March, April, and May are big months around our house. We've got my birthday, Joseph's (my oldest) birthday, Logan's (my youngest) birthday, my husband and I's anniversary (13 years!), not to mention my mother's birthday and Mother's Day. While we are rather meager in the financial department, thanks to our tax refund, we had budgeted money for each celebration. My husband and I rethought that, pooled the money, and decided to take a trip with the kids as one big celebration, instead of individual ones.
Because our kids are newly 11 and about to turn 9, we thought Disneyland would be the ticket. They're the perfect ages to really enjoy it. We were concerned, however. As I've mentioned before, Logan has a congenital heart defect, and Joseph has behavioral, learning, and mental issues. Here were our concerns:
- The heat - it was due to be really hot the weekend we picked. Due to his heart, Logan's metabolism tends to go into overdrive, making him overheat faster and sweat more than other kids.
- The rides - due to Logan's heart, and the those disclaimers posted on the rides, would he be able to ride anything but the merry-go-round?
- The lines - how would Joseph handle long lines of doing nothing?
- The crowds - how would Joseph handle the press of people, as one of his diagnoses is social phobia?
We called Logan's cardiologist. She assured us that she thought he would be completely fine. She said that the issue with the rides is the thrill factor, and the resulting release of adrenalin. She said to start small, and use our judgment to gauge his body's reaction after each ride. That worked our JUST fine. He rode Space Mountain, and his heart was pounding out of his chest after, but there was no dizziness or chest pains. He, however, decided he truly hated roller coasters and refused all of them. Once that happened, it became a non-issue.
To help avoid the crowds, we planned on both California Adventure and Disneyland, but switched the days so we went to California Adventure first (most people do it the other way around). We also booked a cheap motel within walking distance so we wouldn't have to drive home and back again (we live about an hour away). We made sure NOT to go Easter weekend.
When we arrived at California Adventure on the first day, we went to their guest relations department. We told them why we were there, and ended up wearing first visit, celebration, and anniversary buttons! As a result, cast members throughout the park would stop us and congratulate us. Silly, but made us (and the kids) feel very special and important. We also asked them about special needs passes. They said they might be able to help us out, and didn't need specified diagnoses, however, they wanted to know our specific concerns for our time there. We told them, and they gave us a special Guest Assistance pass for both days. What that meant was, in front of each ride, we would show that pass to the cast member working there, and they would tell us where to go. That may mean going up the exit, or going in the disabled entrance, or using the Fast Pass line.
The result was phenomenal. It meant that we maybe waited 15 minutes (usually much less) for every ride. It meant that Logan wasn't simmering in the sun. It meant that we weren't having to distract Joseph from the time it took in line. It meant that when we were waiting, we were in a quieter area with a MUCH less press of people. On the first day, at California Adventure, we were done with every single thing we wished to do by 3pm. And it was perfect because that was about when Joseph was just about done and needed decompression time. So, we were able to walk back to our hotel room, let him decompress with his DS and quiet time, and then go out to dinner and go back to see their World of Color show late that evening. It was perfect. On the next day at Disneyland, we had done everything we wanted to do, and were out of there at 5pm on our way home.
And on a side note, they did the Jedi Training Academy. They were on cloud nine after individually fighting Darth Vader and Darth Maul. (With light sabers! and a Padawan's cloak! We're in training now!) If you have Star Wars fans, I highly recommend it. The looks on their faces are ones I'll never forget.
Joseph never lost it once, Logan never got overheated, and we were able to see or ride everything we thought the kids would enjoy without feeling rushed or pushing the kids too hard. PS - Joseph LOVES roller coasters, which brought a tear to his coaster-lovin' daddy's eye.
Every single castmember (with the exception of one, which I'm chalking up to a bad day) was incredibly accomodating, kind, polite, professional, and treated us with respect. There were no rolling eyes or sighs. It made my kids' first experience with Disney (or any other theme park) a truly magical one. This isn't something we do, so I believe this will be a wonderful memory for the kids forever.
So, thank you Disneyland, for giving my family wonderful memories with dignity.