When we were planning our trip, I couldn’t find much online specifically aimed at families taking a Wish trip to Disneyworld. So many of the regular Disney planning things don’t pertain to Wish families, but I had so many questions about the things that would be unique to our trip. Hopefully, this document at least partially addresses that hole. :)
What our Wish trip included:
Travel there, travel back, and 5 days of park tickets. You can also typically request one or two special things – we requested tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. They say it’s a week trip (7 days), but it’s really just 6 nights with 2 travel days and 5 days to enjoy the trip.
We got a rental car – a van, actually. Some families instead made use of the Mears shuttle service. The car rental included carseats, but we brought our own for Teddy. We used their booster, which was clean and seemed nearly new.
We stayed at Give Kids the World Village, which includes free meals.
There are also a plethora of other tickets available for other experiences and places in the area – you’ll be given a list at checkin. Plan for check-in to take a few hours. Yeah.
This is an excellent resource for planning. It’s the GKTW Village Guide. It has a lot of details in it. And this is their pre-trip section of their website.
You’ll also want to join the DISboards, and look in their disABILITIES section for lots of great info on Disney with disabilities, health problems, and Wish trips.
Our Wish trip included 3 days of park hopper passes to Disney parks. This is not enough to see everything, so don’t try. Seriously don’t try. Also, Do *not* just show up at Disneyworld without a plan. Get a guidebook or at the very least read some websites to get a good sense of what is there and what you want to see and do. Make note of any time-sensitive plans you might have (parades, fireworks, other shows).
Your Wish trip includes a Genie pass – it’s a pass with Genie on it. This pass is your golden ticket. It plus your Make a Wish buttons and/or GKTW Village button gets you into every Fastpass line, and lets you bypass lines at Character greetings. This means that you can make your plans to ride certain rides without any concern for crowd levels, expected wait times, etc. You don’t need to worry about Fastpass reservations. Just pick what you want to do and go do it.
You’ll also notice, hopefully, that your Wish buttons typically get you better character experiences. Not always, but generally, we noticed the characters spent more time with our kids when they knew we were there with MAW. Sometimes, they shut down the line and let our kids have a little while in the room alone with the characters. Sometimes, they pulled other characters for group pictures (which NEVER HAPPENS outside of a Wish). It was awesome, and the character interactions were probably the highlight of the trip.
If you’re going to see a parade or fireworks, get there early. 30 minutes at least, an hour at least if you’re there during more crowded times. If you see people starting to line up for the parade – find your spot!
You also get a free Photopass CD. Use the Photopass photographers as much as you can (but then also have them take pictures with your camera, or take your own pictures – some of the photopass pictures are very disappointing). Find out before you go about Magic Shots – I totally forgot and am kind of mad at myself. :)
The “standard” wish trip includes 2 day park hopper passes to Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure. Universal is not a great place for the smaller kids. Teddy had two rides he could do, total in two parks, and one of those he got to do only because the employees were very very kind. He’s no 36 inches tall, even with shoes on. They knew it and I knew it. (But we were on a Wish trip and they let it slide.) It is great for older kids. Like, Wally is 10 and big for his age, and could ride everything and likes thrill rides – he was the only kid who really enjoyed Universal. That said, the treatment at Universal is amazing. The pass for Universal gets you a personal escort from the ride entrance around through back entrances and directly onto the ride. (Disney, you still have to wait a few minutes because you’re in the Fastpass line – Universal is really front-of-the-line access.) Universal also has very very few rides that don’t get you some degree of wet – from sopping wet to just a bit spit on. I don’t enjoy that at all.
We did get to meet several characters, which the kids loved, and we had a lovely lunch at Circus McGurkus.
Again, it’s not a good idea to show up without a plan, but we largely did Universal without a plan (because we totally ignored the plan we had) and it was OK. Lots of wasted time, though. Also, never split up and leave your cell phone with the other adult in your party. Finding your husband and other 2 kids is a great way to waste a few hours at Universal. :)
Sea World. OK, I have no issues with animals in captivity. But sea world was dirty and their employees were about what you’d expect for, I don’t know, our local theme park. The experience here just wasn’t as good. The pass you have gets you into their “fastpass” line, whatever it’s called, but that doesn’t really amount for much – or didn’t while we were there.
Give Kids The World Village:
The house that you stay in at GKTW is nice. It’s a duplex, and though we could sometimes hear our neighbors, we didn’t hear them often. The kitchen includes a full size fridge/freezer, a cooktop, a microwave, coffeemaker, blender, toaster, and dishwasher. There’s no housekeeping during your stay, but you don’t have to clean when you leave. There’s also a washer and dryer and free detergent (it’s Tide). Bathtub, shower, two bathrooms. Dressers. Super nice.
A Present Fairy visits every day with fun little presents. Some are kind of junky, some are awesome.
The pool is nice – zero-entry and they have PVC wheelchairs available for use.
The village has all sorts of fun things – characters come for greetings, there are organized activities, there are fun places to visit, a carousel, etc. Some of the activities and whatnot are really amazing, and some are kind of… awkwardly not amazing. But it’s fun!
The food is free with your meal card. The food from Katie’s Kitchen for lunch is REALLY REALLY good. The rest of the food is OK. The express breakfast is not so great, lol, but the breakfast at the Gingerbread house is pretty good. They had good grits and fresh waffles. :) And there’s free ice cream basically all the time. And there’s pizza delivery.
All the parks have bag check. Don’t settle in for the day at the park until you’ve passed bag check. In other words, carry your bags until you get through bag check.
I have a unique way of packing our bags that made things much easier on us. I use a bag within bags system that makes finding things faster and easier. Our big backpack we left in the stroller at all times, and I caribinered it to the stroller to make it harder to steal. Inside was a large bag (the small wetbag I sell at Wallypop) full of diapers, diaper cream, wipes, and changing pad. Once through Bag Check, this bag went into the seatback pocket on the stroller for easy access. It was also caribinered in. Then also in the big backpack were a series of smaller bags: one for rags, one for First Aid items (bandaids, advil, Shout wipes, Bodyglide, moleskin, sunscreen), one for Entertainment (coloring books and crayons, bubbles, glow wands), etc. I also brought the ipod in a waterproof case to which I attached a leash and a caribiner so I could clip it to the stroller. Sometimes T needs to chill out with the ipod, and I’m ok with that, but I didn’t want him dropping it. (I also had a caribiner leash for the sippy cup, and a few other leashes that came in handy for stuffed animals. :) ) I also packed a smaller backpack that I never took off. It contained my money, my phone, and Teddy’s food and meds in a small lunchbag.
This was our stroller. Giant caribiner there on the left, to hold misc items. Bag with diapers in it behind the seat (mickey bag). The other seat back held the fan and our daily plans. The panda bear is a stroller lock. We rented a stroller from Orlando Stroller rather than using the park strollers that we could have rented for free with our WIsh buttons. The rented stroller is more comfortable, reclines, and has storage. It was worth the money. You can also see the cheap children’s watch I zip tied to the stroller. We don’t wear watches, this was easier that getting out phones. Also I made a stroller tag (picture of McQueen with Teddy’s Stroller printed out and laminated) that I zip tied to the handle – both to allow us to easily identify our stroller, as well as to prevent anyone else from accidentally taking our stroller.
I did most of T’s diaper changes in the stroller. Found an empty corner, situated ourselves so nobody could see, and did it. Cleaner than changing tables in bathrooms.
I bought a stroller fan and it was the best money I’ve ever spent. It’s actually not a stroller fan, but a larger clip-on fan. We only used it for a few hours every day, but it was NICE TO HAVE.
The best thing I did was print out maps of the parks in advance. For Disney parks I used Kenny the Pirate’s maps (google him). They’re clear and better drawn than the official maps. And they have the name of each attraction written ON the attraction on the map, so you don’t have to use an annoying key. Then I circled the things we wanted to do, made note of any time-sensitive plans we had, and wrote down anything else I thought important… then laminated them. :) A page protector would work just as well. Those maps were awesome.
Meals: Some days we wanted to leave GKTW before they were open for breakfast. Most days, we did not come back for lunch. A few times, we didn’t make it back for dinner. Walmart is just down the road – we stopped and picked up easy breakfast foods (instant oatmeal and frozen breakfast sandwiches), sandwich fixin’s, chips (for Teddy), granola bars, cheese sticks, and Gogurts. And a case of bottled water. I froze most of the water. Every day, I packed Teddy’s cooler with his meds and food and an ice pack. And I also packed a Family cooler, with 2 frozen water bottles, a sandwich for everyone who eats orally, gogurts, and cheese sticks. I also packed granola bars in the backpack. We pulled out the granola for midmorning snacks, had our sandwiches for lunch, snacked on chips or nuts or bought snacks in the afternoon, and bought dinner if we weren’t back at the Village. Bringing lunch cut down on our expenses and also gave the kids some “normal” food to eat. I do wish I’d done more planning for snacks and dinners, though – we ended up eating some pretty crappy foods. :)
We started out each day with 4 water bottles: 2 from the fridge, 2 frozen in the cooler, and 2 frozen and just loose in the backpack. This wasn’t nearly enough, we still bought drinks, but it was a good start.
While I’m talking about meals – we did want to have dinner at one of the restaurants at EPCOT. Most of the restaurants are buffet-style. Teddy, as a transplant recipient, cannot eat from buffets. (Of course he barely eats orally anyway, but he does chew on some foods and we like him to participate in mealtime with us.) When making advance dining reservations at Disney restaurants (and, I assume, Universal ones), there is a place to mark if you have food allergy concerns. Our concerns were not with allergies, but there wasn’t a “my kid can’t eat off the buffet” option, so I selected that. When we arrived, the chef came out to talk me, and I explained the problem, and she said it was not a problem at all to bring him food from the kitchen that had NOT been out to the buffet yet, which was exactly what we wanted. :) (I had checked in advance to make sure this would be OK, so I knew going in that it would be fine. My understanding is that they can do this at ALL buffets. The Chef walked along the buffet with me and I pointed out food I thought he might enjoy, and she brought out his plate for us with fresh foods.)
I’ve read a few disappointing reports from Wish families who don’t feel that their trip was special. I don’t know what the difference is between our experience and theirs. I will say that getting over any shyness about wearing/using the special passes and buttons is key to getting special treatment. People don’t know you’re on a Wish trip if you’re not wearing your buttons. We also didn’t really EXPECT special treatment, so any time we got some, it was fun and special. It’s not really like people went out of their way to sprinkle Fairy Dust on us or anything… but when we gave people the opportunity to go out of their way for us, they often did.
Get the Stroller as Wheelchair pass. You can still park your stroller any time you want, but if it makes it easier, you can bring it in line. We liked having it in line to keep T from licking walls and to keep him a bit separated from other people and their germs. And, let’s face it, awesome seating at shows. But looking up in advance how each ride worked with wheelchairs might have been helpful. We got great seats at one show, for example, but it took 30 minutes to get out of there afterwards because there was only 1 elevator.
Be kind. Be kind. We saw several of the same Cast Members at Disney on our different days in different parks. They remembered us. Happily, they remembered us because we were kind and fun and polite. Not everyone at Disney is nice (guests). YOU be nice. Being nice and making friends is also your key to a better parade and fireworks experience. People WILL try to shove in at the last minute before parades. If you’ve befriended those around you, you form a loose “team” that prevents those last-minute shovers from shoving in in front of you. :)