Disney trips tend to be a big deal for anyone. I’m a seasoned Disney veteran, and Disney Vacation Club member, so I guess you could say Disney is my thing. In December of 2016, I made my first trip home to the happiest place on earth as a chronic illness patient, which changed things up a bit. Here’s my day by day play by play!
Day 1: Travel Day!
After a morning infusion appointment and two liters of saline to help counteract the effects of my POTS during my travels, I was off!
My family picked my mom up from work and headed off to the airport where we met our friends we’re traveling with. Their five year old daughter had no idea why they were at the airport, and she still doesn’t – even as I type this mid flight. She was super excited to see us at the airport and when she realized that we’re all going somewhere together she was so happy. She even tried her hand at pushing my wheelchair which was the cutest thing ever!
We boarded at 6:30, meaning I grabbed some food before hand. The only thing we could find close by (that I knew for a fact was safe for me to eat from) was a Chipotle. Thank goodness for burrito bowls! Not that I suggest eating a burrito bowl on a plane, but I’ve also eaten sushi in the car (read about that adventure here) so I’m pretty skilled at managing potentially messy meals in less than ideal environments. Can I put that on my resume? Under “special skills and talents”? Maybe?
My sister is reading and took an amazingly beautiful picture of her tray table, so that’s what you see below.
Well, that’s all for now! I’ll update after we land on how the rest of the flight goes.
That was the best flight I have been on in years – potentially the best, smoothest flight I’ve ever had. We had to wait until almost everyone was off the plane to get off even though we were in the front few rows because it took a little bit for them to get my wheelchair up. My mom and I chatted with the flight attendants while we waited and it was quite nice. Just having the doors open you could tell it was significantly warmer outside!
I did struggle a bit with syncope on the flight, but I made it through! I am here though and that is what matters! I’ll be sure to put together a list of my tips for flying soon to go along with this post.
Ani still has no idea that we’re going to Disney, but will be finding out soon. We’re taking the Magical Express to Saratoga Springs resort and spa, where we’ll spend the next three nights.
A couple minutes into watching the video on the Magical Express, they said something about “starting your Disney vacation” which roused an enthusiastic “I want to go to Disney!” from Ani. Her dad told her that we were and the smile on her face was one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad we got it all on video!
What little of the night remained included finding our room and making plans for this morning before going to sleep at a time much later than I’m used to.
Day 2: Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Today began with an early wake up to make it to Magic Kingdom in time for the opening show. We piled onto the bus full of excitement and eager to start the day.
We had a bit of trouble with some of our party’s magic bands, but apparently this is common for parties that include multiple families where some things are purchased for the entire group (our park tickets) and some by each family (the magic bands).
We were able to get this sorted quickly and the man who helped us was fantastic about it all. We watched the opening show and as the park opened we split up: the boys went straight to space mountain, my mom and I went to disability services, and the rest of the girls went to find us all some breakfast.
The man at disability services added whatever was necessary to our magic bands, and told us that the rest of our party could be photographed later by any worker with an iPad in Tomorrowland or Frontierland. He told us that if we wanted to go on a ride with a long wait to simply have a worker scan our magic bands and that they would give us a time to return that was equivalent to the current wait time. With this we felt successful and headed off to join the girls getting breakfast.
Spoiler: the only people we came across with iPads were taking surveys and no one else ever got added to our disability thing.
Finding that what was once a cute little bakery is now a Starbucks was disappointing, as neither my brother nor I can eat there, so my breakfast was fruit. This is why I carry so much food with me wherever I go! I had a Clif bar shortly after as I simply cannot be sustained on a small package of fruit alone.
From here we headed to Tomorrowland where I got some great photos, and everyone got on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Because there was no line, they all did it twice, and we met the boys and headed over to the Tomorrowland Speedway which was the first of our fast passes. Those cars have always been impossible to drive and always will be! I was able to bring my wheelchair right up to the car for a smooth transfer.
We met Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum by the Teacups, had another good transfer for the Winnie-the-Pooh ride, and it wasn’t even 10 am yet.
In Magic Kingdom we also met Tiana and Rapunzel (this was a fast pass), Suzy and Perla (Cinderella’s mice), and Mary Poppins and Bert. Definitely a great day for characters. My sister met Mickey and Minnie after Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but we had split up so I wasn’t there for that.
I had great experiences riding Journey of the Little Mermaid, It’s a Small World, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Lunch was at the Diamond Horseshoe, which I cannot praise highly enough. Sometimes in Disney the food is the experience, and sometimes the restaurant is the experience (read: not great food). This family style restaurant made our investment in the meal plan well worth it! They serve American fare, and had the best potatoes I have ever tasted. The brisket was 10/10, and even the salad was fantastic! Allergies weren’t a problem, and my family actually liked some of the allergen free foods more! If you’re a big family with older kids who like to eat, this is definitely worth a look.
Around two my mom and I decided to take a break from the parks and go to the Grand Floridian where I wanted to take photos of the giant gingerbread house and the spectacular Christmas decorations. We rode the monorail over which was so fun, I love the monorail but we haven’t stayed in Magic Kingdom resorts for years so I haven’t gotten the opportunity! After wandering around the Grand Floridian for a bit and checking out their shops we found an open outlet (my phone was in dire need of a charge) with a couch and a chair left unoccupied. Of course these were unbelievably comfortable and we had to stay and take a nap.
Yes, I took a nap in the Grand Floridian lobby, but some other people came over and joined us in the other chairs in the little alcove we had found so obviously this isn’t such an outrageous idea. After all of the travel and excitement of the past twenty four hours it was much needed!
From the Grand Floridian we took a cab to our hotel to change; our clothes were no longer weather appropriate and there was a definite chill in the air! We took a moment to rest and gather what we needed for the rest of the day, dropping off what we didn’t. Then, we hopped on a bus and headed back to Magic Kingdom.
Upon re-entry to Magic Kingdom we actually ran into our family. Crazy right? We saw two of Cinderella’s mice and got in line to see them, regrouped, got snacks, and then split up again.
My mom and I found ourselves in Tomorrowland around eight o’clock when we realized we hadn’t had dinner. We had an awesome late night meal at Cosmic Ray’s. They were incredibly accommodating to my allergies and even gave me a frozen lemonade with a souvenir straw as my dessert because I couldn’t have anything else! This was awesome because those drinks aren’t included in the meal plan, which we were using, and run $6-8 (I don’t remember exactly), so major win!
There were suddenly stations around the park with holiday treats and drinks, as well as fun photo ops, as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party began. The “allergy friendly” alternative to the treats was a chocolate chip cookie, or a snickerdoodle. Ironically I cannot have chocolate or cinnamon as both are migraine triggers – they offered me apple slices which was quite disappointing. We ran into our group throughout the night, rode more rides, and watched the shows and parades around the park.
Thankfully, Haunted Mansion was a great experience! My mom and I ended up being the only ones on the whole ride, and they were fantastically accommodating. They even pushed my wheelchair to give my mom a break; thanks Haunted Mansion cast members!
However, our day sadly wasn’t without its problems, and my experience at Peter Pan’s Flight was unfortunate to say the least. I have heard that the able-bodied sometimes choose to use wheelchairs in places like Disney to try to cheat the system and cut lines, or get special treatment. I always thought this was ridiculous and no way true, but from the experience I’m about to recount for you makes me believe otherwise.
We came by Peter Pan and requested a return time (the accommodation for inaccessible lines or for those who can’t wait in line is to be issued a time ten minutes short of the current wait to return and use the fast pass line) but the cast member working was incredibly kind (picture a nice Santa beard) and told us to go through. I guess you could call this a “perk” though it didn’t come close to making up for what happened next. We ended up waiting for quite a while, and the cast member at the Fast Pass line asked if I could take two steps to transfer from my chair to the ride. Although it was late and I was exhausted (two variables that make my POTS symptoms much worse) I was determined to ride Peter Pan’s Flight – it’s one of my all time favorites and the first ride I ever rode at Disney World! We waited as they let people in the regular line go on and the cast member finally decided it was our turn. He said “okay let’s go” and what SHOULD have happened was I got up with my mom and brother supporting me on either side, take the three to five steps needed to slide onto one of the ships. It should have been manageable. But that isn’t what happened.
After having me stand up and promptly whisking away my wheelchair, the cast member kept waving people on – leaving me standing. I expected him to stop any second, but that wasn’t the case. Around a minute later after clinging to my mom and brother as my blood pooled in my extremities, I passed out. I would’ve hit my head on the concrete floor HARD, but my brother caught me right before what would have been certain disaster. I woke up in a position blocking both the entrance and exit of the ride; perfect, right? As my mom was saying my name and I was coming to, the cast member just looked at me uncomfortably and said “Wow, I guess she really does need that wheelchair.”
When I recover from fainting I usually have difficulty with communication and experience temporary paralysis. Of course, that made this compromising situation that much better. They brought my wheelchair back, and my mom and brother lifted me into it. My mom held my shoulders back to keep me in the chair, and I took around 20 minutes to recover to the point that I could attempt a transfer.
Coincidentally the shifts changed and a new cast member came over. She decided that they would stop the ride for me to get on, and bring my wheelchair up to the ship so I would simply have to stand and pivot. I was able to get through it, but it was a trying experience for all of us, and I didn’t feel fantastic afterwards to say the least.
We stuck it out and stayed in the park a bit after that but it wasn’t long before we made out way back down Main Street USA to the bus, and returned to our hotel for the night. Rest assured, we all slept ridiculously well.
For part two of my Disney adventures, click here!
For part three of my Disney adventures, click here!