Grace, Age 3

Grace, my niece, was born in 2010 with Down’s Syndrome. At the time, my sister and I were not on speaking terms so my mother had to “break the news” to me. Over the years, my sister and I have been able to bond a bit more and that is because of Grace. My love for Grace has manifested into a yearly trip to Disneyland to celebrate “El Día Del Niño”. Unfortunately, for me, Grace started school; I had to expedite the trip as my sister and I differ in parenting styles. I would have taken her out of school and just had fun. But my sister vetoed the idea so we went during my niece’s Spring Break and opted for a nice Saint Patrick’s Day trip. My mom even pulled a quick one day drive to Arizona to pick up my other niece and nephew.

The McReyes clan on their way to the yearly pilgrimage to see the mouse.

Disneyland works well with special needs. They go above and beyond for families with special needs, regardless, of what news media might say. I recommend that if you want to go, do your research. It’s so sad to see people take disabled children and not understand the layout, the way the new passes work, and the insane amount of visitors. You will be upset and disappointed if you don’t read up on what’s happening. Disneyland is constantly changing.

A month before our trip, my sister got a doctor’s note for Grace. Visually you can tell that Grace has Downs but that doesn’t really speak volumes as to why we would need a Guest Assistance Card. The note let Disneyland know that Grace overheats really easily and that she was on medication. We can’t even have the heater on in the winter because her body temperature is higher than most people. So the guest service coordinators allowed us to get the card. The card allows all of us (6 total) to get on a ride after a normal waiting time. You can only pick one ride at a time and you can’t use it to meet the characters. Your photo’s or your child’s photo will be taken and printed on your “passport.” FYI it makes a neat souvenir as it shows you how many rides you got on and which ones.

On Storybook Land Canal Boats

For Grace, we opted for Storybook, which was a 50 minute wait in the sun. While we waited for one ride, we got on Astro Orbiter. This line was a 40 minute wait time. We had no problems standing in line because it was under some shade so Grace didn’t complain. While the family waited in line. I went to get a fast pass for the bigger rides. The Guest Assistance Card only works if the person who needs it will be getting on the ride. Grace is still too short for the bigger rides like Star Tours, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, etc. so I went and grabbed fast-passes for the older kids. Disneyland allows one fast-pass ticket per person every two hours. After Astro Orbiter, we went into Fantasyland because we knew were the restrooms were located and that the area has Village Haus Restaurant with nice shady tables. We didn’t buy food from this place because it’s too expensive for the quality/quantity so instead we brought our own snacks and water (at least 2 water bottles per person). Grace will eat fruit snacks, bananas, gold fish, and snap crisps so we tailored our food choices around her. We ended up packing 20 fruit snack pouches just in case something went wrong.

On Astro Orbiter

After Storybook Land Canal Boats we had to go back to a Guest Service Coordinator. You will be able to find at least one person helping out families with the assistance cards for each of the park areas. The one for Fantasyland is right in between the Dumbo ride and the Storybook Land Canal Boats. The employees are under green tents and they have iPads that tell you how long the waits are. Since we were already in Fantasyland and going to grab a snack, we chose Dumbo the Flying Elephant. The line was out in the sun (psst, it’s exactly like Astro Orbiter!!). The wait time for this ride was another 50 minutes. This gave us plenty of time to relax, use the restroom, call my dad, take some photos, and window shop. I went back to guest services to ask about using our stroller as a wheel chair since my niece can’t walk very far or stand up very long. And yes they do that too!  So we opted to using the stroller as a wheelchair and ended up using this service instead of the card. This allowed me to get on the rides and/or do a rider switch. A rider switch enables you to experience an attraction while another member of your party waits with the Guest who does not ride. You then “swap” to enable the other party member to enjoy the attraction without having to wait in line again.

Casey Jr. Circus Train

We stayed in Fantasyland getting on the rides that we could while we waited for our allotted time for Star Tours. If you want to rest up your feet, I recommend you get on Casey Jr. Circus Train as it’s a nice train ride and younger kids can still have fun. The handicap access is right behind a churro stand. And did you know, if a churro breaks, sometimes the employee will give you the churro for free? My niece and nephew shared a broken churro! After the train ride Grace was ready for her nap and was getting way to hot. We decided to make our way to the Star Tours ride since it would get all of us out of the sun.

While the other kids got on Star Tours, my mother went to get a fast-pass for Space Mountain and proceeded to find us a table at the Plaza Inn for lunch. It is listed as pricey but it is not. The portions are huge and you can share with people. My mother and sister shared their meal, my niece and nephew shared theirs, and I took half of my food home. Yes that is right! I took my food home because I carry Tupperware in my backpack. Another recommendation, at these sit-in restaurants, the soft drinks come with free refills AND you can fill up your water bottle for free. Most of the time, visitors think these meals are super expensive but it’s not. We paid less than $90 with salads, meals, and drinks. The quality of food is way better than the hamburger place that’s in Tomorrowland or the pizza place. There is air conditioning inside, shade, and nicer seating area.

After lunch, we decided to make our way to Toontown to see Mickey Mouse. We waited in line maybe 30 minutes before we saw Mickey only to find out that this year, Grace was scared of him. We didn’t pressure her to go and hug him so we left to see what other things she might be interested in. Turns out she loved Outrageous Outside. This is the “garden” next to Goofy’s House. It’s for kids under the age of five who need a play area with sliders. We spent at least an hour here, allowing her to play, while the older kids went to ride Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. My mom took a power nap.

Grace was afraid of the mouse.

Towards the end of the day Grace was pooped. We focused on the older kids. I hate to admit it but we still haven’t mastered the whole time management thing with who needs what attention and when. The older kids are beginning to be patient with us so we thank them as much as possible and we try to reward them whenever possible. We were able to get on to Pirates of the Caribbean (nephew’s choice) and The Haunted Mansion (niece’s choice; nephew’s dismay). Grace was able to get on them as well but she wasn’t “into” them. Going to New Orleans’s Square gave us enough time to for the Space Mountain fast-pass allotted time. This was our last ride at 6:40PM. The park closed at 10PM but we decided it was in our bet interest to leave early. We didn’t want to push Grace any more than we had to. My mom waited with Grace at the front of Main St which was fairly empty even though the parade was about to commence!

Smiles for the parade

This is my final tip!! The first parade at 3PM starts near It’s A Small World and ends at the beginning of Main St (essentially the entrance of Disneyland). It’s always crowded at this parade. The 7PM parade is fairly crowded except for at the entrance of Main St, which happens to also be the exit. The 7PM parade goes vice-versa!! The roundabout in front of City Hall is one of the best places to see the parade and it’s less crowded than the castle. And if you want to leave after the parade you can because the exit is right there!!  Avoid the crowd and leave right when the parade ends. We left after Donald Duck’s appearance.

Mickey’s Soundsational Parade

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