Today we will talk a bit about My top five Tips for Special Needs.
Being the mom of a Special needs child/adult with cognitive disabilities and a grandchild with an amputation, this is a very important discussion with me. Our family has been in this Special Needs game since 2005 so we are well versed in the ever changing rules at both Disney and Universal. For a first timer, it can be not only daunting and full of anxiety for the parent, but if not managed well can be a trigger for meltdowns with the child.
This is another one where it is hard to narrow it down to just five, but here it goes.
My #5 Top Tip for Special Needs at Universal Orlando is Guest Relations is your best friend!
No Matter what happens, no matter what you need, from a lost AAP card, to a lost ticket, or to find the nearest bathroom, Guest Relations is the place to go! They have the means and ability to help in almost every possible situation. While you are probably familiar with the Guest Services Desk in City Walk or at the front of each park (did you know there is one both inside- at the right hand side after going through the turnstiles- and outside each gate?), most people are not aware of the Guest Services Desks inside both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. They are cleverly disguised as Travel Services! And it is true that you can upgrade your tickets and other such things there, but they are also there to help in anyway possible to make our special needs family members trip as easily as those that visit without special needs.
There are two in Universal Studios (one right across from Men in Black: Alien Attack sign, as well as one in the train station of Hogwarts Express) and three in Islands of Adventure (one between the entrance to Jurassic World Velocicoaster and the Jurassic Park DIscovery Center, and one next to Captain America Diner in Marvel Super Hero Island, as well as one in the train station of Hogwarts Express,). There is also one at the entrance of Volcano Bay.
My #4 Top Tip for Special Needs at Universal Orlando is to stay for three or more days.
Give yourself at least three days to see all three parks! Four is better. The one thing you don't want to do is to rush around, you want to take as leisurely a trek as you can. There are a lot of things to explore that can absolutely make the trip for the special needs person.
Stop to look at the details in each land. If your special needs person is a Harry Potter Fan, plan on spending extra time there for the details. They will feel like they have stepped into the story! If they are a Jurassic fan, The Jurassic Park Discovery Center has a ton of details to keep them busy! If they are a car buff, then Fast and Furious is a must. My son doesn't care for the ride (he calls it lame) but he loves when the queue is running so he can look at the details and LOVES looking at the cars after the show. (we spend more time looking at the cars than we do on the actual ride!)
My #3 top tip for Special Needs at Universal Orlando is know the guidelines for your specific disability.
Two important links for Universal travel with Special Needs are :
For Cognitive Disabilities
For Rider Safety Issues.
These two links will give you all the information on Universal’s protocol and requirements for Guests with special Needs.
In years past they have been much more lenient on some of the Rider Safety protocol, but I have noticed they are starting to crack down on some of the rides. Especially Velocicoaster. So, know and understand the protocol. Understand that if you rode a ride before, it doesn't mean that you will be able to this time if the protocol says other wise. And always remember - it is ultimately for your safety!
My #2 top tip for Special Needs at Universal Orlando is call early for your Attraction Assistance Pass.
Almost everyone knows that using the Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP) helps to cut down your
time in line, but did you know that it can save time even before you get into the parks?
Long before Disney started letting you call in to get the Disability Assistance Pass ahead of time, Universal had been allowing you to call to get the Attraction Assistance Pass approved up to 30 days before use! Unlike the Disney system, it is much easier and less time consuming. A simple phone call to Guest Relations at 407-224-4233, option 5 during normal business hours. They will speak to you and if approved, give you a number to give the Guest Assistance Desk when you get to the park and they will take care of the pass. (Make sure you have everyone's tickets when you get to the desk!)
And just in case you don't know how the Attraction Assistance Pass works, when you are ready to ride a particular ride, one member of your party goes to the Team Member at the beginning of the line and shows the AAP card and asks for an AAP return time.. If there are multiple people or multiple lines, don't worry, they will let you know which person you need to speak to. If the return time is less than 30 minutes, they 'might' say there is no wait. (this is not guaranteed! There are a lot of factors that go into that decision. The Team Member has the final say!). If it is longer than 30 minutes they will give you a return time and write it on your AAP card. Then that person can return to the remainder of the party and let them know when to arrive at the ride or attraction. At the appropriate time, you all go back to the ride and (usually) go to the Express Pass Line. Sometimes it is a different area, so always ask. And, make sure the person with the AAP is the first one to scan!
Just know, the AAP does not give you a "front of the line" access. It only gives you a shorter wait. Once you are in line it is the same wait time as if you had an Express Pass! Which is why, I always suggest an Express Pass for my Special Needs clients.
My #1 top tip for Special Needs at Universal Orlando is to use a Travel Agent.
But not just any Travel Agent. A Travel agent who has ‘been there, done that’ and constantly stays on top of the changes. Both through training and visiting multiple times a year with my own family, I understand the constant struggles and nuances of traveling with Special Needs. I’m here to Guide your family so that you can meet the needs of including that Special Individual in your Family Vacation.
Ready to book that Magical Wizarding trip? Contact me and we can get started right away! School vacations are filling up fast!
Anyone want to guess how many hours we spent in front of this window?
Most of the content is written by people at JMorris Travel. Every once in a while we will have a guest blogger, usually it is part of our 'family'.Always with a nod to Family Travel!