Last month, we took our family to Disneyland for Spring break. We had two-day passes to Disney. While it was not our first trip to the amusement part, it was the first trip we had ever taken there since Kyle has been mostly wheelchair-bound.

The last time we went to Disneyland, Anika was four and I spent nearly three hours standing in line with her so that she could meet Ariel, the princess du jour. The last time we went to Disneyland, Kyle’s spine compression had not yet been discovered, he had not yet had surgery to fuse C1-C3 and install a metal plate at the base of his brain, and he had not yet experienced the debilitation of the result of that compression. (For those of you who don’t know, Kyle is our now-24 year old son with Down syndrome).

We had a phenomenal experience, but we took many steps ahead of time to make sure we would. If you’re traveling with a special needs child or adult to Disneyland, start with these tips:

  • Call the park and talk to their customer service people about your specific needs. Because there has been so much abuse of their special needs policies, they no longer offer line skipping. Be sure you know what to expect and decide whether or not your family member can handle the experience.
  • Learn about the rides before you go. We thought Kyle would love Autopia – and he did – but he could not get out of the ride and we could not get him out without (literally) serious personal injury.
  • Buy a multi-day pass so that when your child (or you) wear out, you can leave, head back to the hotel, and not worry that you might have missed something.
  • Obtain (if you are eligible) a handicapped parking pass from your local DMV before you go. It is the only way to get priority parking and shuttle service.

Have you taken special needs kids or adults to Disneyland? What advice would you add?