If you’re an autism family and planning your Walt Disney World vacation, you’ll want to read this!
[Note: I love Disney, obviously. I spent the last few weeks crunching the numbers and weighing our options trying to decide if we should stay at a WDW Resort or at another hotel. The pros definitely outweighed the cons.]
I’ve been trying to convince my parents to vacation with us for some time. And they finally agreed to a Walt Disney World vacation. (YAY!) My parents have never been to Walt Disney World and I’m beyond thrilled to sprinkle them with pixie dust.
Being in Disney vacation planning mode, Joseph posed the question of whether or not we should stay at a Walt Disney World Resort. We’ve been to Disney World three times and this vacation will make our 4th trip. The first time we stayed at a non-Disney property and other two times, we stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and Coronado Springs Resort. Staying on Disney property makes the difference.
For our upcoming trip, I looked at other nearby, non-Disney hotels and you know what? The savings aren’t all that much. Especially when you think about all the extras you get by staying on property.
The My Disney Experience App.
Before you board the plane, jump in the car or hop on the train/bus – Disney makes it magically easy and fun. Through the My Disney Experience app you are able to count down to you vacation, see your itinerary, make reservations, book your FastPass+, see what your friends and family have planned and more.
Disney’s Magical Express.
FREE airport transportation from Orlando International Airport to/from WDW Resorts. For some special needs families, air travel can be stressful and children just want to get there. Disney’s Magical Express makes it easy. The bus is clean, the seats are comfortable, the drivers are friendly and there are TV screens showing park rides & other Disney fun to build the anticipation.
#FamiliaTravels Autism Mom Tip: If you check in your luggage, you can arrange for it to be sent directly to your hotel. And upon leaving WDW resort, you may also check in luggage. This means you can go about your vacation, worry free and focus on your family without the hassle of bags. However do not pack your MagicBands in luggage. Keep all cash, important documents, medication with you. Please note this service depends on flight/arrival times and airline baggage fees will apply.
Related: Airplanes and Kids with Autism
Disney Transportation to/from WDW Resorts to Parks & Downtown Disney.
Aside from Disney’s Magical Express there are buses that will take you to/from the Resorts to the Parks and Downtown Disney.
#FamiliaTravels WDW Planning Tip: Did you know that if you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort you can visit any other Disney Resort property? While there isn’t resort-to-resort bus transportation, you can travel from a WDW park to the resort of your choice. But if you have your own car – you can visit any of the other resorts. This is great if you want to scope out a property for future vacations or lunch/dine at another resort restaurant.
What I love about the bus service is that it leaves you right at the entrance. You get off the bus and you can walk right into the park – there’s no need to park your car (or remember where you parked at the end of a long day) and take a shuttle (from the lot to the park entrance).In addition to bus service, there is also Monorail and Water Transportation to/from parks and select resorts. How fun is that!? Norrin loves the Monorail, it’s one of his favorite “rides.”
Proximity to the Parks.
Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort you are always within 10 – 25 minutes to the Parks. Some Resorts are simply a monorail ride away, a few are within walking distance. Shorter travel times means more family fun at the Parks.
The MagicBands are such an incredible convenience – it’s your hotel key, park ticket (including FastPass+), memory maker and credit card (if you choose to link it up). For autism parents, I especially love the convenience of this all-in-one because it lessens the load and frees up our hands. MagicBands can be personalized with your name and favorite color. With so many MagicBandits and Magicsliders to choose from – you will be sure to find your favorite. And no need to take it off in the pool – it’s water proof.
#FamiliaTravels Autism Mom Tip: The MagicBand is not meant to be a tracking device if your child gets lost. If you think your child will take off the MagicBand – wear theirs on your opposite wrist. Which is what I did for most of our trip.
Free parking at WDW Parks.
If you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort and visit the parks – you do not have to pay a parking fee – just keep that WDW resort plaque visible when driving into the Parks. Joseph and I learned this lesson the hard way.
Dining Plans & refillable cup.
More with the savings! For families following a strict diet and/or schedule, this can be helpful. I admit – I haven’t done the dining plan yet but one day I will. With so much family and friends in Orlando, we try to keep meal times open and flexible. We have done the refillable cups and even that makes a difference! I love it (so does Norrin) and it’s a little bit of Disney we can bring home.
#FamiliaTravels Autism Mom Tip: Dining reservations can be made up until 180 days in advance. DO NOT WAIT until the last minute. We waited nearly 75 minutes for lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant because we didn’t make reservations. It was worth it, but if you don’t have to wait – don’t.
#FamiliaTravels Autism Mom Tip: Make dining reservations in line with special attractions/entertainment. We made dinner reservations at Epcot’s La Hacienda de San Angel and we had an amazing view of IllumiNations Reflections of Earth show.
As an autism mom, I am all about the Magic Hours at Walt Disney World. It’s nice to know that staying at the WDW Resorts allows you to visit the Parks a few hours before and/or after everyone else. We are early risers, getting to the Park before everyone else definitely makes our day a little bit easier.
The little Disney extras.
Disney has a way of making things magical. A few days after we returned from our first WDW Resort stay, we received a thank you card via snail mail. Who else does that? It was nice to know that our stay was appreciated. And as Disney guests, we receive additional discounts for future stays. It’s definitely the incentive to return.
It’s the ultimate Disney experience.
As a lifelong Disney fan there is nothing like staying at a Walt Disney World resort. Staying at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort was like stepping into our favorite movie.
There are resorts at every price point to make it affordable for many families. But no matter what resort you stay at there’s mouse magic everywhere. And it’s wonderful.
So after weighing all the hotel/resort options for our first Multigenerational Family Walt Disney World Vacation, we decided to stay at Disney’s All Star Movies Resort. I can’t wait to share what we love about our family experience there!
6/6/15 Update: a few days after I made our reservations, this came in the mail!