This website is designed to provide information about vacationing in Orlando, Florida at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort or SeaWorld for those families that may have a family member with a developmental disability. We have a son with autism. We moved to Florida in 2007 and have visited Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando or SeaWorld almost every weekend since our move. While our tips and suggestions are focused on helping those with a family member who may have a developmental disability, many of these ideas can apply to anyone that visits. We hope some of the tips and suggestions that we’ve provided help make your time at these parks as enjoyable as possible.
We are not experts in autism, developmental disabilities or behavior management. Nor are we experts at everything that Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort or SeaWorld has to offer. We are not an official Walt Disney World, Universal or SeaWorld web page. However, we are big fans of each theme park, have season passes to all three parks and go as often as possible.
The Simpson's Ride at Universal Studios
How to approach this vacation: Be organized, be flexible, and do not sweat the small stuff. Be gracious for the extra effort the theme parks make to have your experience more enjoyable at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando or SeaWorld. Be thankful to the employees (aka cast members or team members) who usually go beyond “standard policy” to help you. Have a plan of action but be willing to change plans to maximize your fun. A vacation to one or more of these amusement parks in Orlando can be very expensive so be prepared and know what to expect in order to make the most of your trip.
When should you vacation in Orlando: The most crowded times at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld are midsummer, Thanksgiving week, the last two weeks of December/First few days of January, and Spring Break generally in March and April. Most major US Holidays are also very crowded. The best time to vacation in Orlando is the off-season. The week after Labor Day until the 2nd week of November is generally a lower crowd level; the crowds are significantly reduced, you can do more activities in a day and the weather is usually not as hot. Our experience has been that the first two weeks of December and the month of January are the best times to visit the Parks. However, you do run the risk of cold weather during these weeks and may experience freezing temperatures at night, but this happens infrequently. See www.touringplans.com for their crowd calendar for specific dates, greater detail and a scientific analysis of the crowd predictions for Walt Disney World parks. See OrlandoInformer.com for their crowd calendar as it pertains to Universal Orlando Resort. (membership to these websites may be required for certain features).
How long should you stay during your vacation? As long as you can! Please don’t think you can visit a different park each day, ride all the rides, and see everything that Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld has to offer in 5 days. It isn’t possible with or without a child that has a disability. Just visiting Walt Disney World, you’ll need at least 2 days in the Magic Kingdom, 2 days in Epcot, 1 long day at Animal Kingdom, and 1 long or 2 days at Hollywood Studios to see the major attractions, shows and parades. To experience Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, you will need at least 2 very long days (and that's not seeing everything). It would be difficult to experience everything in one day at SeaWorld too. Plus, you’ll need to factor in sleeping late and eating. Therefore, a plan of action and a willingness to forgo some attractions or even particular parks is necessary. See www.orlandoinformer.com and www.touringplans.com for their touring plan recommendations. When we vacationed in Orlando before we moved here, we used the plans from www.touringplans.com for the major parks and then adapted our plans according to the guest assistance pass instead of the FastPass system. It worked out great for our son. We had to further adjust our plan when our son wanted to ride Splash Mountain 3 times in a row (remember, you have to be flexible). After living here and because we go so often, we now just ride the rides our son likes the best.
What you should remember while on vacation at the Parks: Even though you will be in a fun place, every aspect about your child’s disability will still be present. For a lot of us, it will be more prevalent at the theme parks than at home or in our child's normal routine. For example, if your child cannot tolerate standing in line for more than 15 minutes, this will be true at the theme parks. If your child tires easily and needs a nap every day, they absolutely will need one while you are visiting the theme parks so plan accordingly. If your child has learned that “acting out” will get them what they want, they will do this at the Parks and it will seem to you to occur at the worst possible moment. With all the sounds, lights and people everywhere, theme parks can present a lot of sensory stimuli and at times become overwhelming to your family member. Be prepared for your child's needs, plan ahead and do your best to have a fun time. We are advocates of our son trying new things and see what happens but we are also realistic in our expectations. During your vacation, you may experience some incredible moments with your family that live in your heart forever.
Links to our blogs
April 18, 2013 Islands of Adventure trip report – April 2013 (new experiences & beloved
April 18, 2013 Universal Studios Florida trip report – April 2013 (construction updates,
Megatron, Sledge Homer & free wifi)
April 15, 2013 Disney’s Animal Kingdom trip report – April 2013 (take a walk on the wild side)
March 21, 2013 Islands of Adventure trip report – March 2013 (an auditory exploration of the
park, Spring Break excitement)
March 20, 2013 Universal Studios Florida trip report – March 2013 (construction updates,
Transformers meet-and-greet, more Mardi Gras fun)
March 11, 2013 2013 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival trip report (includes over
March 7, 2013 Sail the happy seas: My very best tips for your next cruise vacation
February 27, 2013 Magic Kingdom trip report – February 2013 (construction updates, New Fantasyland
& Dapper Day)
February 25, 2013 Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas: Our cruise trip report with over 100
February 15, 2013 Islands of Adventure trip report – February 2013 (full tour around the park,
refurb update and over 50 images)
February 13, 2013 Universal Studios Florida trip report – February 2013 (construction updates
& lots of Mardi Gras coverage)
January 31, 2013 Disney’s Hollywood Studios trip report – January 2013 (MyMagic+ construction, ride recaps & new photo ops)
January 25, 2013 Islands of Adventure trip report – January 2013 (new WWoHP live performance stage, possible lagoon show prep & more)
January 23, 2013 Universal Studios Florida trip report – January 2013 (construction updates, Superstar Parade & Transformers merchandise)
December 14, 2012 Epcot trip report – December 2012 (new Test Track walkthrough & holiday festivities)
December 10, 2012 Islands of Adventure trip report – December 2012 (Holiday fun, Grinchmas, low crowds)
December 7, 2012 Universal Studios Florida trip report – December 2012 (construction updates, holiday festivities and more)
November 27, 2012 Disney’s Animal Kingdom trip report – November 2012 (the holiday celebration has
November 19, 2012 SeaWorld Orlando provides “Holiday Splash” to hundreds of Children in Central
November 13, 2012 Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5K: I found the perfect way for theme park fans to get in
November 8, 2012 Islands of Adventure trip report – November 2012 (great things are on the way)
November 6, 2012 Universal Studios Florida trip report – November 2012 (incredible Transformers
construction photos and so much more)
October 16, 2012 New Fantasyland dress rehearsal A breathtaking reveal for Disney fans (includes over 100 photos)
September 30, 2012 Islands of Adventure trip report - September 2012 (WWoHP construction and more)
September 27, 2012 Universal Studios Florida trip report – September 2012 (HHN decor, construction
updates, new merchandise)
August 25, 2012 Islands of Adventure trip report – August 2012 (Lost Continent, WWoHP
August 21, 2012 Universal Studios Florida trip report - August 2012
July 24, 2012 Celebrating a special birthday across Orlando: Typhoon Lagoon, Universal
CityWalk & Universal Studios Florida
June 7, 2012 Ghirardelli Soda Fountain at Downtown Disney: A sweet spot for an afternoon treat
May 8, 2012 Be a Fan and attend the 40th annual Special Olympics Florida State Summer Games
April 30, 2012 Items to take to the theme parks in Orlando
April 24, 2012 Realistic expectations while visiting Orlando’s theme parks with
your developmentally disabled child.
Has our website been helpful? Please consider making a
contribution to keep our website running. Thank you!
contribution to keep our website running. Thank you!