Fourteen Tips for Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World

Fourteen Tips for Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World pin

Disney World with its five parks is vast, and there’s so much to experience. No parent wants to deal with a meltdown on vacation, let alone at Disney World where admission tickets are so pricey. In reality, chances are the intense activities of theme parks might kids with autism into sensory overload. To help parents mitigate such an occurrence here are our tips.

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Plan a Longer Vacation

Parents of kids with autism may find that visiting the parks over the course of a few days is much less stressful for everybody. Though it might sound less budget friendly, there are plenty of great deals on multiple Disney tickets as well as lodgings. At a minimum, parents should try to allocate one separate day for each park.

Rest Well

For the lodgings, even those on a budget should try to get their kids a good night’s sleep. Parents could pay extra for a rollaway or, if possible, getting the kids their own room. Sleeping in beds with siblings or parents can get in the way of an optimal night’s sleep. If kids are more rested in the morning, they’ll be more able to handle their emotions at the park.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World castle

Take Frequent Breaks

Plan snack and lunch break times during the day. Parents of younger kids or those not used to spending the entire day at a theme park should schedule more frequent breaks and see how it goes.

Stay on Property

If at all possible, parents should find lodgings on the property for easy access to the park. For parents looking for a cheaper alternative to the Disney pricey hotels, the Wyndham has a property near Disney Springs that is affordable and still gives its guests access to the complimentary Disney transportation.

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Avoid Crowded Areas

Parents should avoid crowded areas, like the parade thoroughfare during the shows.In fact, they should skip the shows since they tend to be crowded anyway and try to go on typically full rides during that time since they’re mostly empty. Moreover, families should also eat meals on off hours, meaning before or after traditional lunch or dinner times.

Limit Shopping

Limiting the shopping adds to time spent enjoying the park itself and reduces arguments with kids. Parents should tell their child before entering the park that they are going to shop at the end of the day for a set time or online as an alternative.

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Plan Outdoor/Indoor Rides

Parents need to know that the weather in Orlando is usually warm and humid no matter the month. Though Disney accommodates autism on many of their rides, there are often still waits. These waits can be challenging for kids who are temperature intolerant.

Parents should do the indoor rides in the middle of the day, then try to do the outdoor rides in the early morning or late evening when the temperature cools down and the crowds are gone.

Stay Hydrated

This advice applies to all parents traveling with kids but is of particular importance in a theme park situation where there’s a lot of walking involved.So, parents should either purchase several beverages for their kids during the day or bring refillable water bottles to fill up at water fountains in the parks.

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Avoid Sugary Snacks

Most theme parks, especially Disney, have sugary snacks available for purchase literally at every corner of the parks. Pumping kids on sugary snacks and driving them into a sugar rush is seldom a good idea. Parents should discuss ahead of time with their kids what snacks they are allowed to have every day to avoid disappointments and meltdowns later.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

If kids get wet or sweaty, they might react adversely. It is a good idea for parents to make them as comfortable as possible. Since staying in a theme park for ten hours in a stretch is enough of a challenge for most kids,  parents should bring a change of clothes for emergencies.

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Bring Headphones or Earplugs

Some noise sensitive kids will react to sounds and noises in the park. These sounds can include screaming, shots, or explosions from fireworks. It is, therefore, important to bring headphones or earplugs for these situations. It is important to note that some rides will not allow kids to wear headphones while riding for safety reasons.

Don’t Use Park Hoppers

It is better, especially for younger children, to spend the entire day in one park. Also, using the Disney Transportation from park to park can add a layer of stress for some kids due to the waiting time and buses that might be crowded.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World car

Get a Stroller

Renting a stroller for younger children or those who can’t walk much is best for families. Visiting the Walt Disney World parks involves a lot of walking, and no parent wants to argue with children or try to force them into anything. So, even for older kids, a stroller may be a good place to relax if they get tired or cranky.

Keep your group small

Going in a large group to a theme park can be overwhelming, and the needs of a child with autism might be overlooked. Kids with autism might want to explore at a certain pace or adhere to specific mealtimes. The best ratio is two adults per kid so the adults can alternate taking care and helping accommodate their needs.

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Clothing Tips for Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World

Clothing Tips for Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World pin

Unknown to many, clothing choices can be quite important for a theme park visit. For those who deal with sensory issues, clothing can make a day visit unpleasant and lead to meltdowns. Here are our tips for making good clothing choices for Walt Disney World.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World train

Shoes

Visiting Walt Disney World involves a lot of walking throughout the four large parks. Even groups who set themselves to one park a day can expect a lot of walking. Also, the parks have areas with water attractions, and Florida often has lots of afternoon showers. As a result, the ground frequently gets slippery, which can be dangerous for kids running around.

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Non-slip shoes, like crocs, are essential. Parents can use fabric on/off shoes for the best results. Everyone in the family should avoid flip-flops, heels, or wedges. They should especially avoid leather or suede shoes, as they can get ruined by rain and shrink.

Pants

Choice of pants is of particular importance for those who want to go on the water attractions. Thick denim pants will not dry out easily, leaving kids with wet denim sticking to their legs for the duration of the trip.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World water

The best option is pants made of thin, lightweight material that quickly dries. Parents can find pants like these in most travel and camping stores. Alternatively, parents can bring a change of clothes for their kids.

Colors

Bring colors that stick out in a crowd is best, especially for little kids. Parks get crowded, and kids can easily slip away. In this situation, he or she would be easier to find if they’re wearing, for example, a bright orange jacket.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World car

Ponchos

As we mentioned before, at Walt Disney World it frequently rains in the afternoon. Ponchos are the best option for people who don’t want to have to stay indoors for the two to four hours these afternoon rains last.

Long ponchos are best, and parents can either bring them from home or buy them from the parks. We like buying them from the parks because they double as an excellent souvenir for kids to get from Disney. We suggest not buying expensive ponchos since ponchos are an item that one can easily lose. Also, if someone forgets their poncho in a bag, these expensive ponchos can develop mildew.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World clock

For the most budget friendly option, parents can buy a one time use poncho from the dollar store.

Jacket

Easy to dry, thin jackets are best for theme parks. The jacket should preferably have a hood that it easy to take off. The jacket should also zip, not button.

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While it may seem like a good option, parents shouldn’t take heavy coats. The kids are not going to be wearing them the entire time, and nobody wants to walk around with a jacket all day for miles.

Pockets

Clothes with multiple pockets are always helpful. Parents and kids can either wear cargo pants or a jacket with many pockets. There’s a lot of knick knacks that parents will want to store, such as phones, wires, wallets, and small water bottles.

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Expensive or favorite items

Parents and kids should not bring expensive clothing or items into the parks for many reasons. These items can get snagged on rides, lost, or stained by food items. Jackets can especially get easily lost or misplaced between attractions.

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Bags

While tempting, parents shouldn’t bring large bags into the park. Many of the rides will not allow riders to carry large bags. And dragging these bags through the park gets tiring quickly.

Instead, parents should either wear clothing with lots of pockets or wear a fanny pack for small items.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World butterfly

Tight fitting

Mini skirts and tight pants might be fashionable, but they’re not optimal theme park attire. Being confined in tight clothes for an entire day can be challenging to many.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World building

Loose fitting cotton clothes that breath are best for these environments. Dressing in layers is also crucial since the temperature can be highly variable throughout the day.

Costumes

Although the idea of letting the little one walk around in a princess dress might seem fun, having kids dress up in costumes is not the best idea.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World sign

The costumes are often pricey and can easily get ruined in a theme park environment. In some cases, the costumes are long, such as with princess dresses or capes, and can get caught in ride mechanisms or doors.

After reading our tips it is your turn to chime in! What are your clothing tips when visiting the theme parks?

Our Family Stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian pin

When visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, families have many options for lodgings. For the most elaborate and luxurious  experience, we suggest staying at The Grand Floridian. This elegant resort is surprisingly family friendly, with plenty of activities for kids and parents alike to enjoy.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian lobby

What Makes it Family Worthy?

This hotel is opulent with all sorts of amenities. It is also close to the Magic Kingdom. Guests can enjoy free WiFi in both the rooms and public areas as well as free parking.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian playground

Our Welcome

When we arrived, the staff was friendly and welcoming. We experienced practically no wait before we got to our rooms but spent the time enjoying the meet and greet with Cinderella in the lobby.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian ceiling

Hotel Decor

The hotel’s lobby is a sight to behold, decorated with a Victorian aesthetic. Guests walking in will see a ceiling five stories high with huge chandeliers. Throughout the hotel, one can see detailed latticework and ornamentation. The lobby is a lovely spot to relax while waiting to check in or after returning from the parks.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian white

Our Room

We stayed in room 9409 in a Garden view room. The first thing we noticed was the locking mechanisms for our door. Everyone gets a magic band as their door “key,” and guests can even customize this band with their favorite color. The bolt mechanism on the door is pretty high up, which is great for child safety.

Our room was decorated in rich creams, golds, and greens, with lovely crown molding. We had wood flooring, perfect for those who suffer from allergies. The entire room was also extremely well maintained. We saw no scuff marks, dirt on the carpet, or peeling on the walls.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian bed

The room featured a large two door closet with complimentary robes. The safety deposit box sat at a perfect level and could easily store a 15-inch laptop.

We appreciated the two queen sized beds, as not every Disney hotel has this. There was also an overhead fan, perfect for the hot, humid Florida days. We had a lovely nightstand between the beds as well as an opening desk next to the bed. Guests should look for one of Disney’s well-known Hidden Mickeys around the room,. We found several including one on the back of the desk chair!

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian TV

Our room boasted a red sofa, a relaxing place to stay and lounge after a day in the park. We also had a TV with all the Disney movies. The TV displayed a daily schedule, which included a weather report. We found the mini cooler under the TV and a coffee maker next to the TV. The room featured plenty of hidden places to charge electronics, such as behind the coffee maker.

We loved the gorgeous setting out of our window. We requested a quiet room with “no view” but still got to see a lovely stretch of beach outside.Our room featured a big balcony. It struck us how squeaky clean it was with two white chairs and no bugs, impressive in Florida.
The door to the balcony had a high up double lock so little kids can’t unlock the door by themselves. The door itself was hard to open, another good safety feature.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian outside

 

Our Bathroom

Our bathroom featured tan marble tile throughout, with the hypoallergenic wood floor continuing into the room. We enjoyed the double sink, something that all families can appreciate, as well as the hair dryer and complimentary toiletries.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian sink

We had a tub with a showerhead as well as a clothesline. Unfortunately, the showerhead was not handheld, but the tub had a grab bar.Our biggest surprise was the laundry hamper. Not every hotel has one, but a basket is perfect for keeping dirty towels off the floor.

Dining

The Grand Floridian offers several choices for character dining, such as the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast on 1900 Park Fare. Parents can even book the Wonderland Tea Party where kids can chat with Alice.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian piano

 

Those looking for Mediterranean fusion can try Citricos. This restaurant does have a relaxed dress code; men can wear khakis, slacks, jeans, or dress shorts, and women can wear capri pants, skirts, dresses, jeans, or dress shorts. They do not allow tank tops, swimsuits, torn clothes, or t-shirts with offensive graphics. Parents can book their reservation online or over the phone, which we recommend.

Narcoossee’s features seafood dining on the waterfront. This restaurant boasts beautiful panoramic ocean views. Narcoossee’s has a slightly stricter dress code than Citricos, essentially business casual.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian cupcake

Victoria & Albert’s is the most high-end establishment at the Grand Floridian. Here, patrons dine on award-winning cuisine in a classically elegant environment. They have a strict dress code; men must wear dinner jackets, slacks, and shoes, and women must wear either a dress, dressy pant suit, or a skirt with a blouse. Guests must also book in advance to dine here.

More budget friendly options include the Grand Floridian Cafe, Garden Tea View Room, or Gasparilla Island Grill. At the Gasparilla Island Grill, our son particularly enjoyed their cupcakes and had to have one every night before bed.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian car

Those who can’t or don’t want to leave their rooms can enjoy the hotel’s 24-hour room service.

Amenities

The Grand Floridian boasts several pools. We particularly enjoyed the zero entry leisure pool with an 181-foot tall water slide, whirlpool spa, waterfall, and hammocks. One can get towels and lifejackets at The Captain’s Shipyard. Guests with disabilities can also arrange for pool lifts and other access options at the Front Desk.Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian night

Those wanting to get their feet wet can enjoy fishing, water cruises, and motorboat rentals. There’s also plenty of other outdoor fitness activities such as tennis, volleyball, and golf.

The Grand Floridian offers plenty of activities. Parents can sign kids up for such activities as Campfire Activities or Grand Adventures in Cooking. There is also Arcadia Games, featuring both classic and modern arcade games.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian grass

Cost

The Grand Floridian is pricey, with rooms starting at $570 a night. The Garden View rooms are typically the cheapest option.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian duck

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Though the balcony is secure, parents should still try not to avoid booking a balcony room when traveling with young kids.
  • Make sure all balcony doors, and windows are locked. The balcony doors have two high up locks for added security.
  • Parents need to bring a non-slip bathmat, as the hotel does not provide one.

 

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism?

 

 

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? pin

Dear Margalit,

After meltdowns from our son with autism every time we had to leave the house when he was younger, we used your tips for introducing special needs children to the idea of traveling, and it has worked so well that I think we are finally ready to start visiting theme parks. Do you have any particular Walt Disney World one that you can recommend?    Thanks, Julia.

 

Dear Julia,

I’m so glad to hear about progress for your family.That’s great! Your question is a good one and one that I have been asked on some occasions. I have to say that all Disney parks excellent at accommodating special needs and disabilities for both adults and children.
Therefore, the way to choose between them will depend on your child’s specific sensory issues. With that said, I will try to highlight the pros and cons of visiting each of the four main parks in WDW.

 

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? alice

Magic Kingdom

Since you didn’t specify your son’s age or if you have other children I have to say that the Magic Kingdom has the best indoor and outdoor options for all ages. It also has the widest selection of rides from mild and slow to moderate.

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? snow white

For those who don’t like to or can’t walk a lot, it is ideal because the rides are relatively close together. If you like the outdoors, they have the Liberty Square Riverboat and Tom Sawyer Island which is fun to explore. If your son prefers to stay indoors, there are shows like the Country Bear Jamboree and Mickey’s Philharmagic. The sensory issues he might encounter are noise and darkness, but with headphones and some light from a  mobile phone, he will hopefully be okay.Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? dumbo

Visitors should be aware that the Magic Kingdom is the most visited of all Disney parks. With Disney’s new program for autism, visitors have to go to the ride they wish to experience, and the staff gives a slotted time to come back. Because of the popularity of the park, these waits can be long. Areas like Main Street are also more crowded than the other parks, so that’s also something to consider for kids who hate crowds or are noise sensitive.

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Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios has more extreme rides which cater to an older age group.
Unlike the Magic Kingdom which has parades, Hollywood Studios offers more stunt shows and live stage performances. This is THE park for kids that love thrill rides and can’t get enough of being twirled upside down or sideways.

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? drive in

 

Also, it is the best place for kids that love movies and are fans of Star Wars. Overall, between the riders’ scream and night fireworks this park is the noisiest, something to bear in mind if your child is noise sensitive.A good time to go for kids with autism is in the early morning when they first open since the park gets more crowded by midday and evening.

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Epcot

If you and your kids prefer exotic souvenir hunting and tasting ethnic foods, then Epcot with its variety of international pavilions is for you. I have found that Epcot has been a great way to introduce children with autism to different cuisines and cultures in Disney form. It also has rides which are similar to the other theme parks and again, noise-sensitive children need to take that into consideration.

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? epcotA highlight is the Park’s firework show  IllumiNations: Reflection of Earth, which can be seen from almost everywhere in the park. As our son is noise sensitive, we’ve discovered the best spot to watch the show was from inside the restaurants in the Unite Kingdom pavilion.

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The Animal Kingdom

If your family likes the outdoors and learning about animals, then The Animal Kingdom will be right up your alley, providing none of your family members are smell-sensitive. The park features a great scavenger hunt, a live stage production of The Lion King, and an interactive bird show, all of which we have found to be entertaining.

 

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Moreover, the Animal Kingdom is now open in the evenings. This fact might be a bonus, though it is still the least lit of all parks and some kids might find it scary.
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Once again, I’m thrilled you’ve decided to take a leap of faith and travel with your son to Walt Disney World. I hope that once you have had the opportunity to research and visit each park, you will be able to make a choice that suits your family best. 
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Family Stay at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort

Since we became parents two decades ago, we’ve visited Walt Disney World multiple times.
This year, as part of the TravelingMom.com influencer retreat, we stayed at Walt Disney World Boardwalk.
The quintessential family-friendly hotel;the Disney’s Boardwalk  Inn Resort offered some of the best service, entertainment, and pools in Walt Disney World that we’ve seen so far.

The Boardwalk Inn named for its central location on the boardwalk is across from the Yacht and Beach Club hotels and close to Disney’s Epcot and Hollywood Studios theme parks.
Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort: Building

Unique Décor

With its muted, sherbet colors and traditional nautical awnings, the décor is reminiscent of pre-WWII Atlantic City and New Jersey hotels. What sets it apart from other properties is a unique style that combines kitschy, carnival objects with antiques and a hint of Disney pixie dust.
Family Stay at Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort BELLMAN

Magical Welcome

The Disney’s magic touches started from the minute we arrived at the property, and the doorman wearing Mickey gloves shook our son’s hand. The staff helped with our luggage while we walked to the check-in counter artfully decorated with colorful balloons available for guests to take.

A staff member greeted us and handed us our Magicbands that served as our room key, park ticket and resort charge card for the duration of our stay.

Family Stay at Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort BALLOONS

Our Room

On the 5th floor, elegantly decorated in muted shades of yellow and green, away from the elevators and service rooms, our room was (as requested) silent and feather-free, to accommodate our son with autism.
The room boasted two very comfortable queen sized beds as well as an opening sofa. There was ample storage for our belongings in the closet and the oversized chest of drawers incorporating the flat screen TV. The writing desk and chair complete with Mickey carvings added a touch of whimsy.

Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort: room

A coffee maker, mini cooler, and free bottled water added a nice touch, and there were several sockets to power up electronics near the desk and beds.
Guests who are temperature sensitive will be glad to know the room had central A/C and a ceiling fan. As with all Disney properties, the Wi-Fi was reasonably fast and reliable.
Our only disappointment was the room safe that was tiny and couldn’t adequately fit more than one iPad.

The bathroom featured two separate areas: the granite double sink vanity (very useful for a family with kids heading out in the morning), and the tub/shower area with a fixed shower head and commode.


Family Stay at Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort BATHROOM

Hidden Mickeys

Like all the Disney properties, this one too challenged guests to discover the Mickeys hidden in the different designs.We found them everywhere; the exit room map, bed cover, Mickey shaped folded towels, door handles, the desk lamp and even carved into the furniture.

Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort:room chair

Best Surprise

The mini balcony with two chairs was surprisingly squeaky clean with no insects even though it was springtime in Orlando and the Love Bugs seemed to be everywhere.

Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort: Room balcony

The Pools

The hotel featured three pools; our favorite was the Luna Park themed area with its ‘Keister Coaster’– a 200-foot long water slide providing continuous entertainment for the kids.Despite its length, the slide was mild, didn’t toss guests into the water at any significant speed and was suitable even for children who are less comfortable in the water.
The pool area was well designed with plenty of covered spaces and seating for guests who wished to dine or just relax.

Unlike some other hotels, Disney takes water safety seriously and not only provides vigilant lifeguards but life jackets for all guests that can’t swim or who simply feel uncomfortable in the water!
Staff members told me that the pool is beautifully lit at night and worth visiting even if one is not a big fan of swimming pools.
Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort: pool 2

Fun for the kids

If you need to entertain the kids after a long day in the park, the lobby area with its nightly free magic and juggling acts is the place for you.

Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort: Lobby sofa
You can also admire the unique lobby furniture (check out the ‘witch’ chairs by the fireplace), elaborate dioramas and listen to the antique lobby carousel play Disney favorites every half hour.

Family Stay at Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort JUGGLERS

The Magic we didn’t expect to see

If you are staying in the hotel during the weekends, be on the lookout for Cinderella’s carriage that is used for weddings.
Family Stay at Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort CARRIAGE

The Service

Autism awareness and the service at this hotel is excellent.
Starting with the speedy check-in process to the housekeeping staff that catered to our needs, we were extremely satisfied.
A special shoutout and thank you to the quick thinking front desk staff member who not only got our son a fast replacement of his Magicband but succeeded in calming him down hence preventing a meltdown.

Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort: ROCKERS

Autism Travel Tips

  • The property has very long corridors so make sure to ask for a room close to the main entrance if your child tires easily.
  • If your child is noise sensitive, request a room on a higher floor that is not facing the boardwalk area or pool.
  • If you don’t mind some noise and want to watch the Epcot Illuminations Fire Show from your hotel room, be sure to ask for a room facing the adult pool.
  • The rocking chairs located at the hotel entrance were a great decorating idea and helped our son with autism calm down after a long day in the park.

Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort: promenade

 

 

Disclaimer-A discounted media rate was provided for my stay. Opinions in the post reflect my personal and honest opinions.

Disney’s BOMA :Introduce your Kids to African Foods

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Ceiling Decor
Disney’s BOMA African Food: Weird Decor
During our last Walt Disney World vacation, we had the opportunity to introduce our kids to the foods of Africa at Boma restaurant located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Boma’s Decor

With the largest continent for its inspiration, both the lodge and its flagship restaurant showcase the African fauna and flora in their décor.
The restaurant features an open-plan kitchen so diners can observe the working chefs as they prepare the vast array of buffet dishes offered.
The venue’s ceilings decorated with tent- like colorful canopies and the artfully positioned painted terracotta pots contribute to the African boma theme.

Furthermore, the circular kraal design of thatch-roofed huts, earthy colors; and the fragrance of exotic spices provide a fun way to introduce kids of all ages to the wild bushland of Africa.

The Mickey-engraved mismatched chairs add just the right amount of the necessary Disney-esque whimsy to the Disney’s BOMA African Food: Inside Decor

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Table DecorBoma’s Food

Boma’s dinner menu boasts an eclectic mix of ethnic flavors, but those who are not adventurous need not to worry as American and European staples are available too.For kids, that won’t try new foods: the family-friendly eatery offers a special kid food station with baked chicken legs, chicken bites, mashed potatoes, spaghetti and even macaroni and cheese.

Dinner is served in an all you can eat buffet style providing a feast for the eyes before it even reaches the mouth.The buffet layout is slightly unusual with desserts on the left, salads and soups in the middle and meats /fish dishes on the right.

For travelers not acquainted with the dishes; there are description cards in front of each, and staff members can answer questions about ingredient which is especially important for guests with food allergies.

The spices and flavor are unique and appetizing. In truth, I can say that for all of the savory dishes, there is something for everyone, even vegans, and vegetarians.The salad section was an interesting fusion of African and American salads featuring: watermelon rind salad, chicken with chili cilantro, tabbouleh, spinach and quinoa and even an apple- jicama pasta.
The Lavash flatbread with the three hummus dips and various couscous salads were our personal preference.

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Red Soup
Disney’s BOMA African Food: pap

As avid soup fans, we just HAD to try all the soups.
There were several: Coconut Chicken Curry, Carrot, and Ginger, Harira made with lentil with sausages, Zanzibar Crab, and a spicy Mulligatawny.
We tried hard to pick a favorite but decided to give all of them a standing ovation.Noteworthy is the Mielie bread – a delicious African cornbread that was a worthy accompaniment to all soups.

The entrees are probably the best introduction to African food.
The Pap; an African cornmeal grits, Fufu a mashed yams and potato mix, Bobotie: curried meatloaf-like casserole and the two stews: Karaieme Seafood with vegetables and Chakalaka a tomato based one.
There are meats of all cuts and shapes roasting on spits, otherwise known as rotisseries.
There are wood fires for authentic grilling and stone ovens for the casserole-type dishes; all prepared with the freshest ingredients depicting traditional dishes of African countries like Tunisia, Ghana, and South Africa.
The meat dishes included pork, chicken, beef, lamb, fish and seafood prepared in various styles; grilled, baked, roasted and marinated to cook over an open fire.
Don’t miss the Masai Matar: a Kenyan style pesto with pecan and roasted peppers.

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Beef

Disney’s BOMA African Food: African PieIf visitors still have room after sampling all these tasty choices; there are desserts!
From the bread and Rice Puddings to Kenyan coffee-tarts and cassava cakes, there are multiple tempting options.
The venue most popular dessert is the Zebra Domes, which are soft mini petit-fours filled with Amarula Cream –a liqueur from South Africa mousse, encased in a creamy white chocolate shell.

On the same note for those of legal drinking age; the Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurant claims to have the largest selection of African wines outside of Africa!
For those that have never tried the world famous wines the restaurant’s wine flight options are a good way to start.

Boma also offers some unique beers and cocktails.
We liked the Habañero Lime Margarita made with Tequila, Habañero Lime, as well as their Magical Star Cocktail with Organic Mango and Passion Fruit Liqueur, Coconut Rum, and Pineapple Juice.

For non-alcoholic guests like our son, the Odwalla Lemonade topped with Wildberry Foam is an excellent choice though all meals come with a complimentary soft drink selection and free refills.

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Chocolates&Cupcakes

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Desserts

Autism Dining Tips

  • We thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience at the Boma, and it was an excellent way to introduce our son with autism to delectable culinary delights the biggest continent in the world has to offer.
  • The Boma staff like to try to accommodate those who have special dietary needs so do communicate with them about what each dish contains and if you or your child can eat it.
  • Since Boma is a very popular restaurant, it is vital to make reservations up 180 days in advance unless you are willing to go at off-peak times.
  • We recommend you go off hours and bring electronics to occupy your kid since reservation times are approximate.
  • If you discover the wait time to be too long; be sure to ask for a beeper and take the time to explore the hotel’s vast souvenir store.
  • Every hour there’s a short music performance that features drums is quite loud and lasts ten minutes.
  • Ask to be seated in a far corner if your child is sound sensitive or bring ear plugs/headphones along.
  • This restaurant offers no character encounters, but we loved the complimentary tour, given after dinner, by trained staff to watch the wild animals with night goggles in the backside of the Animal Kingdom Lodge resort.

  • Disney’s BOMA African Food: Colorful Wall

Disney’s BOMA African Food: Restraunt View

Theme Park Tips when Traveling with Autism

This month’s ‘Ask Margalit’ question comes all the way from  South Africa via e-mail.The writer, a mom who would like to visit the US theme parks with her child on the autism spectrum, is asking for tips on how to accomodate her son with his sensory challenges.

 

Hi Margalit,
My name is Marietjie, and I’m from Bloemfontein in South Africa.
My 11 year old son has autism and loves all sorts of sensory experiences even though he communicates with sounds, not words. We won a prize to visit Walt Disney World  and we are so excited. As we have never been to anything like this before, it will be entirely new.
Do you have any suggestions and advice for us?
Thanks so much.

Dear Marietjie
Congratulations!!!
What a wonderful opportunity for you and your son.
Theme parks are one of the places my son loves to go to, and we have traveled to quite a few as a family. In fact, we attend the yearly Travelingmom retreat at WDW every April.
Since each visit and theme park present a learning experience. I am happy to share the following tips with you.

Theme Park Tips when Traveling with Autism tree
Safety First

One of the most important things in my opinion is safety and security so my tips will reflect this.
When my son was younger, I was concerned that he might get lost so I made sure he was dressed in bright and bold colors making him stand out. I took pictures of him each morning in his clothes for the day so that we would be able to display a recent photo for recognition, in the event that we became separated.

You mentioned that your son doesn’t use words; I would recommend using a temporary tattoo with his information and maybe a picture App like TalkRocketGo for cell phones that help users ask for directions.
On the same note, there are GPS apps like Life360 that can pinpoint your child’s whereabouts.

Even now that our children are older, as soon as we get to the park we still arrange a meeting place in the event that someone gets lost or there is any other emergency. We all take a picture of the meeting point so we have it on our phones.

Theme Park Tips when Traveling with Autism apes

Clothing is the next ‘big’ problem

The next issue for me is practical and weather-related– clothing.
I always avoided loose-fitting and baggy clothing, accessories like scarves, hats and gloves and things with strings; anything that could get caught or fall or make him trip.
You didn’t say what time of the year you will be traveling and which theme park but if your son has sensory issues like mine does, bring your chosen brand of insect repellant and sunscreen and a set of extra clothes to change into if he gets wet.
I also recommend closed shoes , not flip flops as some rides have a moving platform to entering and exit from.

Theme Park Tips when Traveling with Autism river

Map your trip out!

I always did as much research as possible about the park that we would be visiting to educate myself to prepare my son. He always felt more secure knowing about each of the rides and knowing what to expect meant that there was less chance of being overwhelmed and having a meltdown.
Make sure you make note of bathroom locations  (bring duct tape to cover the automatic sensor if he is scared of automatic toilets) and quiet spots to take refuge in if the ‘going gets tough.’
I always say that being proactive is so important.
I have done my best to make my son be part of his own safety and security by teaching him about the different security features on the rides.
Seatbelts of course are extremely important. They should be kept ON the whole duration of the ride.
I had to remind my son to not stick his hands and feet out of the ride and not to touch anything.
He also needed to be told to be polite and not kick the seats in front of him.
It’s important to heed the rules of the park and know that you can rely on the staff’s guidance because they are there to help.

So, these are my tips in a nutshell.
Of course you are more than welcome to go through the website posts and find so many other tips that I have shared throughout the years.

I hope you have a fantastic and fun visit!

How Autism Friendly are Disney’s Character Breakfasts?

 

After several parents approached me about a starting a  separate section on the website to answer questions, I’ve decided to start the  ‘Ask Margalit’ column.Readers can either contact me via our FB page or through the contact form on this website. Though only a select few will be answered in this section, rest assured that ALL questions will be replied via private e-mail.
To start us off here’s the first question from @Daisysmom and it concerns Disney’s Character Breakfast.


@Daisysmom writes: We’re going to Disney World next month and staying at a Disney hotel in the resort. I was told by our travel agent that we should take our daughter to their character breakfast. Our daughter with autism is five, loves everything Disney, but I’m reluctant since I don’t know whether she’ll sit down and eat any breakfast (she doesn’t  do that at home) or enjoy the experience.
Thank you,

Daisy’s mom

How Autism Friendly are Disney's Character Breakfasts? food

Disney Character Dining is a great experience, and the breakfasts are no exception.
They are an excellent opportunity to introduce your child to new foods they might otherwise be reluctant to try, as well as a fun way to meet Disney characters without standing in the long park lines in the heat or rain.
Even if your daughter doesn’t typically eat breakfast, she might be tempted to at least try some of the different food items shaped like Disney characters while seeing Disney characters walking around the restaurant in costume.

The buffet style breakfasts are highly popular, so you need to book well in advance if you decide to go.

The buffet we tried last May had a large selection of cold cuts, cheeses, freshly cut fruits, smoked salmon, pastries, bread, eggs prepared in various ways, cereals, yogurt, and breakfast meats along with an overabundance of desserts that cater well to the American palate. Personally, I would have liked to see more vegetarian, vegan and allergy specific options for those who have food restrictions or wish to make healthy dining choices.

How Autism Friendly are Disney's Character Breakfasts? decor

What you should know ahead of time:

 

  • The price of the Character Buffet was about ten dollars over a regular Breakfast Buffet (17$), which might be a deterrent to families traveling on a tighter budget.
  • The assigned time of dining is approximate, so there might still be a short wait of 10-20 minutes for your family when you arrive for breakfast. If you wish to minimize your wait time, make the reservations for early in the morning as soon as the restaurant opens.
  • There are no real quiet areas in the restaurant to sit in, since the dining tables are in proximity to each other, and the place is crowded with excited kids waiting to meet their favorite characters, which might be an issue if your child is noise sensitive.
  • Since each restaurant features specific characters, you should find out when you make reservations which ones will make an appearance at this particular restaurant so your daughter won’t be disappointed if she doesn’t necessarily see the character she likes the best.
  • You need to prepare your child to be patient and wait for the characters to arrive at your table and not follow them around the restaurant. We were told by the maître ‘d that the staff can’t even forward the characters any requests to go to an individual table or in a particular order. Our son was pretty disappointed when we were busy replenishing our plates, and the characters skipped our table.
  • Remember to bring your camera to photograph or videotape since unlike the parks there aren’t any professional photographers on the premises.

How Autism Friendly are Disney's Character Breakfasts? tables

Have you taken your child with autism to a Character breakfast ?

How did he /she enjoy it?

Family Stay at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

 

We chose to stay at the Yacht Club as the five-story, 630-room resort, is conveniently located along Crescent Lake across from Disney’s hotel and the restaurant-packed Boardwalk. It is close to the two theme parks we love the most; Epcot is within walking distance and Hollywood Studios a short boat ride away.

Completed in 1990, the Hotel design is a salute to the ‘old money’New England hotels of the late 1800s. The nautical influence is evident everywhere with wooden floors, brass accents, and even a giant globe in the two stories elegant lobby. Enjoy the adventure by looking for fictitious locations and a hidden Mickey where you least expect it.

Our excitement started building up at the airport when we got on the free Disney shuttle that drove us to the hotel. We were entertained with Disney movie clips and information about the park en route.
A cast member in costume played the role of the ‘Yacht Captain’ and he greeted us in ‘uniform’ at the entrance, guiding us to the reception area to check-in and get our magic bands. Our son thoroughly enjoyed checking out the ship models and the chest of drawers with some of the Disney character names displayed in the lobby area.

Family Stay at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort lobby

Our  Room

Per our initial request, we were put in a feather-free room facing the gardens, which was perfect for our noise sensitive son with autism. Our room on the fourth floor was quite large with queen-size beds, a small desk and chair, flat screen TV and small lounge chair. The décor follows the hotel’s nautical theme and boasts striped wallpaper, white wooden furniture, and blue, brown soft carpeting.

The storage space is a closet and chest of drawers, so it was more than adequate for a family, and we were glad to find a cooler to store snacks and cold drinks in for our son.

Between the air conditioning system, room fan and balcony, temperature control in the room was outstanding. We all enjoyed the resort’s free, fast and reliable WiFi on our multiple devices.

Family Stay at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort room

We also liked the bathroom layout with the double sink vanity set apart from the marble shower tub combo. It made it easier to get ready in the morning. There were toiletries and an amenity kit provided.

Our son spent a good half hour searching the room for all the hidden Mickeys which he found on the shower curtain, carpet pattern, bed coverlet, chair carvings, desk lamp and, of course, the nightly towel animals.

Family Stay at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort bathroom

Dining

We tried the hotel’s casual dining venue, Captain’s Grille, both for breakfast and dinner, but were somewhat disappointed by the uninspired menu. It reminded us more of a Magic Kingdom cafeteria than a restaurant in an upscale resort.

Our experience at Yachtsman Steakhouse was entirely different. We sampled their dishes, and their service was first-rate. Also, we were grateful the maître d’ allowed our son with autism to stray from their strict dress code and wear his favorite t-shirt and shorts.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to enjoy the hotel’s mini water park complete with sandy beaches and a shipwreck water slide since it poured continuously during our entire two-day stay.
We also opted to rest, thereby missing out on the hotel’s multiple activities that included ceramic classes, treasure hunt cruises, fishing tours, nightly movies by the pool and campfire sing-along. We were simply too exhausted from walking around the park.

We did, however, find a favorite spot in the resort; a place we went back to several times. The Lafferty Arcade area with the old fashioned cream soda shop serving out of the irresistible Mickey’s kitchen sink, complete with rocking chairs our son loved to relax in.

Family Stay at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort breakfast
Autism Travel Tips

  • Like all Disney properties this resort caters to families and excels in accommodating special needs guests.
  • Ask for a room facing the gardens that is closer to the central areas of the hotel. As the resort is a sprawling complex, it is time-consuming to walk from one side to the other.
  • Pack a bath mat and nightlight since the hotel doesn’t provide one.

 

Disclaimer-A discounted media rate was provided for my stay .Opinions in the post reflect my personal and honest opinions.

 


 

 

Disney’s ‘Be Our Guest’ Restaurant

 

The Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom that opened its doors in the fall of 2012, is truly a must-dine experience for all visitors but especially for die-hard Disney fans who enjoy themed dining.
Our son is a huge Beauty and the Beast fan so we decided to surprise him and take him there one evening to celebrate his birthday.

Know before Booking

Highly popular with diners, this Magic Kingdom gem needs to be pre-booked and is done so up to 180 days in advance because of its popularity.
If you have your heart set on dining there and didn’t make a reservation, you might just have a small chance to snag a place by checking the online bookings daily for cancellations or even asking the hostess. at the entrance

Disney's 'Be Our Guest' Restaurant knights

Checking in

The location for check-in was a bit confusing to us, as the signage wasn’t clear, but we were pointed to the area in front of the castle near the drawbridge. We checked in, got a beeper and waited about 20 minutes until they were ready for us.

Arriving guests can choose to dine in one of three dining halls – the Rose room, Ballroom or the West Wing;  and staff members will try to accommodate them depending on availability.
Our son was over the moon when we were assigned to the West Wing room as he had previously requested.

Welcome

As a tribute to Lumiere, the restaurant greeters let a guest from every party lead the way to their assigned table holding the lighted candelabra.In our case, it was our son who got to do so, while the greeter described the other rooms we could visit after our dinner.

Decor

The elegant restaurant makes visitors feel like they have just stepped into the enchanted world of Belle and Beast from the moment they cross the drawbridge. The attention to detail is impressive; from the sophisticated chandeliers, grand columns and painted ceilings, to the elaborate use of digital electronics depicting snowfall in the ballroom window, and paintings that change features in the West Wing.
Disney's 'Be Our Guest' Restaurant tapestries

The Ballroom that also serves as the main dining room is a replica of the ballroom shown at the end of the movie; complete with painted cherub ceilings, grand chandeliers and picturesque snow-capped woods in the window.

The Rose Room, brightly lit, filled with artwork and boasting a giant music box of the Beast dancing with Belle in its center, is the quietest of the three rooms. and is best suited for sensitive noise patrons.

The West Wing is the most detailed by far but dark and somewhat loud, which might be frightening for younger kids. This room has the most artifacts to explore including the glass with the rose petals falling off and the slashed portrait of the Prince that reverts into the Beast every time lightning strikes.

The Library, filled with books and movie memorabilia, is the area where the Beast greets his guests. Guests wishing to get a picture should be prepared to sit and wait in line, albeit a short one, since he is the only character that consistently makes an appearance every night.

Our son loved all the rooms but spent most of his time in the West Wing mesmerized by the portrait changing every fifteen minutes.

Disney's 'Be Our Guest' Restaurant magic

So how was the Food?

Since we had dined in other Disney restaurants before, our expectations were not too high, so we were pleasantly surprised by the quality.

The menu is French and offers an excellent assortment of appetizers, soups and entrees along with wine or beer – the only food venue in the Magic Kingdom to do so!
My son and husband ordered the French Onion soup topped with a crouton and gruyère cheese which was a bit salty, while I got the seasonal salad trio with three individual bowls: roasted beet, raisins and orange salad, green bean with roasted shallots, and watermelon, radish and mint salad.
My husband and I each enjoyed a glass of wine while my son opted to get a natural fruit punch – sweetened with organic cane juice and wild berry extract topped with, in his words, “The best!” lemon-lime foam in a lit-up cup that became his souvenir.
For the main course; we all opted for the sautéed shrimp and scallops with seasonal vegetables and mushrooms served in puff pastry with a creamy lobster sauce, which proved to be wonderful. We were all happy with this choice.

But the best was yet to come in the form of dessert!
We had heard about that ‘grey stuff’ that Lumiere recommends in his song and were eager to try it.

We didn’t have to wait long as the waiter brought over some for my son’s birthday, along with a candle and a signed card from Beauty and the Beast.
And yes, it turns out Lumiere was right ,is was delicious!

Service

Our server was attentive and very patient with our son who does take longer than most, to decide what to order.
She also asked us whether any of us had any food allergies since she said the cook could prepare gluten-free dishes upon request.
As this is a popular sit-down restaurant and tends to be busy especially at dinner time, guests should expect a meal to take anywhere from an hour and a half to two.

Disney's 'Be Our Guest' Restaurant dessert

Autism Travel Tips

 

  •  I highly recommend watching “Beauty and the Beast” movie before you go as it will help you remember the details and compare the restaurant to what is shown in the movie
  • Bring electronic devices to occupy the kids while you wait outside for your table.
  • If your reservation is for an early dinner, you might want to bring an umbrella to shield yourself from the sun since there is no shady area to wait in.
  • Make sure to mention to the hostess if your child has noise sensitivities and ask to be seated in one of the quieter corners away from the commotion.
  • If you choose to dine in the West Wing, be aware that there is quite a bit of noise – thunder sounds and announcements about the arrival of the host (the Beast) every fifteen to twenty minutes.

 

 

 

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