*Photo Credit: seafoodnet.info
If there’s one thing that Disney excels at, it’s taking care of their guests. Above all, they want to give you the best experience possible, which means making sure that you’re not only having fun, but that you’re comfortable and carefree for the whole day. To achieve this, Disney has made a variety of convenient features available for families of all shapes and sizes, most of which you probably had no idea were available – until now!
1. Times Guides
*Photo Credit: Disney Talk Blog
Worried about missing the fireworks? Don’t know when the parade starts? All of this information and more can be found in the Times Guides available in every park. Usually found next to park maps, Times Guides are single slips of paper that tell you the park hours, what time the Parades and Nighttime Spectaculars are on, the opening and closing times of restaurants and attractions, and even what times you can meet some of your favorite Disney Characters. The Times Guides are always free, just like the park maps, so be sure to pick one up when you enter the park, but if you forget, they’re usually available in most shops (no, you don’t have to pay for them in the shops either)
*Photo Credit: Confessions of a Mouskaholic
Another item you can find in any of the shops are Ponchos. Unfortunately, these you do have to pay for, but they are a must-have. It rains pretty often during the day in Orlando (although this is more true during summer) and the last thing you want to do is get stuck in a gift shop, in a restaurant, or even worse under an awning on the side of a building (we’ve done it before, it’s not fun). You could use an umbrella, but personally I find that ponchos are more convenient purely because of it’s more than one person in your party, you don’t have to worry about huddling under one umbrella. Also, if you’re worried about your bag getting wet, you can keep it under your poncho (which I do quite often). They’re easy to obtain and Disney usually has both Adult and Kids sizes pretty well stocked. The price for an adult poncho is usually somewhere around $10 with the kids ponchos being a couple dollars less.
3. Package Pick-Up
*Photo Credit: Me and the Mouse Travel
So, you have your Times Guide, you have your Poncho for the rain outside, but if you’re in a gift shop you’ll most likely be walking out with a few more items (Disney merch is very tempting). So now you have a bag with your new hat or toy for your young one, but what if you don’t want to carry it around for the rest of the day? Well, there’s a handy service called Package Pick-Up that exists just for that. When you go to pay for your merchandise, ask to send your item to Package Pick-Up. The Cast Member will then give you a brief form to fill out that will be attached to your bag, which will also be sealed. They’ll then give you a time after which you can pick up your items. The pick up location is usually at the front of each park, around the area where you’d enter, the Cast Member will give you directions if you don’t know where to go.
If you’re staying at one of the Disney hotels, you also can have your purchases delivered to a gift shop in your hotel for free. However, Resort package pickup tends to take a bit longer than in-park pickup, so don’t expect to see your purchase until the next day. If your purchase is big and you’re not sure if you’ll be able to pack it, you can ship it home via UPS or FedEx, but this will be for an additional fee.
4. Free Ice-Cold Water
*Photo Credit: Disney Food Blog
Of course, at any snack station around the parks, there will be bottled water for sale (Major Tip, the Ice Cream stands sell the coldest water). However, go into any Quick-Service restaurant with a soda fountain and you can get a free cup of water! To get a cup, simply go up to the service counter and ask for a cup for water, you’ll be given the cup free-of-charge which will then allow you to get water from the soda fountain. On particularly hot days, most table-service restaurants will have a water cooler set up, and it is free of charge to use while you wait to be seated.
*Photo Credit: Touring Plans Blog
The First-Aid clinics are a little hidden, but they do exist. You can go to them for anything, whether you need a painkiller for a headache, a band-aid for a cut, or even cold medicine and tissues, all available for you free of charge. You name it, they have it: Wax for braces, Epi-Pens, Eyeglass Repair Kits. There are even quiet rooms in the back where you can lie down if you need to. If you have medication that needs to be refrigerated, the facilities do have fridges specifically for storing these kinds of medication so that you can come and get them when you need them and put them back afterwards, which saves the trouble of having to go back and forth to and from your resort room. These clinics are also stocked with highly trained nurses capable of administering any complex medication (such as daily injections for Diabetics) or even just basic assessment of an injury or problem. If they find that your condition is serious, they will quickly get in touch with the closest urgent care center and call you an ambulance to transport you. If your condition is not that serious, but still requires urgent care, Disney will make an appointment for you with the nearest urgent care center and arrange for your transportation there free of charge.
6. Fuel Rods
Unfortunately, you do have to pay for this convenience, but it’s worth it, trust me. After using your phone for so long, whether you were killing time in line for a ride or using the MyDisneyExperience app, your phone is very likely to die. Some people bring their own battery packs/portable chargers into the parks, but if you didn’t, Disney has you covered with the Fuel Rod system. Fuel Rods are portable chargers that you can purchase for $30 at select locations within the parks.
The Fuel Rods come in small plastic canisters containing the portable charger (pre-charged), a mini cord to connect the charger to your phone, and two adapters so the cord can be used for all generations of iPhone (the cord itself is Android-compatible, you simply have to attach one of the iPhone adapters to the cord to make it iPhone-compatible)
The charger itself can be taken home and recharged using the cord provided, or, if you’re on the go in the Parks and don’t have time to charge it, you can swap it out for a fully charged one at any of the kiosks where you purchase Fuel Rods. When you approach the kiosk, simply select “SWAP” and follow the instructions on screen. There is no charge for swapping your Fuel Rod.
7. Baby Care Centers/Changing Stations
*Photo Credit: Debt.com
It’s not uncommon for families in the parks to bring their littlest members along with them (especially since they can come for free once they’re under 3), so Disney tries to accommodate for them as best as they can. Along with changing stations in every bathroom (including the men’s bathrooms), Disney also has a Baby Care Center set up in each of the four Parks. These care centers usually feature private areas for breastfeeding, kitchens and high chairs for feeding (with Gerber foods and juices, along with other items, for sale), and sometimes small areas for older kids to sit and entertain themselves.
Fun Fact: In the event of a Lost Parent, children will be taken by a Cast Member to the Baby Care Center where they will be looked after until the parent/s are found and brought to get their child.
Did you just say, “Lost Parent? Don’t you mean Lost Child?” If you did, check out one of my earlier articles Disney Lingo 101
8. Rider Switch (Child Swap)
*Photo Credit: Travel With The Magic
So Mom and Dad want to ride Big Thunder Mountain, but their kids don’t want to. Do they have to skip the ride altogether? Not if it offers Rider Switch! With the Rider Switch system, a parent can wait with the kids in the designated area while the other parent rides the ride. When it’s time to switch, the other parent won’t have to wait in line since the first parent did so already. The instructions on how to get to the designated area, how to skip the line, etc. are different for each ride that offers Rider Switch (which isn’t all rides, so be sure to check). To use the system, just go up to a Cast Member at the front of the ride with your entire party and ask about the Rider Switch system, they’ll be able to help from there.
9. Wheelchair and Stroller Rental
*Photo Credit: Disney Dining
While you are totally allowed to bring your own strollers, wheelchairs, and ECVs into the parks, Disney does also have them available to rent for the following prices.
Unfortunately, Strollers and Wheelchairs cannot be removed from the park you rented it in, but if you plan on park-hopping that day there’s no need to worry! When you arrive at your next park, head over to the rental area and present your receipt, once your receipt indicates that you’ve rented a stroller/wheelchair that day (or you have a multi-day rental receipt) you will get a stroller/wheelchair with no additional charge, just like with parking receipts.
Oh, and here’s another tip for Strollers: if you seem to have misplaced it, you can take your receipt back to the rental area and get a second one free of charge.
10. Disability Access Service (DAS) Virtual Line
*Photo Credit: seafoodnet.info
As you know, going to Disney means going on rides, which also means waiting in line for rides. However, Disney understands that there are some guests who cannot tolerate waiting in line due to a disability. For this, they have created the DAS system or Disability Access Service system. This system works as a sort of virtual line different to FastPasses. You set a return time for an attraction that is equivalent to the current wait time of the line, then when your return time rolls around you can board the attraction without having to wait in line. You can only have one return time at a time, but during the time before your wait time rolls around, you are free to enjoy the park however you choose to, whether that’s seeing a character, watching a parade or grabbing a bite to eat. Once you’ve finished your ride, you can set a return time for your next ride immediately, and if you’re late to your return time, it’s not a problem! You’re welcome to ride the ride at anytime once it’s before park closing.
To use the service, head to guest relations as soon as you enter the park. After talking to a Cast Member about the specific needs of the member/s of your party, they will provide DAS or other accommodations that work with you. For more information on how this service works, Disney has made a comprehensive pdf document that can answer all of your questions, you can view it here.
Thanks for reading! Today’s further reading is Top 8 Disney Tips to Improve Your Day, where you can learn tips and general advice like the parking receipt trick I mentioned earlier!