Special Accommodations for Special Needs

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.


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.


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!


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


Tips for staying hydrated at the Orlando Theme Parks!

Sometimes we get so busy enjoying all of the sites and rides at the theme parks that we forget to drink enough fluids, and we become dehydrated. Then we feel miserable. It’s important to get plenty of hydration and replenish minerals we may lose when we’re in a different climate or when we overexert ourselves. Liquid refreshment can be magically energizing!

Water, please!  It’s not something that the parks advertise because they want us to buy sodas, freezies, milkshakes, and bottled water from them, but they understand the need to have water available, especially for young park visitors. That’s why they will give you a free cup of water upon request at select refreshment stands (usually the ones with soda dispensers or restaurants). Not every beverage station can give out free cups of water, though. Most will direct you to the nearest station.

You can request a cup of water with ice or without ice. Some have straws; others don’t have straws available (especially those areas where there are animals that might ingest them). Since our younger grandchildren won’t drink out of cups without straws, we usually carry either a metal one or the tempered glass straws (we feel semi-environmentally-responsible when we sip using these straws—from our disposable cups). 

There are also drinking fountains throughout the parks where you can fill your more environmentally-friendly bottles and cups. Some of the fountains are clean and work well; others have disgusting trash heaped in them or they appear to double as a birdbath.

And there are ice-filled kiosk bins with bottles of water, pop, juice, and other beverages for sale throughout the parks. Take a moment to fill your little ones (and yourself) with liquid refreshment so you can avoid dehydration during your park visits.

Good hydration can bring back smiles.

Look for stands that have soda machines (and kind staff).

Minerals can help, too.  Especially when traveling, we make sure to add some minerals to our water and other beverages (or we purchase ready-made drinks that can help restore our mineral and electrolyte balance. My favorite pharmacist and healthy children will point out, though, that we need to be careful to read the labels. Sometimes these drinks can be packed with sugars and other things that may make the “healthy” drinks less than healthy)

Many minerals help a body carry out its daily functions and processes in the most efficient and beneficial way. Essential “trace” minerals are needed in much smaller amounts but we may deplete them more quickly during travel. Trace minerals include iron, chromium, copper, zinc, iodine, manganese and selenium. Here’s a helpful article from Trace Minerals (one of the brands we enjoy) about these vital minerals:  Why You Need Ionic Minerals

Experience-Filled Hydration.  Okay, we’ve addressed the more healthy choices for our hydration needs. There are beverages that can fill the need for fun, too. Here are a few of our favorite park beverages:

A Wizarding World of Harry Potter experience at Universal Orlando wouldn’t be complete without a sip of frosty Butterbeer! It’s creamy, cold deliciousness, especially on a hot day! For a couple of good reviews about the different forms of this delicacy available to park visitors, we like the article by Nicole Moshe on the official Universal blog site about Butterbeer,  and an article in the Orlando Informer called Butterbeer at Universal Orlando Resort–Complete Insider’s Guide!

You can even take home a souvenir cup—or you can get it in a disposable one.

In Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, the Pongu Pongu stand near our favorite Pandora ride offers a Night Blossom Drink with Boba Balls. It’s frosty, sweet, and has the surprising pop of passion fruit-flavored balls. To better describe it, we will direct you to a blog that includes a recipe for this delightful drink experience at Get Away Today: Make Your Own Avatar Treat: Night Blossom Drink Recipe

One of our favorite treats from Disney Parks is the Dole Pineapple Whip! We’ve enjoyed it for years during our trips to Disneyland and were pleased to find it in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando. This delight is cool, creamy, and just sweet enough to be very refreshing. We find, however, that not every Dole Whip is the same, even within Disney World.

Our favorite is near the Tiki Room in Disneyland, but the Aloha Isle version in the Magic Kingdom is our Orlando favorite. Here’s an article that lists other places to find the treat from Disney AddictsWhere Can I Get A Dole Whip at Disney World?  Another fun post is from Disney Tourist BlogDole Whip Fun Facts.