to capture as much of that as I could. I’ve mentioned before that we don’t go to Universal Orlando because of their policies for people with disabilities, and how Disney is SO much better. Today I thought I would share some of the things we experienced on our trip. As you can probably tell by the title of this post, it was all good!

Because there is one person in my life that allows me to learn all about this side of Disney, I thought I would take a minute to introduce my sister, Alexandra!

Alex has Cerebral Palsy, and has her own custom (green because she loves the show “Arrow”) wheelchair. She can’t walk or talk, or use her arms in the way we can, but she has a computer she uses to communicate. Alex is also great at using facial expressions to get her point across. She needs someone to help feed her and lift her, but she is always happy! Alexandra is on a puree diet, meaning her food needs to be blended into a hummus like consistency.

I’ve talked about her here and there on the blog, but I thought sharing some key things about her for the purpose of this post might be helpful. I asked her (just like I did in the Universal post) about how she felt about the experience she had at Disney and she said:

“I think Disney is very good, Disney food is really best, Disney rides is really amazing”

Keep in mind she doesn’t have the best grammar, but you can definitely understand what she means!

Our Last Trip (2012)

We hadn’t been to Walt Disney World with Alex 2012, so we weren’t sure what might have changed since our last trip. Luckily, the only thing that changed was the system used for guests with disabilities to access attractions. We had warning about this, and I had read all I could about the new system to be prepared. The old system was a card that had a stoplight on it, red, yellow or green. Our was always green which meant we would just walk up to a FastPass line as go straight through. Now things are a little bit different.

Disney’s Disability Access Service (DAS)

This was the first thing I knew I wanted to take care of when we arrived in Magic Kingdom. The urge to see Cinderella Castle won out, but we headed to guest Services shortly after. When you visit Guest Services, you mention that you want to set up the Accessibility Services, and they will take a picture of the guest with a disability, scan the magic band of that person, and everyone in your party. Once that is done, you are good for the duration of your trip! The new system uses “come back times” based on the wait time, so you can spend the time doing something else. I think for people with sensory issues or those that have trouble waiting in line for a long time, this is a great solution. The best thing about it in my opinion, is anyone can go to get a time. I would be a “runner” (I’m a little aggressive when it comes to getting things done in Disney :D) and go to a ride, say I would like a come back time, they would scan my band, and say when we could come back. If their scanner wasn’t working, they would hand us the card below.

 

When it was time to go back, the person the “account” is associated with needs to scan their band first, so I would take Alex’s off her wrist (it’s difficult to line her arm up with the touch point for FastPass+), and then everyone else could enter.

Some important notes about the program:

  • You can only get a come-back time for one attraction at a time
  • to “cancel” the come back time, you need to visit the attraction
  • the time does not expire!

That’s about it when it comes to the new program!

Accessible rooms

Walt Disney World was actually the first place we ever reserved an accessible hotel room! We generally request a room with a roll-in shower because that works best for us. I show some of the differences in room in the Disney Vlogs that are currently running on Friday’s on my channel. Alex doesn’t utilize the accessible buttons herself, but it does help getting her out the door!

meals

When I made our dining reservations for our trip (right when the window opened up), I made a note of an allergy or dietary restriction. When we arrived at a restaurant, the little print-out of out reservation had a red ALLERGY stamp on it, so either a manager or chef was required to visit our table. I will admit we didn’t say anything during our first meal. But, at Tusker House on Day 2, we were so impressed when we explained to the chef that Alex is on a puree diet. He said “okay, what does she want? We’ll make it happen”. Normally in a restaurant they say they don’t have a blender, so this was AMAZING! She loved getting to eat whatever she wanted in the consistency that was easiest for her. It was such a great experience for us, and it definitely felt like a weight had been lifted, because I was definitely worrying about it.

Goofy LOVED Alex at Tusker House!

Transportation

This was our first time staying at a Monorail loop resort, and it was great! The monorail was much easier for Alex because her chair doesn’t have to be tied down, and the Cast Member always asked where we would be getting off so someone could assist us. The two(?) time we took the bus, it was easy, and short! The Magical Express is also wheelchair accessible, so we just had to wait to the side for a minute before boarding, and they took care of us first. Transportation at Disney when it comes to Alex was top notch!

This is Alex and her worker Megan.

a few extra tidbits

  • Space Mountain is the only attraction Alex can’t go on, because the seating is single file. The version in Disneyland isn’t so she could ride it there!
  • The Peoplemover ramp cannot accommodate a wheelchair, so if Alex wanted to ride we would have to lift her. We didn’t this time because we weren’t sure how long the line would be when we got up there, but she was fine with that!
  • When we went to ride Peter Pan’s Flight the Cast Member had to ask us if we could carry Alex down a ladder in case of emergency. That was something I hadn’t even thought about, but because the ride track is above you, it makes sense!

 

If you’d like to hear a little more about our experience (I think I explain it better talking than in text), check out the video below!

I hope this post helped to show how accessible theme parks can be, and part of why we love Disney so much! If you have any questions about anything I mentioned in the post, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer!

 

Thank you so much for reading!

 

Kelsey
November 9, 2016

Our Disney Vacation Club Story

Hello everyone! This post is coming to you while I’m in Walt Disney World! I thought I would talk this week about our experience booking this trip, as we tried something new! As I mentioned last week  in the announcement video, there are 9 of us on this trip! That is a lot of people, so we needed a lot of space. Today I’m sharing our Disney Vacation Club story. This post may be a little long, so feel free to skip down to the bottom to watch the video where I do a better job of explaining it! Okay, with all that said, let’s jump in.

Our DVC Story

Let’s rewind back to February (about 8 months out from out trip date). My family had been looking into Disney Vacation Club for a while, so we looked into renting points for our trip, because it’s a great way to test our Disney Vacation Club accomodations. I’ll get more into the Disney Vacation Club side of things in a bit, but we were looking into rooms that accommodated up to 9 people.

There are a few websites that act as brokers, and communicate with Disney Vacation Club members to rent out their points so you can stay at Deluxe level resorts much cheaper than going through the actual Walt Disney World Website. Technically you could find anyone on the internet and rent their points, but the websites or brokers are generally safer although they can be a little more expensive.

Anyways, long story short, we decided to go through one of the websites (I’m not going to specify who) and book 1 2-Bedroom villa (for my family, and a worker for my sister) and a studio for Ethan and I. The 2 bedroom villa has 2 different rooms, so my parents would have one room, and my sister and her worker would have the other, and Ethan and I would have a separate room. We were also requesting for the villa to be wheelchair accessible with a roll in shower.

At this point we were talking with Ethan’s parents, hoping to get confirmation if they were going with us or not, so there were only 6 of us going.  They decided to come, so we changed our request to 2 2-bedroom villas at Animal Kingdom Lodge (value level view).

The Tree of Life

When putting your reservation request in you also put in our second, third, and fourth choices, so we put in Boardwalk, Old Key West and Saratoga Springs. The only thing available was Saratoga Springs, and after talking we decided we didn’t want to stay there. So we put in different requests, this time using two different views at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and our third choice was Wilderness Lodge.

The broker came back with a great price, so we jumped at it. It turned out they misquoted us, which sucked. So we re-evaluated for the third time in about a week.

We again changed our choices to all levels of views at Animal Kingdom Lodge for the villas, and our last choice was Wilderness Lodge. They had availability for 1 savannah view 2 bedroom villa, and 1 standard view 2 bedroom accessible villa. So, we thought we were good to go. There was only one problem. Availability didn’t mean we could book yet. They didn’t have enough points at Animal Kingdom lodge to book our rooms, so we went on a wait list. It then turned out that one night wasn’t available for the accessible room, so the reservation had to be split, and my parents would potentially have to move rooms halfway through the trip. So we had to submit another form and go on another waitlist.

At this point we were on a wait list for everything, and were waiting for a few weeks. My mom decided to call Disney Vacation Club to see if there was actually hope of us getting what we wanted, and to double check about who can reserve accessible rooms. While she was talking to them, they mentioned a promotion they had going, selling points at the Polynesian Resort in Walt Disney World and Aulani in Hawaii. The promotion included a discount on points, plus getting 2015 points with the contract. So we started talking about potentially buying into Disney Vacation Club (and when I say we I mean my parents).

Because renting the points would be so expensive, and we could potentially buy into DVC after testing it out, it would make sense to put the money we would be spending to rent points towards the purchase price of DVC. This way we would be in control, and could book right away. The next day, we bought into DVC!

Wishes!

A Little About Disney Vacation Club

So I’ve talked a lot about Disney Vacation Club, but what’s the deal?

You are essentially buying real estate interest in a Disney Resort, which is called your home resort. When you buy in, you purchase a certain number of points, which you are given each year. You can bank and borrow points to use multiple years worth of points for one trip. Where you purchase, you have an advantage to book (at your home resort) if you are booking 11 months in advance. To book at that time you need to own there. At 7 months, all points become equal, and you can book at any Disney Vacation Club Resort.

So it’s a timeshare, but not in a set room for a set time. Again, You purchase a number of points that you are given each year, and you can use those points how you wish for accommodations. Certain times of year cost more points per night, and certain resorts and room views require more points. The only yearly cost are maintenance fees, which also vary by resort. For more information on Disney Vacation Club, visit the website here.

Our contract is for 49 years, so it will be something that my family will enjoy now, and will be passed on for a long time! One of the main reasons my family looking into DVC is because Disney is so great at accommodating those with disabilities (my sister). This way we know that when my parents are gone she can go on a vacation she will enjoy, and that means a lot! We have the peace of mind knowing out accommodations are taken care of 🙂

Dory

Because we bought directly through DVC and not via the resale market, we can use our points for Disney Cruises, and Adventures by Disney which are guided tours at different destinations around the world. DVC has also partnered with RCI, so we don’t just have to stay at Disney Resorts, we can stay at others resorts anywhere! Will we go every year? Probably not, especially with all of the other places we can go.

Back to the rental story…

Obviously because we bought into DVC we no longer needed to rent, so we cancelled all of our waitlists. But, we learned a lot from this experience. If we had tried to book the trip closer to 11 months we may have gotten the reservation, or if we waited for the 7 month window to open up. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait because we booked at the Polynesian as soon as the contract was signed! This trip is using all of our 2015 points, 2016 points and some from 2017. The point “cost” is high because of the room configuration, which is up to 5 people in a room (like a regular hotel room with a pull out couch).

So, we need 4 rooms. One for my parents, one for my sister and her worker, one for Ethan and I, and one for Ethan’s family. The good news is, the Polynesian studios are the biggest DVC studios! Alternatively we could have looked at another Disney Vacation Club resort when the 7 month window opened, or at the bungalows at the Polynesian but they can only sleep 8 and the point cost is SUPER high, so the studios are working for us! I’m so excited to stay at out home resort, and especially because I never thought I would be able to stay at a resort so close to Magic Kingdom! This is our first stay at a Deluxe resort, so I can’t wait!

Because this post is going up while I’m away, let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see at the Polynesian Resort! As I revealed a few weeks ago we are eating at both O’hana and Kona Café, so does it make a little more sense as to why now that we’re staying there? If you want to see something you can let me know in the comments here or in the video 🙂

Thoughts about the process

It was a rollercoaster! The process was stressful, and disappointing at times. This could have been a combination of things, but if I were to recommend renting points to anyone, be aware that it might not be simple. It could have been frustrating because of the company we were dealing with, because it was our first time, because we needed large rooms, because we needed an accessible room, because we were booking less than 11 months in advance but before 7 months… any combination of things.

If you think renting might be a good option for you, knowing when you are going well in advance will definitely help. That would be my #1 tip!

Monorail

 

If this isn’t quite making sense (I’m doing my best to explain it all in text), I’ve explained it all in the video below! I filmed it a while ago to have the freshest information possible, but it should help clear things up!

I know this post is ridiculously long, but if you made it this far thank you so much for reading! Let me know if there is anything you want to see while I’m in Walt Disney World, or if you have any questions in the comments below!

Kelsey
October 19, 2016

ADR’s For Our Next Trip

Hello everyone! As my next trip gets closer and closer, I thought I would talk about one of the things I’m most excited for… the food! I’m sharing with you all of the upcoming dining reservations we have! I’ll let you know if I’ve been there before, where the restaurant is located, and any thoughts I have on the restaurant.

Keep in mind that we made our reservations 180 days in advance of our trip (right at 6am), taking park hours into consideration. If we are eating at a resort, it’s because we will be visiting a park nearby that day. if we are eating at a restaurant in a park, guess where we will be that day! It makes it easier for me to keep track of everything, and takes a lot of travelling out of the mix. Also when I’m thinking ahead of what our schedule will be, if I can remember where we are eating, I can remember what we will be doing! Okay, with all that said let’s jump in!

Our Upcoming ADR's

Beaches & Cream at Beach Club Resort– I’ve never eaten here before but am really excited to try it! I’ve heard the food is really good, but the ice cream is even better! They serve the Kitchen Sink here which sounds interesting, but like a lot of ice cream. There will be a few of us on the trip so we may be able to conquer it, but we’ll see! I might stick with the No Way Jose instead. I’ve also never been to the Boardwalk/ Beach Club resort area so I am excited to see that in person. I feel like I have been there because I’ve seen it in so many videos, but I never have! I can’t wait to check it off my list.

O’hana at the Polynesian Resort– I am really excited to eat dinner here! I ate breakfast here in 2007 and don’t really remember much other than Stitch trying to eat our table. Like I said I don’t remember much about the Polynesian resort so it will be fun to see it again. I’m looking forward to dinner and hopefully trying one of those drinks that come in a pineapple!

Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom– While I couldn’t snag a dinner reservation (probably the hardest dining reservation to get in Walt Disney World), I did a get a lunch reservation! I’ve never eaten there for lunch, so I’m excited to try something new and explore the restaurant more! If you have a lunch reservation, you can actually place your order 30 days in advance, which means you won’t have to wait in line to order at the restaurant! I will be trying this for our trip, so I’ll let you know my thoughts on it!

Teppan Edo at Epcot– I’ve seen this restaurant in a few vlogs I’ve watched, so I’m excited to eat there! This one was Ethan’s idea, and since there are a few of us going, we will most likely have a table to ourselves!

Kona Café at the Polynesian Resort– I’ve never eaten here before, and I’m excited to give it a try for lunch the day we are going to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! We are thinking about visiting all of the monorail resorts on this day as well. Hopefully there will be some Christmas decorations up at the resorts 🙂

Tusker House at Animal Kingdom– I’ve never eaten here but I’ve heard good things about it! I like that it has some “different” options than the standard buffet, while still offering familiar foods. Plus, it’s a character meal, so that’s always fun!

Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom– I haven’t eaten here since 2011 (I can’t remember what meal either), so I’m excited to head back! The food is fairly good (from what I remember), and I like to see Winnie the Pooh and friends 🙂

To hear a little more about the restaurants watch the video below:

If you’re making ADR’s for an upcoming trip, make sure to check out this post that goes through EVERYTHING about Advance Dining Reservations! Strategy can sometimes come into play, so make sure to check out some of the tips I share in that post!

If you have eaten at any of these restaurants I would love to hear your thoughts! Let me know if there’s anything I should try, or avoid in the comments! I’ve also linked to the Walt Disney World website for all restaurants, so you can check out the menus to see where I’m eating!

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Kelsey