Over the December holidays we traveled to the States to visit Orlando and friends in DC. While planning this amazing vacation I had numerous times thought that we were crazy traveling so far and planning to visit loud theme parks with our 6 year old Sensory Processing Disorder child. How will she(and us) survive AND enjoy it? Well, we went, we did survive AND enjoy the trip!
1. Only make loose plans
We planned some days, and did end up swapping days around as well, to keep our child happy and rested. We visited all four Disney Parks, Legoland Florida, SeaWorld as well as Kennedy Space Center. If we had a late night, we had a later start to the next day. We also allowed down-time. Many afternoons she needed to have alone play time(usually playing out what happened lately) or she wanted a relaxed swim. On days we wanted to see parks at night time, we broke the day up in two: went home for a few hours of rest and went back later. We did not book too many fast passes, restaurant etc. that was fixed times to allow us to see how she copes throughout the day and how much she could be stretched. Obviously that meant that “grownup” stuff were set aside often, but we were prepared for that. Also try to switch between thrilling and calmer rides if possible.
2. Use a stroller
The best thing we did was to organize a stroller. We got a double stroller from Kingdom Strollers and this was a life saver! It did not only help for little tired legs, but it also provided a hide-out: when she felt overwhelmed she pulled the flap all the way down and could recuperate. Of course it also helped to keep all our belongings AND it came with a complimentary cooler bag! Definitely something to have for your younger kiddos(the next time we go, she won’t fit in one though)!
3. Pack snacks
A hungry child gets cranky, we all know that, so I packed loads of snacks each morning for us to take. Buying snacks in the parks are so expensive, so this helped save us money and we could eat whenever the need arose.
4. Plan on many restroom breaks
My girl likes restrooms. I think she sees it as an escape, how quick ever it is, out of the hustle and bustle of the park. For a few minutes she can be alone, and it definitely helps her. She also likes too see which babies are being changed on the changing table, she loves babies, lol!
5. Stay off site
While we planned our vacation, the one thing I was adamant on was staying off site. The reasons for this were that we needed more room(so she could play alone) and also, it is not as overwhelming in terms of the interior. We found a perfectly quiet villa and loved every minute of it. (Leave a comment if you want the contact details)
6. Prepare for sleep habits to change
Know that everyone’s sleeping habits will change a bit. We had jet lag where we woke up very early and then get cranky early in the afternoon. One should be prepared. Also, on the nights we wanted to go back to a park(we almost never go out at night to keep in routine) she had to take naps(which she never does). We do use some medication in these rare instances. Going back to our routine at home is very hard now, but we will get there!
7. Take extra clothes
Unfortunately, I only learned this on the last day she got wet on a ride: wet clothes sometimes bother her, but not always, but this day it did. The only thing we had was her rain jacket, so she took of her shirt and had to wear the rain jacket until the shirt was dry. Note to self: pack extra clothes! We did have ponchos, another must-have, and used it properly one day!
I wish she could tolerate sound-reducing ear muffs, that would definitely help. She had a soft pillow in the stroller that helped to sooth though. Things like chewy food or bubble was always with us, it does help, believe it or not!
9. Use a disability pass
I know, it sounds weird, disability, but in fact having SPD is a disorder so I guess a disability of sorts. If you go to a park with a disability pass, get it! Disney World has a DAS pass you ask for at Guest Relations. This allows you to go ask for a return time at a ride and then use the Fastpass lane. I must say, this helped tremendously in terms of avoiding to queue for long times(something she can not do).
10. Shrug it off
Lastly, if you get any looks(you know the ones) or worse, “advice”, just shrug it off! You know your child best and will do whatever works for her and the family to have an awesome time!
All in all, the trip had its challenges, some meltdowns, but really not as many as one should expect. It was totally worth it: tiresome, exciting, magical and fabulous to make some family memories. One day we would do this again!
Some more pictures:
So much excitement meeting characters, barely containing herself:
We had to wait for about 25 minutes to meet Elsa and Anna, no fastpass option. She was climbing banisters by the end! See how she is touching the dress, one of her seeking behaviors:
A calming ride at Legoland she loved: