Tips:  Special Accommodations for Special Needs 

The unique features of each short-term rental home include extra amenities and spaces that you may not find in a hotel or resort. Some families would have great difficulty enjoying a vacation together without appropriate accommodations for a family member’s special needs.

Brianna’s Family

Six-year-old Brianna receives vital medical treatments three times a day that require the ability to sanitize the equipment, counter space to prepare the medication, and she needs to take a short nap in a quiet room after each dose. “We couldn’t go on vacation as a family if we didn’t rent a really clean and comfortable vacation home like Paradise on Ice,” said Brianna’s mother, Jane. “It would be miserable for the kids to be cramped in a hotel room and stay quiet while I juggle our belongings and our schedule to make space for the treatments.”

Brianna’s family visits Disney World each year, staying at Paradise on Ice. “Routines can help any family, but when you have a child with complicated medical needs, any interrupted routines can land us in the hospital,” said Jane. “Not a great way to spend our vacation! So we love being able to enjoy our trips and still adhere to our schedules and get good rest breaks.”

She says that they leave early for a Disney World park and enjoy it for a couple of hours. Then she and Brianna go to their home-away-from-home for treatment while the others remain at the park, or all of them take a rest break together. “It’s close enough that we can enjoy the short lines in the morning and the fireworks at night, with a couple of breaks in our Disney fun by returning to Paradise on Ice.”

How to Find the Right Fit for Your Family

There’s a reason why we use the term “special needs.” Each individual has a unique set of characteristics and challenges, so it’s important to list the accommodation features most important for your family members. Read the full description of the vacation home. Ask the host questions. Then prepare what you need for the trip and create tentative schedules.

ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established to ensure that public buildings are as accessible as possible for all individuals. Some people believe that all structures must be ADA compliant and that having a special need allows them to demand that any environment become modified for their individual need. Even ADA-compliant buildings only accommodate particular needs. The key to compliance is usually “reasonable accommodation.” If the modification or allowance isn’t reasonable or feasible, the building or home may not be required to make even basic modifications. Vacation homes are not required to comply with ADA criteria (unless the owner states that it is ADA-compliant).

Most vacation homes are not modified to meet ADA standards; you may find one, though. Some people wrongly think that having a large shower and a bedroom on the main floor (like we have at Paradise on Ice) would check the ADA description box. It may help someone with a certain physical need, but there is more to ADA compliance. Be sure to ask specific questions to verify that the home can actually accommodate your special need.

Pace Yourself

Disney World passes are a substantial investment in a magical vacation. It can be tempting to try to use every cent of the expense to see and do everything. While there are tips for planning the park visits to maximize your time there, it’s important to keep expectations reasonable.

There may be lines, and some areas of the parks may be uncomfortably crowded. Florida weather is usually beautiful, but it sometimes includes muggy and buggy heat, bone-soaking rainstorms, and winter temperatures that dip below 60 degrees.  The good news is that the weather can quickly change back to beautiful within minutes. And waiting in line can be an interesting adventure if you know what to discover there. (Disney creates some in-line surprises).

Plan for each family member’s must-see priorities, and then add the extras. Take time for breaks (either at the vacation home or in comfortable break areas within the parks). Eat well and drink plenty of fluids.

Equipment   

With current airline luggage restrictions and simply the challenge of packing and traveling as a family, equipment for children can become an issue. Some vacation homes and property managers have items available for guest use (free, like Paradise on Ice, or for a rental fee). Still, there may be other items needed. A service called Baby Quip delivers rental equipment to the traveler’s destination in many cities.

Planning for your family’s particular needs can make your Disney adventure extra magical!

Resources

Here are some links to articles that we found helpful:

Special Needs Travel Mom Tips for Visiting Disney World.

Family Travels 10 Tips for Traveling with Special Needs Kids

Baby Quip Accessible Disney World: Doing Disney with Special Needs Kiddos