We had an amazing 3 weeks in Florida, even if they do seem now to be a dim and distant memory as we’re back into the routine of school, hospital appointments and work. Before I file those memories away, however, I want to share some top tips we picked up for when visiting theme parks with children, or with those with a chronic illness, or anyone with food allergies.
- DISABILITY ACCESS PASS – I was tipped off about these from a lovely lady from my choir and immediately investigated what they were, how to get them and whether M would qualify. Whether you are going to Disney, Universal Studios, Legoland or Seaworld, if any member of your group has a disability or condition that makes a lengthy queue wait a difficult prospect, then you can benefit from these passes. The passes allow the holder and their group to effectively bypass the challenge of waiting by giving a return time, which then enables the party to enter the ride via either the exit or the fastpass queue. To support our request for a pass, I had a doctor’s letter detailing M’s EGID and the associated bowel problems and we were given a pass without problem. These passes were invaluable as we didn’t have that mid-queue panic of needing to rush off to find a loo!
- ICED WATER – Don’t spend lots of money on bottled water as you travel around the park. Instead, pop into the nearest counter-service restaurant or anywhere that serves drinks and ask for a glass of iced water. Keeping hydrated as you walk around the parks in the hot Floridian sun is important and nothing quenches your thirst like a glass of iced water and it’s somehow even better when it’s free. Be warned that you may struggle in some places – we could only get ice and no water at Legoland Florida – but it’s definitely worth the ask.
- PARK ACTIVITIES – And I don’t just mean the parades, shows and fireworks that everyone knows about. At Epcot, the kids were given a handset that sent them on a journey around the countries of the World showcase, following clues, completing challenges and seeing some really cool special effects to complete the secret missions set by Phineas and Ferb. Once that country’s mission was done, we had the option of moving on to another country for another mission or finishing the game then. In Magic Kingdom, we discovered the delights of the “Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom“, which was a similar activity to Epcot, but this time saw us collecting cards, defeating well-known Disney villains and finally completing the first level of the game. M and G loved this so much that we spent an unplanned afternoon back at Magic Kingdom, running around to complete the first level and collect as many cards as we could before we left. The final activity I’d recommend, and one I’m extremely proud we managed to achieve, was participation in the Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios. Getting M and G signed up for this involved a very early start to be close to the front of the queue for rope drop, a rush to beat the crowd to the sign-up and absolute focus that that, and nothing else, was our first goal of the day. The 20 minute session saw them being taught by a Jedi master, before taking on none other than Darth Vader to prove their ability as a young Padawan and their loyalty to the cause.
- MAGIC SHOTS – This is something that is specific to WDW, but is definitely a lot of fun. We had bought a Disney Memory maker package, which allowed our group to have access to any photos taken in park, on rides or in resort by a Disney photographer for one, relatively low price. This automatically gave us easy access to Magic shots, which see Disney characters, amongst other things, to be added to your photograph. Any Disney photographer not using a tripod can take a magic shot and M and G loved running around, tracking down photographers and asking if they could take a magic shot. The photographer would pose us and give us instructions for facial expressions before taking the photo and adding it to our memory maker package. I could then view the images on-line later in the day to see who or what had been added into the photo. The magic included Tinkerbell, Stitch, Olaf, butterflies and a bunch of Mickey balloons.
Should you be travelling to the USA and come across these delicious treats, I would highly recommend stocking up and enjoying them whilst you can. G and M loved all of these and the small supplies we brought back home with us are now nearly all gone – must mean another trip to the US soon!
- Babycakes – these are the most delicious, allergy-friendly cupcakes I have come across and were available in some restaurants in WDW. Luckily for us, they were included in the dessert options at the Mara restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge and we bought enough to see us through our final week spent in St Petersburg. You can find them at a few other locations across the USA and I would highly recommend searching them out if you’re anywhere nearby!
- Silk Almond milk drink cartons – these are a great alternative for those who aren’t able to drink either cows’ or soya milk, especially as they come in both vanilla and chocolate flavours. We discovered them at the local supermarket in St Petersburg and I wish I’d known about them sooner. M really enjoyed being able to have a chocolate milk with his dinner, especially as G had been having chocolate and vanilla soya milk whilst we were staying in WDW.
- Enjoy Life cookies & chewy bars – another great hit with M and G, especially the soft-baked cookies. These were the brand stocked in a lot of the WDW restaurants which meant they could have a pudding with their meals, but we found them easy to buy in the local supermarkets too. They were such a huge success with my pair that I even brought 3 boxes of cookies home with us – Snickerdoodle, Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Brownie. The chewy bars were equally delicious and G found it hard to choose between the Cocoaloco and Sunbutter Crunch flavours.