By: Jen Casteneda
This May we took our annual trip to Walt Disney World.
Like many families, we planned for months, made our reservations, changed our reservations, and sometimes even switched them back to the original reservation.
After traveling to Disney for 13 years with 2 children with Autism, this was the one trip I was worried about most.
Every trip we have been fortunate enough to be able to use the Guest Assistance Card, now known as the Disability Access Service card (DAS). This card allowed our family to use the FastPass entrance without wait. We have always taken our children’s medical documentation with us, even though Disney does not need or use it. We last used this pass in September of 2013 knowing the “new” change was coming soon, due to a few bad apples.
We arrived at Magic Kingdom early in the morning and we wheeled our children up the ramp at City Hall. Paperwork in hand, I waited patiently for my turn. When my turn came, I explained our situation and the nice young lady asked if Max and Sadie were present. By this time, everyone in the building knew Max and Sadie were present with their chortling and verbal squeals.
The Cast Member (CM) explained the new process and asked if I had any questions. I had done my homework so I was feeling very prepared. She then asked if they were ready to have their photos taken, and Sadie was first in line.
The new passes have the disabled guest’s photo on the front of the pass.
I was very happy to see this. Each CM must view the disabled person by matching the photo to the person at the attraction the family is planning to ride.
As we made our way around the park, we didn't experience any wait times for the first 4 rides. We were allowed to enter the FastPass line immediately. When we arrived at Big Thunder Mountain we were given a wait time of 15 minutes. I began to get a little nervous that Max and Sadie would not understand that we would have to leave and return in just a few short minutes. We made our way to use the restrooms near Splash Mountain and slowly strolled back, just in time to enter the ride. YEAH, no melt downs!
I was savvy enough to work our FastPass times around the time I knew we would be able to use our DAS card. This enabled us to only have to visit this part of the park one time. Max and Sadie do not enjoy the same rides all the time, so we were able to split up in groups. Downloading My Disney Experience was a true time saver for us.
We then made our way to Fantasyland. The longest wait time we were given was 40 minutes for Peter Pan, so we chose to skip this ride. When we arrived at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the CM asked if we wanted to keep out Peter Pan ride time as you are only allowed one open wait time on a card at a time. We explained that the kids would not understand returning to that part of the park at a much later time, and that we would to like to ride this attraction instead. The CM crossed off Peter Pan and inserted the Mine Train with only a 20 minute wait. The kids enjoyed a few snacks and watched others as they rode the new ride.
All in all, I was very pleased with the way our family adjusted to the new program. I recently heard that some of the return times are up to an hour now with the Summer crowds.